If you had no fork or spoon, how would you eat your food? We are not referring to food like Shawarma or falafels or hot dogs that you can easily pick up and eat. We are talking about dishes with soup, those ones that require tearing and dipping and licking of fingers
According to historians, the fork was invented in the 4th century. Prior to that, people ate using their fingers.
Although this tradition has faded out in some cultures, it is still common in parts of Africa, South America, Asia and the Middle East. As it turns out, there are good reasons to switch from fork to fingers.
It helps you enjoy all the sensory elements of food
One of the pleasures of food is that it engages all our senses. Smell, sight, sound and of course taste. It also engages the sense of touch but we often miss that when there is cutlery in the way. With hands, you have a full food experience and it can help you enjoy your food more. Some even claim that food tastes better when eaten with fingers.
It helps to slow down eating
When you eat with your hands, the process is much slower than with a fork or spoon. You pay attention to how you are eating, (you do not want to spill too much) and this helps to make you alert to you food.
There is an awareness of how much you are eating that may result in portion control and feeling full on smaller portions of food. This is a key benefit for those who are conscious of their weight. Another benefit to slow eating is that it helps us digest our food better.
It has spiritual benefits
If you follow Ayurveda, you will learn that eating with your hands aids in digestion. This comes down to the nerve endings in the fingertips that are believed to boost digestion. When the fingertips feel the food, they signal to the stomach that we are about to eat and this releases digestive juices.
But the benefits aren’t just about nourishment. Every finger is seen as an extension of the five elements; the thumb-fire, the index-air, the middle finger-space, the ring finger-earth and the little finger-water, helping you feel more connected to your food.
Exercise for the fingers and hands
You give your hand a work-out when you use them to eat. The flexing of the fingers also helps to improve blood circulation.
Your fingers will act as a temperature gauge
You may not be able to tell how hot a meal is with a fork, only feeling the burn once it has reached your tongue. When using your hands, you have a few moments to pause and let hot food cool before eating it.
Different cultures have traditions and customs around eating with your hands. However, one thing they all agree on is that you should wash your hands before and after eating.