I licked my fingers in front of strangers during a social dinner.
Every people following me on Instagram know I live in Italy, and that I eat pizza at least once a week.
But what they may don’t know, is that I loveeee eating my pizza using my hands...
If I don’t eat it with my hands, I feel losing half the pleasure it provides me, like if I was not in “mindfulness” but more focused on the image I give to others…
Hands contact has a direct impact on food pleasure, it has been proven.
But with the evolution and the birth of the fork, we tend to forget it.
While I was teaching food design to some international students, I asked them to talk about their country culture and the use of cutleries. I was curious about the fact that, while we ban the use of hands for eating in Western countries, it’s still authorized in some cultures.
Most of the time, Western European people associate the act of eating with hands to non-hygienic / rude manners. But I remember this colleague from Casablanca, explaining that when they share a dish in their tradition, first they wash their hands and then, each person eats the portion in front of him, respecting the area of the other guest; they don’t go picking food randomly.
There are still some well-defined contexts though, where eating with the hands is still accepted by Europeans: fingers food during a party, eating an hamburger at McDonald... But I specified in “well defined” contexts. Before Christmas, I was invited to a bbq party and they were neither forks nor knifes. I ended eating my marinated pork rib with my hands while observing a girl that was completely shocked and was refusing to eat…
I wonder why modernity blocked us in social acceptation scheme. And when I say we, I’m completely part of the lot. I remember this Chinese intern that was reporting to me a couple of years ago and that was spitting bones of chicken wings during lunch break. It goes without saying that my colleagues and I were all traumatized. I remembered questioning myself about telling her or not, during a 1 to 1, that it was not a commune practice in Europe. I was asking to myself about where the right stands and about the necessity of adaptation. So I told her: “are you planning to stay in Europe after the internship ?” She replied “no”. And I skipped ashamed the topic as if it was taboo.
It reminds me a conference of Martin Hablesreiter (from Honey & Bunny) trying to make people question themselves about unsaid rules while showing a photography oh them sitting at the table and eating naked.
We do a lot of things without thinking about why we do them.
This may be a long introduction but my point was to highlight that even if I claim to be open minded, I’m still conditioned by our social rules. So when I decided to attend a social dinner using my hand as a plate and eating directly with my mouth, I was at the beginning a bit out of my comfort zone…
It all started a Tuesday afternoon, discovering on an Instagram story that they were some seats left for a social dinner experience. Curious about trying new things, I decided to write to the account and got a reservation for this last minute experience.
I arrived there without any expectations, probably because I did not perform a due diligence before. I had discovered the account on instagram by case and since the philosophy around food design was similar to mine, I started to follow them.
I arrived there, tired after one hour of high intensity sport training and was welcome by a warm and smiling person. I did not know anyone, but it released immediately all possible tensions from the day.
In the main room, was standing a big communal table with limes and towels. It had a certain ceremony effect.
After all the guests arrived, we received the agenda of the evening (9 courses!) and started immediately cleaning our hands with the lime that was presented as a natural anti bacterial.
The starter will remain probably one of the most impressive dishes, as the first one. Being a participative eating process, we were told to use our hand as a piece of bread and we started applying garlic on top of it. I was thinking about the day after and laughing inside while scrubbing.
In the second phase, Giulia started to put oil with her fingers on the hand of each one.
The beauty of this experience is that there is a direct contact between the person that feeds and the person that receives, like a mum with his child. In our modern society, the cook is hidden behind his kitchen, the dish being a simple output. In the trendiest situation; he will perform some show cooking in front of you, but will never touch you. In a last phase, Giulia added fresh puntarella, anchovies and crumble bread inside our hand. The dish was finally “plated” and we were asked to taste our first dish. Without being sure how, we proceeded. Inevitably our hands remained greasy and most of the guests started licking their fingers to clean them… It was like going back to a certain animal state, where the act of eating becomes instinctive and some actions become authorized by the context.
I won’t go through all the dishes, but let’s say that the whole objective of the dinner was to play on contrast: hot and cold, mixing yourself the ingredients before eating the dish, using the tongue to roll the food in your mouth (that one was completely #foodporn !).
Overall my evening turned to be a really unplanned surprising experience, where I ate spaghetti for the first time directly from my palm to my mouth, without using my other hand as a fork. I had never eaten either ice cream cup without a spoon.I felt in a Freudian experimentation. And we were guided through by perfect hosts.
Anything to say (as being French ahahah) ?
I remember proposing a dinner of that kind to a customer and I think what have would been interesting when playing on hot and cold was to have the eyes covered, so you focus completely on the other sense. Where for other dish, the sight was maybe a priority: have you ever seen an egg yolk rolling in your hand? It’s quite impressive. Ok you could say that it would be as well interesting to have the eyes covered so you can focus on the gluey sensation on the hand. There is no perfect rules I guess.
Last, I always thought that if I eat sitting, I’m more able to focus on what I eat and the flavors. I would be curious to do the same experience but sitting, I would probably be more relaxed and more focused on my senses perception.
Want to try this nice experience? Follow contatto_experience on IG & FB.