The other day, I was with some friends at a mall, and we ended up getting hungry. So we went to a nearby shop in the food court and ordered some Chinese food. I ordered orange chicken and chow mein. With my food, they game me a plastic fork. After all, it's not real Chinese food, it's an Americanized version that probably wouldn't be recognizable in China. But because they also had chopsticks, I took a pair and used them to eat my chicken and noodles. My friends, noticeably confused, asked how and why I was eating with chopsticks, to which I responded that with a bit of practice, it's not all that difficult. Around this point, one of my friends said that I should write a post about chopsticks, and I began thinking about what I could do with such a topic. And, while it seems a bit silly at first, I did come up with something that I can say about it."I find chopsticks frankly distressing. Am I alone in thinking it odd that a people ingenious enough to invent paper, gunpowder, kites and any number of other useful objects, and who have a noble history extending back 3,000 years haven't yet worked out that a pair of knitting needles is no way to capture food?"
Admittedly, my first time actually eating with chopsticks was not a result of the purest motivation. I was heating up some topramen, but we were out of forks and I didn't want to wash one. So instead, I took the easy way out. I took some chopsticks and looked up YouTube tutorials on how to use them to eat noodles. At first, it was difficult, and somewhat tedious. (Of course, not as tedious as washing a fork.) But the next time I ate topramen, I figured I'd try chopsticks again. As I practiced, it became easier, until I hardly noticed it anymore. Then, one day, my mom brought me a plate of spaghetti. She also brought me a fork. While I managed to use this unwieldy piece of metal successfully, it seemed harder to get the amount that I wanted and to transport it safely to my mouth. I now regularly use chopsticks for my noodles.
I previously wondered, as many Americans still do, how in the world anybody could eat with two sticks- especially things like noodles and rice. But now that I've tried it, I think I can understand why. Think on this: how much functionality would your hand lose if you didn't have opposable thumbs? A fork is a simple piece of metal. It can scoop and stab, but it can't pick up your food. Chopsticks are more versatile in this sense, because you can use them more delicately.
Of course, there are some foods that are better consumed with a fork. Pork chops, for example, would be rather difficult to eat with chopsticks. Soup also is best eaten with a spoon. My point is not to praise chopsticks and put down American utensils, but neither do I wish to mock the utensils from another culture merely because I don't understand them. Our culture becomes ingrained in our head, so we think chopsticks are inferior to our own utensils, when in reality, they each function in different ways. Just because something is from another culture doesn't mean that it's better, or even good, but it also doesn't mean that it's bad, and our culture digs so far down into our roots and our thoughts that it even causes us to think that chopsticks are a silly idea.
"Every generation laughs at the old fashions, but follows religiously the new."
-Henry David Thoreau