The One Big Rule About Using Fingers To Eat

Some Indian sweets. The ones I generally pick are the ras-malais, the white balls in a bowl. There is a good reason why!!!

I grew up in a culture where we eat many foods, including rice and rotis with our hands.  And in other cultures there are foods called ‘finger-foods’ like fried chicken and burgers and pizza, that are  meant to be eaten with one’s fingers

BUT THE BIG RULE IS:  one is allowed to put one’s finger only in one’s own food! Not in other people’s. This is what a lot of people, specially in India still don’t understand.

In a recent lab study there were about 4700 species of bacteria identified from swab samples taken from only 102 people’s hands.  What that means is that each person harbors hundreds of bacteria on their hands, which are a part of their natural ‘fauna’ if you like, but they are harmful to other people.  Besides, the study also established that women harbor lots more bacteria on their hands then men do. And in India specially it is women who primarily prepare the food!!

The other day, I stopped by a patisserie to get some pastries.  There’s a new one that opens up in the city every other day. And like many of the new shops they display their foods very cleanly, very hygienically, in covered glass cases, and the attendants are trained to wear gloves and use tongs to serve the food the customers ask for.  Only that last bit they don’t seem to remember.  It is such a bad habit!

This guy behind the counter had a cold.  And he kept sniffling,  and wiping his nose with the back of his hand.  In fact I already had this anticipation of what was about to come next.  I pointed to what I wanted, and he automatically reached in, with his right hand, the one he had just wiped his nose with, and plonked two pastries in a box.  I told him I didn’t want those, and explained to him why.  “Why don’t you use tongs? They are lying right next to you?” I asked.  He grimaced and said, “I can use it in front of you.  But are you standing in the kitchen or when we unload to see if each pasty is unloaded with tongs and gloves?”  No, I don’t stand and watch — and I certainly was not buying anything from that shop, now that I had this other picture in my head!!!

The Indian sweet-meats I often order are golab-jamuns and rasgullas or ras-malai (the small white balls in a bowl seen in the picture).  And many assume, that that’s because they are my favorites.   They are not, but there is a reason I prefer them!  All these sweets are boiled and emulsified in some sort of syrupy or milky base.   There is no finger touching during cooking, and no finger touching during serving!  No one wants to dunk their hands in syrup 😀

What I really think is that if in India — we can learn just the very basic ABC of health and hygiene, we would probably eradicate 50% of the diseases that hound us!

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