Whitlam Institute

What Matters 2019 Shortlist

What Matters 2019 Shortlist

Cutlery Anxiety

Cutlery Anxiety

Renita Joseph

Year 11

Spiders, cockroaches, heights; all pretty standard things to be afraid of. At the ripe age of ten, I was about to add a more unusual cause of anxiety to my repertoire.

There I was, a ten year old recently migrated Indian girl sitting across from a steaming bowl of rice and vegetables. I was on school camp, a three day affair. It was a packed first day; we went bush walking and kayaking. I was ravenous, but I couldn't eat yet. I watched my peers expertly wield their knives and forks to cut the vegetables into bite-sized portions. My mother would always make the vegetables into some sort of curry or stir fry, but these ones looked too close to their original form. I eyed the cutlery suspiciously, and gingerly chose the spoon to dig into my rice. About halfway through, Nicola, one of the girls assigned to show me around, looked at me curiously.

“How come you're eating rice with a spoon?”. I chewed my rice for a little longer than required.

“Um, the rice falls through the spaces of the fork and I don't want to cut myself with the knife”. She looked at me baffled.

“Do you not want dessert?”

 Now it was my turn to look baffled. How did me eating my rice with a spoon translate to not wanting dessert? It was chocolate mousse on the menu too. I looked around me, and saw some kids had already gotten started on the mousse...using their spoons.

“Ah...uh..no. I might just have a fruit. It's healthier”.

Don't look at me like that Nicola. I don't understand myself either.

Cutlery Anxiety (n):

An affliction likely to present in recent immigrants from various parts of the world including India, the Middle East and Africa, in situations when it is expected to eat with cutlery.

Our hands have one of the highest distribution of sensory neurons in the human body.  Each fingertip has more than 3, 000 touch receptors diligently receiving and integrating changes in pressure and temperature. It is incredibly hard not to connect with the food you are eating when you are feeling the various textures and licking the excess flavours of your hands afterwards. Of course there are many instances when the use of cutlery is polite and necessary, but when possible, I would encourage everyone to really get good use of their cutaneous fingertip receptors during their gustatory endeavours.

Five years have passed since the traumatising camp incident where I was deprived off chocolate mousse. Currently, I am sitting in my favourite restaurant in the heart of Parramatta. This is a city rich in culture and diversity. There are not many places I feel more at home. I have mastered the art of using cutlery. Yet I cherish these moments when I am not separated from my food by cold metallic barriers. My fingers caress the doughy, warm texture of naan. I tear it apart. watching the steam escape as I dip the bread into the creamy butter chicken. This might get messy.