Monday, May 16, 2011

All agreed to leave it open

Q. Why do asians chew food with their mouth open? Do you think it enhances the flavors in food and were we not as self-conscious we would do it too?

A. Dear We Self-conscious,
I have often wondered why anyone beyond the age of 12 would chew with their mouths open. And now to hear that an entire continent of people exhibit this behavior is most curious. Are you sure this is what Asians do? Is this all Asians in all of Asia? Or all Asians everywhere on earth? Or All Asians you have eaten with?

It looks like, based on your hypothesis, that there are two reasons all of Asiandom chews with their mouths open. 
A. There is a lacking the ability to be self-conscious. Or, B. They are completely secure in the results of their mastication habits despite the unbecoming display. 

I find both of these theories quite intriguing. If it's "A", that is simply amazing. To think, that the worlds largest ethnic group is lacking self-consciousness. How deep, or not deep, do you think this goes? Do you think they even know they exist? 
If I can add some of my data, In my short life I have had chance to meet and get to know many peoples and some of them have been Asian. From what I could gather, they seemed quite conscious of their selfness. But maybe that was an assumption on my part. I haven't actually ever asked anyone if they knew or believed they were currently existing... I wonder what other kinds of assumptions I make on a daily basis?*

If it's "B", this is equally amazing. Perhaps all of the Asian worldwide collective is quite aware of the unpleasant sound and distasteful sight of food being orally pulverized, yet enjoys the flavor enhancing quality of the open mouth technique so much that it has been determined that the Pro, out-weighs the Con's. It's not so much the matter of the open mouth chewing that holds the amazement. Rather the idea that an entire race has agreed wholeheartedly on a singular, completely optional, eating practice. That is truly astounding. 

As for the open mouth chewers of the world, I have seen no race or gender bias here, I think the reasons for continuing the practice are as varied as the food around which their lips are flapping. But in general I'd say it has something to do with home life. If they weren't taught by a parent or guardian to please keep their mouths shut or at least shamed into by a sibling, they, the slack lipped chompers, probably aren't even aware that they are doing it or why it would bother anyone. If it hasn't been changed by adulthood it's unlikely to be corrected, ever. It seems we don't call for social changes peer to peer very often. It seems the more common tactic is to just avoid behavior we don't like.

So if you have a hard time getting people to go out to eat with you. Or if loved ones are always turning on the television or music whenever you sit down to a meal. Or if you notice friends and family never look you in the face during meal time or if they can only look you in the face, with a sort of focused sense of bewilderment. If any of this sounds or feels familiar, You may be one who's lips slack and flap and gape with each bite. You may be interested in adjusting this behavior and take note of how your interpersonal relationships change. 

Hope that helps,

Authors notes:
Someone I loved very much was an open mouth eater. I never told them it bothered me. I knew I had as many if not more, equally annoying habits- I eat with my elbows out more than I should. For the time I just lived with it and enjoyed all the positive aspects of our interaction. 

Up until his older brother made one humiliating comment, a friend of mine used to eat with his head tilted all the way back. That way his food wouldn't fall from his open mouth onto his lap or plate. 

I will teach my children to chew closed lipped.  

*Even as I write my mind is thinking of lists of questions I may need to start asking people. 
Are you breathing right now?
Is it oxygen you breath?
Do you have lungs?
If not, what then? Are you hollow inside or filled with dense sponge?
If you get cut, do you bleed?
Is it a challenge for you to remain secured to the ground or are you also bound to earth by gravity?
And on and on. 


  1. I know someone who chews with their mouth closed but somehow the sound of their chewing is amplified like a million times. I always find myself staring at them wondering where the heck the noise is coming from. It's like a ventriliquist trick. Maybe they have a hole somewhere in their head that isn't visible? It is off the chain crazy!

  2. I understand pain of noisy eaters all to well. My daughter eats with her mouth closed enough that you cannot see her food, but open enough that it is very noisy. Since she is deaf she can't figure out what the big deal is about closing her mouth. She has no idea how terrible the noise can be! Try as I might to teach her, she may never change, it just doesn't mean anything to her. But because I love her so much I am able to live with it.