I was reading back on some responses on my ‘Food Flicks’ page and I came across a very perceptive (and funny) remark by my very clever writer/artist-friend, Agnes. The conversation had focused on various favorite food scenes, to which she remarked about the sniffing of one’s food when first coming in contact with the plate and how this was such a natural thing to do.
Of course, it got this foodie thinking about our relationship to food and how different it is for everyone. Take Hubby and violin girl–natural food sniffers, through and through. Something I don’t understand. For me, the odors naturally wafting from the plate suffices my senses. I don’t need to hover my nares milimeters above food that will soon come into contact with my mouth.
In Kaukab’s household, we ate much with our fingers, scooping up all kinds of Arabic food with the Middle Eastern utensil that is pita bread. Fingers have been the utensil of choice around the world since man’s creation.
But, in American culture, which took its cues from British and other Western-European decorum, the proper way to eat has evolved into something altogether prescriptive. For example, pizza. You would think that this meal-in-a-slice marvel would be the great cultural equalizer. But, when surveyed, Americans seem fairly split on the matter of how to properly eat a pizza. Fork, or hands? And if it’s deep-dish, then what?
Same goes for spaghetti. “Proper” Americans seem to go for the fork and spoon technique and one which Hubby employs–much to the chagrin of Kaukab’s daughter. Just ask him. Nevermind that pasta can be easily managed with fork, alone, if utilized in small, circular movements and of a patient, food-loving mind. Eating spaghetti shouldn’t require false intentions for the sake of ill-perceived “high” culture.
And, let’s not forget the on-going conundrum of how to eat a steak. Who here is a fork-exchanger? At Kaukab’s table, forks remained in their “proper” left hands, the fork’s back facing outward, with knives in their right (the lefty siblings were left to their own devices), enabling a more efficient path to the eater’s mouth. This seems to be a more customary method outside of the U.S., but one this daughter of immigrants has personally noticed MIA at the tables of the cultural high-minded, even though visiting heads-of-state have been observed on C-SPAN engaging in such methods. And, what could be more high-minded than C-SPAN?
Which brings me back to my original question. Does it take an obscure cable news show to teach we Americans how best to be proper about our eating habits?
Like C-SPAN, does anyone really care?