Dear BA Foodist,
A foodie friend of mine is reluctant to use his hands when dining out. He says it's rude and unhygienic. Is he correct? He won't even use his hands when we go out for pizza.
Jen Costanzo, Waterville, Maine
What looks more ridiculous: eating a burger or fried chicken or pizza -- which, if you haven't already noticed, is what many fine-dining restaurants are supplementing their menus with in these bad economic times -- with a fork and knife or with your hands? You only need to watch a European awkwardly eat a double-bacon cheeseburger with utensils to answer that question. Conventional wisdom is contradictory -- it says asparagus and whole steamed artichokes are okay to eat with your hands, but not sugar snap peas and tomato wedges. Why? The best foods on the planet were meant to be eaten with your hands -- barbecued ribs, grilled corn, tacos, fish and chips, and every sandwich imaginable. If a restaurant, no matter how starchy the table linens, decides to carry a food traditionally eaten with your hands, then by all means use your hands. I'm probably a little extreme when it comes to eating with my hands in restaurants, as I think many professional eaters are. We like to poke, prod, and investigate our food, dip our fingers in sauces, and pick every last bit of meat and fat from the bone. If a dish looks like it's easier to eat with your hands, then do it. Just don't lick your fingers afterward.
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