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Adopting - or not - foreign eating customs in the US

  • BobB Oct 25, 2011 07:20 AM
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A thread on the propriety of slurping noodle dishes in Japanese restaurants got me thinking about the broader issue of foreign eating customs and how they are (or are not) employed when eating in an ethnic restaurant in the US.

It seems to me there is a spectrum of behavior here. At one extreme is the custom of using chopsticks when eating in Chinese or other chopstick-appropriate restaurants. Many, and in urban areas I daresay most Westerners use chopsticks, but forks are provided for those who prefer them.

In between are behaviors like the aforementioned noodle slurping, which those in the know realize is appropriate behavior in Japan, but which one rarely sees in the US except by Japanese natives. Belching after a meal is considered appropriate and even complimentary in some places, but is also rarely done (at least in polite company) here.

At the other extreme is the Indian practice of eating with one's hands, which is virtually universal in India. I have never seen a Westerner attempt to do this in an Indian restaurant here, and can't even recall seeing an Indian do it, though I imagine it must happen at family-style places.

Curiously, where I have seen Westerners eating by hand (and even done it myself) is in Ethiopian restaurants, where curry-like foods are served on large sheets of injera, a stretchy crepe-like bread, and one rips off pieces of it to scoop up the food. Of course, injera does tend to keep the fingers clean, while in the Indian tradition you mix all sorts of things together with the fingers.

It strikes me that these practices are accepted in the US in inverse relation to the degree that they contradict traditionally acceptable eating customs here. Chopsticks are fine because they don't violate any local norms - they're simply different, not rude. Slurping and belching, on the other hand, are considered rude but not necessarily shocking behavior for an adult, while eating wet, messy foods with the fingers would be considered completely inappropriate behavior for anyone over the age of three.

Not sure where I'm going with this, just curious what others may have to say on the subject.

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  1. Good rule of thumb: If it feels good, eat it.

    2 Replies
    1. re: beevod

      I am NOT eating my cat, I don't care what part of the world they do that in! ;-)

      1. re: BobB

        Lol! And yes, I actually laughed out loud. I wasn't expecting that, BobB, ha.

    2. The Ethiopian food is a good example as well. Should I have asked for a fork and eaten like a Westerner because the Eth. place I dined at was here in the states? Or because it might have offended my dining companion, who was also a Westerner? What I did instead was explain to my dining companion what the traditional custom was, which was borne out by others doing the same, and then the companion ate with their hands as well, commenting that it felt "weird" or "wrong," but doing it anyway.

      SOMEONE introduced this concept to the Americans at the DC restaurant. I proffer that I am doing that with my local noodle place.

      23 Replies
      1. re: rockandroller1

        But do you eat curries with your hands in Indian restaurants? If not, why not, when that's how it's done in India?

        I would postulate that the use of injera makes eating Ethiopian with the hands more acceptable because of its similarity to existing American customs like eating dips with chips or bits of bread, while dipping ones fingers directly into goopy mush is not done here.

        1. re: BobB

          I think if it became generally acceptable here to do it, yes, I would. As I understand it, when people go to other japanese style noodle houses here in the US, there is plenty of slurping going on. There's just none in my local joint as the style of restaurant and eating is completely new to where I live.

          1. re: rockandroller1

            But as you yourself have said, it's not "generally acceptable" for people in the Japanese restaurant you frequent to slurp, and yet you're doing it and trying to encourage the adoption of the practice. Why not start eating Indian style and encourage the adoption of that too?

            I realize I'm playing a bit of devil's advocate here, but I'm trying to tease out the underlying principles of what customs people are and are not willing to adopt.

            1. re: BobB

              Those curry stains are a bitch to wash off your hands.

              1. re: linguafood

                Clothing, also. The splatter from my curried goat never came out of my shirt and shorts and I had to discard them.

                1. re: Veggo

                  Were that the tradition wasn't only eating with your hands, but naked, too.

                  Then you could just rinse off afterwards :-)

                  1. re: linguafood

                    I have tried that, and have the booking photographs to prove it. Think that I will eschew the naked dining, and move on.

                    Hunt

                  2. re: Veggo

                    Veggo,

                    That is NOT a pretty sight.

                    One night in Marrakesh, after a great meal, and too much wine, I found that I had married a goat... It took a bunch of $ to have that ceremony annulled. "Send lawyers, guns and money... " At least the goat was from a prominent local family, but there seems to have been some sort of pre-nup, though I do not recall signing it. Fortunately, the "kids" got the estate.

                    Hunt

                    1. re: Bill Hunt

                      Thanks to CS&N for Marrakesh Express, and R.I. P. Warren Zevon... We agree curry is strong stuff.

                  3. re: linguafood

                    And, whatever you do, do not rub your eyes!

                    Hunt

                  4. re: BobB

                    I probably would, except I don't care for Indian food :)

                    1. re: BobB

                      I would add for clarification that the restaurant in question actually has a PICTURE at each table, step by step of how to eat the noodles, with cartoons indicating "slurp slurp" as the cartoon character eats, and then picking up the bowl at the end to drink from it. So it's not accurate to say it's "not acceptable." Clearly, to the owners and chefs and likely the waitstaff, it is acceptable. It's just not a widely known about custom here because it's new. How does it BECOME acceptable here, as it is in other US noodle places, if someone doesn't start doing it?

                      1. re: rockandroller1

                        Good point. Let's look at it from another angle. Why does this Japanese restaurant encourage people to eat their food the way it would be done in the home country, (as do Ethiopian ones) but Indian restaurants do not?

                        1. re: BobB

                          I think that's actually yet ANOTHER discussion, and kind of an interesting one to ponder.

                          I would say that one culture is more focused on assimilating, but living in an apartment complex with over 900 units and 85% or so Indian-occupied, that certainly doesn't appear to be the case with me, since they all wear traditional saris around the complex, don't speak English and shun interaction with non-Indian neighbors. Maybe when it comes to business, they are more "do whatever it takes to get business" and the japanese are more like "our unique culture will draw the business as it's different and cool?"

                          1. re: rockandroller1

                            Interesting. It's true, from my experience, that Indian folks are more "Western- oriented" and more interested in assimilating than Japanese folks, for example, who take especial pride in the "uniqueness" [interpret that how you wish] of their culture, EVEN THOUGH they also at the same time take on so much Western culture into their own society. Interesting.

