WEST STORY OF THE FINGER FOOD
Finger food is for somebody only a new culinary trend. However in the West has a millennial heritage, while in some cultures it represents the only way to taste food
The modern meaning of the word finger food (that is the food usually eaten without the use of cutlery) spread from 2002 when it started to be used at the Expogast of Salzburg.
We talked about finger food in an article linked with foodiestrip‘s categories. Today, on the contrary, we are going to focus on the origin of the word and the historical growth of this kind of feeding. We are going to stay in the West, because of other traditions we’ve already discussed.
In the European courts eating with the hands has been tradition till the end of 1600: Louis XVI still was licking his fingers and in the half of ‘600 eating meat with the fork was considered useless and harmful, because the taste of the food was covered.
Romans used to eat lying on the triclinium (kind of a long couch), a position that helps digestion and to eat more, but made it almost impossible the use of cutlery (even if ladles and spoons of any kind were known, as the one with the point was used for eggs and shellfishes).
So Romans invented the modern trend of finger food: they used “scissores”, that is slaves in charge of the food cutting, and the patricians ate with their hands or using silver thimbles, so they didn’t get dirty or burnt.
At least till 1600, the importance given to the presentation of dishes (a central aspect in the modern finger food, which owes a lot to Japanese culinary tradition), comes from medieval and Renaissance treaties wholly consecrated to the cutting of food (an example can be Vincenzo Cervio’s “Il Trinciante” 1581, a work that describes the correct way to cut many dishes, from the pheasant to the simple egg).
The western tradition of finger food, as we know it today, has found a mooring during the years from 1919 to 1933, that is the American prohibition years.
In the clandestine speakeasy, in fact, many customers used to consume the prohibited alcohol with tasty bites that had to be eaten standing and fast. For the owners finger food represented a triple advantage: made it easy the waiter’s job, invited customers to drink more and avoided the noise of a fast inebriation.
From the speakeasy, the finger food moved very soon to England in those happy hour places, but this is another story. A cocktail-story that starts with Shakespeare and gets to the happy hour.
This post is also available in: Italiano (Italian)