July 22, 2012
Here is a true thing: food tastes better stuffed into your mouth with your hands. I decided this definitively at Cucina Casalinga. Drew was visiting. Emboldened by the presence of another American, I scorned the German habit of slicing pizza (pizza!) into bite-sized pieces with a knife and fork and instead shoveled triangles from tip to crust into my hungry little mouth.
I took a few experimental bites with a knife and fork. They didn’t taste as good.
It’s common knowledge that before the wheel was invented, our bushy and laconic ancestors developed the spoon.* Primitive priorities. The wheel was only practical. Sure, it got you from point A to point B a little faster – but the spoon – the spoon had the capacity to distinguish between the classed and the uncouth. Urklk still eating wolly mammoth with his fingers? For shame.
Humans have always loved to make distinctions.
Which is why, sitting in this pizzeria along the canal, surrounded by beautiful people (why are there so many beautiful people in Berlin?), I feel like I should feel ashamed to be greasing up my fingers with hot chili oil and melted mozzarella. For shame, for shame, I hear in the metallic clink of slicing knives, the screech of a fork against a plate.
But what of it? My pizza belongs to me. If I want to dissect it with my hands in public, well, who will be hurt? Society? Propriety? My neighbor’s refined aesthetic?
Is it an American thing to love finger foods? Think of all the wonderful things we eat with our hands: hamburgers, barbeque ribs, pigs in a blanket, corn on the cob. Not only do we revere these foods, we seem to revel in the mess they cause. Say… sloppy Joe’s?
All I can say is that the Europeans are missing out. If it’s habit, fine. Though I can’t quite sympathize, I can, at least, understand. But distinction? No. There’s too much tactile pleasure in the shape of a grilled cheese sandwich, too much joy in licking a line of watermelon juice slipping down your arm. When we eat with our hands, we throw decorum out the window. And maybe this is why the Americans love finger food so much – we have a history of flaunting how little we care about what we should do.
So Let Urklk eat with his hands. You know you want to, too.
*This may or may not be a wholly invented fact.