                            1. re: huiray

                              It probably tips at some point when there is a critical mass. If you are the only Indian family on the block, it might be more important to you to assimilate. If 85% of the 900 families in your apartment complex are Indian, you might not see a reason to bother.

                              1. re: huiray

                                I wonder if Indian culture and cuisine are more Western oriented because they were colonized by a western nation, whereas Japan was not. Nearly 100 years of imperial rule will alter any culture and what better way to see that than through the foods of that country?

                                1. re: velochic

                                  Parts of India were under British control for over 300 years.

                                  I find the Indians in Dubai very adept at switching back and forth to eating with their hands and with utensils. Actually if anything well to do Indians now almost always eat with utensils and it's only poorer Indians who exclusively eat by hand.

                            2. re: BobB

                              While I am by no means an expert on Indian dining, but I've dabbled in it for a number of years, including eating at a couple of Indian homes. While I am quite aware of the right hand rule, and aware that food might be eaten without utensils (after all forks are a relatively late addition to European eating), I've never encountered the expectation that I should shun utensils. I haven't gotten the impression that eating with ones hands was a integral part of Indian dining practices.

                              1. re: paulj

                                I regularly eat at places where the overwhelming majority of diners are of South Asian descent. Whilst, occasionally, you see someone eating with their hands, everyone is generally using knife and fork.

                                1. re: Harters

                                  ...which is a function of Indian mores adapting to those of the West, or of Indians living as a minority in the West adopting the mores of the West.

                                  In India, which is the place the OP initially referred to, eating with one's hands would be common. (Yes, customs change, societies change...etc...which is yet another topic)

                            3. re: rockandroller1

                              Perhaps things would be better, if they did a video, like the safety instructions on a UAL A-320 flight, covering all aspects of enjoying the meal, though without the promo from Jeff Smisek for the UAL Chase credit card?

                              Hunt

                      2. re: rockandroller1

                        I do what I like within reason, if I don't like the injeera (some are just too sour) - heck yes I ask for a fork. you can eat with your fingers if you like. just be thoughtful about it. Otherwise I don't care.
                        noodles depend on the sauce and what I'm wearing. I can handle a set of sticks, but can it splatter a bit unless you're in a group that doesn't think it odd to hold the bowl up.

                      3. You may be on to something here.

                        I'm not fully persuaded of the "no fingers in direct contact with messy food" bit, though. Fried chicken in some forms is pretty messy; popcorn slathered with butter IS messy; and BBQ ribs is just plain messy and clothes staining. Yet in BBQ country I daresay some folks who use fork-and-knife to eat BBQ ribs, for example, might be ridiculed by other folks gripping ribs in hands dripping with sauce. Perhaps here whether a custom is "home grown" matters, even if such a custom is equivalent to one that for one reason or another is considered "foreign" and for some strange reason is considered "beyond the pale"? (I like MY way just fine and refuse to consider YOUR way) Your speculation about "local norms" would then suggest that folks in BBQ country should be OK with eating Indian food with their hands/fingers. Have you seen that? I'm wondering.

                        What about eating lobsters - dripping with juices and stuff, ripping them apart, slurping up the very wet pieces of flesh and juices (after dipping in butter, too, if desired), chewing on and cracking the juice-leaking legs & parts... Or a crab meal, ditto...

                        30 Replies
                        1. re: huiray

                          Rice and small saucy bits are a little trickier to pick up than meat on the bone. The South Asian fingertip method takes some practice to master without getting food all over your hands. Maybe not any harder really than chopsticks to master. I think size is a consideration, not just messiness.

                          1. re: babette feasts

                            It's my opinion, but I doubt eating with one's fingers "Indian style" is much more difficult than eating meat on the bone. I've eaten "Indian style" before and IMO is not difficult to learn - perhaps within a couple of meals - once you grasp the notion that one uses JUST the fingertips, NOT the whole hand, and that you gather together a 'clump' of rice, sauce and meat/veg just big enough for the tips of your fingers to scoop up, and that you use your thumb held behind the clump when gathered on your fingertips to push said clump into your mouth.

                            I actually consider eating BBQ ribs with my hands to be far messier than eating "Indian style", as it definitely messes up both my entire hands and messes up all areas of my face immediately surrounding my mouth. Copious numbers of paper napkins are needed to ameliorate the mess throughout the meal, whereas eating "Indian style" should leave the areas around your mouth untouched and requires only a clean-up at the end of the meal.

                            1. re: huiray

                              I agree that ribs can be much messier than Indian style eating - especially heavily sauced ribs. I spent some time in India earlier this year and do understand the fingertip approach.

                              But I did try to pick it up (pun intended) and did not find it at all as easy as you make it sound. Maybe you had better teachers, or more agile fingers.

                          2. re: huiray

                            Lobsters and barbeque - good points. Especially lobsters, as I'm a native New Englander. Both certainly messy, hands-on eating.

                            But I think there's an argument to be made that these examples don't compare in principle to Indian-style eating with the hands. For one thing, Indians eat EVERYTHING with their hands, not just certain foods. And these two types of foods are arguably easier to eat by hand than with utensils - yes, everyone knows somebody who can manage to clean a rib to the dry bone or get every last bit of claw meat out without getting their fingers dirty, but by and large hands are the most efficient way to go about it. Have you ever tried to eat popcorn with a knife and fork? But there is nothing about eating with your fingers that inherently gets a plate of curry and rice into your mouth any more completely and easily than with well-wielded implements.

                            1. re: BobB

                              True, but part of the discussion here is whether the NOTION of eating in the manner of the "country of origin" of some cuisine outside of the predominant (presumably Caucasian/European) American heritage is acceptable. One does not need to ALWAYS eat in that manner, just whether one could do so without thinking that it is beyond the pale to do so. In that sense, I could argue that folks in BBQ country OUGHT to have no problem with eating "Indian style" - but do they?

                              ETA: In fact, I myself prefer to eat rice-with-curries (or, indeed, rice-with-anything-saucy) served on a plate with fork and SPOON, in the common Malaysian/Thai/Singaporean/SE Asian way. MUCH more efficient than trying to eat rice+stuff with a fork. I do the fork-with-spoon (NOT teaspoon) method wherever I can when I eat said type of food.

                            2. re: huiray

                              Yes many foods are considered hand or finger food here in the US and we don't even think twice. Really when was the last time you used a fork at Mcd's?

                              1. re: Quine

                                They have forks at McD's?

