Home Sweet Home

Home Sweet Home

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Niagara falls, Fork and Spoon

Let's hear this joke first. Note the emphasis on the word 'joke', or else our good ladies might very well stop reading this and start chasing me. Alright.

A guide giving a tour to a touring party at the Niagara falls:
I welcome you all to the Niagara Falls. These are the world's largest waterfalls and the sound intensity of the waterfall is so high that the sound of even 20 supersonic planes passing by can`t be heard! Now may I request the ladies to keep quite so that we can hear the Niagara Falls.
OK, so who can tell me the one other thing, or noise, I must say, that can beat even those ladies? You can't? Let me help. How about the buffet time in Sri Lankan weddings? Now I see your grin. I'm right, don't I? I was always amused at the noise we make at weddings while trying to eat our rice and curry, even perhaps including papadam. It reminds me of a medieval battle, more than anything else, with all the clutter and all. Come to think of it, it is a battle that we do with the meal, trying to make sure your chicken leg doesn't try to jump into the neighbor's plate or pieces of papadam doesn't fly to the next table. The noise is so intense that you can't hear what the person next to you say or what the band is playing.

Jokes aside, I always wondered why we chose to eat our Sri Lankan food with a fork and a spoon, when they are never meant to be eaten that way. Almost all our food are meant to be eaten by hand - that's the only way you can eat them so you get the real taste. Still, why do we consider it's a shame to it with our hands, and opt for fork and spoon, when most of us are very inept at it? I seriously don't see the point. It's a perfectly simple matter of providing each guest with a finger bowl at dining tables - can't be that much of a problem for the luxury hotels that we chose for our weddings isn't it? I see no problem with eating western food with fork or spoon. Most of them are meant to be eaten that way, just like most of the Japanese food are meant to be eaten by chopsticks. Come to think of it, I never see here Japs trying to eat their food with a fork or a spoon, except the western food such as spaghetti, macaroni etc. Makes sense, it is harder to eat those things with a chopstick rather than with a fork.

But we choose totally unsuited tools to eat our food and make a mockery of ourselves in front of everyone and still be proud. I've seriously contemplated the idea of eating with my hands in weddings, but only one thing have prevented me so far. Honestly, I don't give a rat's ass about what other people might think of me - that they might think I'm a godaya who can't handle them. Being able to do it is one thing, doing it without reason is just plain stupid. It's just, when I'm at a wedding - usually a friend's - almost all the time others say that don't do it cos it's not that good to the groom or bride. I mean, we're their best friends and if his relatives see we eat with our hands it's not good for them. Ridiculous argument, as I see it, but it is not my wedding and I don't usually want to be a jerk in front of the others. That's the only reason why I haven't done it so far. I mean what is there to be ashamed of eating with your hands, really?

What do you think? Is it the reason why most people who choose to eat with them?



  1. always wondered why we chose to eat our Sri Lankan food with a fork and a spoon, when they are never meant to be eaten that way. Almost all our food are meant to be eaten by hand - that's the only way you can eat them so you get the real taste.

    What do you mean, they were meant to be eaten by hand? And that you only get the real taste only when eaten by hand?

    People eat using the utensils depending on their climate, and resources available to them.

    Sri Lankans who live in an island with abundant water, can afford to wash their hand with water after eating. Also Sri Lanka is a hot country so touching water every day is not so much a big deal. Japanese, Chinese live in a cold country, with abundant bamboo sticks, so they used easily disposable bamboo sticks to eat, so that they won't have to wash their hands even in the cold winter. Similarly for the English. For some reason they started to eat with forks and spoons. Maybe it was because they ate a lot of meat and using a spiky thing is much better then using your hands to eat the oily pieces of meat. Mind you, that there was a time when the western world used only their fingers too. For some reason they started using a spoon and fork. Probably there was an element of show, but it can't be just for show. Customs have evolutionary beginnings.

    If you think logically, if eating by hand introduces the real taste, it should be something in the hand. Wonder what it is. The leftover pieces of snot, I dug up in the morning?

    What ever you say, eating by spoon and fork is convenient. You can type while you eat. You can read while you eat. No need to worry about food getting into the pages or keyboard. No need to worry about washing your hands in a bowl of water in which about 100 people have washed their hands before you.

