“Do not eat with your hands!”
This is what we are often told, growing up under the watchful eye of our mothers as we learn how to eat at the dinner table in the Western world.
Nonetheless thousands, if not billions, of human beings in other countries across the globe have always eaten with their hands,
or with their fingers, as seen in India. A much more instinctive and almost sensual gesture, whilst maintaining a ritualised and natural elegance.
Are we sure that, in order to avoid ‘dirtying’ our hands and ‘contaminating’ our food and mouth,
Western cutlery is the only alternative we have to our ‘bare hands’?
Can we be sure there are no other options out there to spare ourselves the violent ritual of piercing,
cutting and slicing food? Why not to confine these somewhat barbaric actions to the preparation phase of food in the kitchen only,
instead of displaying it during a civilised meal at the table?
This poses an extraordinary ‘design’ question and theme, which could become the subject of an international competition.
However, the hands/cutlery dilemma has already been resolved and this took place in ancient China, possibly as early as the Shang Dynasty (1766-1122 BCE).
The winning design was an extremely modest and essential throwaway wooden pair of chopsticks, pictured here, which acts as an extension to the hands and fingers.
Using them, the hands imitate the act of grabbing the food and drawing it close to the mouth.
It is an elegant gesture, where contact with neither the food nor the mouth is created, yet it maintains the original relationship between food and mouth.
It creates a direct and instinctive action.
Congratulations to the unknown designer!
Mario Bellini is a world-renowned Italian architect and designer.