Can You Really Eat Rice Properly?
English, Japanese Culture, Japanese Food chopsticks, Cool Japan, Japanese culture, Japanese food, Japanese tradition, rice, sashimi, table manners, Washoku, what to eat in Japan
Do you like zombie films??
As we owned a Gothic style caffe in Harajuku, I have been misunderstood so often that I liked horror movies. But I don’t like them so much. I would rather say, I hate zombie films and I can tell clearly why I hate them.
The reason is…. how they eat.
I was so horrified to see how zombies eat, but not what they eat….
What people eat is their own business and I think there is a local preference. I would not force zombies to not eat living human beings, moreover, I don’t know the appropriate way to tell them stop eating living human beings as it is not allowed in my country. I’m quite sure that they will just tell me,
And then they will eat me up before any kinds of discussion.
As well as what to eat, there is also a local rule on how to eat in the human world.
When I was living in Italy, I have been so honored to be invited in Gala dinner or a lunch with important people several times. Of course, I knew that it was strictly prohibited to eat noodles by sucking them with noise outside Japan. Further more, I already knew that eating spaghetti with a spoon in a left hand was something improper in Italy. However, I made mistakes in front of those important people… It still makes me in a cold sweat when I look back to the mistakes that I made during a lunch with female politicians. I poured a bottle of wine to one of the female politicians because I found her glass nearly empty.
After pouring her the wine, she told me that women should never pour a bottle of wine at the table. That incident made me notice that a good manner in one country could become bad in another. Then she pointed out another mistake that I’d made. I poured a bottle of wine with my palm upward. This manner is described in Italian as “versare vino alla traditora”, pouring wine in a betrayer’s style. Worst of all, I didn’t know that it was considered as a bad manner also in Japan!!
Another etiquette I learned in Italy popped up in my mind…
Don’t drink a cappucino in the afternoon!
It can mean that you are not satisfied with the lunch or the dinner you had and you are still hungry. So, it is considerable to order an espresso or a caffe’ macchiato at least, if you need some milk for your coffee!
The elementary school where I studied had a school event to dine out in a gorgeous hotel banquet in order to educate the students the table manners. We were told that we had to learn an “European” style of table manners to become “ladies”. I remember so well that I was taught how to eat rice served on a plate with a knife and a fork. I don’t know if this education is still continued, but some decades ago, a teacher told me that we should not transfer the fork to the right and that the tines of the fork should always remain pointing down. So, the appropriate way of eating rice with a fork that I was taught was putting rice on the back of a fork held by the left hand using a knife to assist placement of the rice!! As it is so hard to find rice served on a flat plate outside Japan, I have not been able to show this great technique to non-Japanese people yet… But have you ever seen it before? If you see any Japanese people eating rice in this way, please don’t blame them. It is not their own invention but just trying to behave themselves!
Now, I would like to teach you how to eat Japanese food elegantly. I think it is quite famous that sticking chopsticks in a bowl of rice is prohibited in Japan because it is the style only for the dead people to offer a bowl of rice.
Many people pay attention to how to use chopsticks, but I would like to focus on the manner of your left hand. In Japan, you have to hold a dish while eating, which I know is a taboo in many countries outside Japan. Plus, the form of the bowl-holding hand shows another matter. Placing the dish / bowl on 4 fingers with only the thumb, giving a little support on the edge of the bowl would be the elegant way to hold the dish while eating.
When you eat Sashimi, I guess you would dip a slice of fish in soy sauce, right? If you hold a small plate of soy sauce with your left hand while you bring the fish to your mouth with chopsticks, the risk of dripping the soy sauce on your clothes will be much reduced. If you want some wasabi for your fish, it will be better not to mix wasabi into the soy sauce but to put a little bit directly onto a slice of fish.
You may see many Japanese people putting their left hand as a replacement of a plate while eating… It is thought to look elegant but it is judged as an improper manner.
In case the plate is large, larger than your hand, pick some food on a small plate and hold it while eating. A plate under your chopsticks will receive any drips from the food. What is more, it is considered as an important manner to straiten your spine while eating in Japan. Holding a plate enables you to keep a good posture and it can avoid another taboo, placing an elbow on the table while eating.
Traditional Japanese cuisine is well know also for its beauty how they are served. So, the people who eat it should not spoil its beauty!!
I guess many of you may have wondered why a napkin is not prepared for your use in Japanese restaurants even though a hot towel is served. Some of you may have wiped your mouth with a hot towel, but it is only for your hands (even though some Japanese wipe their face with it)! Then why is a napkin not given at the table in Japan?? Because well-mannered people always bring their own paper napkins called “Kaishi” with them, and to serve a napkin from the hosting side to guests can be considered rude as it seems as though the guests don’t know the right rule of bringing their own Kaish with them.
Eating is an action that all kinds of animals do, and what differentiates human beings from other animals would be how to eat. These days, there are great many people who focus on the safety of the ingredients of the food but there are not so many who focus on how they eat. Today, I introduced some table manners, but there are many more. Still, unfortunately, many Japanese don’t know the rules or just ignore them recently. I would like to share with you these etiquette because the concept of my blog, Saionji Net., is to let you know Japanese things more than the Japanese do!
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