                                1. re: BobB

                                  @BobB, until the late 1990s there were little french-fry forks at McD's in Paris, which just proves the point, doesn't it! The Parisians didn't eat french fries with their hands, even in an American restaurant, until much more recently.

                                  1. re: BobB

                                    They have sporks.

                                    1. re: nkeane

                                      You beat me to it :-)

                                    2. re: BobB

                                      I hope you see the point that many foods are eaten out of hand in the US and we do not realize it. Sorta an "us them" thing, when in an "us" place is cool, but when in an "them" place, we ill not be assimilated! LOL :-)

                                      1. re: Quine

                                        This reminds me of the thread about 20-somethings who seemed unable to use a knife and fork properly. Someone pointed out that many of the foods kids (some kids) eat are eaten with their hands: sandwiches, burgers, fries, pizza, tacos, burittos, chips and various dips, fried chicken or "nuggets," BBQ...add fruit, raw vegetables, cookies and ice cream to the list and a person could survive for years without touching cutlery.

                                        1. re: Glencora

                                          Oh yes I was in that thread. But it was sad that these now grown p children had parents that only threw fast foods at them so they did have to leave the TV/video game. Family meals are becoming extinct I think. As well as not knowing how to cook. Sad social commentary.

                                          1. re: Quine

                                            Yes, but at least they knew to not take off their caps, or even turn them around.

                                            Hunt

                                        2. re: Quine

                                          Quite true, but you must admit there is a significant difference between the US approach to eating with the hands and the Indian one. I suspect that nearly 100% of these American finger-food-eating kids would look around for some sort of utensil if presented with a dish of rice and curry (if they would deign to eat it at all, that is, and not just turn up their noses at that "weird stuff").

                                          1. re: BobB

                                            Well, here's another not-so-old thread about eating with your hands (in the US): http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/762408

                                            :-)

                                            1. re: BobB

                                              BTW, I meant to ask: would you elaborate on the difference (that you refer to) with regards to US food that those kids eat with their hands and Indian food that you think they may or may not eat but where they would probably ask for utensils?

                                              1. re: huiray

                                                In general what these kids eat with their hands are what most Americans would consider finger food - hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken nuggets, pizza, snack foods, etc. The main point of the thread about them that Glencora referred to (this one, I believe: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/809728) was lamenting the fact that they so seldom eat what most of us would consider a proper knife-and-fork meal that they never developed proficiency with those utensils.

                                                That's quite different from the South Asian tradition of using the fingers to eat types of foods that would inspire most Westerners to immediately reach for a knife and fork.

                                                1. re: BobB

                                                  Thanks. (I commented on that thread too)

                                                  Nevertheless, I think the notion of eating with one's hands and whether it is fine or not does have something to do with familiarity - or "foreignness", if you will - of the food being eaten. Why would "Indian food" inspire a caucasian USAmerican to reach for "knife and fork" whereas BBQ ribs or fried chicken would not? It seems that "otherness" has a large part to play in the issue - and all the sociological commentary that could ensue from it. In the same sense, I wondered elsewhere in this thread whether folks in BBQ country would have no qualms about eating Indian food using their hands/fingers.

                                                  BTW I am not picking on your comments specifically - I'm commenting on the issue in general.

                                                  1. re: huiray

                                                    Also, it's not just the fact of eating something with the hands, or even necessarily what's being eaten, but how it's done. The young Americans we're talking about just grab and cram, whereas South Asian finger eating is much more deft than that, really quite a skill. I know you said you picked it up quickly but I did not find it so easy to emulate.

                                                    1. re: huiray

                                                      it can be argued that the custom of eating with hands has influenced the cuisine of the subcontinent, and vice versa-- so that eating w hands enhances the enjoyment of the food. for example most south indian dishes are not served piping hot, as they are in americanized indian restaurants-- they are served at a good temperature to be able to handle w fingertips-- coincidentally (?) the temp most conducive to being able to taste the bloomed spice mixes. it's very unlikely to burn the roof of your mouth w indian food, unless you are eating it (improperly) served too hot, and w a spoon! :)

                                                      some folks will say that eating japanese noodles, for example, w a fork rather than stix negatively affects the taste/experience-- or that taking a knife and fork to a plate of bbq or fried chicken is anathema. this is a similar idea.

                                                      i agree, after reading comments on this thread, that "otherness" is a huge factor-- the (false) idea that "other" cultures are undeveloped, dirty, or uncivilized-- wheras "we" set ourselves apart w our own customs and expect "other" people to assimilate to our own norms.

                                                      1. re: soupkitten

                                                        Eating with my hands certainly enhances my enjoyment!

                                                        1. re: jvanderh

                                                          Well, only if you lick your fingers, with a loud slurping noise.

                                                          Hunt

                                        3. re: huiray

                                          All of those things are indeed messy and accepted here, but they don't seem to me to be quite as messy as dipping one's fingers into, say, a bowl of liquidy stew or mostly sauce sorts of things - ?

                                          1. re: sandylc

                                            Uh, you don't dip your fingers into a bowl of liquidy stew or mostly sauce sort of thing when you eat in the Indian manner. Nor in the Malay manner or Indonesian manner. You have a serving surface (e.g. a banana leaf, typical for traditional South Indian meals) onto which rice, curries, vegetables, etc etc are placed using some sort of serving mechanism such as "gasp" a serving utensil from which you, the individual diner, then dine from using your fingertips.

                                            It seems to me that you have not ever viewed or considered such a style of dining nor looked into what it entailed. :-)

                                            1. re: huiray

                                              That's fair. I admit my ignorance. It's always good to learn new things.

                                          2. re: huiray

                                            I could never, ever order lobster or crab in a nice restaurant because I want to get every bit of yumminess out of it!! Ex-bf and I made Singapore Chili crab once on his sailboat for 2 other couples, and I provided everyone with plastic trash bag "bibs" (basically cut head & arm holes in trash bags). That was fun!

                                            I also used to order a spiny lobster dinner to go and then sit in the cockpit of my sailboat and devour it. Easy clean up!

                                            1. re: Barbara76137

                                              I want your life!

                                            2. re: huiray

                                              Are you thinking lobster tail or a lovely whole Maine lobster. The tail you could manage with a knife and fork, but a whole lobster needs both hands, nut crackers and picks . Just accept the bib the restaurant offers if you value your clothing. Would not be a good choice for a formal meal. Probably why lobster newberg was invented.

                                              1. re: miriamjo

                                                Whole lobster.

