Why I won’t stop eating with my hands
Last night, My wife and I were invited by one of the office seniors for Iftar dinner at their place. We were graciously received in their gigantic mansion and were overwhelmed with the grandeur and opulence of that place. Even though I have known the host for some time, the ambiance made me nervous and consciously well-behaved.
We sat around the huge Maharaja styled table which had golden cutleries. The setting was nothing less than a palace, with Carnatic music in the background, and soft aroma of spices lingering. Every desi food lover's dream dinner was right in front of me, ornately presented in a china dish. We started with the customary dates and kawa, quickly followed by the main course. Those yummy garlic naans(Indian bread) and sumptuous paneer gravy were making my mouth water!
The food was so good that I literally was about to lick my fingers. However, thankfully, sanity prevailed and I came back to my “civilized” senses. And just when I thought I was safe, the host poured a generous scoop of ghee-rice on to my plate. And all hell broke loose! The dormant desi in me rolled up his sleeves and my wife’s worst nightmare came true. I dipped my fingers into that beautiful rice, poured the sumptuous gravy on top, and started eating it all with my bare hands!
What was I thinking? Well, I wasn’t. Rice does that to me, every single time!
After a few hypnotic seconds, I raised my head to meet the raging eyes of my wife. She was about to explode. Gauging the awkwardness, our hosts looked to the other side. I was now in dilemma, whether to eat this way or switch to using a spoon. However, as the damage was already done, I decided (rather instantly) to continue with my current ritual.
Old Karma paid and thankfully I am still married. However, this time with an ultimatum. I must confess, this was not an isolated incident. In fact, I have committed the act of eating with my bare hands several times: at the office, team lunches, alumni dinners and every other occasion where desi food has been served. While in India it was no big deal (who cares! We all eat the same way) outside India, people do frown upon those who substitute forks and spoons with fingers. My instinct for this eating ritual is so strong that in order to avoid public scrutiny, I go for options like a burger or sandwich, which are acceptable finger foods in the eyes of the Western world.
However, tired of the attitude of “non-believers”, today I have decided to stop feeling guilty, and finally defend my actions!
Why is it that this cultural habit of ours is looked down upon? Why is it considered barbaric, and even unhygienic? I proudly present to you 6 reasons based on research to break myths associated with this way of life and show you why eating with your bare hands is so awesome:
- You are not alone- It's a widespread practice and a primal one at that. From Africa and Middle-East to the Indian sub-continent, people eat with their right hand, which makes it not so rare a phenomenon. And if we were as nationalist as we say we are, we should be proud of all good things in our Indian culture, including our inherited manners and eating habits.
- Our hands are good enough- Biologically our hands were evolved to perform multiple activities- to pick up things, feel, touch, grab, pull, and also eat. And contrary to popular belief, eating with hands is way more hygienic than with utensils, simply because we tend to wash our hands multiple times a day, whereas we wash utensils only once daily.
- Improved Digestion- Compared to spoons, we can inadvertently manage our portions better, eat slower, and hence digest food better. Handling food with our fingers releases digestive juices and enzymes. Millions of nerve endings in our fingers relay the message that we’re about to eat, including the temperature of the food, level of spiciness, and texture of food, thereby prepping the stomach for better digestion.
- Helps to prevent Type-2 Diabetes- A new study published in the journal Clinical Nutrition has found that people with type 2 diabetes are more likely to be fast-eaters as compared to people without the condition. Eating with forks and spoons correlates with faster eating, which has been linked to blood-sugar imbalances in the body — contributing to the development of type 2 diabetes. If you suspect that you may be eating too quickly, ditch utensils and focus on your eating style — consciously slow it down and see how you feel. You may be surprised by how soon you get full with less food if you eat with your hands.
- Heightened Connectedness- You’ll inevitably feel more connected with your food when you eat with your hands. Eating with bare hands evokes great emotion; it kindles something very warm, gentle, and caring. Eating with your hands adds a tactile dimension to your meal, creating full awareness, and engages all senses. Hence it is an integral part of Vedic lifestyle.
- It’s cool- Don’t kids just look so happy and carefree eating with their hands? Live a little, try something new, something close to nature. And to baptize you even further, the New York Times article mentions the art of eating by hand is becoming more acceptable in the West.
Thus we conclude, there are ample reasons why eating with your hands is not such a bad thing. Most probably, like Yoga- another Vedic lifestyle, the practice of “eating with hands” will become the new trend. Soon some western influencer will start making videos and workshops around this preaching it as the “new cool thing” and this will become viral. Maybe you will agree with my thinking then. But until such time, I won’t stop eating with my hands.