Forks, Fingers, and Rice

The floor and walls were cement. There were three standing electric fans stirring the humid night air. I sat at a cheap plastic table on an even cheaper light green plastic chair. Before me was a plate with a mound of rice and a side of corned tuna. Rather than grabbing a spoon and fork, I went straight for my “kamay.” My hands. As gross as it might seem, I ate with my hands. And it was good. You don’t have to believe me. As a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Philippines, I learned a lot about myself and about others. One of the most important lessons I learned was that different people do things differently and it is paramount that we take the time to understand, respect, and sometimes adapt to those differences. One of the first lessons I was taught was when eating rice you can use two things: a spoon or your hands.

I remember eating rice as a kid. Forks were used. I didn’t ask any questions because that’s just how I thought rice was transferred from plate to mouth. Grab fork, scoop up rice, lift up, disregard spillage, eat, repeat. But, that’s not how Filipinos did it. Let me describe the process. It’s not hard and it could make your rice eating a lot easier.

The first mode is by way of spoon. Grab spoon with right hand, grab fork with left hand. Scoop rice with spoon and use fork to gather rice for your spoon. Use spoon to transfer rice to mouth. Chew, swallow, repeat. Pretty simple, right?

Over the last two years as I’ve been back in America, I have noticed how much difficulty goes into eating rice for most Americans. As I’ve thought about it more, eating rice with a fork is like trying to dig a hole with a pitch fork. Sure, it gets the job sort of done. But, a shovel does a better job because its job is to dig and transport dirt. I believe that spoons and shovels operate under the same principles. To further my point, spoons seem to be the more frequently used tools of escaping prison. I’ve only seen that happen in movies, but you get my point. Spoons have a specific function, so why don’t we use them in situations where that specific function can be practically utilized?

If you feel awkward eating rice with a spoon, the “kamay method” should do the trick. Rather than worrying about the technicalities surrounding spoons and forks cooperating, you can just use your hands. The rules are simple. You can follow these rules or look like a toddler. Totally your choice. Using your right hand or dominant hand (I have nothing against lefties), first grab your rice. Don’t just grab the rice though. Pack it between your thumb and your fingers. After this, it gets pretty easy. Once you have your rice, grab the food you’re eating with the rice. After this put the rice-food combo in your mouth. Chew, swallow, repeat.

If you’re still a strictly “fork forever” sort of person, my opinion of you doesn’t change. I’m just sad for you. I’m sorry that you haven’t seen the light. Forks and spoons can coexist when eating rice. Hands work too. So, the next time you eat rice try the spoon-fork combo or try it with just your hands. Trying something new is sometimes weird and scary, but you can’t judge until you try. I promise it is a lot easier than forking through a mound of rice with a side of corned tuna.

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