All societies have traditional beliefs regarding harmful and beneficial ways of dining for the society and for the people, but let’s center on food etiquette, more or less what we view as taboos and why they form an essential part of our culture. Food or Dining etiquette covers rules from the moment an individual takes the seat till he drops the cutlery or that glass. The interesting thing about Food Etiquette is, it creates a free spirited and peaceful atmosphere even in the midst of strangers one's likely to dine with; no one murmurs about your inappropriate use o cutlery or bad table manners.
Although Ghana has embraced civilization over the years, these rules have as well followed keenly into this age, right before putting on our first school uniforms. Our parents and grandparents scared the living daylight out of us with the dos and don’ts. If you grew up in Ghana, you get this:
DON’T POUND AN EMPTY MORTAR
There were days when we felt like playing with the dry pestle and empty mortar assuming grown up positions blah blahblah… grandmother said when you pound an empty mortar, you are pounding your mother’s breast. Why would I want to pound my mother’s breast? Of course I’ll stop immediately. Yet, this belief was made to prevent foreseen injuries by children who weren’t fit to work the mortar and pestle.
DON’T TALK WHILE YOU EAT
‘You will vomit blood’, grandmother said. Unquestionably, eating and talking at the same time is risky and unsafe. One can easily choke on his meal and eventually die out of it, or yeah… ‘Vomit blood’
DON’T REST YOUR ARM ON THE TABLE OR FLOOR WHILES EATING
Okay! To be honest, this taboo still haunts me today, but slightly. We were told not to rest our arm on the table or floor whilst we eat with the other hand because the moment you swallow the food, it will go through the other arm and be swallowed up by the table or floor, so you never get satisfied. In all truth, our parents and elders only helped us to develop good posture when we sat to eat.
THE ‘RIGHT HAND – LEFT HAND’ ISSUE
It is expected of Ghanaians to receive and give out items with their right hands and not their left, for reason being that, the individual uses his left to wipe off the bits and bobs of waste matter remaining after food digestion through the bottom, and so generally the left hand is unclean. Thus, shaking hands, receiving or giving out an item with one’s left hand is considered as an insult to the other party. I’m not surprised to see so many ambidextrous Ghanaians whose parents tried straightening the ‘right hand-left hand’ issue.
FILL THE CUP TO THE BRIM OR DON’T FILL IT AT ALL
Mother kept saying it whenever I fetched her water ‘why, do I look like I pee in my bed?’ I couldn’t fill the cup to the brim because I wouldn’t want it to pour or overflow. Apparently, that’s also an insult. Later on in life, I learned to just bring the bottle of water with a cup/glass into the presence of the one I’m serving and either serve him or allow him to serve himself. Darn! I remember that line like it was yesterday.
Natives in the rural areas strongly uphold such etiquettes, habits and taboos and live by them without fail. Today, we find nothing wrong with shaking our fellow neighbour with our left hands (not that the right does ‘clean’work anyway), eat and chat and drive at the same time, rest our arm on the table and lose appetite anyway…
Inasmuch as one man’s food is another man’s poison, let us not forget that illiteracy plays a vital role in our development process hence it is good to KNOW and not just nod our heads.
Funny how these same food etiquettes, mannerisms and taboos although sounding lame have shaped us into proper individuals. The prohibitions are endless, I’m pretty sure you remember a couple not included here (you can share in the comment box). 😘
Miz Akwele is a guest food blogger contributor. She's a model and has her blog at purpleshades.net. She currently works at CreoConcepts as an assistant to the General Manager and is also their social media assets manager. She feels blessed to have the superpower of staying slim no matter how much food she eats.