Post the COVID-19 pandemic, instead of sharing, eating together will be about personal cutlery, impeccable dining etiquette and social distancing. This is bound to change the Indian culture of sharing dabbas and the practice of community meals.
PERSONAL CUTLERY AND SOCIAL DISTANCING WHILE EATING WITH FRIENDS
“If you care about your friends, you won’t share meals with them the way you used to,” says food critic Sujit Ahuja from Mumbai, explaining, “Even today, our initial response while sneezing is to cover our mouth with our hand instead of elbow. We are still learning to do away with that reflex, and so people will be wary and cautious of sharing with colleagues. Eating together will now involve the use of personal cutlery, tissues and social distancing.”
mind your dining etiquette! Social behaviourist Dr Danish Siddiqui highlights how the culture of sharing dabbas in offices and college canteens will change. He adds, “People will avoid eating out with those lacking dining etiquette and hygiene. Eating out in groups might become rarer and shorter. Talking while eating will also be a big no-no, as people are advised to cover their mouths while speaking,” he says.
WHAT HAPPENS TO BANQUETS AND BUFFETS?
“Eating together at a banquet hall with 100-200 people is something people will think about twice now,” says Sabhrish Iyer, owner of a banquet hall, adding, “Our focus will now be on hygiene and limiting the number of patrons on our premises at a time. We might have dedicated people stationed who will direct patrons to wash their hands before meals. Banana leaves will replace plates too.”
Satish Kumar, manager of a five-star hotel in Kerala, says that the breakfast buffet that was quite popular among tourists, might become a thing of the past. He says, “This might be a good thing because buffets majorly contributed to food wastage.”
RETHINKING COMMUNITY MEALS
Organisers of the pujo pandals and Ganeshotsav mandals are thinking of ways to keep community meals alive. “We are doing away with community meals this year and are planning to ask people to bring their dabbas to serve bhog,” says Debashish Saha from Mukti Sarbajanin Pujo Samiti, Kolkata.
Mandar Deshmukh from Wagholi Ganeshotsav Mandal says, “We will limit the number of people, and use patravalis (plates made of dried leaves) instead of steel plates. People will be urged to bring their own cutlery too.”
Eating together has been a big part of China’s culinary history. But the country is now witnessing change in its dining etiquette. Chinese restaurants where one-pot meals were shared by patrons are no longer popular due to hygiene concerns post COVID-19. A recently conducted survey by China Youth in the country highlights that people are wary of sharing food and prefer their own chopsticks, plates and soup bowls while eating.