Ah, chopsticks! There’s an elegance to eating with them the humble fork can’t match. With the latter, you shovel food into your face with nary a second thought.
But with those pincer-like bits of stick, all of a sudden your meals are graceful. Thusly, let’s champion chopsticks for our eating pleasure, yes?
The Eating Elegance of Chopsticks
If you’re new to all of this then mastering the use of chopsticks is a difficult task. But you can follow the above video, practice a bit, and improve your skills pretty rapidly.
As it is, when you think about it, pretty unsophisticated sitting there shovelling chips into your face with a pronged fork.
Over in the East, their use is in record for two millennia.
First emerging in Neolithic China circa 9,000 years ago. Made from bronze and measuring 10 inches in length, excavations dug them up from the Ruins of Yin (1200 BCE).
These days, they’re usually made from bamboo, plastic, wood, or stainless steel.
Initially it’s thought they were in use for stirring cooking food instead of eating implements. As it’s not uncommon for those in the East to, say, eat rice or sushi with their hands. But it wasn’t long until chopsticks were fitting into people’s hands at odd angles.
These are the ones we use, below—a bit of Hokusai’s The Great Wave off Kanagawa adorns them rather lovingly.
Of course, we call them chopsticks. This likely derived from Chinese Pidgin English (nothing to do with pigeons), “chop chop” means “quickly”. Ironically, most modern Westerners eat slowly with the things.
But in the chopstick’s native countries, there are varying translations:
- Japan: Hashi (箸)
- Korea: Jeotgarak (젓가락저)
- Vietnam: Dũa – written as 𥮊 with 竹 trúc (that means bamboo)
- China: The standard term is kuàizi (筷子)
And for your edification, here’s how you say it in Korea. Just in case you find yourself over there all of a sudden.
The things have become mythological – some folks view them reverentially.
For instance, there’s a theory going around that the higher your hands are up the stick bit, the more intelligent you are. That is, of course, debatable.
The Environmental Impact of Chopsticks
Unfortunately, demand for chopsticks means there’s a great deal of waste. In Japan, there are over 24 billion of the things in use annually (around 200 pairs per person).
That’s about 25 million trees.
Bamboo chopsticks, for instance, are now mass produced to satisfy consumer demand.
Unfortunately, it’s yet another example of how big business capitalism (“You socialist bastards, Professional Moron!”) is helping to clog up the planet.
As such, different materials are now in use for chopsticks to help alleviate the impact on the planet.
There’s also a call for people to keep using the same pair, rather than the colossally excessive focus on single use products the modern era has brought about.
So, our suggestion is you get yourself a pair and bloody well stick to those to sticks. Splash out. Go fancy. Just don’t throw the SOBs away, you hear?