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Indian Table Manners and Etiquette

Indian food is now catching up worldwide not just for its tangy, spicy taste but also for the health benefits associated with traditional Indian cooking. Along with their many other customs and traditions, Indians also have their own rules for eating food. Indian table manners are peculiar and these customs in dining have not gained popularity like Indian food has.

Indians are used to eating with their hands without using spoons and other cutlery like their western counterparts. It is also insisted that food be consumed with the right and not the left hand. There is etiquette even while eating with hands. Indians make sure that only the tips of the fingers are used and not the entire hand. In fact Indians consider it rude to use the whole hand to eat and licking is totally taboo. Having said that, it is not uncommon to spot Indians eating with the entire hand, licking and relishing a meal, especially in rural and backward areas.

Another peculiarity in Indian eating habits is in the kind of plates or serving dishes used. Food is mostly served in plates of steel, aluminium or other metals. These plates called ‘thali’ have small divisions for the main dish and for the side dishes that accompany a meal.

In India, it is unthinkable for saliva from one person’s food consumption to contaminate another. For this reason disposable material like banana leaves, lotus leaves and other broad leaves are used to serve food traditionally in southern parts while in the north it is common to use clay plates and cups which are easy to do away with. Even now these eco-friendly practices are in vogue in rural areas.

It is an Indian custom to wash the hands and feet thoroughly before consuming a meal, since Indians are accustomed to eating on the floor. A traditional family meal is first served to the male members, with the head of the family being served first. Women eat only after the rest of the family has dined.

Indians are known for their hospitality and food is always offered and served to any visitor to a house. Guests are always served the best portions of any meal. Indian women in villages still cook a little extra for unexpected guests.

Over the years most of the Indian eating customs have altered considerably and many Indians eat on a dining table and not on the floor. Schools in India insist on children eating food with spoons and so many Indians are now well versed with using cutlery for dining. In urban cities where women also work alongside their male counterparts, eating together as a family has replaced the tradition of men dining first.

The Indian hospitality is also fast declining though Indians still serve the best portion of any meal to their guests. Plastic plates and glassware are slowly catching up with Indians, replacing traditional serving thalis especially in urban areas.

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