The other day I helped my brother move to a new place. When we were done we sat there in the new house with all the unopened boxes around us. Hungry and exhausted, we ordered biryani and coke. The moment I started eating, my brother tells me, “Why are you eating like a pig? Stop making so much noise!” I stopped midway, my mouth half open, gaping at my brother. I felt like a student caught red handed cheating in his exams. It is not the first time I was hearing it. My chomp-fest has been discussed multiple times at home too. I am not a big fan of eating with my mouth closed.
I don’t have a research paper to prove it, but I always felt eating with my mouth open enhanced the taste. I imagine the flavours travelling to my nose. The smell and taste working together in harmony so that I can savour the food in all its glory.
My speed gets compromised when I eat with my mouth closed. When I go out to eat with my other broke friends, we order one bowl of french fries. My closed mouth stunt can leave me starving. I got to finish the fries before anyone else does. From the evolutionary perspective, it is a serious matter of life and death.
When I hear anyone eating loudly, it doesn’t disgust me. I admire them. Because I know for sure, that one person in the table is having a time of his life.
When I was a kid I would go to our cowshed and feed the cows hay. I would sit cross-legged facing it while it leisurely chewed its food. The sound of it gnawing the hay was soothing and therapeutic. I would lose the sense of time. I would soak in every noise the cow made. Try to figure out how it felt eating it. There is a strange beauty in it. Cows are classy. Humans don’t have the same elegance.
My work table might be a mess, but my plate – never. Thanks to my grandma and my mother I have excellent skills of keeping my plate neat at any point of the meal. I shift all the biryani rice to the left. This is the untouched part of the food. I take only small amounts to the right. Mix it with salad or gravy. Eat. Bones make up a neat pile on one corner. I try to eat one item at a time so as to enjoy its flavour in all its glory and not mix it with others. If there is an option to take fresh hot puris or dosas directly from kitchen, I don’t mind making multiple trips to get it. I hate wasting food. When I was in college, a guy from a country I don’t remember, showed us pictures of starving children in Ethiopia. Sitting there in that room, seeing those pictures I took a silent vow – never to waste food in my life. If I don’t like jalebi, I don’t take jalebi.
Millions in this world enjoy a happy life eating with their mouth shut. I can be one of them too. After a lot of thought I decided to break this habit. So here I am eating bhujiya with my mouth closed. It tastes different. It doesn’t feel right. My brain is not able to comprehend what is happening. My neural pathways are up in arms. I tell myself this is for the greater good. I hate you societal norms. I have to taste everything I loved again with my mouth closed. Visit all my favourite restaurants. Relive all my food memories. This is probably the biggest life changing decision I ever made.