Why Chefs Eat Salad With Their Fingers.

When I wrote the post I did yesterday about why chefs eat salad with their hands, I liked the idea of ending on a question, starting a conversation like the political wonks do on Slate and the HuffPost. The only problem is, I’ve only told a handful of people about my blog—I haven’t even told my mom—so there wasn’t anyone to have this conversation. Besides, the feature writer in me couldn’t resist the impulse to follow through and answer my own question. Or at least to make a most basic stab at it. So I asked a few friends why it was that cooks and what we loosely refer to as “food people,” have a thing for eating salad with their hands. Here’s what I got:

“Because chefs (and certain food writers of the old school) are unbridled sensualists.” —Colman Andrews

So basically if you eat salad with a fork, you’re missing out.

“I want to ‘feel’ the taste of a salad, the freshness of the leaves, the grittiness of the salt, the bark of the pepper and the acidity of the lemon or vinegar…” Jonathan Waxman

Leave it to Ground Zero of local/seasonal chefs to get down to the  nittiness and the grittiness of the salt.

“Fingers taste better than forks,” Joey Campanaro

Evidently in South Philly they don’t use any more words than they need to. Meanwhile, in Los Angeles….

“Aside from the fact that everyone says that your two fingers are God’s given utensils and that it’s just much more sensual… When you eat salad with your fingers, you’re not stabbing and damaging the leaf. Like real true pasta makers would go crazy if you cut the noodle rather than twirling it. I started eating salad with my fingers with Caesar salad, which, made from whole hearts of romaine leaves, are just such a perfect thing to pick up. But I don’t eat all salads with my fingers. For instance, I wouldn’t eat a Cobb salad with my fingers. Well, on second thought, I guess I would…” —Nancy Silverton

Me, I started eating salad with my fingers in 1993, a habit I picked up from my then-boyfriend, a chef, who gave me a year-long beginner’s course in everything I needed to know about living like one. He taught me about sourcing (the inability to make fewer than five stops to pick up the necessary ingredients for a simple weeknight dinner), seduction (this was the year the movie “Like Water for Chocolate” came out; what more do I need to say?), where to eat after 2am (back then the one great option was Blue Ribbon, and back then there was only one Blue Ribbon, which just goes to show how long I’ve been eating salad with my digits), the importance of keeping your counter space dry, and, yes, the good manners reprieve afforded to eating salad with your fingers. At least among their own. In truth, he didn’t limit his fingers to salad. He was always using his fingers to slip something into his mouth–or mine. Which brings me to the rest of what Jonathan Waxman said:  “You know the real reason. It’s all about sex.”

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5 thoughts on “Why Chefs Eat Salad With Their Fingers.

  1. Forks are a waste of time and feeling food is fabulous. If I could cut with my fingers and enjoyed burning my finger tips, that would be awesome.

  2. Why stop with salads? So many foods can be picked apart and carried to the mouth with your fingers. It is primal, it is sensual, it is connected.

    Has any one ever come up with utinsels made out of something other than metal or plastic — organic eating utinsels? Shoving metal instruments into your mouth isn’t organic, and distracts from the pleasure of the food. (Ever see a metal nipple on a baby’s bottle? ‘Course not.)

    Carolynn, the blog is off to great start. It will be a daily stop on my travels. See you soon, I hope!

    1. i was at del posto last night. really wanted to pick up the pasta–gorgeous garganelli with veal ragu. but they’d served me pasta in the l lounge where they normally don’t serve pasta. i figured the best i could do was behave.

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