Dinner Etiquette – India

“Um, well at the dinner table in the Indian culture…uh…everybody shares food. It’s not, like, in America where, a lot of the times, everybody just kinda has a plate and they have food on their plate and they’re just eating. In the Indian culture, the food is in the middle of the table and everybody just takes a little bit at a time and if they want more, they just take more. So everybody’s sharing from the same dishes in the middle. And so, a lot of the times, you need to… keep it neat. I don’t know how else to say it but you have to be polite in how you take the food. So if, um, if there’s like a bowl of rice that everybody’s sharing, um…in the middle, there’s a large bowl with like all the rice that’s been cooked for dinner. There’s a large spoon that you just take the rice with and you put it on your own plate. And um, like a lot of little kids…or, just a lot of people would normally just dig into the middle of the bowl and just take what they want. But there’s like a matter of politeness where what you’re supposed to do is take the spoon and, um, take what you want from a side of the bowl and keep going from that one side so you don’t disturb the rest of the rice and don’t mess it up so it looks nice for the next person who’s going to eat from the bowl. This I learned from being scolded by my mother one time at dinner and, you know, it just seems like common sense to me now because after I was scolded I realized what I was doing and it made sense. So from now on, like that’s what I do, I just take it from the side and I think it’s common sense to me now and even to my little sisters, I scold them now for just like messing up the food and not being polite about how they take it. A lot of it is um just the fact that you’re eating together as a family and sharing the food, I think that that is really important for the Indian culture compared to any other culture and um, just um, being kinda disciplined in how you eat. ‘Cause in the Indian culture, we eat with our hands but we don’t make a mess, you know? You don’t eat like a pig…you only use your right hand to eat and you tear bread with your right hand and your left hand never gets dirty. So it’s just like a certain amount of discipline that you have when you eat with your family.”

I agree with Preema Modi that although it may seem like common sense to be careful in the way one takes food, this concept really depends on what culture one’s from. This unspoken and unofficial rule helps reveal what the Indian culture values like discipline, respect and family cohesiveness. Dinner is an everyday affair that involves every member in the family. The fact that all the food is shared from the middle can, in a way, represent the idea that there are no boundaries between family members because the family is the tightest and closest unit. Thus, it is important to be considerate when eating because the way one eats affects the others. Eating habits reflect how well one’s family has disciplined him.