Cultural Tastes

This is an interesting topic only insofar as it reinforces something I’ve believed for a long time:

‘Eating with your hands is scientifically proven to improve texture and the flavour of food, as well as a whole host of health benefits. It’s something more people should know about and get to grips with.

‘Many of the world’s most popular foods are eaten with the hands – think burgers, tacos, tortilla, wraps, and wings, so why can’t other foods be as well?

‘Eating with our hands helps to make us more mindful about what we are eating and heighten our dining experience, rather than just thoughtlessly using cutlery like we always do.

‘The fork gets in the way and separates you from your senses.’

Like many South African kids of my vintage, I had a Black “mommy” — technically a live-in housemaid, but in reality much, much more than that.  When I was little more than a baby, while doing the housework Mary would carry me around on her back, held there by a blanket wrapped around herself, thus:

Put a White face on that kid, and you’d have me.  (My feet still point outwards when I walk, a common trait among people carried in this fashion.)

Anyway, I remember asking Mary why Blacks didn’t use knives and forks when they ate.  Her response was interesting:  “How do White people taste their food?”

And she was right.  It really does make a difference.

Now, I’m not going to follow the thing to its illogical conclusion like the guy does in the linked article;  some foods should only be eaten with a utensil — I draw the line when it comes to eating slushy foods like pasta and soup, for instance.  (And forget eating with mouth open, as he proposes — that’s just disgusting.)

But as he points out, we do eat many solid foods with our hands:  pizza, hamburgers and assorted sandwiches are all eaten by hand — and this extends to foods best eaten by hand, such as ribs, sausages and similar delicacies.

As much as I enjoy eating with my hands, I do draw the line at doing so in a restaurant setting (unless at a BBQ or picnic, where anything goes, as it should).  But at home?

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to make my normal breakfast of boerewors, a boiled egg and cheese chunks.

All to be eaten by hand.

And by the way, Charles Spence is a psychologist, not a scientist.


  1. Kim. That “boerewors, a boiled egg and cheese chunks” brekky looks nearly zero carb. Right up my alley. Where, pray tell, does one find boerwors sausage in the Newly Blighted States?

    1. You can buy it online, unless you live in Plano where it’s sold at Hirsch’s Butchery on Parker Rd.

  2. Using the hands to eat adds one more sensory input to create a more real experience. Many years ago the guy that was my instructor for the real estate broker exam told me that when I was trying to remember things I should write them down after reading them as it caused one more memory link to reinforce the overall memory. 30 years later I believe it is true.

  3. Eh, maybe. So long as the food isn’t overly messy. I have a personal dislike for having messy hands. I go through more than the average number of napkins when eating a burger, for example. It’s also why I despise eating ribs. To each their own.

    I am in complete agreement about chewing with one’s mouth open. That’s rather inconsiderate of those dining with you. Seems to be a bit of “it’s all about my pleasure”.

    1. Gee Jack, it appears that you read my mind, completely. I’ll indulge in ribs from time to time. I’ll definitely indulge when I am in an area known for ribs and such.

      Shoot I eat freedom fries with a fork because hopefully they are drenched in malt vinegar.


  4. The Late Wife was from Bahia, Brazil and just about everything she ate growing up was cooked on a grill, except feijoada (black bean stew) which was scooped out of the bowl with bread, or a spoon if you had company.
    The Last Wife is from the Punjab, and just about exclusively uses the Punjabi Pinch (bits of roti or naan between the thumb and forefinger) to pick up anything on the plate. This is especially helpful when eating biryani or curries, as there tends to be whole cardamom pods, cloves, cinnamon bark, or star anise in them and it’s best your fingers discover them before your mouth does.

  5. So. Eat your soup with your hands. Or Lasagna (any pasta, really). Salads. Chili or stew.

    Some foods are suitable. Some are not. And social conventions argue against shovelling it in with your hands.

    Many years ago I was stationed in Germany. I was eating in the dining facility (late night, the Oclub was closed) during an exercise. Some Army lads came in (the first chance they had in a week for real food and perhaps a shower) and one strapping farm boy (2 axe handles tall, two wide at the shoulders) sat at a table near me with his buddies, tray absolutely full – and then he went to the salad bar and loaded up some more. Sitting back down, he started shovelling it in with his hands.

    Looked like a wood chipper…. Amazing to watch

    1. Back in the early 70’s I got to attend a Kansas City Chief’s pre-season player’s breakfast as a server (thanks to my Dad, who was an original member of the Wolf Pack and a season ticket holder for 52 years). Lots of the players were not going to survive the looming roster cuts and had also not had an unlimited breakfast buffet before, so they loaded up. It was a sight to behold. Forks and spoons proved to be impediments, not implements, so the players just used whole pieces of toast. As fast as I could toast a loaf of Wonder Bread, the players would grab handfuls and use them like coal shovels stoking a furnace to scoop steam trays full of scrambled eggs, bacon, sausages and fried potatoes into their gaping maws. Each player also got a quart of orange juice and 3 massive cinnamon rolls. There was not one scrap of food left by the time the team bus came to pick them up.
      That was the finest group of trenchermen I’ve ever seen, bar none.

  6. Citrus Heights, California.
    Near the corner of Greenback Lane and San Juan.
    Chinese buffet.
    They have a baked brandy-honey fish.
    I generally use the scoop while loading my plate, but that is the last time that fish sees a utensil.
    And after the plate has a small pile of bones but is otherwise empty, my fingers get licked… then my fingers scrub the plate clean of errant sauces, then get licked again.
    I suspect the staff would probably prefer I sit in the corner — facing the corner — so they could surround me with portable screens.
    An aside:
    The area has a substantial population of Slavs, evidenced by the yuge Slav market across the driveway from the buffet.
    Did you know many young Slav ladies are prone to the ‘commando’ look?

  7. I’m reminded of a joke from Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In. Ruth Buzzi is singing the praises of finger food — such as Chicken a la King.!!!

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