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Finger Food

By Monica Bhide, "Finger Food," May/June 2011

Writer and cookbook author Monica Bhide's essay on eating with her hands.

Food is such an intimate experience, even more so than sex. Everything we put in our mouth touches our insides, affects how we grow, affects how we age, affects how we behave. It defines who we are. And yet, there is such an aversion in many Western cultures to "touching it."

When I was a child, my family and almost all our friends ate with our fingers. And we cooked with our hands, by andaza—estimation. My mother would dip her clean, cupped fingers into the lentil or the rice jar and pick one "moothi" (handful) of the ingredient per person before adding it to her pot. The spices were measured in jutkis (pinches) and pinched with her fingers before adding to the pot. We had no measuring cups, no teaspoons or tablespoons and definitely no weighing scales. And no, not because we were poor. The eggplant was held up in the palm to check its weight; we touched the mango to the nose to smell for freshness.

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