Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Just relish the food of of life: pig in

I am not sure that I entirely agree with the lady writing below (and the apparent fact that she is a Chinese-Australian is rather surprising) but I think she has a point. Perhaps because of my contact with India, I use my hands fairly freely while eating and I definitely need a bib at times. Indians tell me that they would not enjoy their food as much if they could not feel it -- JR

By Donna Chang

Last week I ate a beautiful ginger and garlic crab at home with my family. We tore it apart with our hands, noisily sucked and chewed the flesh, stained our clothes with crab juice, and left a trail of dirty serviettes in our wake.

Food is enjoyed with reckless abandon at my house, and it makes me wonder why more of us don't eat our food this way.

We are trained from an early age not to chew with our mouths open, to sit up straight at the table, not to tear at food with our fingers - lest we offend fellow diners.

But what if everyone threw away their inhibitions about table etiquette? I'm sure many among us have the secret desire to put a plate up to their face and slurp the yolk from a sunny-side-up fried egg at a cafe.

How much more would we enjoy a bowl of spag bol at a restaurant without the constant interruption of wiping sauce away from our chins? Without glancing around anxiously to see if anyone saw you drop that noodle on to your lap?

I've found that people will admit to ''bad'' etiquette when eating alone at home, but would never take that kind of behaviour out into public. That they pick apart a cold chicken carcass with their hands is their dirty little secret.

I don't find that behaviour at all offensive - instead, I cannot bear watching someone painstakingly pick apart a pizza with a knife and fork. To me, it indicates a triumph of needless, priggish behaviour over good commonsense.

And think about this: it is cute when we see a toddler enraptured with his ice-cream as it dribbles down her chin. But when that toddler grows up, he becomes obsessed with stopping the drips, and keeping his hands and face clean.

To replicate that same joy we experienced as a toddler is to have our own behaviour labelled childish, uneducated - even savage.

We need not obsess over a little bit of mess, because hands, faces, clothes can be washed. Perhaps we need to rewrite the social handbook to focus on the joy of eating freely, rather than a detached dissection of food. Or invent a machine to remove ingrained soundbite memories of our parents' nagging voices about table manners. Nobel prize, anyone?

And one more thing. I'm going to Tetsuya's next week. I just hope they're tolerant of the three-second rule.


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