Etiquette of Indian dining: Difference between revisions

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* It is not necessary to taste each and every dish prepared, but you must finish everything on the plate as it is considered a respect for served food, and food is sacred. For this reason, take only as much food on the plate as you can finish.
 
* It is not necessary to taste each and every dish prepared, but you must finish everything on the plate as it is considered a respect for served food, and food is sacred. For this reason, take only as much food on the plate as you can finish.
 
* Everyone must start eating at the same time and have exactly the same portions. As a host it is important to offer your guests another serving, but as a guest it is impolite to do so.
 
* Everyone must start eating at the same time and have exactly the same portions. As a host it is important to offer your guests another serving, but as a guest it is impolite to do so.
* Generally it is not accepted to burp, slurp, or spit.
+
* Generally it is not accepted to burp, slurp, or spit in uptight households. In most places, it is considered a sign that you enjoyed the food if you burped and slurping is perfectly acceptable in most households not contaminated by western notions in this manner. Slurp away! No spitting though.
 
* Do not tap or in any other way make a sound on your plate.
 
* Do not tap or in any other way make a sound on your plate.
 
* Always eat food as it is served. It is not a good idea to ask for salt or pepper. It is however now acceptable to ask for salt or pepper with a mention that you like more of it.
 
* Always eat food as it is served. It is not a good idea to ask for salt or pepper. It is however now acceptable to ask for salt or pepper with a mention that you like more of it.

Revision as of 03:13, 26 July 2012

As in many cultures, proper habits of eating and drinking are very important and widely respected parts of Indian culture, local customs, traditions, and religions. Proper table manners vary from culture to culture, although there are always a few basic rules that are important to follow. Etiquette should be observed when dining in any Indian household or restaurant, though the acceptable standards depend upon the situation.[1][2]

Cutlery

Though Indian cooking uses an extensive array of specialized utensils for various purposes, Indians traditionally do not use cutlery for eating, as many foods - such as Indian breads and curry - are best enjoyed when eating with the hand.[3][4]

Eating with one's hands is a technique that can be quite clean when done correctly, but may require a degree of practice. First, the hands must be thoroughly washed, with particular attention paid to the fingernails. Having long fingernails in India is considered unhygienic.

Using the fingers, the food should be scooped onto the flatbread (naan, roti, etc.) and quickly brought to the mouth. In North India, when eating curry, the gravy must not be allowed to stain your fingers—only the fingertips are used. When flatbreads such as chapati, roti, or naan are served with the meal, it is acceptable to use pieces of them to gather food and sop up gravies and curries.[2] In South India, it is considered ill mannered to let your food stain the out side of your fingers or palm while eating and food is to be eaten only with the tip of the fingers, though popular belief[who?] is to think it is acceptable to use more of your hand. In South India, the plate is not to be touched or held by the left hand while eating.[5]

Not all Indian foods should be eaten with the hands, however. If the food is soupy, such as many daals, spoons can be used.[6] Additionally, foods such as rice may be eaten with spoons in both North and South India, more so in case of formal occasions as in a restaurant or a buffet where food is not served on banana leaf.

Traditional Indian cutlery does not recognize the use of forks and knives while eating, limiting their use to the kitchen only. Spoons were made of wood in ancient times, evolving into metallic spoons during the advent of the use of the thali, the traditional dish on which Indian food is served. Additionally, spoons (usually two used in a clasping motion) and forks are commonly used to distribute foods from a communal dish, as it is considered rude to touch the foods of others.[7]

Contamination with saliva

The concept of 'uchchishtam' (in Sanskrit) 'entho' (in Bengal), 'aitha' (in Orissa), 'jutha' (in North India), 'ushta' (in Western India), 'echal' (in Tamil Nadu), 'echil' (in Kerala), 'enjalu' (in Karnataka), or 'engili' (in Andhra Pradesh) is a common belief in India. It can refer to the food item or the utensils or serving dishes, that has come in contact with someone's mouth, or saliva or the plate while eating - something that directly or indirectly came in contact with your saliva. It can also refer to leftover food. It is considered rude and unhygienic to offer someone food contaminated with saliva. It is, however, not uncommon for spouses, or extremely close friends or family, to offer each other such contaminated food and is not considered disrespectful under such circumstances. In certain cases, as in the first lunch by the newly-weds, sharing food from each other's leaves may be thought as an indication of closeness.[6]

Right hand

The cardinal rule of dining is to always use the right hand when eating or receiving food and not the left. The left hand is not used to eat so that it can be used for serving food from the serving dish onto your plate using serving spoons, tongs etc. For left-handed people it is still mandatory to eat only with the right hand. It must be also noted that this etiquette is applicable only while eating Indian food. For other cuisines (Chinese, Italian, Continental, etc.), especially in urban areas, most Indians use forks and spoons to eat.

