The unexpected benefits of eating with your hands, revealed by science

Every culture has its own table etiquette. The most common – and also the most primitive, the most unsanitary, even the most cannibalistic, according to the most radical protocol experts – is to eat with the hands. The knife on the right and the fork on the left.

Or at least that’s how they do it the American way, changing hands when the bite is ready to eat. In European style, however, the fork is held in the right hand.

“It’s better with your hands.” This phrase is not foreign to anyone who has traveled to a country or grown up in a culture where using your hands to eat is the norm, not the exception. In cuisines like those of Asia, Africa or the Oaxaca region, taking a knife and fork to devour certain dishes would be considered sacrilege.

“Eating with your hands is an extremely pleasant experience,” says food expert Kate Ng in an opinion piece for the British media outlet The Independent. But, he admits, “there are some dishes you can’t eat with your hands” and lists noodles, pastas and soups that “require cutlery to eat them.”

A sensory experience

For many, eating with your hands is a multisensory experience. “The more I think about it, the more I realize that my hands are my favorite utensil,” Ng emphasizes. And he admits that “it would never occur to me to eat a sandwich with a fork and a knife, nor to eat a Taiwanese bao: that seems to me to be a mistake.”

There are other dishes from the wide range of internationalized gastronomy that are recommended to be eaten with your hands, such as sandwiches – hamburgers, sandwiches, sandwiches, baos and other forms -, pizzas, or even sushi (when you is not good with chopsticks). ). Many culinary professionals and gastronomy experts recognize its intrinsic value.

You eat more

What scientists have proven is that when we use our hands to feed ourselves, we tend to eat more. According to a study published in the Journal of Retailing in 2019 and carried out by sensory marketing researcher Adriana Madzharov, from Stevens Institute of Technologypeople with some self-control over eating considered food to be significantly more desirable when eaten with their hands and also They ate more of a specific food when they touched it directly.

“Our results suggest that for people who regularly monitor their food intake, direct contact triggers a heightened sensory response, making food more desirable and attractive,” explains the researcher.

What depends on whether we can enjoy eating with our hands? Professor Charles Spencer, Director of the Crossmodal Research Laboratory at the University of Oxfordwho studies the senses, points out in a recent study that “culture, conventions, the very nature of food, not to mention the qualities of tactile and proprioceptive stimulation (and our familiarity with them has been shown to ) plays a role in helping to explain why the same food might taste different.

These would be the circumstances that would need to be taken into account to predict whether a dish eaten with the hands would end up being a delicacy. But Spencer recognizes that subjectivity is the most important determining factor. “Ultimately, it can be said that the answer to the question of whether food tastes better if eaten with the hands depends on who eats it, what they eat, and what it tastes like. accustomed to it,” reveals a study.

Enrich your culinary experience

Eating with your hands is a cultural practice that offers a unique sensory experience. According to experts, certain dishes are particularly suitable to be consumed in this way, such as sandwiches, pizzas and sushi. Additionally, it has been shown that eating with your hands can increase our enjoyment of food, although it can also lead to overconsumption. Ultimately, the taste experience depends on each individual, their habits and culture.