Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Will Miss #408 - oshibori

"Oshibori" are wet towels, sometimes hot, sometimes not, and sometimes real cloth and sometimes a paper towel, that you are given at the beginning of a meal in restaurants in Japan. They are given to allow you to approach your food with clean hands. One of my students once mentioned their absence in restaurants in the U.S. and said she didn't know what people did to make sure they had clean hands before eating. I told her that I would wash my hands in the bathroom, but the truth is that I think most people just forget to do anything at all. Chances are they get served a sandwich or finger food and just tuck in without a second thought.  Even if you do remember to wash up in the bathroom, I'm not so sure that you're a whole lot better off because you usually have to touch a door handle to get out and there are people who don't wash their hands after doing their business who touch it. 

The Japanese way of giving you a towel to wash your hands before eating at a restaurant makes it easier to be clean before touching your food and removes any concerns about forgetting or getting re-introduced to bacteria from touching dirty surfaces in the bathroom. I will miss being given oshibori at the beginning of a restaurant meal.