Thursday, November 10, 2005

Licking My Fingers (and West-bashing a little!)

Of late, this blog seems to be taking wierd turns, from philosophy to films to what not! Ah well!

Think I will write about the art of eating today. In my time, I have met quite a few people from the West. For most, India is just Taj mahal, Aishwarya Rai, snake charmers, elephants and maharajahs. For someone I know, born in India and brought up in the US, the chief concern was whether Bangalore had beauty salons! This as in 1998-99, after the IT boom, mind you! Oranges have worms, mineral water to wash the face, believe me, I have tolerated much. Granted India is not advanced (maybe I should put up an editorial I wrote about this issue) from the Western perspective, but come on.....!

I am in a good mood today, so let me not get US (the NRIs are the worse) bashing. Will save it up for black mood days for that extra punch!!

When I was in school, we had this exchange programme with a school in Milwaukee. Two students would come every year and work, teach and spend a few months in Madikeri. They laaaved India (typical again. Sorry, cant help slipping in a little sarcasm!) but found the idea of eating with hands disgusting. That is what I want to write about.

We Indians believe that food is just not something that is eaten to fill your stomach. It is a treat to the senses, the taste to the palate, the smell to the nose, the colours to the eyes and the feel of food to the skin. Most foods are based on these. They are not meant to be eaten with a fork and spoon. The utter joy is in breaking off a piece of dosa with just two fingers, dipping it in slurpy curry and putting it in your mouth as it melts like butter. The idea is to feel the food. Eating is an art. We have this very unique way of eating food in portions, first one type of curry, then the next, then something sweet and so on. In fact, there is a method to be followed when you serve all the dishes in a function. I had written in detail about this too, will post it when I go home next (hope I remember!)

The best thing about eating with your hand is the smell that stays on long after you have washed your hand. There have been many days when I smelt my hand and felt the taste of that food on my tongue all over again. Eating is a ritual, slowly followed, each gesture a symbol of your approval or not of the food, of the hostess. Though quite disgusting by the standards of my Book of Table Manners (I tend to be very irritated with people who slurp and burp), a person buring after a meal is supposed to mean that he or she enjoyed the food. Slurping is supposed to enhance the taste of the food!

See, this is the one thing I love about India. There is so much to learn. Life is so complexly interwoven with the intricacies of fine living. The colours, the food, the sheer variety of life, can a person ever tire of life here. They say, if you tire of India, you tire of life and I echo that. I have complaints against the West, against the government, against so many things. But in India, you are free to live. As the slogan of the consumer brand LG goes- Life's Good!

4 comments:

San Nakji said...

The West is quite a big place to be critical of. I think you may be generalising just little. Remember that KFC is finger licking good and hamburgers are eaten with the hand ;o)

Deepa said...

KFC and hamburgers? dont know, am a vegetarian!
i suppose generalisation is inevitable when you are talking about a mass of people. i speak from experience. individuals are different i know

San Nakji said...

tut tut tut... should a reporter be generalising? ;o) Remember NZ is part of the 'West'

Friar Tuck said...

There are lots of foods I eat by hand.

But.....most of Indian food tends to fall into an eat with silverware in the west.

But I think your overall thought is that in India a meal is savored, while in the US we tend to devour our food more than savor it. I think that is true.