Eating with Your Hands: An Exquisite Indian Tradition
In India, eating with your bare hands is considered normal, given that it was started within the ancient Ayurvedic teachings. The Ayurveda teaches that food must systematically be prepared before consumption, with the ideal goal to derive the perfect balance in the three doshas (elements).
That being said, the texts on Ayurveda teach that each finger represents one of five elements, namely:
- The thumb represents space
- The forefinger represents air
- The mid-finger represents fire
- The ring finger represents water
- The pinky finger represents the earth
It is believed that when eating with your hands, join all of your fingers together. This will allow you to focus more fully on the taste of the food.
The thing is, eating with your hands is also considered a respectful gesture in India. The other reason eating with your hands is considered a respectful gesture is that in Hinduism, the right hand is considered the clean hand. Because of this, it is not considered polite to eat with your left hand.
The left hand is considered to be unclean because of the ancient notion that when a woman is menstruating and touches her left hand, it will make anything or anyone it touches impure. While this notion is no longer practiced in India, eating with your left hand is still considered impolite.
How about Soupy Food?
This is a certain case where exemption is permitted. Of course, how can you eat soupy food with your bare hands? You can use a spoon to eat it or use a piece of bread.
The other exception to this rule is when the food is so dry that it will not stick to your hands while eating. This is the case with a lot of Indian fried snacks.
Before You Eat, Do Not Forget to Wash Your Hands
Before you begin to eat, in addition to a spiritual significance, washing your hands washes away the impurities. Would you not want to eat food with someone else’s dirt on your hands?
The Proper Way to Eat with Your Hands in India
As you’ve already learned, the proper way to eat with your hands is to join your fingers together, making your hand look like a cup. The more elegant way to eat with your hand is to use your right hand to pick up food. While doing so, your left hand should be used to support your right hand.
If you’re left-handed, you can use the same hand that you eat with. If you’re right-handed, use your left hand to support your right hand.
Use the tips of your fingers to pick up food, then use the same fingers to place it in your mouth. This makes sure that you don’t pick any food that you don’t have to.
The chewing of the food will mix the flavours together, and you will be able to savour the taste.
It is also polite to say “excuse me” when you accidentally touch something with your hand.
While Westerners will always debate whether it’s “civilized” to eat with your hands, the fact of the matter is that it is a typical custom and art in India.
Furthermore, for an Indian, eating with hands is respectful, spiritual, and a way to enjoy the art of taking your time to savour the wonderful taste of the delicacies presented in front of you.
If you are looking for a delectable Indian restaurant in Aldergrove, BC, look no further than our delicious selections here at Veerji. With decades of experience in the food and restaurant industry, we have figured out what it takes to make and run a successful restaurant business in BC. Come and explore our menu and our locations and let us serve you some of today’s best Indian dishes!