Food writer sparks outrage after claiming knives and forks are racist
A chef and food writer has sparked outrage by claiming that knives and forks are racist.
Joshna Maharaj says the practice of teaching children that they shouldn't use their hands at the table is "dripping with the control and shame of colonisation".
She says youngsters should be taught to eat with both utensils and their hands as well as being exposed to different cuisines from an early age.
Among those to criticise her piece is MP Lee Anderson, who singled out her views on Facebook.
He said: "When in Rome. Different countries and cultures may have different ways of eating food. Chopsticks, cutlery, fingers etc...
"I taught my kids to use a knife and fork and not their fingers. Not once did I think of colonisation.
"In the UK it is good manners to use a knife and fork at the table. More rubbish ."
Joshna wrote the piece for Today's Parent magazine last year but it has recently been re-shared across Twitter and on Facebook with many seeing red over her comments.
The Toronto-based food writer and food activist explained how she believed people should rethink long-held notions of good table manners.
And she said that when she taught friends to eat with their hands in public, she could see how joyful it made them.
Joshna said she was first taught how to eat with her hands using the Indian flatbread roti, before moving onto rice, but her parents also taught her how to use a knife and fork.
She said: "Recently, I chatted with someone who told me a story about her young niece, who goes to a prestigious preschool and was eating rice with her hands at lunchtime.
"The feedback her parents received was that this child needed to work on her table manners and use proper cutlery to eat.
"I immediately felt a rush of anger bubble up inside me when I heard this. "The message that eating food with your hands is an unmannered way to eat is a real problem for me because it is dripping with the control and shame of colonisation, which is particularly dangerous in an educational context.
"Suggesting that a child who eats with her hands has no manners is an echo of European colonial powers looking to tame the wildness out of the people they controlled.
"These European table manners were imposed on conquered people in an attempt to 'civilise' them.
"It's a damaging message about right and wrong ways to do things.
"It positions the technique as superior and the people who practise it as setters of the standard, leaving those with a different approach to eating with a status of inferiority.
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"The idea of a single standard of acceptable table manners is just one of a host of strategies used to grow and promote racism.
"It's a subtle message but one that is reinforced three times a day, every day, which makes it quite powerful."
And she went on: "Let me be clear here: I think it's vitally important to teach children how to behave at a table.
"But I think we need to revisit what we're teaching and how we're teaching it. Recognising diversity in cultural backgrounds and food traditions is essential...
"We shouldn't be teaching kids that they're not supposed to eat with their hands at all or that eating with cutlery is a more refined or sophisticated way to eat.
"Different people eat their food in different ways. My father's instructions were very detailed, with a big focus on being tidy and efficient and maintaining Hindu customs around cleanliness and purity.
"There is a very mannered way to eat with your hands, and there are more than a billion people around the world who eat this way.
"The lessons we receive about how to eat come from our particular cultural background and experience. As adults, this is something that is very important to remember.
"The better message, I think, is that sometimes we eat with our hands and sometimes we eat with cutlery.
"There are prescribed and traditional ways to do this, and both options are equally legitimate. "The message we need to send to our kids is that there are many different ways to eat food and that they're all worthy of respect and acknowledgement."
Dozens of people have shared the piece on Twitter, with opinion on the matter divided.
One said: "Wanna introduce different cultures to another culture, let's go! I'm 100% for that.
"It's neat to learn how other places do things. I teach my own children different customs.
"But get out of here with that fOrKs aNd KniVeS aRe rAciSt malarkey. Hiking. Nature. Math. What else?"
And another added: "I am sure this doesn't need spelling out. However different communities have different expectations on manners.
"Eating with fingers is considered rude in my home, but not in others.
"Eating with a knife and fork is considered barbaric in some homes, but not mine."
Others responded to Tory MP for Ashfield Lee Anderson's Facebook comments.
Katie Badger said: "It is not considered unmannerly to eat with your fingers, it is the accepted way to eat oysters, chops, asparagus etc, if at an Indian restaurant it is the sensible thing to do to use your Indian bread to mop up all the lovely sauce, in a Chinese restaurant give the chopsticks a go but they will happily provide you with a spoon and fork and I am not quite sure how you would enjoy your Tom Yom soup without a spoon.
"In Italy a spoon and fork for your pasta dish, it is not rocket science you use the best cutlery for the job or your fingers."
Mary Smithurst said: "I'm getting a bit sick of folks looking for offence in everything!
"Racism is a very overused word. Racism, as I understand it, is the deliberate act of singling out a person or group, based on their ethnic characteristics, not how they eat their dinner!
"That's just a matter of differing manners. Surely, if you follow that argument, it is racist to complain about using a knife and fork.
"There is racism against all groups, but if you are white and living in a western society, no one cares that you are discriminated against."