Traditionally, the Indian culture is all about using your hands to eat. However, lately, we’ve been choosing forks and knives, spoons or even sporks (spoon+fork), to consume our very Indian daalchawal. People have termed eating with hands as a ‘barvaric’ custom, something that’s followed in the developing parts of the world like India, Africa and the Middle East. These also happen to be places that produce some of the best cuisines in the world. While we may still choose eating with a spoon over using our fingers, it’s important to know and respect the science behind this tradition, and more importantly, to realize that it’s not ‘barbaric’ at all.
- Improved digestion: When we touch our food with our fingers, our enzymes get activated and our nerve endings immediately inform our brain about incoming food, thus preparing our digestive system for what’s coming.
- Human touch vs Metal: What wins between the feel of steel and that of skin? Ask anyone who has ever hugged a robot! Eating with cutlery is more mechanical, whereas the use of fingers brings an immediate connection with our food, a warmth that metal can never match. Ever wonder how the same food can taste heavenly when fed by hand, by your mother? It’s the special touch!
- The perfect bite: The right amount of dal, chawal and achar, rolled into a ball and popped into the mouth can present a delicious balance of flavours that your spoon cannot. You can actually feel your food – the temperature, the texture.
- Mindful eating: Consuming food isn’t just about igniting your sense of taste. Eating with your hand awakens a sense of touch that metal cannot. It brings another sense to focus on your action of eating – not just your sense of smell, which creates an anticipation, not only your eyes which are excited by the sight of your favourite dish, but also your sense of touch as your fingers transfer the food from your plate to your mouth.
- Energy: As per Ayurveda, our five fingers represent the five elements that we are made up of i.e.:
Prana relates to the thumb (supplies the human body with essential oxygen)
Udana relates to the index finger (ascending energy that flows from the heart to the head and brain)
Vyana relates to the middle finger (effects the whole body and particularly on the Nadis)
Samana relates to the ring finger (distributes the energy of nutrition throughout the human body, aids digestion)
Apana relates to the little finger (influences the lower part of the body)
When we bring our fingers together to eat, we are actually forming a mudra that keeps all our vital energies (all 5 pranas) in balance.
So the next time you’re picking up a spoon to eat, think again!
Here’s a recipe to Moong Dal Khichdi, which is easy to eat with your hands and tastes yum:
1 cup split yellow gram (Yellow moong dal)
1 cup rice
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
10 black peppercorns
salt to taste
2 1/2 tbsp ghee
- Wash and soak the moong dal and rice together. Drain.
- In a bowl, mix the dal and rice with the turmeric powder, peppercorns, 4 1/2 cups of water and salt.
- Pressure cook for 3 to 4 whistles and set aside for 20 minutes till the steam has been released.
- Remove from the pressure cooker, add the ghee and mix well.
- Serve hot with mango pickle and papad.