I read this article last week about eating with your hands and the many benefits that this mealtime practice has on your general well-being. It’s something that we’re not quite used to seeing or doing in Switzerland, though in fairness even I wouldn’t advise running your fingers through a pot of hot cheese fondue.
My Indian wife loves to eat a curry and rice dinner with her fingers and like many members of her family she says that the food “just tastes better”. There must be some truth to this. According to some experts, eating with your hands “intensifies your relationship with food” but it’s also good for your gut, helps you eat slower, manage food portioning and to stay thinner.
Even though I love Indian food, it’s still difficult for me to commit to eating with my hands as it goes against what my parents have taught me about dining etiquette. Oddly enough, my mother will always make bread dough with her hands, as she’s convinced the use of a kitchen gadgets change the taste of the final product. But she’d never think of going without utensils during mealtimes.
It’s also not a practice that comes naturally to me and this was as a big surprise to my wife who watched in amazement the first time I ate with my hands. After I tore some of the chapati to scoop up the dahl, I twisted my fingers under my wrist and with my right elbow stuck high up in the air, proceeded to shove the food and all my fingers into my mouth. It was not elegant, but I managed to make sure that nothing dribbled down my arm and onto my shirt. From where I was sitting this was an incredible achievement.
I’ve since learned that the trick is to gather the morsel of food in your fingers, rotate your wrist to a 45-degree angle and then, with your elbow tucked comfortably by your side, bring your hand up to your face and then use your thumb to gently push the food into your mouth. Simple.
I’ve also had to be mindful of never using my left hand when eating – a big no-no in India – and to try and keep the food confined to just my fingers and not my palms or the inside of my arms.
There are some dishes, like a South Indian thali, that should always be eaten with your hands because doing it any other way would just ruin the experience. One of my favourite moments during our last holiday in India was eating a thali at the famous Woodlands restaurant in Udipi. I passed the hand eating part of the test with flying colours but ruffled a few feathers when I asked the Hindu owners if I could have a beer as an accompaniment. We live and learn.
Often, my dose of weeknight joy comes from cooking up a rice and curry for my wife and to watch her expertly clean up the plate without a fork or knife in sight. It’s an art form as much as it’s good for your health. Try it for yourself one night and let us know how it went!
The Randin Chef