I have stopped apologising for eating with my bare hands.
I have a trait that makes me spoon handicapped — or what I call “spoondicapped”. I hold spoons awkwardly, from the outwards to inwards, like you hold a knife. This disorder, extends to fork-knife pair too. I can’t recall if the fork should be in my left hand & knife in the right, or the other way. I mix it around so often, that my hands do a tennis routine — the fork gets passed from the left to right & right to left many times a minute. It gets in the way of my hunger. I look askance to see if no one is watching, put the fork-knife on the table, and pick my food with my hands.
It doesn’t suit me— know what I’m sayin’? Imagine a grown professional power-dressing women in office, eating with her hands— as we say in India, in resignation, “How it looks, no?”. But I — I can’t help doing what feels true to me.
I was unaware of my spoon-dicap & knife-dicap while growing up, and learnt about it only after many years of eating lunch with american colleagues at office. When I struggled with a fork-knife pair— on foods like burgers, dosa or pizza— I started to ease my discomfort by announcing to the table “Sorry guys. If you don’t mind. I am going to eat with my hands”. To which I would get a “Go right ahead girl!”.
But somehow, even this social permission, wasn’t enough to make me feel comfortable.
I became napkin dependent. The juice from foods would flow down my palms. My hands would be slurpy with a layer of wetness over it. To escape that, I’d keep a napkin, on which I’d wipe my hands after every bite. This was again, embarrassing— all the eaters around me had clean hands— their gold rings gleamed while their fork-knife pair was neatly arranged over their food, and then they neatly tucked food into their mouth. In contrast, my nails were yellow from the turmeric of Indian food, or fingers were shining from the juice, or tips were red from curry or spotty with flakes of the American salad. Salad could have been an exception— but after I’d fork a lettuce leaf into my mouth– my mouth couldn’t graciously accommodate it. I had to follow up with pushing the leaf in with my bare hand. I initially covered this predicament by making ‘eating grass like a cow’ jokes, but it got boring. So I’d just wipe down my fingers, and act cool, as if nothing happened.
If I ate Indian food, my plate looked messy— which meant, I couldn’t take my plate back for second servings at buffets. The plate would get messy, progressively, because of the nature of hand-eating— I pushed around & gathered food from all parts of the round plate, into one corner. I am told, the metric to measure that you ate neatly, is that when you finish, the plate should reflect your face. “So shortcut is that I can just eat in a mirror, heh”, I thought.
I felt pressure to change.
My next goal was to copy my sorted friends, who are so mentally sorted, that they sort even their food— their subji’s literally have boundaries. Food is made into one neat pile. Even the juice from one subji, doesn’t mix with the other! When I fill my plate with food, the boundaries are open and one subji mingles with the other. It doesn’t look neat. I tried much to contain subjis into their designated spaces— I didn’t have much success in changing this. My hand became even messier than people who eat with their hands. I soon realised— I am literally hand-dicapped.
One day, in office (In india)– I got a compliment, or at least, I think it was a compliment. A girl I often had lunch with, told the co-eaters at the table “I love how Nupur savours her food and eats it with so much love”. Oh my gawd, really? I was elevated into some strange happiness— What I thought was a hand-icapp, is actually how I connect with my food!
That is why you eat with your hands– to connect with food. Ain’t no spoon gonna give you no such connection. When you touch food with fingers, your body knows what to expect– it signals the food temperature & texture to your stomach. It prepares your body for the destruction of the food, necessary to make energy off of it— the energy that you eventually become. That’s why food is called अन्न ब्रह्म — Food is Brahma.
If you start eating with your hands, you might see a difference— You might eat more. Or eat less. Or chew more. Or chew less. It’s a gamble. But it’s worth a try. A simple decision could make this change. The decision that “I will eat with my hands, savour my food, and chew it, because this is what becomes me”. Meanwhile, I have resigned to my fate, & accepted the ‘connection’ philosophy– I will now unapologetically pick up my pizza and eat it with my bare hands.