International Teen Blogger: Communal Eating and Drinking

Mesopotamia

In America, mothers correct kids who start picking apart their food with their hands and completely ignore the presence of their fork at dinner, though on the opposite end of the earth, another mother might be teaching their child which hand to use to eat their dinner with.

Countries all around the world have traditional practices of eating remaining today that are unknown to many. These diversities are what keep the culture of each individual country rich. 

In India, washing the hands very thoroughly before a meal is a must; especially when eating food at someone else’s house or made by a host. It is common that touching the food with your left hand in any way is considered disrespectful to the cook. The accepted manner of eating is with the two first fingers and the thumb, usually keeping only the first two digits holding the food. As another taboo, you should never bring the plate to your head, but instead, lower your head to eat the food better.

An interview in the New York Times includes an interesting interview of her first experience using utensils in America. She describes how using a fork feels almost like holding a weapon.

(Here is the article if you want to read more about it!)

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/18/dining/mind-your-manners-eat-with-your-hands.html?_r=0

In Central and Southern African countries, the practices of eating are similar. It is still respected to eat with the right hand only. A common dish in Nigeria, Cameroon, Ghana, and many other African countries include mashed up balls called fufu made of root based plants like yams or potatoes. Fufu is to be dipped into soup or scoop meat; the ball of fufu can also be simply dipped or even rolled. The manipulation of the fingers involves pressing the ball inwards with the thumb to create the scoop shape. Two bowls are placed in front of you before the meal for washing your hands. It is important not to lick your fingers until the end because that is saved for everyone to do at once!

The use of hands to share and consume food dates all the way back to the earliest days of civilization in Mesopotamia; two straws would be placed in the same drink to represent hospitality through the knowledge that the drink was not poisoned. This expressed trust and welcoming.

Sources:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/18/dining/mind-your-manners-eat-with-your-hands.html?_r=0

http://www.foodrepublic.com/2012/11/19/rules-eating-your-hands-india-africa-and-middle-ea

http://cultureandfood.wordpress.com/tag/eating-with-hands/

http://www.aliraqi.org/forums/showthread.php?t=96834

http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/food/fufu.html

Ale, 15, TLLC

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