                                                As has been discussed elsewhere on this thread, de-shelled lobster or pretty-fied lobster tail, selected dressed parts of lobster etc are certainly served in posh places with fancy cutlery & tablecloths. I would consider an unshelled tail doable with fork and knife but dangerous in a formal setting. A slight mishap or a diner with less-than-perfect cutlery skills would lead to a spectacle being made.

                                            3. I think this is tricky ground. Trying to adopt another culture’s eating methods without proper teaching or understanding can lead to missteps. Let look at the Indian habit of eating with hands. From what my Indian friends have told me, its not that they just pick up the food from the thali and stuff it into their mouths. If you have had the opportunity to dine in that style, you find out there are rules about how you eat with your fingers. Then let’s look at chopstick use. There have been many discussions about how people do or don’t know how to use western silverware. How to hold, whether to change hands when you use a knife, etc. One thing I have observed from watching people use chopsticks is that the various methods used by most people to hold them is the functional equivalent of grabbing your fork in your fist and spearing the food. There is a proper way to hold and use chopsticks. I think it’s a tough thing to get people in the states to adopt other cultures eating norms when there’s no one around to show them how.

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: Bkeats

                                                that's certainly true, and cross-culturally. Our own American people aren't holding the fork and knife right a lot of the times, but we appreciate their efforts rather than be subject to them picking up a whole baked potato and gnawing on it, for example. And I would hope it would be the same with other culture's foods and utensils, or lack thereof, similar to language - if you are even TRYING to get it right, we appreciate it, and if you keep practicing, you will get it. Especially if you're the kind of nerd to practice at home or watch videos online to make sure you're doing it right. Which I am :)

                                                1. re: Bkeats

                                                  Not to mention how many people try to eat rice plates with chopsticks. It's exhausting watching them. ;-)

                                                  1. re: PegS

                                                    Actually, though I have zero finesse with chopsticks (all muscle), I can clean a plate of rice, even if not sticky-rice, with mine. I will never be on late-night Chinese TV as an example, but I can do a single grain, or a serving, all with the same chopsticks. Also, no "shoveling" allowed.

                                                    Hunt

                                                2. Interesting discussion. I have a friend who had an experience at a local Indian restaurant and it was not about eating with her hands but using a fork in her left hand. A waiter came up to her and chastised her for using her left hand to eat.

                                                  Another experience was a co-worker who smacked his lips while eating. Not sure if it was cultural or not but it was disgusting and I was relieved when he quit.

                                                  14 Replies
                                                  1. re: pairswellwithwine

                                                    Using the left hand to eat is seriously verboten in India, but even there no one seemed put off when there was a fork in my left hand. I'm really surprised that a waiter in the US would mention it at all.

                                                    1. re: BobB

                                                      I was born in the West, but am of Indian origin and grew up eating with my (right) hand. I learned very quickly that this is NOT something you do in public, based on public reaction. Although, this is at a time when there were very few Indians in my community.

                                                      So maybe it is a matter of critical mass, as well as public tolerance of difference. It would be nice if the public were not just tolerant of things that aren't TOO different. But perhaps that is crazy think.

                                                    2. re: pairswellwithwine

                                                      I have read that they must ALWAYS keep their left hands in their laps while eating. Has something to do with other....uh....human activities and which hand is used for which activity!!!!!

                                                      1. re: sandylc

                                                        i just Googled that Indian left hand rule...eewwww!. That one seems a little obsolete in this day and age.

                                                        1. re: Veggo

                                                          well it is a widely held custom, not only in Indian cultures but also Islamic ones. Considering this is a rather large population in the world, it is not obsolete. Keeping Kosher is also is derived from hygiene and food safety practices that are no longer such an issue. But I would say that it would not make keeping Kosher obsolete either.

                                                          1. re: Quine

                                                            Well, I think this is probably more of an issue of the original reason for the custom being less important in this era than it was originally.

                                                            1. re: sandylc

                                                              Then why do we still use handshaking? It's considered a very polite and respectful thing. But it originated from deeply long ago as a to show and verify no knife or weapon was hidden.

                                                              1. re: Quine

                                                                In many instances, I find shaking hands preferable to kissing cheeks.
                                                                Exactly half.

                                                                1. re: Veggo

                                                                  Ah, but it depends greatly on who's cheeks you are kissing. In the UK and Europe, if it's a lovely young lady, I just kiss a bunch of cheeks. So far, I have not done hard jail time, but maybe I'd better watch out.

                                                                  Hunt

                                                                2. re: Quine

                                                                  Same thing. Circumstances change, leaving behind a custom!

                                                                  1. re: sandylc

                                                                    Indeed. Every one or two thousand years let's recalibrate and go with the flow. We have really cool stuff now, like TP, soap, bidets, and flush toilets. Nature's calling need not be hand work any longer. For hopeless recalcitrants, we have finger nail clippers.

                                                                    1. re: Veggo

                                                                      have you ever seen the mumbai ghettos? not a lot of flush toilets, i'm afraid. i find the indian and middle eastern practice of washing rather than wiping to be extremely hygienic and very similar to the continental european use of a bidet. in fact, folks from north africa, asia and the subcontinent tend to wash even post-immigration when presented with western-style bathrooms with flush toilets. because it is a clean habit, amongst other things.

                                                                      this comes up every once in a while in chowhound threads and it's just astonishing that people obviously have no idea how widespread and practical these hygienic practices are. ewwwing somebody else's cultural practices is no different than religious bigotry or categorically rejecting a cuisine-- in fact, it's all tied together.

                                                                      1. re: Veggo

                                                                        Ah, modern plumbing. Nice addition to humanity, at lest where I travel.

                                                                        Hunt

                                                            2. re: sandylc

                                                              As a left-handed person, I'm glad I never encountered this!

                                                          2. I try to emulate the culture I am in. Takes a little study and observation, but I have found it well worth the effort.

                                                            1. There is a lot of chit-chat about using one's hands in the posts so far - such as "Indian style" dining. However, another custom that raises a lot of hackles in Western societies (both in the USA and in Europe and other Western nations) is the custom of SHARING dishes.

                                                              Chinese custom is to "share" - called "Family style" in the USA [and elsewhere] where dishes are placed in the middle of the table and diners take portions from it to eat. This is gaining currency in many places nowadays and Chowhounders may think this is a no-brainer but my understanding is that many folks still balk at the notion, dwelling excessively on the perceived "unhygienic" aspects of dipping into the same dish as others (SHUDDER); and I read that many Europeans especially would refuse to do so, grabbing whatever they ordered when delivered to the table and not "sharing" it with other dining companions.

