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Finger lickin' good? [moved from General topics]

So my SO and I have been together a good while (5 years), so this is NOT a question of "first date" manners. The other night we went out to a BBQ joint where I was eating with my hands and it got a little messy, and we didnt have any paper napkins, just the red cloth napkin that was on my lap. Well, without even thinking, I licked the sauce off of my fingers (just a bit, I was discrete lol). It was just like instinct- my finger had a delicious sweet sauce on them, my mouth wanted to clean it off. Despite being WAY past the point of petty turn offs, my SO and I got into a bit of an argument over it because it apparently embarrassed him.
How terrible is licking your fingers (assuming the setting is casual/not fine dining obviously)? When (if ever) is it okay?
Do you ever lick your fingers when eating messy finger food like BBQ and if so, what is your "technique"?
Thanks in advance!


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  1. Yikes, who is your SO, Margaret Dumont?

    1 Reply
    1. As long as you know where your fingers have been, and you want to lick them, then it's really noones business. I'm sure that Emily Post would not agree, but this is 2012 not 1960.

      1. BB?. If i was at a BBQ joint and my SO had fingers covered in sauce....I'd lick it off their fingers!

        1. I agree with everyone else! It's no different from slurping noodles in a noodle house. It may be considered rude in another setting, but in that particular setting there is nothing wrong with it.

          1. What kind of BBQ place only has cloth napkins?! The one I go to has rolls of paper towels at each table! That's real BBQ!

            1. There's a reason they call things like BBQ "Finger lickin' good". Clearly plenty of people have licked their fingers enough to come up with the phrase. I think you were fine and certain foods require some interaction with your food (such as BBQ, fried chicken, nachos, the melting chocolate on a s'more come to mind).I think you are right that there are some settings that using a napkin may be more appropriate, but at home or a casual BBQ place, finger licking should be encouraged.

              1. SO is a wuss. No "dessert" for him!

                1. Since it's a bbq place I'd give you a pass. In most other scenarios, I'm with your SO.

                  1. I believe it's a man's job to do the finger-licking.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: beevod

                      Can you explain why? Is it a turn off when the woman does it?

                      1. re: hungryabbey

                        Really. Really? You don't get this joke (albeit gratuitous)?

                    2. Maybe he wanted you to save your "finger licking" skills for, um, ahem, ... him?

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: ipsedixit

                        ha. this must have been the thought process behind it all.
                        Thanks all for the input!! Next time we go to "rib fest" I will show him this thread ahead of time lol


                      2. I agree with just about everyone else.

                        If I'm at anything other than a high-end restaurant and/or dining with clients/coworkers, I will and do lick delicious sauces off my fingers. I would lick said delicious sauces off my date's fingers, too, but, in my experience, they get to them first, being in closer proximity.

                        Even my first caveat is a little misleading. I've been to many BBQ and wing joints with clients and coworkers, and at such places just about everyone licks the sauce off their fingers, as do I.

                        1. Hi... I usually know well before entering an establishment's door whether it is a BBQ joint, and also whether it is likely that I will order BBQ. Armed with that knowledge, I've never found it difficult, when the server is taking our order, to ask for extra paper napkins prior to the arrival of the chow ( I am not visiting from Mars, and therefore know beforehand that BBQ sauce is sticky and messy by default ). Takes no more cognitive effort than remembering to ask for a wedge of lemon for my ice water ( which is my preference ).

                          That said, I am OK with finger licking if the eating is occuring outside, at a joint's picnic tables, a car hop-style drive-in, etc.. Same goes for shellfish-boil -type newspapers-on-the-picnic table al fresco hootenannies...

                          1. Barbecue, along with corn-on-the-cob and whole-lobsters-in-the-shell, is an inherently messy dining experience, something to be eaten with the fingers as necessary, and in this context there are few rules to abide by.

                            One important rule of table etiquette that survives in this situation - indeed, it's all the more important in this situation - is that (unless you are a parent or guardian training your children in table manners, or someone charged with safeguarding the public image of some suffering an ailment that might make their public dining messy) one is not supposed to observe what and how other guests are eating. So whatever minor etiquette mess you indulged in by licking was trumped by the more significant etiquette mess created by your SO's indulgence of noticing what he should have pretended not to notice.

                            3 Replies
                              1. re: hungryabbey

                                Glad you do.