    I have eaten using the spoon and fork most of my life, and I don't think my mother's food would have tasted any better if I used my hands to transfer her food to my mouth.

    No arguments if people try to eat with spoon and fork,or chopsticks for that matter, when they really can't do it and are afraid of being ridiculed. But thinking that people who eat with spoon and fork do that only for show is a mistake. Eating by hand thinking that if you use the spoon you will be labeled a Kalu Sudda, even though you find the spoon more convenient is the same as trying to use the spoon for show. To hell with the noise of spoon striking the plate. Who cares.

    ANY Sri Lankan food can be eaten using the spoon and fork and it will taste just fine. I remember someone(Rohana Beddage if I remember correctly) saying in a TV program(also to laud about the evils of modernism) that you can't eat Murunga(drumsticks) using the spoon and fork, but I can show him how it can be done.


  2. Umm... Solomon thanks for the interesting comment but allow me do differ.

    First, yes we chose to eat with our hands when we first discovered our food. Why? Because it is the most convenient way of eating them. Yes, you can eat with fork and spoon if you use them everyday, but what the hell it is far easier with the hand. I didn't mean they taste better because of snot, though you may enjoy that!
    It's just, almost all our food are eaten mixed with curries and what better way to mix than your god-given fingers?

    And type while you eat? Dude, who brigs a computer to a wedding? If you carefully read my post again I meant the weddings and such occasions. Maybe I wasn't making myself clear enough. And as you say, you don't have to wash your hands in a bowl where 100 people wash their hands. It is a very simple matter of providing each guest with the bowl of their own. That can't be too hard?

  3. No, I can't allow you to differ.

    When we(the human race) discovered food, we hadn't even invented the wheel. For what I know, maybe we didn't even use our hands. Just ate it right out from the tree like bats(Darwin would beg to differ, but can't allow that either). People while being busy evolving, found out that using tools makes life easier, so started using it for eating too. The Sri Lankan culture didn't use tools for eating back in the ancient times for some reason I don't know(probably they didn't eat a lot of meat so was easy to wash the food away because it wasn't so oily), but that doesn't mean we can't do it now does it? Besides we eat a lot now, that we didn't back then. I am not saying that we should all go eat by spoon. But why not if we find it convenient. I find spoon and fork convenient, because I am always in front of a computer browsing or typing and I don't have to worry about my keyboard getting dirty. Also I can push my plate away in order to wash it later(don't know when), and continue what I was doing, without having to go wash my hands and come back again.

    Regarding the argument about using the fingers I have given you, a similar argument was used by the medieval Roman Catholic Church opposing the use of forks.
    [Quoted from Wikipedia]
    God in his wisdom has provided man with natural forks - his fingers. Therefore it is an insult to Him to substitute artificial metallic forks for them when eating.

    No I didn't mean that you bring a computer or book to a wedding, although I have been to some weddings where I wished I had bought one with me. I was referring to ordinary day to day life.

    As for providing everyone with a bowl of water.. I don't know if it is easy or hard. You try it at your wedding and tell me. :-D But leave a fork and spoon for me if I am invited.


  4. In that case, I will differ without your permission.

    I think you're missing the gist of this conversation.

    My first point is, I was talking about social gatherings such as weddings. Where it is simply easy to eat and wash your hands unlike in a situation as you point out - like when using a computer.

    The other is, though it may be convenient for you and some others, most of the Sri Lankans are not convenient with them. Trust me, they aren't.

    You say that you don't know why we didn't use any utensils. Let me tell you. Have you heard the saying that necessity is the mother of invention. Simply, we did not need any such utensils to eat our food. It was - and is - far easier to eat with hands.

    And I find it hard to understand the relavance of the Catholic Church example in this conversation.

    Oh and about my wedding, dude, if that's going to happen.... well you know...

  5. Solomon obviously hasn't eaten enough Sri Lankan food... I mean, the way my mom used to feed me after mixing (anala) the food with her hands, I can't get the same amount of taste no matter how much I try... so isn't it stupid to say that using forks instead of your hands you can even get close to that taste?

