Thursday, October 1, 2009

Finger Licking Good

I love to eat with my hands. It’s second nature to me. I am fully capable of using a knife and fork. I don’t eat rice or spaghetti and meatballs with my hands. But my fingers make great utensils as well. It’s not an uncivilized or barbaric way to eat. I don’t have food running down the front of my shirt or sauce staining my cheek. I love the feel of my food. And before it hits my lips, rolls around on my tongue and slides down my throat, I touch it with my hands. Not to mention sometimes it’s just easier to eat certain foods with your hands.

Eating with your hands is the norm in many cultures. I grew up eating with my hands. I can still see myself sitting at the dining table, chest pressed against it, my father sitting at the head of the table and me at the first seat next to him, eating ogbona soup with codfish, amala, or gari and egusi with a smoked turkey drumstick bigger than my forearm. While watching Anthony Bourdain No Reservations while he was visiting Saudi Arabia, everyone sat around a large platter of rice and a roasted lamb or camel and ate with their hands. Eating is communal. It’s a bonding experience. It encompasses the senses, touch included.

What comes before eating? Cooking. Most times, when I’m hungry, I cook to eat. Other times, I eat leftovers. The whole process is enjoyable, soothing, meditative, exhilarating, experimental. Even when it’s stressful, I shrug it off to chance and pull some more ingredients out of the cupboard. There’s something visceral and spiritual about cooking. Watching all the various ingredients come together. Ingredients mix, blend, dissolve, boil, thicken, liquefy, harden, coagulate, evaporate. There are so many different processes that occur to reach the end product. Cooking is a very hands-on process for me. And to enjoy the end result with my hands makes perfect sense.

Finger Licking Good was also published on The Cud in July 2010

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