                                I will now extend this with speculation/observation based on my parenthetical: in US culture, children learn table etiquette in the context of immediate family, and generally don't have the experiences of being a pure guest at a dinner party or out in fine dining establishments. The exigencies of our current culture significantly delay those experiences, so that when people finally do experience them, they don't self-manage etiquette issues well, because their primary reference point is the experience of being trained by parents - they don't realize that the experience of being trained in etiquette is not translatable to a situation where there is merely host and guest, and no trainers. So they are more likely to confuse roles and contexts; one reaction to this is to simply pretend there are virtually no rules, but that in many cases only intensifies rather than ameliorates problems....

                                1. re: Karl S

                                  Not to mention that in many families nobody eats at a table, or looking at each other, but at that big flat screen, and "table manners" is a subject not on the curriculum. I think I've eaten around more young people lately who know how to hold chopsticks than know how to hold a fork!

                                  The first serious argument the not-yet Mrs O and I had was when we sat down to a fried chicken meal and I picked up a drumstick. Despite my pointing out that the Colonel (our "caterer" for the evening) did not say his chicken was FORK-Lickin' Good, and that she was the first person I'd met who ate this stuff with utensils, she stuck to her guns and, by way of silencing me once and for all, brought out her copy of Amy Vanderbilt's book and showed me, chapter and verse, where Amy says chicken of any sort must be eaten thus, except in the setting of a very informal family picnic. I suppose I should not have brought up the fact that Our Amy had recently thrown herself through a plate glass 15th (or so) story window and ultimately onto a crowded street, probably the most inconsiderate suicide on record (at that time; those bombers were years in the future). The room got cold enough to freeze the chicken and everything else, but she married me anyway.

                            1. Were you by chance out with a special guest that your SO was trying to impress... like the Queen of England, perhaps?

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: cowboyardee

                                Nope, just messy Abbey and her prude of a bf ha.

                              2. Yes, finger licking is ok! The only technique is to handle the ribs with the tips of my fingers to minimize the mess, which, in turn, means I only have to lick the tips of my fingers.

                                Is finger licking ok with your SO in private? Is he finicky/fussy about anything else?

                                5 Replies
                                1. re: ricepad

                                  In the matter of technique: I've seen folks lick the _tips_ of their fingers employing the _tip_ of their tongue. And then I've seen folks seriously suck their fingers up to the second joint like they were pulling tapioca balls up a thick Boba straw. OP states the first technique. Definitely less disconcerting...

                                  1. re: silence9

                                    I have an uncle who holds fried chicken in his hand, almost as if he's afraid it might try to get away. Then he licks his fingers/hands almost lovingly. It's like a train wreck...you don't want to watch, but it's hard not to!

                                    1. re: ricepad

                                      "..almost lovingly" Haha...
                                      I think the one exception is watching little toddlers discover their plump little digits with amazement and proceed to 'eat' their own hands and everything that clings to them. Very cute, and endlessly entertaining...

                                  2. re: ricepad

                                    Ha, no its not okay in private either. He watches me like a hawk when he thinks my fingers may be "on their way in", and then I usually just get up at the table and go get a napkin. Overtime, I have learned not to come to the dinner table without a whole roll of paper towels. And oh, yes, this is a personality thing.. he is VERY specific about hygiene, and a little OCD about general cleanliness and tidiness (I also cant leave the house without him attacking me for an in-depth session with the lint roller).

                                    1. re: hungryabbey

                                      <he is VERY specific about hygiene, and a little OCD...>

                                      ...and a little controlling perhaps? His hygiene obsessions don't need to become yours.

                                  3. Buy him a white tablecloth and find yourself a real man who doesn't look down his nose at you. Life is short -- but also too long to spend your life with someone who feels that he has to be critical of his so-called "love."

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: junescook

                                      Aw, no no I kid and now i feel bad. He is wonderful, we all have our quirks. Dealing with his hygiene obsessions is definitely something i can deal with.

                                      1. re: hungryabbey

                                        (C'mon, now, hasn't everybody done this one time or another?)
                                        Come up with a more sensuous technique. :)

                                    2. in the absence of finger bowls and within a casual context I'd do the same, but perhaps wash my hands before any further interchange.

                                      1. "Do you ever lick your fingers when eating messy finger food like BBQ"