Eating Without Cutlery


MANY people use a fork, a knife, and a spoon to transfer delicious food to their mouth. Others, such as those who grew up in the Orient, use a pair of chopsticks for the same purpose. However, there are foods that some say taste better when eaten with bare hands. Think about barbecued ribs, chicken pieces, muffins, egg rolls, and tacos.

But how about soup? Would you eat that with your fingers? ‘Impossible!’ you might say. ‘It is hot and sticky, and there is no way to hold it together.’ In many countries of Africa, people are as accustomed to eating soup with their fingers as Asians are to eating with chopsticks. Let us introduce you to a Ghanaian dish and the delightful experience of eating it without cutlery.

Fufu and Groundnut Soup

Fufu is made from boiled plantain, a fruit closely related to the common banana, and from cassava​—also called manioc—​a plant with tuberous roots, which is cultivated throughout the tropical world. The plantains and cassava are peeled, washed, and boiled until softened. After the water is drained, they are pounded together to a smooth, consistent paste using pestle and mortar. When well mixed and soft, this paste is formed into round balls.

Perhaps you know groundnuts better as peanuts. Groundnut soup is made from groundnut paste, meat or fish, tomatoes, onions, pepper, and other spices. The meat or fish is steamed and spiced, and then water and groundnut paste are added. The vegetables are blended and added to the soup, and  everything is stirred and cooked well. Then the fufu ball is served in a bowl, with the steaming groundnut soup on top of it.

The Technique

Now that this delicious meal has been prepared for you, how do you get it into your mouth with your bare hands? Well, it is just a matter of using the right technique.

First, of course, wash your hands carefully. Then dip the fingers of your right hand into the soup. But be careful! If you are not used to it, the heat might be too intense!

Now pull off some fufu, using your thumb, forefinger, middle finger, and ring finger. Keep the morsel immersed in the soup, and press it gently with the thumb to create a small dimple, which will trap a little bit of the soup.

Then raise the hand with the morsel. On the way turn your wrist and fingers toward your mouth while making sure that your fingers do not go higher than your wrist. By doing so, you ensure that the soup does not run all the way down your arm to the elbow.

 Bend your head down a little bit, and when your hand reaches your lips, use the middle and ring fingers to shift fufu and soup directly into your mouth. Enjoy it but, again, be careful. Now you might have to cope with the heat of the pepper in your mouth, as Ghanaian dishes are usually quite spicy!

You will have to repeat this procedure until all the fufu is eaten. Eat the other ingredients, such as the pieces of meat, separately from the fufu. And if some of the soup is left over, you may use your hand to finish it up.

The Experience

Some Ghanaians say that they want to employ the five basic senses in eating. You hear and smell the food when it is cooking. You see and taste it while eating. But in order to bring in your fifth sense, you have to touch and feel it.

No matter what your background is, you can be assured that our Creator, Jehovah God, is interested in “all sorts of men.” (1 Timothy 2:4) This gives room for an interesting variety of customs. And even if you are not used to eating your soup without cutlery, you might find that this can be a delicious and delightful experience.