Deciphering India | Why Eat With Hands And How …… Specially When In India

22nd April 2014

I had never imagined that i would be writing this blog ever in my life , infact no Indian ever thinks that the way they eat by their hand is so special for the westerners which i realized on my recently concluded KERALA BLOG EXPRESS tour by KERALA TOURISM.

Whole trip was going too hectic and speedy , this day this place next day place , life became suddenly on the move at the peak speed. Our bus had reached Wayanad  where i was going to stay in Vythiri Village Resort , once again like as usual luxury at the best. Day one’s highlight was theTheyyam Dance (Must read) arranged by Vythiri Village Resort ,i can surely say Theyyam was the most interesting thing which i had seen on the whole Kerala Blog Express tour.

Next day we were divided into two groups , different tour plans but one things made common , both the groups were going to land in some Home Stay and enjoy the “Sadya” or Lunch at the Home stay , for me it was the most awaited moment as i was dying to enjoy the Sadya , and had asked many a times to our official tour guide Manoj Vasudevan about it.

Before moving forward i should explain a bit ” What Exactly Sadya Is ? “

A sadya can have about 24-28 dishes served as a single course and is usually served for lunch on a Banana Leaf , as it is quite heavy on the stomach and it is for sure one is going to feel sleepy afterwards thats why lunch time is prefered for Sadya. Preparations of Sadya begin at dawn and the dishes are made before 10 in the morning on the day of the celebration.
The centerpiece of sadya is “Navara”, a medicinal rice type having a brown line between the rice, that is one of the native genetic resources of Kerala and known for its use in Ayurveda. Navara is used as a nutritional rice and health food and is said to be therapeutic for conditions such as arthritis, paralysis, ulcers, urinary tract infections, neuralgic and neurological disorders.

Enough of general knowledge , i must move on with my travel now. Things were going quite awesome , in our itenary a visit to Coffee plantation and Tribal people home was included , but it would be shame to accept that i missed both these , as i had recently visited Coffee Plantations of Madikeri and that too when the coffee plants were fully loaded with coffee beans , and tribals were living inside the coffee plantations so it got automatically out of the list , but thankfully by the time rest of crew were inside coffee plantation i found a tribal home outside the plantation only and got the opportunity to click some pics of them.

Best time of the day was next , Yippee Sadya Time had arrived and i am sure it was not me only every other blogger of KBE was starving and rats crawling in stomach had turned into horses and were going on full speed like running on race track to fight for Sadya Trophy.

We landed in our home stay, “ Pranavam Homestays ” who were going to be our saviour today and was suppose to treat us the typical kerala way , this was the day when we would be actually tasting the Kerala Cuisine.

To read more about Pranavam Homestays , Click Here and enjoy the write up by my fellow blogger Prasad NP of Desitraveler.

Thats Vijay Nambiar of Feelfreeorfly , enjoying his Sadya , had better knowledge of How to eat with hand as he belongs to Kerala only. ….. photo Courtesy Emanuele Siracusa of ” The Siracusas “.

May be by this time , you all would be thinking when we are going to know ” Why Eat With Hand ” , so guys the time has arrived.

Inspiration for this blog came that only when i was enjoying my Sadya , even to that much that i forgot to click any picture of Sadya , thats why pics included in this blog have been contributed my fellow bloggers Emanuele Siracusa and Prasad NP.

I have been eating with my hands since childhood , never was given any lesson ” How to Eat With Hand ” , it just came naturally with practice. But how much i knew about it , this day was the test of it as i had to teach Emanuele and Nelson the right way to eat with hand.

Emanuele sitting with me had asked for spoon , where i couldnt resist myself and started him teaching How to eat with Hand.  “The secret to gracefully eating with your fingers, is to use your thumb. For example, a small amount of rice is formed into a little pile on your plate, blended with one or more bits of curried lentils, vegetables, meat or fish, and then picked up with a twist of the wrist, held onto by the fingers and maneuvered right up to your mouth. But don’t put your fingers into your mouth.”, “Just use your thumb to push the food inside.”  May be these wont be the exact way i taught Nelson and Emanuele , but the essence of my teaching lies in it.

Thats Nelson Carvelheiro , Europeon Food Blogger , enjoying his Sadya after a bit of instructions by me . Trust me he is just two Sadya Away from being a perfectionist in How to eat with Hand.

On the Other Table Shawn coomer , Justin Jones and Ola Wysocka trying their luck to grab food with their fingers.

Now coming to the title of the Blog ” Why eat with Hands ” ,

You may have often wondered why people eat with their hands in Kerala , and its not patented to Kerala only, me being from Delhi has always been eating by Hand specially rice. According to Indian Vedic books and Ayurveda Eating food with your hands feeds not only the body but also the mind and the spirit. That is the Vedic wisdom behind Kerala’s famous Banana Leaf Experience whose pleasure can only be appreciated fully, it is said, if one eats with hands and not fork and spoon.

“Our hands and feet are said to be the conduits of the five elements present on Earth”.

“The Ayurvedic texts teach that each finger is an extension of one of the five elements.The thumb is Agni (fire) — you might have seen children sucking their thumb,even some of you might have chewed your thumbs as a child, this is nature’s way of aiding the digestion at an age when a child is unable to chew, the forefinger is vayu (air), the middle finger is akash (ether — the tiny intercellular spaces in the human body), the ring finger is prithvi (earth) and the little finger is jal (water) which helps in swallowing the food”. 

If one go deeper and try to analyse the eating styles of Indians , When a child starts using his hands for doing anything he is made to use his right hand , as left hand in India is preferred for cleaning of body and is not considered right to use it in eating habits or other , though at one point it is also said that Left handers are lucky and gain fame and money in their life , all confusing , this is what Deciphering India is about.


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