#24 Chopsticks

Posted March 4th, 2008 by Peter · 11 Comments

ChopsticksIt’s very common to see chopsticks in Chinese restaurants; So isn’t it only natural to assume that they were invented by the Chinese? The truth is that the Chinese were taught to use the chopsticks by nomadic tribes long before the Europeans discovered the knife and fork. The first documentation of chopstick use was in the enlightened philosophical teachings of Confucius, who said that chopsticks should replace the metal fork and knife due to their connotations with war and death. The chopsticks, conversely, represented gentleness and benevolence. This mere instrument of food consumption was a sort of “statement” in its day for a more peaceful and kind world. However, due to globalization, chopsticks have become a staple at all Asian restaurants, and in turn have backstroked their way across the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans into the homes of millions across the world.

Though most Asians do not know the true origin of chopsticks, they are as important to them as bad Karaoke is to Koreans. The main reason is the obvious grooming of Asians by their more culturally-enabled parents, who nowadays are even failing at teaching their children how to ask for a glass of water in their native tongues. For those who are not in the know, there is a simple way to learn how to use chopsticks:

InstructionsFirst, place the first chopstick so that thicker part rests at the base of your thumb and the thinner part rests on the lower side of your middle fingertip. Then, bring your thumb forward so that the stick will be firmly trapped in place. At least two or three inches of chopstick of the thinner end should extend beyond your fingertip. Next, position the other chopstick so that it is held against the side of your index finger and by the end of your thumb. Check whether the ends of the chopsticks are even. If not, then tap the thinner parts on the plate to make them even.” -ChinaCulture.org

When foreigners dine with asian business partners, they are usually subjected to asian restaurants, which sport asian utensils. At first, foreigners will have trouble grasping the intricacies of holding the chopsticks correctly in order to pick up a grain of rice or soup. The asian sitting closest will immediately reach down to their own bowl and bring the bowl to their mouth, utilizing the chopsticks to bulldoze the food into their own oral cavity. These asians do it in order to show people how to use chopsticks. If you still can’t do it and all else fails, a good Scooby-Doo impression will get the food into your mouth quite quickly.

Chopsticks, though hefty and sturdy in appearance, have a life cycle. When chopsticks begin to wear down, asians resort to their ingenuity to create new uses for chopsticks. Here are the top five: (Post yours in the comments section)

1. Hair Bun Holder

2. Dog Poop Remover

3. Drink Mixer/Egg Beater

4. 007 Bond - Death Weapon

5. Back Scratcher

Though asians have other uses for chopsticks, they never forget the main idea. The main point is that Asians do not only see the chopstick as a utensil. Paired together, chopsticks create harmony. They are Yin and Yang. They are Beavis and Butthead. They are Batman and Robin. They are… well, you get the point. They are also a source of superstition, bringing bad luck to those that receive a pair that are uneven in size (missing an appointment), or eventual misfortune to those that drop their chopsticks. Crossed, chopsticks indicate that an asian has finished their meal and is ready for the bill.

ConfuciusThere you have it! Chopsticks have tons of history, being used as teaching tools by Confucius all the way to becoming Hair Bun holders in the new millenium. Just remember that if you are a foreigner in an asian restaurant, asians will expect for you to not know how to use chopsticks. (If you have read this article, you will have no problem with this) Their chatter, the rest of the night, will be about you being able to use chopsticks. When that occurs, turn to them, ask about where “stamfurt” and the “west womb” are, and tell them about Stuff Asian People Like. They’ll get a kick out of that.

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