How To Eat With Your Hands

I’ve learned a lot of things since I came to Oman but one thing I didn’t expect to learn was how to eat literally anything with my hands. For some reason it just never occurred to me that silverware wasn’t a necessity everywhere in the world. There’s no particular reason for eating with your hands, it’s just a part of the traditional culture and to be honest I’ve really come to appreciate the practice.

Firstly, it cuts down on things to clean up – at most you have to wash only a few spoons and plates. It allows you to really connect with your food; kind of one step further on the “eat local” spectrum, and it also helps with portion control. I’ve gotten a lot better but when I first got here I noticed it took me approximately twice to three times as long to eat the same amount with my hands as with a fork or spoon. Even now there’s just no way to eat rice at the same speed with your hands versus a spoon.

The funny thing is that I’ve gotten so used to not using utensils that I sometimes choose not to use them even if I’m presented with them. For example at lunch at school we used to comment on how glad we were that we got at least one meal a day where we didn’t have to eat with our hands. But now it’s not uncommon to see a few of us just skipping the forks and going at it the Omani way.

Family lunch

Family lunch

Dinner at my house. Usually we eat at a table but there were guests so the ground was easier to fit everyone.

Dinner at my house. Usually we eat at a table but there were guests so the ground was easier to fit everyone.

Similarly at weddings I always take pleasure in seeing my host family or other guests starting out with spoons but about five minutes in giving up and resorting to their hands. The image of grown women in gorgeous formal dresses and fancy makeup eating grilled chicken with their hands is endlessly amusing.

As a beginner it’s important to start with something easy to pick up like potatoes or salad. My first experience with it was on my second day in Oman at a traditional restaurant where everyone is seated on the floor and rice is served on a communal plate.  The difficulty factor is increased by having to share the space with a bunch of other clueless people. It definitely wasn’t the easiest way to learn but we were all inexperienced so it was a good place to practice.

Once you’ve mastered bigger foods then a good next step is rice or curry. The key to doing this successfully is eating multiple foods together. For example rice is much easier to manage when you eat it with something more solid like vegetables, meat or fish. Or even by adding yogurt to help the rice stick together and make it easier to pick up. For curry using breads is a must to mop up the sauce and it can also be used spoon-like to pick up things.

The only things that we don’t eat with our hands here is pasta and pizza, which makes absolutely no sense to me because besides sandwiches those are two of the very easiest things to eat with your hands.  It seems sort of ironically fitting though so I dutifully cut my pizza into small pieces and eat penne with a spoon.

If you’re up for it I would definitely recommend trying it out – you just have to be committed and it’s really not that hard! It can actually be a lot easier and also more fun. I mean why do you think kids are always trying to get out of using utensils?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Allen Israel
    May 14, 2014 @ 11:55:35

    I think when I was little my mother may have(gently) slapped my hands for eating with them! Maybe not-that was a long time ago.
    I wonder if you will be tempted once you return to the States—
    Great blog and picture!
    Poppa

    Reply

  2. maersky
    May 16, 2014 @ 06:03:00

    yes,in the Western world we consider eating by hands as a bad manner.So was a shock to eat this way when arrived to Oman but surprisingly when in interior areas and there’s not many dining options and have to rely on the local coffee shops,hand skills are very useful:-)

    Reply

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