“There’s no silverware!”
I look around feeling just a bit panicked.
And we’ve just landed in Marrakech.
With less than two hours on the ground, we’re faced with the small dilemma of sitting at a table FULL of food, and there’s no SILVERWARE to eat it with.
Bowls of hot juicy lentils, lamb tanjia, Moroccan omelets and other assorted goodies were spread across the table ordered by our incredible Airbnb host, Aziz. He not only picked us up from the airport but drove us straight to a fantastic Moroccan restaurant where he ordered all the food he felt we should try.
Apparently, used to Westerns who have no fucking clue what they’re doing, Aziz dove into the bowl of puffy flatbread sitting in the middle of the table and tore off pieces handing them to us, then dipped into one of the dishes.
Feeling A LOT out of depth, we sat there, hungry, wanting to eat, until my tired brain finally remembered that Moroccans eat using their hands. There is no silverware!
Well, that’s not entirely true, but I’ll explain more on that later.
For now, it was time for “monkey see, monkey do” because I was HUNGRY.
How to Eat Moroccan Style
Feeling a little worried right now?
It’s understandable, especially if you’re from a society that uses silverware regularly.
There’s a lot to get used to when eating Moroccan style!
In Morocco, they dish up the food in large community dishes, and everyone gathers to eat, scooping out bites using just their fingers or torn pieces of bread.
I can attest that it takes a great deal of skill to scoop the food into your mouth with either bread or fingers without spilling it on yourself.
AND you have to do it all WITHOUT licking your fingers!
The trick is to use your first three fingers cupped together and use a scooping up motion, helping to settle the food onto your fingers, for transportation into your mouth.
Then you use your thumb for pushing the food into your mouth to avoid licking your fingers.
Licking your fingers is very taboo BECAUSE you are eating out of a COMMUNAL pot.
Just think, are you grossed out by the person who double dips?
This is the same thing!
While the Moroccans do share food and laughter, they don’t want to share your spit.
I have to admit that not licking the fingers is harder to remember than learning the scooping method.
It’s just a reflex when food is running down your fingers!
Eating in the US
It’s not that eating with the hands is not entirely foreign in the US.
We eat pizza, fried chicken, sandwiches, and finger foods with hands.
BUT we never eat “messy” foods such as tagines, couscous, curries, stews and pasta with our fingers. OR even bread!
As a matter of fact, we rarely share food together anymore.
Instead, we’re more into our busy schedules or the overuse of technology at mealtimes.
I completely admit I’m guilty of checking my phone during a meal. Actually, I’m probably more guilty of photographing our food until it’s annoying, but that’s the curse of being a food blogger.
But maybe if we just continue with eating the way we learned in Morocco, the habit would be gone.
So learning to use no silverware was a little strange at first, but we adapted pretty quickly.
The Moroccans and Silverware Use
It’s not that Moroccans don’t use silverware at all.
It’s just less often than Westerners do.
They use spoons for the occasional soup and of course, stirring their coffee or tea. And the restaurants that cater to Westerners provide silverware without asking.
But the Moroccan culture is hardly the exception.
Many Arabic, African, Asian and Indian cultures eat with the hands. Did you realize, most sushi is eaten with the hands, not chopsticks?
Yes, you’ve been doing it wrong!
And of course, you can ASK for silverware.
But why not try eating it the local way.
Lay that fork down and pick up a piece of bread.
Eating is about fun and enjoyment. It’s about community and love of food.
If you want to avoid looking like a complete newbie by practicing at home before taking a trip to regions that eat with their fingers. Get some naan or other flatbread and try eating stews, Chinese food, or something like baked beans before you go.
Here are a few of the “rules” for eating with your hands so you don’t screw it up.
Rules for Eating with the Hands
The Moroccans and most Arabic countries have similar rules for eating with the hands.
#1. Always eat with clean hands.
I’m not sure why this is an issue in any society, but it shouldn’t be. Clean your hands before eating. ESPECIALLY when eating out of a community dish! No one likes dirty hands in the food bowl!
#2. In many Arabic cultures, only use your right hand.
Many Middle Eastern cultures use the left hand for cleaning their bodies. Translate: keep your shit wiping hand out of the pot.
#3. Never double dip.
Like in any culture, doubling dipping is NOT okay.
#4. DON’T lick your fingers.
Licking your fingers is the same as double dipping. It puts your spit back into the pot for everyone else.
Eating Moroccan style is easy.
Yes, you’ll probably end up with a few food stains at first.
But it’ll be so worth it in the end.
And the locals will respect you more because you didn’t ask for silverware!
If you’re ready to head to Morocco, please consider using our affiliate link for Skyscanner to get great deals on flights. And if you want a fantastic place to stay, host and guide in Marrakech consider booking with our host Aziz (no affiliate link needed, he’s an excellent guy).