At our home I was often the one to set the dinner table. Unless it was non-Indian this meant plates for my parents but plates and spoons for my brother and I. Ma and Baba like many South Asians eat without silverware. Skilled hand-eaters like them are able to quickly mix rice with lentils or torkari into small bite size scoops using finger tips. This method is repeated until a member of the clean plate club. When done well it’s efficient and takes the same amount of time as using a spoon. In the hands of a novice it can be messier given the rice and sauce heavy nature of Bengali cuisine.
My parents perhaps fearing funny looks from patrons or their own children never extended hand eating outside our or fellow Indian homes. For them it’s a tradition and according to WNYC’s Arun Venugopal, eating with your hands “makes food taste better.” Americans are no strangers to hand-held foods with tacos, pizza and messiest of all hot sings coming to mind. Have you ever tried to eat Indian or other foods with your hands? What was your experience?