Beef

The cow is considered sacred by most Hindus and hence beef is considered taboo in many Indian states, and therefore most restaurants do not serve it.[2] However beef is consumed by people of other religions and certain sections of Hindus. Beef is commonly sold in restaurants in the South-Western states, Goa and Kerala.[8] Apart from this, international restaurants (primarily located in urban areas) serve beef dishes according to their usual menus. [9]

Other rules

  • It is a custom to share food with anyone who wants it.
  • In formal settings, it is expected that everyone will wait for the host or the eldest person - the elder taking priority over the host - to begin eating before everyone else starts.[10]
  • Similarly it is expected that one should not leave the table before the host or the eldest person have finished their food. It is also considered impolite to leave the table without asking for the host's or the elder's permission.[11]
  • Everyone must wash their hands before sitting at the table as many Indian foods are eaten by hand. One must wash one's hands after eating the food. Cleaning with cloth or paper tissue is considered unhygienic.[12]
  • Always sit up with your back straight while eating. If you are sitting on the floor, you must have your legs crossed.
  • If you are using dining furniture, your elbows should not lean on the table.
  • Your hands should always reach to your mouth. Never lift your plate up.
  • Take a small amount of food each time, and ensure that food does not reach your palms.
  • It is not necessary to taste each and every dish prepared, but you must finish everything on the plate as it is considered a respect for served food, and food is sacred. For this reason, take only as much food on the plate as you can finish.
  • Everyone must start eating at the same time and have exactly the same portions. As a host it is important to offer your guests another serving, but as a guest it is impolite to do so.
  • Generally it is not accepted to burp, slurp, or spit in uptight households. In most places, it is considered a sign that you enjoyed the food if you burped and slurping is perfectly acceptable in most households not contaminated by western notions in this manner. Slurp away! No spitting though.
  • Do not tap or in any other way make a sound on your plate.
  • Always eat food as it is served. It is not a good idea to ask for salt or pepper. It is however now acceptable to ask for salt or pepper with a mention that you like more of it.
  • Playing with food or in any way distorting the food is unacceptable. Eating at a medium pace is important as eating too slowly may imply that you dislike the food, whereas eating too quickly is rude.
  • In some parts of India, if a diner finishes earlier than the rest, they may need to wait until everyone has finished. Occasionally in these parts, it is acceptable for the diner who has finished to wash their hands, however, they are expected to return to the dining area immediately after. In most parts it is acceptable to leave after the elders have finished.

References

  1. ^ "India Etiquette". 
  2. ^ a b c http://www.food-india.com/indianCuisine/1001_1050/1014_Indian_Restaurants_Etiquette.htm
  3. ^ As most of the food is eaten with the right hand it is recommended that hands be washed before and after eating; http://www.brighthub.com/education/languages/articles/16662.aspx
  4. ^ The philosophy behind this is that eating is a very sensual thing and one should be able to enjoy eating with as many senses as possible – tasting, smelling, looking and touching. http://www.food-india.com/indianCuisine/1001_1050/1014_Indian_Restaurants_Etiquette.htm
  5. ^ http://www.brighthub.com/education/languages/articles/16662.aspx
  6. ^ a b "Food-India". 
  7. ^ http://www.ediplomat.com/np/cultural_etiquette/ce_in.htm
  8. ^ India targets cow slaughter
  9. ^ "Hard Rock Cafe Menu at New Delhi". Hard Rock Cafe International. Retrieved 2011.  |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help); Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  10. ^ The eldest person in the host family sits first and starts the meal; Read more: http://www.brighthub.com/education/languages/articles/16662.aspx#ixzz1RMEVdMKY
  11. ^ http://lifestyle.iloveindia.com/lounge/indian-table-manners-4076.html
  12. ^ You may be asked to wash your hands before and after sitting down to a meal. http://www.brighthub.com/education/languages/articles/16662.aspx