Finger foods are usually defined as individual portions of food that are small enough to consume without the aid of silverware. The ideal finger food usually does not create any mess (ie. no crumbs, drips, or any kind of mess), but this criteria is often overlooked in order to include foods like tacos.
The popularity of finger foods varies throughout different regions. For example, when Prohibition was passed in America in 1920, many citizens began drinking in speakeasies. Finger foods were served in these speakeasies to help slow down the absorption of alcohol, which helped contain the secrecy of the speakeasies because customers would not leave too intoxicated. Commonly served finger foods were sandwiches and stuffed mushrooms. These foods allowed guests to hold their food in one hand and a drink in the other. Besides speakeasies, cocktail parties also became more common. Cocktail parties are private parties centered on alcohol. While such events existed before, Prohibition made them more popular.
Europe, however, has a much different story. John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich, had a strong addiction to gambling. One day in 1762, the Earl requested his chef to make him something he could eat while continuing to play. The chef returned with what is now referred to as a sandwich, which John Montagu is said to have enjoyed. His chef is believed to have taken inspiration from the Mediterranean, where there was an abundance of food that were very similar to his creation.
Modern Finger Foods
Finger foods are very common in today's world. They are served in a variety of different settings, from formal events, like weddings, to fast food. Fast food industries, such as McDonald's, serve many different finger foods. One primary reason for this is their efficiency: finger foods are seen as very useful to those who are in a rush and lack the time to sit and eat, making them perfect for McDonald's.  Serving finger foods in formal events also brings many benefits. The first is their flexibility, finger foods offer more adaptability and are also cheaper. Furthermore, they encourage mobility because guests do not have to sit down and use silverware. Finally, finger foods create a calmer atmosphere, which helps some events feel more casual. 
In the Western world, finger foods are often either appetizers (hors d'œuvres) or entree/main course items. In the Western world, examples of generally accepted finger food are miniature meat pies, sausage rolls, cheese and olives, chicken drumsticks or wings, spring rolls, miniature quiches, samosas, sandwiches, Merenda or other such based foods, such as pitas or items in buns, bhajjis, potato wedges, vol au vents, several other such small items and risotto balls (arancini). Other well-known foods that are generally eaten with the hands include hamburgers, pizza, chips, hot dogs, fruit, and bread. Dessert items such as cookies, pastries, ice cream in cones, or ice pops are often eaten with the hands but are not, in common parlance, considered finger foods. In East Asia, foods like steamed bun (mantou 饅頭), pancakes or flatbreads (bing 饼) are often eaten with the hands. It is interesting how "finger food" is used frequently in some cultures, but is frowned upon in others. For example, around family you can use your hands to dip a chunk of bread into the pasta sauce, but if you were in a fancy restaurant it would not be as appropriate.
In many Western countries there are catering businesses that supply finger foods for events such as weddings, engagements, birthdays and other milestone celebrations. For weddings, in particular, finger foods are becoming more popular because they are less expensive and offer more flexibility with menu choices. Gourmet hors d'oeuvres such as Quiche, pâté, caviar, and tea sandwiches are suitable for a formal event, whereas more familiar food such as sliced fruits, deli trays, crackers, and cookies are preferred at more casual celebrations.
- Hoffman, Mable; Hoffman, Gar (1989). Mable Hoffman's finger foods. Los Angeles, California: HPBooks.
- Avey, Tori (1 February 2013). "Speakeasies, Sofas, and the History of Finger Foods". PBS.
- "The Story of the Sandwich - HISTORY". www.history.com. Retrieved 15 October 2020.
- Sockeel, Didier. "Modern vs. Classic Finger Food – How Finger Food has Evolved". Ganache Patisserie.
- Ritzer, George (2013). The McDonaldization of Society. Thousand Oaks, California: SAGE Publications, Inc. ISBN 978-1-4522-2669-9.
- Ridgway, Judy (2014). Catering for a Wedding: How to Plan and Prepare a Great Spread. Gardiner Press.
- "Finger Food", BBC.co.uk, 11 January 2002
- "FINGERS VS. FORK". Good Housekeeping, 2019. 268.