Chopsticks are some kind of culinary utensils used in many of the East Asian countries. For some of us eating with chopsticks is kind of a challenge or at least is like that for me. Yes I know, some might say that how I cannot eat with chopsticks if the revolution of sushi and Japanese restaurants is everywhere in the world; well not all of us were interested on going to Japanese restaurants and learn how handle chopsticks properly hehe.
Anyway, when I moved to China I had to face these demons and learn how to eat with them; because here to find a restaurant where they could supply you a knife and fork if you ask for it is like mission impossible, and let’s face it you have to eat somehow. During my battle against chopsticks I started to wonder where chopsticks came from, how were they made and used, who said that they should be used like that, and how actually could I learn how to eat use them properly.
History. The first interesting fact I found out about these instruments was that the word CHOPSTICKS was used by us foreigners to identify these instruments for the first time in 1699, when a Scottish voyager in its publications referred to the utensils used in some Asian countries as chopsticks.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word CHOPSTICK in English comes from the adaptation of the Chinese Pinyin word “chop chop”, which means “quickly”, and you might figure out the rest, “Sticks to Eat Quick”. In China these instruments are known as kuaizi (筷子). The first character means “quick”, and the second one means “bamboo”, which bring us to the same conclusion, “Sticks to Eat Quick”.
Chopsticks were invented in ancient China, and the first written reference of its usage was found in the fabled ruins of Yin, in Henan province, which is why many researchers believe that these instruments might have been created around 1200 BC. Apparently at the beginning they were only used to cook, because within these, people were capable to reach things in the bottom of boiling pots of water or oil without getting damaged. But it was not until the Han Dynasty that they were used to eat. Many researchers base this assumption in two facts that it was not only until the Han Dynasty that they were use as eating utensils: First, because of a sudden population boom in China, and drastic changes into their cooking-cost habits were required, food became bite-sized because they bought smaller pieces, knives became obsolete and began to use chopsticks. Second, because Confucius’ teachings where everywhere in Asia by that time and Confucius prayed that: knives or sharp points evoked violence and warfare, killing the happiness and contended mood that people must have during meals.
Ok, now we learn about where the chopstick name came from and a little bit about their history and why were they used, but how are they suppose to be hold and used in the table. Well bellow I will cite some etiquette manners to know when you sit at a Chinese table and how to hold these utensils while you eat.
Chopsticks are traditionally held in the right hand only, even by the left-handed; but rules against left-handed eating are becoming less severe. Chopsticks may now be found in either hand, although some still consider left-handed chopstick use as improper etiquette.
While using chopsticks to pick up food, the back of your hand should face the ceiling at all times. Twisting your chopsticks-holding wrist in such a way so that everyone can see your palm is considered “unrefined” in Chinese culture.
When eating rice from a bowl, it is normal to hold the rice bowl up to one’s mouth and use chopsticks to push or shovel the rice directly into the mouth.
It is acceptable to transfer food to closely related people (e.g. grandparents, parents, spouse, children, or significant others) if they are having difficulty picking up the food. Also it is a sign of respect to pass food to the elderly first before the dinner starts. Often, family members will transfer a choice piece of food from a dish to a relative’s bowl as a sign of caring.
Never ever tap your chopsticks at the bottom of your bowl or plate, since this noise is what beggars do when they ask for food and many Chinese people believe is rude.
Is impolite to spear food with a chopstick. Anything too difficult to be handled with chopsticks is traditionally eaten with a spoon.
It is consider impolite to leave the pointing side of rested chopsticks towards others seated at the table or for them to be left vertically stuck into a bowl of rice because it resembles the ritual of incense-burning that symbolizes “feeding” the dead and death in general.
One should not ‘dig’ or ‘search’ through one’s food for something in particular. This is sometimes known as “digging one’s grave” or “grave-digging” and is extremely impolite.
How to handle them
Place the first chopstick in the hollow between thumb and index finger and rest its lower end below the first joint of the third finger. This chopstick remains stationary.
Hold the other chopstick between the tips of the index and middle fingers, steady its upper half against the base of the index finger, and use the tips of the thumb to keep it in place.
To pick up things, move the upper chopstick with index and middle fingers.
In conclusion, eating with chopsticks is kind of a legendary art mix between adaptation and cultural believes, many of their table manner usage are similar to those we use with knives and forks, and that to use them properly, just as Confucius says, the practice makes the master. Hope you have enjoy reading the result of my curiosity, have a great day!