Whether you use a fork and knife, fork and spoon, chopsticks or your bare hands, the commonality in all cultures is that we all love to eat. None are wrong in their ways - it's just a matter of cultural upbringing. Growing up, at home I used a fork and spoon - outside from the home it was a fork and knife and upon moving to Indonesia when eating certain foods, I learned to enjoy the act of eating with my hands (pre washed of course) and much to my father's chagrin, he would jokingly remark; "I was born with a fork and spoon". Perhaps there's somethng primal about eating with your hands yet I do not find it primitive whatsoever. There's a certain ravenous honesty about it. Just imagine eating chicken wings with a fork and knife - no fun in that.
Watching my mother cook and sitting around the kitchen table to eat as a family is some thing that I've always taken for granted - it is these times that are the most intimate in family life. One thing that really stood out for me when I first moved here is that some families don't sit down regularly for a meal together. Often times the food is laid out for hours on the dining room table and eaten when the individual is hungry then reheated for dinner in the same manner. The idea of eating cold food that is supposed to be served hot appalled me as much as the idea of having to eat alone when there were others around.
Most middle to upper class families here will have a live-in cook and maid, admittedly I did too. But when I moved to anoher island I wanted to change the dynamics of how my household was run. No more cook and only a maid during the day. It was the greatest blessing because it taught my then young son menial tasks like clear the table or wash some dishes and most of all appreciate the love and effort that is put in a home cooked meal.
What is most endearing about the culture here is that people are genuinely warm and kind. You can show up unexpectedly at a friends or relatives house and be welcomed with open arms and always be served something to drink and offered something to eat. I recently paid my uncle and aunt who live in a very modest home in the outskirts of Jakarta a visit. The food - there was so much of it. And I asked my aunt; "why did you cook so much" and she simply said; because you were coming. I spent the entire day there and they sent me off with loads of food to bring home. I told my son of day spent and he said; I don't know why you are so surprised because you are exactly the same way, you are constantly either cooking for people or sending food to them. Hmmm then it must be a genetic thing. :D
Being raised in a cross cultural environment has allowed me to pick aspects from here and there that are best suited for me and apply it in how I live my life. And the meaning of food for me, is not only to feed our body with nutrients or to satisfy a craving. Through food we can nuture the relationship we have with our family, friends or that special some one we love...by simply sitting down, sharing a meal and opening ourselves up to minimum - a good conversation. So let's eat...