                                                              Various other cultures also do the "Family-style" dining as a matter of course, in public, and not as a special dispensation as it seems to be in much of the US/Western world.

                                                              Comments?

                                                              17 Replies
                                                              1. re: huiray

                                                                Tre Scalini is one of New Haven's best Italian restaurants, and all the apps are very much family style, and it is fun to pass a variety of them around among a group of 6 or 8 or 10.

                                                                Laissez les bon temps rouler, if I may mix appetizers with languages. Buen provecho, tambien!

                                                                1. re: huiray

                                                                  Oh I would say that this issue you bring up is a very different one and deserves it's own thread. And it is funny, that in many places like dim sum houses or in Europe, sharing a table with others is very common and expected. Very much not the case here in the US.

                                                                  1. re: Quine

                                                                    Not at all in the US. The closest I can think of to your custom of sharing with others are the dockside restaurants in Florida, where strangers will share a long rustic picnic table and enjoy exchanging stories and good repartee, but certainly not sharing food. Same for the mammoth biergarten at the Hofbrauhaus in Munchen.

                                                                    1. re: Veggo

                                                                      Yes, Veggo -- in those places you share **tables** -- but food is shared only within your own **group**

                                                                      1. re: sunshine842

                                                                        Maybe not in THOSE places, but I often share my wine with others, should they seem worthy of such. Few decline. Some offer to share theirs, but some do not, though they accept my fine Burgundies, graciously, and with obvious fervor.

                                                                        Hunt

                                                                    2. re: Quine

                                                                      Sharing tables is done in various cultures/cuisines but relatively uncommon even in Chinese restaurants (unless there was "no place" and small groups are then sometimes directed to the same large table). But what I was referring to was the sharing of *food*, as others here also remark on. Again, think of eating at a Chinese restaurant where a group of fellow diners order several dishes which are placed in the middle and everyone takes portions from all the dishes - sharing them. It seems that is done less than it ought to be (IMO) by folks other than Chinese folks [and also in simlar situations with other "sharing" cultures/cuisine traditions] in the USA/Europe/?Canada?

                                                                      1. re: huiray

                                                                        That's what we farangs do every Wednesday night at our local Sichuan place. Tonight -- a whopping 18 friends joining. I think we may just have to rent the whole resto.

                                                                        1. re: linguafood

                                                                          That sounds wonderful. I'm sure a fantastic meal will be had by all. :-)

                                                                          I think lots of CHers would do the same and think nothing of it, but I wonder about the prevalence of the custom in the general population.
                                                                          (I made some comments in this direction below: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8140...)

                                                                    3. re: huiray

                                                                      I just think that most people don't share their meals at restaurant because their meals were prepared as single servings, so why would anyone wanna share their shares. On the other hand, foods like appetizers, pizza, and wings are prepared so that they can be shared, so people do share that among friends and family (not strangers though).

                                                                      The only place that I know where strangers "share" dishes are at salad bars or buffet restaurants.

                                                                      1. re: tsl_saga

                                                                        "...so why would anyone wanna share their shares."
                                                                        ------
                                                                        I believe a fair number of folks do share their individual servings of food - "have a bite of this" - "here, taste this" - especially when they are related or a couple or close friends. Food critics sample stuff off their dining companions' plates. There have been numerous accounts of CHers passing their plates over to one another halfway through. Etc.

                                                                        However, I wasn't really referring to one's personal individual plates of food. Not even the ethiopians or Chinese regularly share personal plates of food. I was referring to dishes from which one gets portions to put onto one's personal individual plate. That "family style" mode of serving dishes is done at home (pass the taters, or plate of turkey pieces, etc) in Western cuisine but is common both at home and in restaurants for various other ("foreign") cuisines. Go to a Chinese restaurant even in the USA - how do you order and eat? Does a group of people order dishes JUST for themselves - or order several dishes which are then placed in the center of the table from which everyone takes portions? My understanding is that sharing in this way is relatively rare in the USA and even rarer in Europe. E.g. - See http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8025... and http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8025... and etc.

                                                                        At some places and in some communities (in the USA) the norm *would* be for sharing at communal tables with big platters of food in the middle of the table, even when eating with strangers or at places outside the home. Still, this is not the norm in most of the USA (and Europe, Canada?) and this dining style could, in a way, be considered as a "foreign eating custom" in the sense that it is the norm in "foreign cultures" for dining both at home and outside the home [like the previously mentioned Ethiopian and Chinese as just two examples brought up so far] but not the norm in USAmerican culture. What lay behind my mentioning it here is to suggest that this way of eating could be afforded greater currency around these parts for dining out on the relevant "foreign" cuisine as well as for Western cuisine. (Having a Tapas meal is one example)

                                                                      2. re: huiray

                                                                        I think people in the US are very accepting of eating family style, but I can't speak to the European preference.

                                                                        There may be some germaphobs or people that don't want to share, but as a general rule of thumb people are good at sharing.

                                                                        1. re: huiray

                                                                          Interesting point. I know a group of chowhounds and others who were talking about going to an Ethiopian restaurant. One of the group made it clear that she wasn't interested because of the communal eating mentioned elsewhere and the fact that others' hands might touch her food. In fact, I think she ended up leaving the group at that point....apparently she wasn't comfortable eating with folks who shared so much (and apparently the group found her to be less than a true hound anyway...).

                                                                          About the Indian style of eating: yes, most people in India eat with their hands more than people in the west do. That being said, not all use their hands to mix sauces and rice as described elsewhere in this thread. That seems to be more of a South Indian habit. My Gujarati relatives mostly eat with their fingers, but often use bread to scoop up the soupy stuff (similar to the Ethiopian method, except that the food is served on individual dishes). And there is always a spoon at each place setting...some will use it more than others. I never had a problem eating this way any more than I would eating fried chicken with my fingers (I am not of Indian descent). We often eat with our hands at home, but usually use a spoon for the saucy stuff. After all, that way you get every delicious drop:-) But seriously, the biggest problem we had with this issue was that when our kids were young it was always hard to explain why it was ok to eat with their hands at Daddy's family's house, and not ok at Mommy's family's house.....

                                                                          1. re: janetofreno

                                                                            wow -- that's a tough one. Were your family understanding when they got mixed up?

