The custom is a cultural issue
Every culture imposes their own customs; unwritten norms that we follow to adapt to society. In ours for example, the use of cutlery still prevails as a tool to eat. We acquaint ourselves to use them in order to poke, carve, pick up, scrape, slurp… Over time, we built a whole order and a correspondence according to the characteristics of what we consume. In other boundaries, they are disregarded and replaced by solely multi-functional toothpicks. In some countries even, we eat only with our hands.
Hands are the first tools we use to give shape to the world that surrounds us. With hands, we are able to give form to nature and begin a process of technological innovation; creating utensils with which, among other things, we will cook with. Using them is thus a natural regression to our most primitive state and about finding ourselves; without any gimmicks.
Eating with hands is also about sharing. There exists a complicity between the people we sit with at a table and those who participate an experience with us. Using our hands expresses confidence between diners. Eating this way is what is usually done when eating in the street. In popular meals, we free ourselves from the use of cutlery and we have fun eating tacos, hot dogs, pintxos or sandwiches only with our hands. In several cultures as well, they are more than a mere social significance. For example, Hindus believe they enter into a communion with nature, a fusion that stems through their touch of food.
With the eyes
The first sense that helps us perceive the world is sight. For this reason, the first thing that attracts us to a dish is what first comes to the eye: its colours, its geometric disposition, its visual textures…Sight helps us value food before trying it; it acts as a filter. By eliminating cutlery, we let another sense, touch, participate in the process before using our mouth. Touching food is a way to perceive textures, creating expectation before eating it; feeling the crunchiness break between your fingers, the juiciness of a recently baked bread, the turgidity of a ripe grape or the delicateness of a croquette. Pleasure is heightened when we add new sensorial perspectives the moment we taste.
In 1930, Marinetti was already fighting the conventional use of cutlery. In his manifest of futuristic cuisine, the Italian innovator advocated for the abolition of the knife and fork in favour of a “prelabial tactile pleasure”.
Creativity and touch
At Mugaritz, this season is eaten with the hands. Dishes such as Chilled crab threads and Lemon Oyster invite us to feel new sensations and step out of our comfort zone.
With all these reflexions in mind, this season we decided that in Mugaritz eating with the hands answers the challenge we propose: making the greatest possible number of dishes without the need of cutlery. The creative work meant that we had to change the perspective we were working with originally. To understand all possible forms of eating with our hands, we had to deepen ourselves in different textures and how it would feel to touch them. How do egg yolks feel to the touch when one strokes a smooth surface compared to one that is rough? How are temperatures perceived on the hand? How many ways can we serve the same product so that it may be grabbed by our fingers? All these questions arose and we tried to answer them through the creation of our dishes. In the end, we were inspired by being able to provide the diner a possibility to enjoy this philosophy up to even licking their own fingers.