Fingers were invented before forks. Likewise they were invented before spoons, knives, chopsticks, skewers, toothpicks, cups or even straws. Handy things, fingers. As are the foods that lend themselves to being eaten without other implements. No matter how elegant we become at the table, there are always situations in which digital utensils prevail.
Sandwiches are probably the most common finger food in our culture. We’ve all heard that the 4th Earl of Sandwich called for meat between two slabs of bread so that he could continue at the gambling table without going to the dinner table. Yet his being the first is debatable. Breads, such as soft matzah, have been being wrapped around meats and other ingredients since at least the 1st C BC. Ethiopians and others have used torn pieces of bread to scoop up other foods and convey them to the mouth almost as long.
Finger foods traverse a geography and culture. One could start with popcorn, potato chips, pigs in a blanket and pizza. Then there is the heated debate regarding the proper way to eat pizza. One answer is that in the USA, pizza is a finger food. In Italy, it is eaten with a knife and fork. Skewered street foods like kababs and satay are popular across Asia. Bakers excel in finger foods. Certainly no one has suggested that doughnuts or cookies be eaten with utensils. The fingers definitely have the upper hand.
At the other end of the spectrum, we have tartlets, caviar, pate, uncommon mushrooms and bruschetta. Caviar is so delicate a commodity that it must be prepared with non-metal utensils before it is carried to the mouth by hand in a warm blini. Bruschetta has acquired a certain panache to go with its universal popularity. Nor are sautéed mushrooms in an elegant pastry cup offered on a silver salver hard to enjoy.
Given that it is time for the annual festivities, how better to enjoy an interesting conversation with old or new friends while sipping a glass of something cheerful and nibbling on some flavorful tidbit? If it’s your party; you need to be out there enjoying it. Slaving beforehand is not desirable. Using prepared ingredients in interesting combinations cuts the effort, particularly all the wonderful savory jellies we can find at our market. My pantry has an entire shelf devoted to them. We’ve previously published in these “pages” finger foods recipes suitably festive for the season, including Ponzu Shrimp and Endive with Hot Pepper Jelly. Today we’re combining local savory jellies and jams to offer Savory Jellied Tartlets, which sound and look like a lot more effort than they take.