                                                                            1. re: janetofreno

                                                                              Nice blend of families, nice reading. I assume the children are grown - do they switch easily between ways of eating as appropriate nowadays?

                                                                              Yes, chapatis, rotis, parathas/roti canai (SE Asia) etc are of course used to scoop up and mop up sauces and small bits of food as well. Not to mention the good eating of the breads themselves! I suppose it is true that sauce/juice+rice in hand/fingertips is more "South Indian" but even there and in SE Asia breads are eaten (of course) and also used to mop up stuff. Curries varies from fairly wet to saucy but not runny - as you know - so the non-runny ones are eminently appropriate for eating with rice and fingers. :-)

                                                                              As a side-bar, insofar as I know one seldom ate Indian food with hands/fingers in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia within recent history into today and one was/is usually provided with plates, fork and spoon, knife as needed. There are shops/restaurants specifically known as "banana leaf places" where you would eat with one's hands off - what else - a piece of banana leaf, as one might do in Tamil Nadu or Kerala (predominant origins of Malaysian Indians) and other South Indian places.

                                                                              1. re: huiray

                                                                                lol....I think they switch back and forth as appropriate, but the older one at least was never known for his neat eating anyway:-) Actually, he just returned from two years of living in Japan and is still largely using chopsticks to eat:-)

                                                                            2. re: huiray

                                                                              I think it used to be back in the days when boarding/rooming houses that had their own kitchens were common. The Hopkins House in Pensacola, Florida used to serve their meals that way before they closed in 2004. (They tried to sell to new ownership but while they were trying, Hurricane Ivan hit, and a couple of buyers fell through as the city was cleaning up that mess)

                                                                              Found an old article on the place in Gourmet from 2000:

                                                                              http://www.gourmet.com/magazine/2000s...

                                                                              1. re: beachmouse

                                                                                Good article, thanks. Nice to read about that place.

                                                                            3. My rule for adopting food practices of other cultures is pretty simple: if it's easy and contributes to, or at least doesn't detract from, my enjoyment of the food, I'll do it. I generally don't enjoy super messy foods (ribs) and don't care for fried chicken, but when served these things, I'll do my best with a knife and fork. As others have pointed out, injera and Ethiopian food can be eaten somewhat neatly without utensils, so that doesn't bother me. Indian food, eaten Indian style, is another story. I'd prefer a fork, please.

                                                                              1. I cut corn kernels off the cob with a knife. And I don't give a damn what anyone else thinks about that.

                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                1. re: emu48

                                                                                  I'm sorry but this just made me ROFL!

                                                                                2. Here's another "foreign custom" : eating rice (in a Chinese meal) by raising the rice bowl to your mouth/lips and using your chopsticks to push the rice (and maybe other small bits of meat/veg) into your mouth. I had posted this before as part of a post on another thread (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8138...) but thought it bore repeating here on this thread.

                                                                                  Would you do it? If not, why not?

                                                                                  22 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: huiray

                                                                                    Sure. I do that sometimes with cuke salad at home (no chopsticks tho) to get the last slices out of the bowl. Raised by wolves, I tell ya.

                                                                                    1. re: linguafood

                                                                                      :-)

                                                                                      How do you eat a bowl of noodles in soup? (see also replies to referenced post)

                                                                                      1. re: huiray

                                                                                        I slurp 'em. And I've replied to the post you reference already.

                                                                                        1. re: linguafood

                                                                                          You did? Hmm, I checked again - you responded in the thread but not to that post. ;-) What I was asking about was if you use spoon in one hand and chopsticks in the other then using both together, or spoon + fork, or some other combo - like lifting the bowl to you mouth etc. So you slurp your noodles - good for ya! - but with which technique? Suppose you were presented with a bowl of Western-style chicken noodle soup where the noodles were still somewhat long spaghetti strands?

                                                                                          1. re: huiray

                                                                                            As sunshine below pointed out -- I will generally adapt an eating style appropriate to the surroundings/type of cuisine.

                                                                                            Any western-style chicken noodle soup *I* have ever had contained broad egg noodles, which are easily eaten with a spoon -- just like the broth, carrots, chicken bits and whatever else is a-floating in there.

                                                                                            I am a weird kind of ambidextrous, but have yet to master holding a spoon & chopsticks in the same hand. An eastern-style noodle soup (phô or such) would be eaten by using the chopsticks to eat the noodles & veggies, and other floaty thingees, and the spoon to eat the soup. Alternatingly.

                                                                                            Does this answer your question/s?

                                                                                            1. re: linguafood

                                                                                              In large part, yes.

                                                                                              But a clarification is in order. What I said about spoon+chopsticks was "spoon in one hand and chopsticks in the other", not both in the same hand at the same time. So - if you are right-handed, then one has the spoon in the left hand, the chopsticks in the right hand; one then picks up stuff with the chopsticks and either raise the stuff to your mouth or place it in the spoon (containing some broth, perhaps) then raise spoon to mouth while using the chopstick ends to hold the stuff in the spoon then drink/eat the stuff from the spoon with guidance from the chopsticks. More broth as desired drunk using the spoon. Throughout it all, spoon stays in left hand, chopstick stays in right hand.

                                                                                              That's one way. Another would be to eat stuff with the chopsticks alone then drink broth/soup with the spoon, in alternating (or whatever) motions, but without switching hands etc - i.e. with the spoon remaining in the left hand (say) and the chopsticks in the right hand.

                                                                                              From what you said it appears that you eat stuff with your chopsticks, then set them down, pick up the spoon and drink soup, set the spoon down and pick up the chopsticks again - all using the same hand. That's fine, whatever floats your boat.

                                                                                              Hmm, why do I get a mental image of the Continental method versus the zig-zag American method with fork and knife here..... :-)

                                                                                              1. re: huiray

                                                                                                I'm not sure what-handed I am, frankly. On the rare occasion, I write with my left hand. I cut my food with my left hand when on the plate (fork in right hand, knife in left). I PREP my food -- as in with a chef's knife -- with my right hand, and perform all sports with my right hand.

                                                                                                Chopsticks - right hand. Spoon - dito. It all floats my boat.

                                                                                                1. re: linguafood

                                                                                                  So I see.

