When I was a child, my father would now and then ask my mother to prepare him a hamburger. This consisted of one slice of fried bread (in plenty of butter, so it was nice and crispy), a beef meat patty – at times enhanced with finely chopped beets and capers(ugh!) – and a fried egg, sunny side up. Voilá, my childhood’s hamburgers… Needless to say, this was not eaten with your hands, but with knife and fork. Sometimes, this little meal was called a Parisian instead, which had me very confused: was this a German or a French invention?
I was a teenager when I had my first real hamburger. By then, I knew what a hamburger was, but all the same, it was quite exciting to study my first Whopper – and realise I was supposed to eat it with my hands. We didn’t do “eating with your hands” in my home, the only exception being chicken drumsticks, shrimps and seafood in general. We even ate our chips/french fries with fork and knife.
Some years later, I introduced my mother to the delights of a real hamburger. Or not, as she was more than stumped when she realised there was no cutlery forthcoming. We decided to agree that in the future, I would invite her to restaurants with forks and knives.
These days, there is a lot of food that you eat with your hands. Most people don’t seem to mind – as long as wipes are provided. And it helps if the finger food is bite-size and not too greasy.
The other day, I was watching my colleague eat water melon. We were at a lunch restaurant, and dessert consisted of water melon cut into small triangular wedges, with the rind left on to hold on to. Except my colleague was attacking his wedges with fork and knife. I watched, somewhat amused (and even more amused when he dissected each piece to scrape out the seeds), and chomped into my own slice. Chomp, chomp, it was gone, so it wasn’t as if we were talking huge uncut slices, was it?
“What’s with the fork?” I asked.
My colleague visibly shuddered. “I can’t imagine eating something with my hands.”
Come again? I must have blinked – or looked very surprised.
“Too right,” said my other colleague. “It gives me the creeps.”
Okay, so I eyed my remaining slice of water melon and decided I would forego, listening with incredulity as these two men went on to describe acute angst at having sticky or oily fingers, and how important it was to always have a supply of wipes available.
“So how do you eat shrimp?” I asked. Very valid question, as in Sweden we eat a LOT of boiled, unpeeled shrimp, and part of the fun is to peel them as you eat.
The younger of my colleagues looked at me as if I was daft. “I don’t.”
The other shifted on his seat before admitting that generally he cut off the head and ate the rest – shell included.
Turns out these gentlemen don’t eat ribs. Too messy. They don’t eat hamburgers – unless in dire straits. And I didn’t even ask what they do with lobsters. These are not the men to dip strawberries in melted chocolate and feed them to you (And just to make things clear, I do NOT want these particular men to feed ME strawberries. This is just an example).
All this set me to thinking. Once upon a time, there were no forks, no knives. There were fingers and teeth – and not a wipe in sight. So either you ate and got messy, or you didn’t eat at all. I guess back then my two colleagues would not have made it to the reproduction phase, poor sods, because seriously, a man who won’t feed you strawberries? Sheesh!