Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Of Daggers & Spears, Of Knives & Forks…

Before you reach the conclusion that I am planning an ambush let me clear up the confusion and wave the white flag of peace. Well, the heading is just an indication of my erstwhile (or should I say continuing) fear of cutlery…

For Neanderthal people like me who only had to use one’s hands for the purpose of feeding oneself, cutlery and allied things used to be looked at with sole distrust and a bit of fear, which would never be admitted in public. It also helped that Indian food per se, didn’t need the use of things like knives, forks and dessertspoons. All you need is utmost a spoon and your trustworthy hands and you could relish your food to the maximum.

Dad, the banker always used to stress the importance of learning to use cutlery which his tribal daughters would barely be listening while stuffing their faces with “palaharam” all the while keeping an eagle eye on mom’s plate so the first claim could be made for the last “pazham pori” or whatever was remaining. The taste of something fought for tooth and nail and eaten or something stolen & eaten is exponentially higher than eating amidst plenty. Dad used to tell us horror stories about some random banker who wanted to show off his table manners and ended up having to run behind his flying chicken fry after using the fork and knife. Even at Bankers club parties, the only “birdie dance” which we children partook was the flying birds out of our plates into our neighbour’s plates courtesy our supreme cutlery skills ;-)

Then came the time of leaving home and starting a job. In our induction we did have a small presentation on table etiquettes but no one was paying the least attention as our batch of trainees were busy trying out all items in the buffet and giving a general feeling like we just landed from Somalia.

In my earlier job I had to co-ordinate interviews for my organization on a few occasions. These interviews were held in 5 * hotels and as I was present the whole day there, I used to invariably lunch with the EVPs of my organization. Even though the co-ordination part was a breeze, I used to get butterflies in my stomach just thinking about having to lunch with the top-shots of my organization. I had visions of me ending up like Julia Roberts in “Pretty Woman” with the waiter catching the crab. My hands used to tremble while taking the menu and then my eyes used to busily scan and look for dishes, which would necessitate the use of hands.

Eventhough I would have to loved to try the restaurant’s special ‘lasagne’ or “chicken steak” (afterall it was my company that was paying) very wisely with a heavy heart I would choose a burger or a pizza as that’s something I could very confidently tear apart with my bare hands. My admiration levels for my bosses went sky high when I saw the dexterity with which they could handle their cutlery. For me they were equivalent to Antonio Banderas in the “Mask of Zorro” and their use of cutlery was as good as the intricate sword fights.

Coming into the world of IT, I have been a witness to lot of cutlery gaffes.
I have seen so many sights akin to that of a torture camp; examples being stabbing a cutlet, beheading an apple and don’t get me started on the main course! The lack of skill becomes pronounced especially when you end up having to attend hi-fi lunch meetings wherein you are expected to dazzle the client with your supreme business skills and the cutting edge technology, which your company professes to possess. Half the time you are busy saying the rosary at breakneck speed and hoping for a divine intervention so that your application functions as claimed and the other half you are trying to cover up the fact that your hands are shivering and hoping against hope the fork in your hands stop rattling and stays put.

The one thing I have realized over time is that eating with hands is also an amazing skill. This conclusion was drawn after seeing some ‘phoren’ colleagues come home and trying to eat ‘desi khana’ with hands. Their method of eating was (i) drop food into mouth from a distance or (ii) take food by the fist and stuff the said fist into their mouth.

Feels good that my dear colleagues are also getting a complex about not able to eat delicately with their hands ;-)

Please, pls, plzzz tell me that I am not the only suffering from cutlerophobia…


nmouse said...

I have strategies in place after a few "trials". Eating burgers and sandwiches is a good one.

Choosing "slices of -" anything meant I can just grab it with a fork and still have people within the blast perimeter that happened when using both knife and fork. Choosing noodles is also a bad idea as it flicks its juices all around on its way in to my gullet. If it all gets too much, play the "toilet" card and compose yourselves (clean your suit and wash your hands) in the privacy of the restroom.

Formal Indian restaurants are the worst offenders. I cringe when the naan or chappathi is delicately cut with a knife and dipped in the curry. Of course, I get my own back when those stuck with a chilli in their bolus are too "polite" to spit it out. : )

mathew said...

hilarious post!! :-)
esp when am a self confessed martyr regarding this..although am much better off now after staying here for like 1.5 years..For the first two months every day trip to the kanteen was a scary affair where you had to dine with and whatsover kind off many umpteen times did I pierce my throat with forks..How many umpteen times did I massage the periphery around my mouth with was really embarassing..atleast now I have mastered to eat a pizza..burger..lasagne..and gets tricky with chicken wings though!! ;-P

anN-series said...

oye shut up...i know tht u r very good with the cutlery...dont u remember dad made us read a book on etiquette 'modern manners' it was called....u and me are both decent with knife, spoon and fork.i m not talking abt eating crabs and lobster tho....mais vous avez oblié le CHOPSTICK!!!!!!....thts where we look tribal...poking the chicken with each stick!!!!

silverine said...

Lol!! That was a good one. I guess all of us go through the cutlerophobia. Mine was knifophobia, the kitchen variety! I think I sent the sales graph of Band Aid shooting to an all time high during childhood and my 'learning to cook days' :p

eljo said...

oops ... sorry everyone for the looong delay in replying to your comments.

@nmouse: Good to know your strategies...:-) will definitely look them up before my next official lunch meeting. I also find it strange to eat naan/roti with knife and fork.

@Herr Mathew: You really are my twin (though I am much elder to you) in terms of our experience in foreign lands ;-) And eating Chicken wings with knife and fork is as complex as brain surgery. You really have to be very very careful...

@ Min: My dear tribal sis... forget chopsticks... i think we are being too ambitious... ;-)

@Anjali : I am sure you must be now in the phase of blendorophobia after the knifophobia... ;-)