                                                                                                2. re: huiray

                                                                                                  stix in dominant hand, spoon in off-hand (simultaneous) eater here. i think this is pretty common in the noodle houses around me regardless of the ethnic/national origin of the diner. in fact, i think folks who aren't comfortable eating this way tend to self-select out of pho/noodle houses, or if they go with friends, they won't order the soup-- they get broken rice while everyone around them at the table is happily slurping away ;-P

                                                                                                  1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                                    That's interesting, the "self-selecting" bit. Would these folks you have in mind (in your experience) also eat other types of "foreign" food - when they do - using Western/American dining methods or some form of method appropriate to the cuisine? (other than noodles in soup)

                                                                                                    1. re: huiray

                                                                                                      i think the same folks may eat americanized chinese takeout-style chinese w fork rather than stix (assuming they like/eat it). i think they are more likely to self-select away from sushi--and not be aware that eating sushi w hands/as finger food is acceptable table manners. they are least likely to eat indian or east african foods with hands.

                                                                                                  2. re: huiray

                                                                                                    I use the spoon to control the loose ends of the noodles, and to a lesser degree to convey some broth and small solids along with the noodles. Spoon and sticks together help me eat with more control and neatness. With fork and knife, I am a typical lefthanded quasi-european user.

                                                                                        2. re: huiray

                                                                                          I've done it -- in a Chinese restaurant...

                                                                                          No way I'd eat a bowl of rice that way in, say, a French restaurant.

                                                                                          It's all about the context.

                                                                                          It hasn't been all that long ago that when one ordered a cheeseburger in England, one was given a fork and knife with which to eat it, like civilised people.

                                                                                          1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                            In Las Vegas I encountered a rather curious japanese custom: while walking down the street, a throng of Japanese tourists discovered someone eating a cheeseburger. They started to chant (in unison) "cheeburga cheeburga!"

                                                                                            1. re: Chowrin

                                                                                              Early SNL fans, no doubt.

                                                                                            2. re: sunshine842

                                                                                              True - of course context matters. Similarly, one ought not to do the "raising bowl to lips" routine in a Korean restaurant. (although that requires one to know the Korean custom in that regard)

                                                                                              In the general context of this thread, this also relates to the different issues of knowledge of a custom (foreign - or not); the adopting of the custom; or the rejection of the custom.

                                                                                              1. re: huiray

                                                                                                If I am in a cultural context in which I am genuinely at a loss for what to do (thankfully pretty rare at this point in my life) -- I just sit back and watch what others around me are doing.

                                                                                                It served me well when I was attending my first formal dinners -- which fork? Which spoon? -- and later to the intricacies of eating European style (which I eventually adopted because it was just easier for a lot of reasons) -- to the first time I was in a sushi restaurant...I've found that just taking a deep breath and watching answers a lot of questions as to HOW (while maybe not WHY)

                                                                                                Wouldn't have done much good, however, with the dipstick I was seated next to at a sushi bar...he picked up the smoked eel and pulled the nori wrapper off of it, muttering about how for the price, they ought to peel the damned stuff. I nearly choked on my water trying not to laugh out loud.

                                                                                                1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                  That nori-peeler? I would have been mortified! (After I choked down my laughter, too)

                                                                                                  1. re: huiray

                                                                                                    happily, he was just seated next to me at the sushi bar -- I was there by myself, so didn't have to claim him.

                                                                                              2. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/donald...
                                                                                                http://articles.nydailynews.com/2011-...
                                                                                                http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/wed...

                                                                                                ;-)

                                                                                                1. re: huiray

                                                                                                  I see the humor of the links --

                                                                                                  but sorry, not only is eating pizza not exactly a cultural issue on the level of eating with chopsticks, slurping noodles, or eating curry with your fingers....

                                                                                                  but holding either Donald Trump or Sarah Palin as some sort of cultural reference is, um......

                                                                                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                    Heh. Certainly. I was injecting levity there. Hence the wink I put there, as I do here.
                                                                                                    ;-)

                                                                                            3. Reading all the detailed descriptions on how to eat, I feel my hands and arms slowly folding into a pretzel....;-)

                                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: RUK

                                                                                                I would have thought you would have no problems adopting foreign eating customs. ;-)

                                                                                                1. re: RUK

                                                                                                  Be careful, or you will poke your eye out, with those chopsticks!

                                                                                                  Hunt

                                                                                                2. One dining habit I see Koreans, Japanese and Northern Chinese do while eating is to take large bites. My brother and I call it chimpumking.

                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                  1. re: chow_fun

                                                                                                    The US eating habits just seem kind of "medium" on the fort & knife use. There's a lot of hand involvement going on (fries, pizza, fried chicken, etc...)--in general. Europe and Latin America seem to be much more "knife and forkish".

                                                                                                  2. I'm surprised that no one has mentioned "elbows on the table". In Italy it was very common, but all I can think about here is my horse trainer reprimanding his three young daughters: 'Get your elbows off the table, you aren't at at truck stop!!!!'

                                                                                                    12 Replies
                                                                                                    1. re: Barbara76137

                                                                                                      Older Joy of Cooking editions quote some European as explaining (to the effect): 'Americans eat with their elbows on the table because of all the corn on the cob that they eat'. (working from memory).

                                                                                                      1. re: Barbara76137

                                                                                                        My Italian teacher says that children in Italy are always being told to put their hands up on the table where they can be seen.

                                                                                                        1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                          france too. leftover from medieval manners when folks might literally have a weapon in one hand under the table.

                                                                                                          1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                                            Germany also. My landlady reamed her daughter in front of everybody as she mirrored my wife's and my actions. We also kept our hands above the table from then on.

                                                                                                            1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                                              In medieval times you might have been eating with your weapon. Everyone used their own shape pointed knife to cut meat off the joint and then spear the pieces.

                                                                                                              Visible hand might date more from the time when pointed knives were outlawed, and forks came into use.

                                                                                                              1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                Now, I have been fortunate, in that I have never needed my Colt 45 ACP, Model 1911, to shoot my meal. Though it has never happened, does not mean that it will not, at some point in the future. I normally keep it below the table, so few know that I am "carrying."

                                                                                                                Hunt

                                                                                                              2. re: soupkitten

                                                                                                                When dining, I almost always have a weapon, but much will depend on whether I place it on the table, or keep it from view.

                                                                                                                Hunt

                                                                                                                1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                                                  Do you find yourself often needing to use a gun in a restaurant?

