Finger lickin’ good? For God’s sake, free up my fingers

By Keith Pereña

Storytime. Earlier this week, a good friend of mine sent me a link which took me to a strange story in the online mag Timeout Tokyo. It was headlined “KFC Japan creates three-finger gloves to keep your hands clean.” No sooner had I got a glimpse of the headline that I shot her a message. “Only three fingers? That’s finger racism!” I replied, following it up with a chicken emoji. Only after savouring the report did I begin to realise how outrageous the idea was.

According to the story, the invention is intended to keep your hand (duh) and phone grease-free as you enjoy KFC’s world-famous fried chicken. It’s the fast-food chain’s take on the two-finger glove they had back in 2016. The story even goes on to say that it could be a life changing experience for chicken-lovers out there. Across the story’s four paragraphs, there was hardly any love for my other fingers.

While analysing the outrageousness of the story, I focused on the angle Timeout Tokyo had tried to highlight — use your smartphone while eating. That reminded me of a podcast I had bumped into recently — The Addict in Us All: How Smartphones are Creating a Population of Addicts. It appeared on a YouTube philosophy channel called the Academy of Ideas, which makes for a great night-time viewing. Both eating and fiddling with one’s phone simultaneously are pleasurable. The former because of the variety of tastes it provides and the latter because of the novelty it offers. However, the podcast expounds the dangers of this novelty. It says, “Smartphone users with underlying psychological issues are at the risk of developing a behavioural addiction to these technologies.”

It mentions a study conducted by American researchers Peter Milner and James Olds back in the 1950s. In their experiment, the duo implanted electrodes in some part of a rat’s brain thought to be associated with pain and coupled the electrode with a metal bar which the rodent could press to trigger the electrode. The researchers mistakenly put the electrodes in the brain’s pleasure centre and stumbled upon a discovery. The rat pressed the bar over 7,000 times in just 12 hours, even going so far as to ignore food and its partners. Sound familiar?

The-three finger glove is a salute to that addiction. We’re already taking photos of our food, an act that has become immensely popular with the rise of social media. Time and again, we hold back our hungry stomachs so that we could take that ‘perfect’ food photo for uploading. Some even ask the restaurant staff to take photos of them as they pretend to grapple with the food. Only after the photo ceremony is the actual eating performed. The KFC glove innovation would mean we are encouraged to use the gadget while eating too.

The way the gloves work is simple: The fingers in glove are supposed to pick up the pieces of chicken. What about the two naked fingers? Well, as Timeout Tokyo points out, they are free to fiddle with your phone. What this does is keep the grease off your phone screen and allows you to browse and send messages. However, the innovation does have a logical problem — the same fingers used for handling the chicken are almost always the same fingers used for texting. I haven’t seen anyone typing with their pinky, plus it would be a painfully slow exercise!

But let’s take a step back from this analysis and just focus on the chicken. There are two kinds of people in this world — those who eat it with gloves and those who don’t. For me, eating chicken always had a primal feel to it. Being able to hold it in your hand and gnaw at it to the very bone. Some chicken can be eaten without gloves — such as Taza’s broasted chicken, and some without — like some chicken wing dishes at various joints in Jumeirah and DIFC. The hands-on experience also gives way to conversation. Many of my chicken dish adventures have been with a companion: be it my family members or a bunch of friends. Back in Manila, fried chicken wings are one of the dishes one could find in a number of watering holes. Other than that, fried chicken can be found in food-carts roaming the streets or in the most famous restaurant in the entire country — Jollibee. What do all these locations have in common? It’s always a chance to interact with people.

Chicken is a social food. It’s meant to get hands greasy and mouths talking. Having a glove that will let me fiddle with my phone defeats that purpose.

Thankfully here in Dubai, the chicken joints I’ve visited have always used five-finger gloves. Not only do they know that all fingers should be sheathed equally, they also know that the dish is made to taste good and spice up story telling. And to KFC Japan, you ought to change your slogan to “It’s Glove Lickin’ Good” because our fingers are no more available for the exercise!

Keith doesn’t discriminate over chicken — all of them taste good after all.

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