    Let the English or the Japanese eat in any way they see fit. But as far as I know, all Sri Lankan curries and rice are meant to be mixed thoroughly in a way that only the hand can do... :)

    Nice post Sach... and lol at the Niagara joke... ;) :D

  6. IMHO rice and curry tastes infinitely better when eaten with hands. I think it's because of the aforementioned ability to mix the different curries and foods together with ease, the way in which it's so much easier to get all the meat off a bone and also that you swallow less air than if you were using cutlery. This makes the food taste better.

    Others might think differently of course!

  7. Okay. Point by point.
    For weddings - Eat with whatever you want. Spoons, Chopsticks, Forks, if you want, nuzzle down your bowl of food. Don't care what other people would think.

    I will take your word for it, when you say that fork and spoon isn't convenient for you and most Sri Lankans. Actually I think so too. I can eat using spoons or hands or chopsticks, but I prefer chopsticks or spoons because I hate touching water. So use whatever you want.

    Necessity being the mother of invention. Well.. Sri Lankans didn't invent the car. We traveled by bullock cart or walked. It wasn't that we didn't need a car, we just couldn't invent it. Can't the same be applied for fork and spoon?

    The quote about the Church was because you said that fingers are the better for mixing food then cutlery. Doesn't your idea match with the church's?

    My reply was more in a general point of view, because your paragraph starting from [Jokes aside, .... ] gives the idea that you were speaking in a more general sense.
    1. Sri Lankan food tastes gives the real taste when eaten by hand(Subjective, and doesn't apply only for weddings)
    2. Sri Lankan food were meant to be eaten by hand( You don't know that, and doesn't apply only for weddings). Our forefathers didn't say,
    "Okay Dude, this is more like a spoony dish. This isn't meant for us. Send this to the English" after inventing a new dish.
    Another thing, you can't even say all Jap food are meant to be eaten by chopsticks. They eat the small seeds of corn using chop sticks. We eat them by hand. The English may eat them by spoon. Hell, we eat rice by hand, Japs by chopsticks, English by spoon. See?

    Okay, in conclusion. My view is, eat with whatever you want in weddings and real life. Eat Spaghetti with your hands if you can't use the spoon. Nobody has the right to judge you by that.

    PS. Chavie, don't make assumptions about people you don't know. I lived in Sri Lanka for 25 years, and I have eaten everything during that time using the fork and spoon(except for the occasions when I was somewhere else where I couldn't find cutlery), but I haven't found a difference in taste at all. Don't you think that I would have gone for the better tasting option if I had? :-D

  8. Oh. Forgot to sign.
    The above post was by me.


  9. @Chavie and RD, I think so too, but clearly Solomon doesn't.

    The car example doesn't fit. We did invent bullock carts or whatever else we had back then and there was no need for any cars back then. We didn't have roads that cars can run in the first place.
    Later, the roads were developed and all, but by then the car had already been invented so we just adopted it.
    But food haven't changed a lot for all those centuries, isn't it?

    And your claim about Church thing is absurd. I never meant it that way. I was simply implying that it is easy to mix food with fingers. Not because any god given thing. I said something related to god, but that was just for the effect.

    Corn seeds - we eat the whole thing boiled and using hands. They separate the seeds and eat with chopsticks. Also, see the example about rice. We use hands. You know that Japanese rice is sticky and can't really eat with bare hands. English eat their rice with spoon cos they don't really mix it with curries the way we do. So again, see my point? The best method of eating our food - well most of it - is with hands.

    Anyway, nice conversation that was, and let's agree that we all have different opinions on things!

  10. 20 supersonic planes < chatter of ladies ??? O_O what a discovery! =P

    Anyway ya the wedding question is a nice one.. I almost forgot about that massive sound pollution during the meals time! lol But ya.. if it's me.. I eat with my hand if the occasion is at a house but would think twice if it's at a 5-star hotel. Cuz if everyone's eating with forks n spoons I can't be the onigiri in a fruits basket.. ne? =D

    Anyway I agree with what you said, Lankan food are meant to be eaten by hand, cuz it's been like that for ages. Plus for me they always taste better that way. And I'm also not comfy with the cold metallic taste of fork n spoon. -__-

    And like Chavie says, the food fed by mom tastes the best. It's a thing with our hand.. which was once told by a colleague of my dad, who was also my boarding unc.