                                                                                                                  1. re: LeoLioness

                                                                                                                    Well, it might certainly help to explain why he has apparently never had bad service in any restaurant when dining alone or otherwise, and goes along with his, uh, possibly intimidating appearance. :-)
                                                                                                                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7630...
                                                                                                                    ;-P

                                                                                                                    1. re: huiray

                                                                                                                      Let us hope that no one even suspects.

                                                                                                                      I would hope that the good service is because the restaurant actually cares. That is what I assume.

                                                                                                                      Now, were the service, the food, and the wine be horrible, no one would ever know what might be lurking below the tablecloth. That is not what it's all about.

                                                                                                                      Hunt

                                                                                                                    2. re: LeoLioness

                                                                                                                      Only needed it once, but glad that I had it. In 99.99% of the instances, no one knows about it, and that is the way that it should be.

                                                                                                                      Hunt

                                                                                                                2. re: sandylc

                                                                                                                  Visible hands might well be a throwback, to when a dinner guest might have a dagger, or similar, and having the hands in full view was a sign of peace. Now, elbows are a different story.

                                                                                                                  Hunt

                                                                                                              3. Maybe Ethopian food is a good gateway. You can start off with the wot and tibs and whatnot and then order a bone-in fish. I tremendously enjoy eating with my hands and also like unusual implements, especially if they suit the food better than a fork. That spoon they give you with the pho is genius. I keep meaning to buy one.

                                                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                                                1. re: jvanderh

                                                                                                                  Heh.

                                                                                                                  Those phở spoons? They're standard in East Asian/Chinese/associated cuisines. Surely you've been given that same kind of spoon (plus chopsticks) when you have a bowl of wonton soup or any Chinese noodles-in-soup? Any oriental/East-SE Asian grocery store with a cutlery/crockery section will have them. Buy several! :-)

                                                                                                                  1. re: huiray

                                                                                                                    Yep. But someone referred to them in regards to pho, I think.

                                                                                                                2. Via this week's The Splendid Table
                                                                                                                  http://splendidtable.publicradio.org/...
                                                                                                                  http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1906...
                                                                                                                  Steffan Gates, The Extraordinary Cookbook: How to Make Meals Your Friends Will Never Forget

                                                                                                                  a British author who encourages his readers to play and have fun with their food, including touching it.

                                                                                                                  On the show he suggests a BYH - bring your own hammer - party. The host provides the crabs, the guests bring their own hammers, and everyone has 'a smashing good time'.

                                                                                                                  Reminded me of that thread about asking guests to bring their own table settings.

                                                                                                                  In the context of this thread, it raises the question of whether you and your guests are willing to deviate from the formal manners dictated by your culture, and have fun with alternatives, whether they come from another culture, or are whimsical creations of your wacky friends.

                                                                                                                  1. When in doubt, I usually pull a server aside, and just ask. I do this, regardless of whether the restaurant is in the US, UK, or in the home country. Just how I handle things.

                                                                                                                    Hunt

                                                                                                                    1. I tend to eat American-Chinese food with a fork, but I use chopsticks for Korean, Vietnamese, and Chinese food. I do the small bowl plus chopsticks for the two latter. I am usually eating Vietnamese and Chinese food with other friends who eat this way, too. If I am with people who don't know how to eat this way, I guess I don't do it because it might look weird or pretentious to them. I also try to follow table etiquette and reach for lettuce or wrapping stuffing with chopsticks and all.

                                                                                                                      For Indo-Pak food, it depends. Food that is meant to be eaten with naan or bhatoora or what have you of course gets eaten by using the bread to scoop up the food. Other foods, I eat with a fork in public. At home, for biriani and rice with gravy dishes, I am more likely to use a spoon. Spoon works great. Occasionally I use my fingers. I have traveled and lived widely in cultures that traditionally prefer eating with the hand, and I find that in practice there is a lot of variation in what people do. Generally speaking, with the exception of dishes meant for flat bread, knife and fork are very widely used. In the US, I have been in dosa restaurants and look around and see several people eating their dosa with a fork. That's fine, they can eat however they want. I also have some friends who do this fork to flat bread method: the hold a piece of flat bread in one hand and move the food with a fork to the flat bread and then put the food in their mouths. That's too much work for me, though.

                                                                                                                      There is some etiquette to hand eating. No left hand consumption, as mentioned above. Here is another thing: It looks weird to bit chunks of meat off of the bone in some hand eating cultures. Instead, you use your fingers or flat bread to mash the meat off of the bone, and if you are eating with rice, you mash the meat morsel into the rice.

                                                                                                                      Not all hand-eating is the same. In some places, like in the Arabian Gulf and among Muslims in Hyderabad, India, they make a "luqmah" or morsel/ball with the rice and gravy-dish by rolling ovals with the fingers into the palm of the hand to shape them. They then pop the morsel into their mouths. I eat with my hand in a different style, by forming small balls on the plate and popping these into my mouth. My style looks weird to the "luqmah" makers, and though I have dined with people of these cultures, I don't adapt and do what they do. I have also visited homes and eaten from a large communal plate in a circle, and this has its own etiquette. You make a little mound in the rice for yourself and don't touch other peoples' mound.

                                                                                                                      I try to eat pupusas correctly, too. I read (on CH) that actually sushi is meant to be popped into the mouth with the fingers, but for whatever reason, I still use chopsticks. I also eat pizza by folding and eating, as my parents taught me. I have heard that pizza is eaten with a fork in Italy, but for whatever reason, I don't adapt to be more authentic, and I prefer the East Coast US way.

                                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                                      1. re: luckyfatima

                                                                                                                        What is the right way to eat pupusas? I tear off pieces and use them to pinch up some curtido, dip into the tomato-ey sauce, and pop it in my mouth. That's just the easiest way for me, although i'm sure it is not the traditional way.

                                                                                                                      2. Once I had the extreme pleasure of eating Tanzanian food: chicken stew, cornmeal mush and cabbage. I had to be shown how to eat it. You make a ball with the cornmeal mush, stick your thumb in it to make an indentation, and pick up some chicken and cabbage. I even got kudos for managing to keep the juices from running down my arm! (something foreigners do)

                                                                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                                                                        1. re: pdxgastro

                                                                                                                          Was that in Tanzania, or here in the US?

                                                                                                                          1. re: BobB

                                                                                                                            England, actually. I met my Tanzanian friend who cooked me the meal in a women's residence (with lots of International residents).

                                                                                                                        2. Just found this link on another thread about eating with one's hands (thanks MGZ!)

                                                                                                                          http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/18/din...