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#24 Chopsticks

Posted March 4th, 2008 by Peter · 27 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.”

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.

Last 5 posts by Peter

Tags: Activities · Chinese · Chores · Culture · Customs · Food & Beverage · History · People

27 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Peter // Mar 4, 2008 at 7:02 pm

    I prefer chopsticks. What about you?

  • 2 Dr. Chan // Mar 4, 2008 at 7:20 pm

    where is the west womb?

  • 3 grasshopper // Mar 4, 2008 at 10:59 pm

    I use chopsticks as giant food picks, for fishballs. I am looking forward to a post dedicated to fishball too ;)

  • 4 Alice // Mar 5, 2008 at 2:39 pm

    I love your website! It makes me laugh to no end.

  • 5 Ratrace // Mar 5, 2008 at 5:30 pm

    Only a white woman would put up her hair with chopsticks, as your picture in the post proves.

  • 6 Ambrose // Mar 5, 2008 at 5:33 pm

    I have to say, I’m one of those asians who just can NOT use chopsticks… I’m deficient in that skill. (In the Philippines, you just use your hands!)

  • 7 kvietgrl // Mar 5, 2008 at 9:08 pm

    or is that asian girl with dyed hair?

  • 8 Chopsticks « Jenkem // Mar 5, 2008 at 11:42 pm

    [...] morning Stuff Asian people like taught me how to use [...]

  • 9 Justin // Mar 6, 2008 at 2:33 am

    asians dance with chopsticks as well

  • 10 bad manners // Mar 6, 2008 at 4:37 am

    It is in very bad taste to put chopsticks in your hair, never do it.

  • 11 johnk // Mar 8, 2008 at 3:20 pm

    You can use an old chopstick to do something else very Asian: pick out your earwax.

  • 12 asian2 // Mar 20, 2008 at 7:03 am

    kungfu master uses chopsticks to catch a fly

  • 13 asian // Jul 31, 2008 at 1:48 pm

    i dont know how to use chopsticks, but i think that’s common for most people from the philippines …chopsticks are actually not part of our culture…unless you’re chinese-filipino

  • 14 Lilly // Jan 24, 2009 at 10:46 pm

    my Bf is filipino he was mistifie by the fact that I could use chopsticks when we met lol (Im white)

  • 15 Lemmy Caution // Feb 10, 2009 at 6:41 pm

    As a California Caucasian of a certain age, brought up in San Jose, I was taught properly and at an early age to eat with chopsticks. Japanese and Chinese restaurants were, well, everywhere.

    Its a skill of which I’m still proud.

    P.S.: I like octopus in my miso, too.

  • 16 AZN-Nightshade // Jun 9, 2009 at 8:07 pm

    Tell me about it!
    Those Korean Steel Chopsticks can be deadly!!!

  • 17 Kvietgrl // Jun 10, 2009 at 1:32 am

    i love korean steel chopsticks

  • 18 Laptop Battery // Nov 20, 2009 at 12:58 am

    my Bf is filipino he was mistifie by the fact that I could use chopsticks when we met lol (Im white)

  • 19 Nana // Jul 10, 2010 at 9:10 am

    I use chopsticks to eat my pasta. My white friends make fun of me (:

  • 20 Beijing Escort // Jul 14, 2010 at 1:10 am

    Korean Steel Chopsticks can be deadly!!

  • 21 Hair Straighteners // Sep 5, 2010 at 6:41 pm

    I love your website!

  • 22 cuiyang // Dec 28, 2010 at 12:19 am

    Decorating with a different gem accessory, shimmer, no minus than the form.To assemble the recent female’s liking, this reduction and coldn

  • 23 me // May 25, 2011 at 2:13 pm

    Remember, sticking your chopsticks vertically in your rice is bad luck because it represents a tomb stone!!

  • 24 POWinCA // Aug 18, 2011 at 9:13 pm

    I first learned how to use chopsticks from my Korean roommate in college. After looking at the diagram, I’m proud to say I use them by the book!

    But I’ve been living around Asians in San Francisco now for eight years, and I’ve been married to a Chinese/Japanese woman for four years, and I’ve notice that chopstick techniques are varied and personal. Some Asians keep them perfectly still and use them as a scoop. Others will cross them and pick up food by spreading them apart rather than squeezing them together. I’ve seen two fingers and the thumb on the top stick.

    There are some foods that only a fool would attempt to eat with chopsticks, such as large pieces of bony meat or very soft tofu, large vegetables like bok choy or Chinese broccoli or asparagus, or dumplings that disintegrate with the slightest pressure. While I enjoy the novelty and utility of chopsticks for many Asian meals, I am firm in the conviction that forks, knives, and spoons are superior utensils for nearly every dish. They can do anything a chopstick can do, but chopsticks cannot do everything they can do.

    If I were a poor peasant living in the countryside with only rice to eat, I could always break off a couple of twigs to eat. But as long as I live in a developed country and eat a variety of foods at a table, the fork, knife and spoon are strictly dominant dining instruments.

    One question: I’ve heard that people mostly use knives and forks in Thailand. Is this true? If so, why do almost all Thai restaurants in the US issue chopsticks as standard table equipment? Are they catering to the preferences of non-Thai Asians or the ignorant stereotypes of Americans?

  • 25 ilovehorseyrides // Sep 27, 2015 at 2:31 pm

    chopsticks upright in a bowl is a no-no: It symbolizes death

  • 26 ilovehorseyrides // Sep 27, 2015 at 2:32 pm

    I eat Asian food with chopsticks out in public 9at parties and restaurants) but at home my mom makes me use a fork to eat them

    At parties, I sometimes eat spaghetti with chopsticks

  • 27 Thomas // Aug 14, 2016 at 9:37 am

    BS, to some degree. The Thai and Pinoy don’t use them, and maybe not the Malay either, can’t recall.

    I can easily use a pair in each hand, which flummoxes some Asians. No, left hand not allowed! :-)

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