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Pet Sins July 2004

Eating with one's hands - an unhygienic, primitive practice?

I read the article Korean slurs Indians and Middle Easterners, which serves as an unfortunate reminder that some East Asians see West Asians and South Asians dirty, unattractive, backward people.

I have Chinese coworkers and although they don't say anything explicitly against Indians, I sometimes get the vibe from their tone of voice and manner of speaking that they consider Indian food inedible, and India a terrible place to live.

One of my Indian friends had a rather prejudiced Chinese friend. My friend is very forgiving and generous, and he says the Chinese 'friend' is a nice guy, just a tad bigoted against Indians. Anyway, the Chinese guy kept harping on how disgusting and primitive and unhygienic it is for Indians to eat with their fingers - to him, the European way of using knives and forks was more 'civilized'. At length, another mutual friend, who is Indian, retorted, "Well, when I eat with my fingers at a restaurant, I know that they're clean and that they haven't been in anybody's mouth except my own. But when you eat with a fork at a restaurant, you have no idea how many people have already put that fork in their mouths. Isn't that far more disgusting than putting your fingers in your mouth? And you think that's hygienic? "

The Chinese guy had no answer. My friend had a real good laugh.