Friday, February 10, 2012


USA ( - Julie Sahni vividly remembers the first time she had to eat with utensils. Ms. Sahni, a New York-based cookbook author and cooking teacher, grew up in India eating the traditional way, with her right hand. Then, in college, she won a dance competition that would take her to Europe. How, she wondered, would she eat?  Ms. Sahni, 66, mastered the knife and fork, but she has never really liked them. “Eating with the hands evokes great emotion,” she said. “It kindles something very warm and gentle and caressing. Using a fork is unthinkable in traditional Indian eating. It is almost like a weapon.” Ms. Sahni refuses to eat Indian food with a knife and fork, even in the most formal South Asian restaurants in New York. “I don’t care if I’m all dressed up, if everyone else is eating with a knife and fork, if the wine pairing is $80,” she said. “It’s essential.” Eating with the hands is common in many areas of the world, including parts of Asia and much of Africa and the Middle East.

But until recently, you would have been hard-pressed to find many restaurants in the United States - especially those with $20 or $30 entrees - where digging in manually was encouraged. Now, several high-profile chefs are asking diners to get their hands dirty, in the belief that it heightens the sensual connection to food and softens the formality of fine dining.  Chef Roy Choi’s restaurant - “A-Frame” - in Culver City, Calif., is utensils optional. Though a basket of silverware is provided at each table, when the grilled pork chop or market salad arrives, servers advise customers that they’ll be missing out if they pick up a fork. 
Etiquette is central to most traditions of hand-to-mouth eating; the artfulness and ritual of the practice is part of what people love about it. Hand-washing often comes first. In many communities, a prayer of thanks comes next. Only then can one reach in - usually with just the right hand - to eat.

No-utensils menu “creates more of a social atmosphere,” says Mr. Tila, a chef from Hollywood. “It brings us back to our childhood, and it seems to lighten the mood in the room.”  Dining with the hands is not necessarily easy: in some regions, including parts of India, it is most polite to use your thumb, pointer and middle finger, and to let only the first two joints of those fingers touch the food. In the ancient Vedic system, lot of basic social etiquette was respected.

“They (asuras) do not know etiquette.” Ācāra means one should learn how to behave. That makes a gentleman and a rough person. ... Ācārau means he learns from the sāstra how we should live, that, preliminary, that you must take bath, you must wash your hands after eating or you must take bath after evacuating. So many things are there. ... In the Vedic literature you find all these directions, but now they have given up. Especially Vedic culture was there long, long ago all over the world. But now that is finished. Now in India, also, where little Vedic principles were still glowing, that is now being finished also.  They are learning from the Westerns how to remain unclean, how to eat meat, how to drink wine, and so on, so on, so many things. ... The asuras, they have no aim. They do not know what is the aim, neither they follow.

Śrīla A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda :
Lecture on Bhagavad-gītā - Chapter 16 verse 6
South Africa, October 18, 1975
“Complete Works of Srila Prabhupada”
Bhaktivedanta Booktrust Inc - Copyright © 1972-2006

1 comment:

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