February 24, 2015

Digestion Does Not Begin In Your Mouth: Your Brain on Hand Food

Potato-garlic pierogis and spinach.  Applesauce on the side.

I wouldn't call pierogis "hand food."  (Pierogis, if you don't live in parts of Brooklyn or Buffalo or another Polish community, are dumplings filled with mashed potato, or potato plus another ingredient -- common fillings include spinach, mushroom, meat, or, as Veselka has mastered, sweet potato).   They're eaten with forks, slathered in applesauce, sour cream, and/or sauteed onions.   Still, when I cook up a portion, I can't resist eating part of one with my fingers.  It just tastes better.

I'm like that with other non-finger foods, as well.  Roasted potatoes.  Brown rice.   Beans.   Lasagna.   Broccoli.  Most of this is done while cooking just for a taste but sometimes after the meal, too, while putting leftovers away.  And I've been known to outright "eat with my fingers" at my desk at work when no one is looking. :)

I am convinced food really does taste better "from hand" to mouth.  One of my theories is that the food gets closer to your nose, thereby ramping up the eating experience.

Not quite, but almost.   I discovered (after looking into this -- surely I couldn't be the only person willing to admit I'm an enthusiastic hand-eater) scientists are finding a connection between how you eat -- with your hands or with a utensil -- and how the brain responds.   Indeed: the act of picking food up with your fingers triggers a response to the brain and your guts -- your second brain -- to get ready for digestive action.   It's a more "whole body" experience that encourages mindfulness while eating -- you are really engaging with your meal.

Gastro Note:  I've found pierogis are a favorite "easy to digest" food of mine.   When my guts are churning, if I have nausea or other gastro issues, I can always tolerate and enjoy pierogis.  Sometimes it gets crazy -- I've had weeks where I've wanted nothing but pierogis for three days in a row!  (They are insanely delicious, especially in my neighborhood, where they are made fresh just down the street.  The "pierogi factory" -- really! -- makes a few varieties but my favorite is garlic and potato, which are also vegan.  Yeah!)  I eat mine with applesauce -- double points if I've made my own applesauce that week!


NPR's The Salt:  Is Everything More Delicious When You Eat With Your Hands?

Express Tribune:  5 Reasons Why You Should Eat With Your Hands

HinduismToday:  The Ways and Joys of Eating With Your Hands

HinduHumanRights: Vedic Wisdom Behind Eating With Your Hands

Organic Olivia:  How Eating with Chopsticks Massages Your Organs and Stimulates Digestion  An interesting related article...

NY Times:  Mind Your Manners:  Eat With Your Hands

SFGate: A New, Old Restaurant Trend: Eating With Your Hands

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