Thanks Tamil Nadu, for teaching me how to eat

Nikhita Jain

Intern, ASER Centre

As is the case for most people, the majority of my values come from my upbringing, society, and circumstance. I, however, like for my values to be founded through my personal experience and challenged often.

From my week long stay in Tamil Nadu, I became aware of one value that I started to question. That value was the physical manner in which I eat. To be noted, South Indian food is incredibly delicious and multi-faceted. But, the thing that I really found fascinating was that South Indians exclusively use their hands to eat. Whether that’s rice and a fish curry or a sambar and vada, it is all eaten by hand.

 At first, I was apprehensive. I did not believe that I could actually use my hand to feed myself with each and every type of food. After hesitantly fiddling around with my food for a couple days, I started to really embrace it.

And, I liked it so much that later at a nice South Indian restaurant in Delhi, I ordered Uttapam and Sambar and opted to eat it with my hands. I started off eating it with a spoon, but the act felt cold, unnatural, and inauthentic to me. I dropped the spoon, and my western notions of sophistication, and embraced the joy of eating with my hands.

There’s something about feeding yourself directly with your hand that makes the food seem more wholesome. There’s really no need to put a metal utensil between our mouths and the food that is meant to nourish us.n

So, I think I will continue to eat this way whenever I feel like it. In some ways, I will do it as homage to the exceptionally hospitable and kind Tamil people I have met, who feel pride and authenticity in their deep-rooted, natural style of eating.