In India, it is a part of our culture to eat with our hands. But, in some parts of the world, it is considered inappropriate. Here are some food customs you can tell your kids about.
By Ashwin Dewan
Anushka’s son has been adamant on eating with a fork and a spoon for the past few weeks. She was confused at his sudden interest in cutlery. For, during the first few weeks after they went to the United States from India, he would eat using his hands. Later, she found out that her son’s friends at school had been teasing him about his eating habits, which involved using hands to eat.
What is considered an acceptable food custom in one country or culture may signify something else in another culture. What passes for polite in Thailand, may be considered offensive in Spain. Love cheese in your seafood? Do not try it in Italy, as it is considered extremely rude. Teach your children about these customs that involve food, from different parts of the globe.
1. Never use your left hand while eating in the Middle East
Planning a trip to the Middle East? Well, make sure you do not eat with your left hand. This is primarily because people in the region associate the left hand with other functions such as washing, bathing and using the restroom. So, if you reach out for food or eat with your left hand, it might seem disrespectful and unhygienic.
2. Do not use a fork to push food into your mouth in Thailand
Thailand offers a variety of delicious cuisines. One is spoilt for choice when it comes to the vast array of food items that are found in almost every nook and corner in Thailand. Just remember one thing. In this country, it is considered crude to use the fork to put food into your mouth. Thai people believe that one should use the fork to only push food into the spoon.
3. Slurp your way to a tasty meal in Japan
Often, in many countries, making sounds while eating is considered ill-mannered and rude. And slurping is a big NO. However, in Japan, slurping noodles and soup is not only considered acceptable but many believe that it improves the flavour of the dish. Additionally, it is meant as a signal that the dish is enjoyed.
4. When in Italy, never combine fish and cheese
The Italians are known for their love of food and are famed for their cheese like parmesan cheese and mozzarella. However, don’t ever try to mix cheese and seafood. Why? It is considered a sin in Italy to do this as it is seen as a culinary disaster.
5. The eldest takes the first bite in South Korea
In South Korea, when people assemble for a meal, they wait for the oldest or the eldest person in the table to eat first before eating themselves. When others wait for the elder to take the first bite, it is seen as a great sign of respect.
6. Chopstick rules are strictly followed in China
Do you love to eat with chopsticks? Are you eager to test your chopstick skills on your next visit to China? Just remember that if you leave your chopsticks sticking upright in a bowl is considered bad manners to the point of being upright rude. One reason is this act is common during funerals when the Chinese make offerings to the departed. It is also considered rude to wake your chopsticks in someone’s direction.
7. India and the concept of a clean plate
In India, an empty plate means that you have enjoyed the food that has been served. It also shows that you honour your host by expressing the food was tasty. However, this depends from culture to culture. In China, for example, it could mean that your host did not serve you enough or feed you to the point you would leave a little bit of uneaten food.
8. Tea time in Britain
The British are known for their love of tea. And the customs that accompany the beverage. To begin, when one is stirring the tea, one should take utmost care to ensure the spoon does not touch the sides of the cup. The spoon should also not be left in the cup after stirring, it should be placed on the saucer.
9. Chile and it's no hands policy
In Chile, people try to eat almost everything with a fork and a knife. Even if the food involves items that can be enjoyed more with the hands like chicken drumsticks and wings, it is customary to use a fork and a knife. Here, the people believe that food should never be eaten with one’s hands.
10. No asking for salt and pepper in Egypt and Portugal
Many a times, your little one may have asked for a little bit of salt or pepper when eating out. However, in Egypt and Portugal, asking for salt and pepper is seen as a huge insult to whoever cooked the food.
There you are. Now that you know ten of the strange and interesting food customs around the world, be sure to remember them to avoid offending the food culture of a country.
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