Holiday time is hands-on at the dinner table. When is it all right to eat with your hands? Everyone who has raised children or still has small ones in the house, would reply: any time! Unfortunately, that doesn’t too often apply to adults who must conform to social standards.
Until just the last several centuries, most people, whether peasants or kings, ate with their hands. If you’ve seen movies depicting a typical dinner hosted by Henry the Eighth of England, there’s always a scene where he gnaws on a huge leg of lamb, and grips it with his hands until he decides to throw what’s left of it to his huge guard dogs.
There are certain rules of etiquette that apply in so-called civilized societies today where you’re not supposed to eat with your hands, at least not when other people are nearby. However, there are some acceptable exceptions.
1. Lobster: When this biggest of all crustacean species comes to the table, you need to separate the meat from the claws and other parts by hand and dip the delicious morsel in butter. You can use a metal tool, but you can only get to the good stuff by hand.
2. Crab: This smaller version of clawed crustacean requires similar hands-on treatment. For example, it’s a Philadelphia and Baltimore tradition to boil and then serve soft-shelled crabs on newspaper pages so that diners’ hands can get at them and cause a mess while getting at the crab meat.
3. Shrimp and prawns: Unless someone has already removed the tails, most fanciers of these delicacies are more than willing to do the task just before dipping each in spiced tartar sauce.
4. Turkey and chicken legs: Whether baked, stewed or deep fried, these big drumsticks are perfectly designed to be eaten while being held by hand.
5. Ribs: Backyard barbecue grilled menus often include turkey and chicken parts, hot dogs and hamburgers. All make great finger food, or if the diner prefers, peeking out from a roll or slices of bread. However, the most finger-lickin’, hand-held barbecue delight is grabbing by hand and sinking your teeth into sizzling chunks of pork or beef ribs hot off the grill.
6. Everything else served at barbecues: This includes corn on the cob, French fries and all the sliced raw fruit and veggies that go great with your backyard buffet.
There are many situations when it’s okay to eat with your hands. Whether dining at the best seafood restaurant in town, in your backyard, on a picnic or resting along a hiking trail, just sit back and enjoy the freedom and pleasure of the hands-on experience.