Street food: The awkward eater’s guide

Is there anything more slovenly than the public digestion of street food?

This paper-plated and cartoned food is an inherently messy business. I’m all for tucking in and getting down and dirty with food but when I’m eating in the street, I inadvertently end up looking like Hannibal Lecter just as sauce, meat juice and crumbs take residence on my chin. It’s an embarrassment to my manners and not too pretty to look at.

I need to approach the streets with some tact. Street food falls into your two basic categories – fingers and forks – and as you’ve probably guessed, I fall in favour of forks. Curry, for example: winning. With a fork in one hand, the other holding the plate, little can go wrong. There’s no need to find solace in a surface to rest stock piles of napkins – instead it’s a clean, controlled affair in which almost every mouthful makes it to my actual mouth. But though I fall into the cutlery camp, those that offer knives lose my vote. If a surface isn’t guaranteed, is that delicious waffle really worth the panic and pain of being single-handedly pulled apart with the fork against its will?

Street food - awkward eater's guide

The street food awkward eater’s guide. Also available to buy as posters.

And burgers. Burgers are exploding – they’re everywhere – including of course, street markets. Takeaway burgers had for years been confined to the flat squash of a McDonald’s drive-thru cheeseburger. With not so much as a drip of sauce to worry about and height minimal, it was the no frills, no skills burger. But now we’re dealing with comparative beasts – utter forces of nature that redefine everything we thought we knew about patties and baps. Now, there are several layers to be had – meat sings next to salad, beneath chunky chutney, jams and runny eggs, topped with bacon, cheese, more patties and bread. Oh, it’s all just so filthy. But as someone who struggles with burgers at a set table, clever street food a burger does not make. I don’t reckon gearing up to eat should involve voluntary jaw dislocation and an advanced yoga class. And as a consistent loser of the bottom bread half, I invariably end with a deconstructed burger between the webs of my fingers and shoes. It’s my public eating nightmare, and a sad day for someone who actually bloody loves burgers.

I promise I’m not anal. Actually I’m quite selfless in my consideration because let’s be honest, is there anything that kills an appetite quite so quickly as a messy eater? No, I thought not. You’re welcome.

Comments (2)

  • Ray

    Hey i know its cheeky but can i nick and print the street food poster? Would love to print and display when trading next 🙂

  • Avatar photo

    Dwayne Blee

    Ray, glad you’re liking it! That poster is actually available through the shop which helps us keep bringing more good food content to the web. But if you’ve got it up publicly we could get a version (with a QR code ad to promote the store version) to you? Give us a shout at digest [at]


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