Your mother may be furious at what I’m about to reveal to you. For years, she tried to turn you into a refined Etiquette Eddie or Edna, drilling in Good Table Manners and shaking her head, “NO!” at such “disgusting” offenses as playing with your food.
Well, what you are about to learn will topple the foundations of your Good Table Manners forever.
Here’s the secret: Food tastes twenty times better when you eat it with your hands.
For the first two weeks I lived in Ghana, I tried to eat all my banku and fufu and kenkey with a spoon, just as my mother had taught me. I scooped up a dough blob with the utensil, dipped it into the stew, then slurped. The taste was bland and the consistency gelatinous. “Meh,” I muttered snobbily.
Then suddenly, I had the bright idea to raise my gaze and look around at my Ghanaian table-mates. And I realized: what I was doing was incredibly culturally rude! In Ghana, to be polite, eat with your right HAND and nothing else. So I finally decided to attempt it. My spoon clattered to the plastic table, I carefully washed my hands with soap… and the Eating with Hands Class began!
“Cut off a piece of the dough with your fingers,” Oliver patiently instructed. Ooo! The dough felt so deliciously malleable. I squished it around with zest but then looked up guiltily. Had I done wrong in playing with my food?
“Good!” said Oliver, smiling, “Roll and squeeze it around with your hands just like that until it is roughly a ball. Then put a little indent with your finger so it becomes like a spoon. Now dip it in the stew and pop it in your mouth!”
YUM! The soft caress of the banku kissed my hand, lips, and tongue as the warm, thick soup slid down. The rich tomato-vegetable-grain flavor coursed from my palm to my mouth to my belly. I was eating, from my head to my toes!
“Oh my gosh–” I exclaimed, “It tastes totally different. Totally DELICIOUS!”
All the Ghanaians at the table cheered and applauded. “Now you understand!” they laughed. “Food tastes better with your hands.”
From that day on, I have become an official Ghanaian food addict. I was even charged with helping teach the new Norwegian volunteers (pictured to the left) to eat “correctly,” Ghana style. Ooo baby– the student has become the teacher!
But there’s a Level Two to this course. John revealed recently: “Do you know that even RICE tastes better when you eat it with your hands? You can feel each of the tiny grains on your whole palm! But that’s probably too advanced for right now. Stick with mastering the banku.”
As I looked up at him from my steaming okra soup, my hands, face, and surroundings were totally coated with red palm oil and bits of banku. “Amen,” I said from under the mess. “Baby steps!”
So here is your homework assignment, oh ravenous readers: Find out for yourself whether what this article says is true.
Prepare your meal as normal, wash your little paws well… then try to devour the entire dish using just your fingers as utensils! Please report back on your scientific findings of this experiment using the comment section below. Good luck!
The author, Lillie Marshall, is 6-foot-tall National Board Certified Teacher of English, fitness fan, and mother of two who has been a public school educator since 2003. She launched Around the World “L” Travel and Life Blog in 2009, and over 4.2 million readers have now visited this site. Lillie also runs TeachingTraveling.com and DrawingsOf.com. Subscribe to her monthly newsletter, and follow @WorldLillie on social media!