    Like.. once I had to mix the food for their pet doggy cuz only I was at home when the poor doggy came complaining it was hungry. And from the next day on the doggy insisted to eat the food mixed by me, and unc said he refused to eat when he and aunt mixed the food! O_O And that's when this unc told me that our hands have individual tastes. And so for few weeks poor me was assigned with the task of mixing the food for the doggy! -__- hehe..

    Anyway my personal theory is.. *adding a bit of Chinese philosophy* it must be our ki that gets mixed with the food.. which will not happen with utensils.. for some odd reason. Also same goes when we prepare food. The food made by moms or experienced chefs always taste better than the ones we make. Cuz they usually make food with love, attention and care. And so I think it's our own ki that gets mixed in them. Which is why if 10 people prepare the same dish the same way with the same ingredients, it will still have 10 different tastes.. I think! =D

  11. Not sure about Sri Lankan food. I come from Kerala (now in US), so hope they must be similar. I generally eat with hands at home, but usually eat with fork outside & at functions. Reason is that it is inconvenient to wash hands sometimes. Secondly, in a buffet situation, if one of your hands is dirty, you cannot go and get a new plate.

    Sometimes this is tricky. I mean, there is no way you can eat "naan" + curry without using fingers. Rice + curry is easier. It just takes a little more time to mix them together first. Depends on how you eat, of course. I like mixing the whole thing and then eating. Some people eat a little rice, then a little curry and so on. Perhaps they would be better off with using hands.

  12. Awesome topic that I've wanted to touch on myself.

    I think it's totally stupid that people taboo eating Sri Lankan food with their fingers, when it's the most Sri Lankan thing to do ever! I don't really know about the not-good-for-bride-and-groom culture, but most of the time in hotels and restaurants, I think it's because of this lame social stigma that we've got to behave like the suddhas or else. From what I've seen, high class Sri Lankans tend to have a prob with embracing their own culture, man.

    LOL @ Niagara falls joke! :D

  13. Harumi, Krish and Mak
    Yeah I think more or less most of the people agree with it that eating with fingers/hands is the easier and better way.
    Then again, it is also a relative thing, for some people who are as accustomed to it as most of us might find it inconvinient.

    And yeah, I too loved that joke...

  14. I don’t know how dull things like “logical arguments” get in with tasting food. Hope they won’t apply those kinds of “logical views” to other pleasurable things in life – such a sex.
    But regarding food, finger licking always good!

    Oh by the way.. The term really is not that one can’t eat drumsticks with fork. It defiantly can be done. The Term is “people who eat drumsticks with fork” normally refer to the people who have not get hold of local fever.

  15. you can eat sri lanken food with fork and spoon... but the thing is do we have the need to use them... In a wedding there can be some people who do not prefer using hands.. some ladies may have too long nails.. :P some have synthetic materials made out from petroleum at their fingertips.. Totally agree they should not use their hands to eats.. It’s not healthy.. There may be some other people who don't know how to eat by hand.. Have you ever seen suddo trying to eat by hand... and finding it difficult.. so its good to have fork and spoon at weddings.. but i think they should think about godayas like me too... finger bowl should also be there.... By the way even though ur not a godaya like me.. :P if the food are Sri Lankan u should use your hands.. "They taste best when you use your hand" i think all agree with dat.. Except the dude who google search while eating.. Feel sorry for that guy, seriously you should get away from the computer.. He even don’t feel the taste of his food..
    I think it’s still the mindset we got from the sudda doing this.. Some of the “not so smart” people think what ever sudda do is the best way of doing. That’s why some speak in English to show off.. This is exactly like that. But the pathetic thing is the sound you mention at the beginning. Its shows every one don’t know how to use fork and spoon but they try to show that’s how they use to eat.. see who had the last laugh godays like me.. :P surely wedding is not the place to practice those stuff. I went to a wedding yesterday in a grand hotel mind u.. I ate using my hand not with a frok . Trust me it is not an embarrassing thing to do. Your not ruining some 1s wedding. That’s the best and the most cultured way of eating Sri Lankan food.
    Frok and spoon is really useful if your are so busy at work. Its good to learn how to use them. But I believe its inappropriate to use with Sinhala foods (though most people thing in exact opposite way ). Its an insult to our culture, specially in an occasion like a wedding. For example take a Muslim wedding they don’t eat with forks, they respect their culture.