Social Question

jca's avatar

Do you think it's acceptable for people to use their fingers to take food IF their fingers don't touch any food other than the food they take?

Asked by jca (27948 points ) May 26th, 2012

I was at a party before and there were pieces of corn in a pot. There was a large fork (like a meat fork) the hostess put for people to take the corn with. Admittedly, it was not the best thing to take the corn, since corn is pretty hard and the fork didn’t really go into it too easily. One of the guests used their fingers to take his piece of corn. The hostess said reminded him to use the fork and he said “I’m only touching my piece.” I could see the hostess’s point, and I could see his point.

Do you think it’s acceptable for people to use their fingers to take food IF their fingers don’t touch any food other than the food they take?

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23 Answers

CWOTUS's avatar

You might want to clarify in the question “in your culture”. In North America, it’s probably not generally acceptable. On the other side of the planet, it’s pretty much how most communal meals are eaten.

iphigeneia's avatar

I know some people who will go out in a group, get a few plates to share and have no problem using the fork they had just taken out of their mouth to get some more food from a communal dish. At my work I’ve also seen countless cases (honestly, probably more than half the time) of awful hygiene when it comes to taking free samples of food.

My guess is it has less to do with touching other people’s food, and more to do with fingers being an inappropriate means of eating ‘real food’. We do it all the time with party food like chips and popcorn.

JLeslie's avatar

I think it is ok in most circumstances. In a very formal setting I would say it is not appropriate.

@iphigeneia I think it has everything to do with hygiene. If someone put their used fork in a communal dish I would be totally disgusted. If they used their fingers or their own fork to grab a brownie without touching anything else, I can handle that. However, I agree it is also about what is expected. As you pointed out people reach in chips bowls without thought. I think about it.

jerv's avatar

Like @CWOTUS, I believe the answer is highly dependent on where you are. However, what region of the world you are in isn’t the only variable. I do things at work (a laid-back environment) that I wouldn’t do at a formal party. Culture varies by setting.

Doctanian's avatar

Don’t people use their hands to grab pizza from the box?

nikipedia's avatar

It doesn’t bother me, but I’m not surprised that it bothers some people.

Bellatrix's avatar

In a fairly informal setting, as long as they weren’t mauling the other food on the plate/in the container, I wouldn’t be bothered. If there are serving utensils provided I would generally use them but it wouldn’t bother me if someone used their fingers to pick up their own food and didn’t touch anything else. It really does depend on the situation though.

augustlan's avatar

Depends on the setting and people involved. At a family dinner at my kitchen table, it wouldn’t bother me at all. At a fancy party, I would be surprised to see it. The thing is, too, that from a few feet away or a slightly different perspective, you wouldn’t necessarily know that the person only touched their piece of food. It could easily look like their hand was all up in everyone’s food, which would be icky. If it’s ‘wet’ food, anyway. Chips and other ‘dry’ snacks don’t seem to carry that ick factor with them.

cookieman's avatar

For the love of Pete, someone buy that hostess a set of tongs!!

Rule of thumb: if it’s traditionally “finger food” where you are, use your fingers to pick it up (corn on the cob, pizza, chicken legs, sandwiches, etc.).

If it’s not, use a separate (serving) utensil from the one that goes in your mouth (mashed potatoes, pasta, soup, etc,)

It’s also the responsibility of the host to have available appropriate and plentiful serving utensils.

Keep_on_running's avatar

Ahh first world problems… not a big deal to me, but I suppose it wouldn’t fit in with socially accepted food handling methods.

rooeytoo's avatar

As long as you only use your right hand, it’s okay. You know what your left hand is for.

Leanne1986's avatar

It wouldn’t bother me if they were only touching the piece they were going to eat.

Blackberry's avatar

I don’t care, for the pizza reason @Doctanian mentioned.

jca's avatar

@CWOTUS: Even though culture dictates one thing, that doesn’t mean people’s opinions will be the same. The example I gave in my question illustrates how our culture says it’s not ok, but this person felt it is ok.

Trillian's avatar

Sammich triangle? Go ahead and greab one. Mashed potatoes? Maybe try to find a spoon.

Bent's avatar

I wouldn’t do it in a formal restaurant but in an informal setting, buffet, party at home, barbecue etc, sure I think it’s acceptable.

wallabies's avatar

Yes. Why are Americans such germophobes? Unless you are wiping your sneezes off your face with your fingers and then sticking them in the pot, I’m cool.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

@cprevite has my answer.

rooeytoo's avatar

Are all Americans germophobes? (the dictionary never heard of that word) I thought it was only americans from Minnesota.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

@rooeytoo This American bird isn’t, nor are any of my family members. My British bloke is though. When he bought the house, the first thing he did was replace the kitchen sink and remove the garbage disposal. He also replaced a perfectly working stove and hob. Oh, and he gave the dishwasher to his sister. There is a hand towel for hands and a dish towel for dishes. They are not interchangeable.

If I had to take a wild guess as to why America has the reputation for being germophobes, it probably comes from sensationalist “news” shows that revel in stirring up vile images. They do stories on findings in restaurants and hotels. Keep in mind that there are a fair amount of citizens that probably never leave the country. Thus, they have no idea how wonderfully clean we have it compared to many other places.

@cprevite The tongs suggestion was my first thought as well. The host should get some as well as a copy of “Miss Manners on Hosting”. Sheesh.

jca's avatar

@cprevite: Good answer. I heard her say the tongs were being used outside for the barbecue.

Sunny2's avatar

Finger foods are just that. You only need fancy little tongs at very formal occasions. If utensils are provided by the host or hostess, you’re supposed to use them. People who are really persnickety and overly concerned about on no! germs, will probably not invite you back if you follow your own rules instead of theirs. Like Mrs Bucket (Bouquet) would you really care?

wallabies's avatar

@rooeytoo @Pied_Pfeffer I’m an American :P And yes, there are a fair number of us that never leave the country. There are also a fair number of us that are very well traveled. I don’t think it is just news shows, but media in general…advertisements for example that tout 99.99% bacterial death upon use.

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