Can't beat a spoon for dining

We all peak at different ages. And the skills we have in adulthood are mastered in many weird and wonderful ways.

But when a basic skill remains permanently pesky to acquire well into adulthood, then the brow begins to furrow and the head begins to hurt.

I am still having a lot of trouble learning how to eat.

It is of course harder now with so many fine and vastly different cuisines available in the city's cafes and restaurants.

Many of them require a certain way of eating, both to be authentic to the cuisine but also to best get the food into the mouth.

As someone who is entirely happy with a spoon, this can result in cultural mayhem.

But I am merely another punter for that restaurant, so if I attack their food insensitively, the waiter is hardly likely to give me a good slapping.

They want me back in that restaurant, clenched spoon and all.

I can use chopsticks. They're not hard. But the next step in Chinese eating, holding the bowl up to the mouth and sloshing it in - logical really - gets the food into the tummy quickest; well, you could do that with two screwdrivers or a jandal if the bowl is that close.

But I refuse to hold the bowl up to the mouth.

I lean back in the chair and flick bits on to the chopsticks as if they were an extension of my hands.

Consequently, when I am finished, and the courteous waiter comes to clean up around me, it looks like I have been attacked from above by a top-dressing pilot who has not been told the target.

Indian!

Don't get me started on Indian.

My best friend at high school swanned off to India, intent on improving his mind among the mystical mountain people.

When Customs picked him up on the way back home, his waist sagging beneath bags of hashish oil, he was thrown in a rat-infested jail.

Our wonderfully well-written letters to the New Zealand Embassy over there eventually speeded his release, and soon he was dining at my table.

I, of course, made him an Indian feast.

The children have still to recover from the sight of my friend devouring his food like a wild, starving, homeless person.

He threw knife and fork to the floor and ate only with a hand, speedily, hungrily, messily.

It's how you eat in India, he said - you have to feel the food.

Children imitate and remember everything.

For years they would go to prestigious dinner parties at other houses and you could almost taste the incredulity at the table.

The word went out, if you invite these people, tell them not to bring their children, they eat like wolves.

But the one that gets me into trouble still, and it happened at Nova last Wednesday, is spaghetti.

I have seen people twirl spaghetti around a fork and suck it in at dizzying speed like a cobra.

Is this the right way?

Or is New Zealand's spaghetti-eating as bad as their driving?

All I know is when I eat spaghetti, I use a knife and fork.

Maybe it's because I like rice more than noodles, but I am not interested in having two hundred metres of slopping, glopping, dripping, dropping spaghetti hanging off my fork a metre from my mouth.

I cut the stuff up, I turn it into rice.

And then I eat economically and tastefully, maintaining a high level of conversation without spraying the entire table with flying food.

I have eaten in Italy.

I have gone to reputedly authentic trattorias to see if Italian men do behave as we are traditionally told they do - repeatedly pinching women's bottoms, and, I hoped, eating spaghetti with a knife and fork.

No, they only pinch women's bottoms. I don't care. I am past the point of caring what people think of my eating disorders.

I just gobble until I am full, then I go home. What could possibly be wrong with that?

Roy Colbert is a Dunedin writer.

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