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Monday, February 8, 2016

How to Use Chopsticks in 5 Minutes - Short and Sweet Guide

Chopsticks, the preferred eating utensil by all Chinese people, is very strongly associated with Chinese and other Asian cultures. Some non-Asians may never use chopsticks within their lifetime, although the popularity of sushi restaurants have spurred an unprecedented increase in chopstick usage. The picture to the right is the way I have been holding chopsticks ever since I could remember. I always had the impression that the instructions for using chopsticks were imprinted in the genes of Chinese people so naturally I never gave it another thought. Recently, I was with some friends discussing the proper usage of chopsticks and it has come to my attention that my method was wrong. Although I have heard similar passing comments in the past, I never thought to change it because my method was working just fine and no one really pressed me to do so...until now.

Holding chopsticks the wrong way can be considered bad etiquette so I have decided to go on a 90 day program, starting today, to try to rewire my brain to correctly handle chopsticks. I have also added a new poll on the right sidebar that will last exactly 90 days as a good way to keep track of time. During these 90 days, I will try my best to use the correct form for every meal involving chopsticks. My initial tries have been pretty tiring on my fingers but my friends assure me that this transition is possible.

For those who don't know the proper chopstick technique, here is a brief tutorial and an image taken from Wikipedia.
  1. Place one chopstick (thicker side) between the palm and the base of the thumb, using the ring finger to support the thinner side. Using the thumb, squeeze the chopstick down while pushing the chopstick up using the ring finger. The chopstick should be stationary and stable.
  2. Using the tips of the thumb, index and middle fingers, hold the other chopstick like a pen. It is important to make sure that the tip of the two chopsticks line up.
  3. Pivot the upper chopstick up and down while keeping the bottom chopstick still.
  4. With enough practice, the chopsticks act like pincers.

So comparing my way to the correct way, here are some sure signs that you are holding your chopsticks the WRONG WAY:
  • The thick part of the chopsticks cross. This basically happens when you move both chopsticks as opposed to keeping one stationary.
  • It is extremely hard for you to pick up thin things lying flat on a plate.
  • People tell you that you are holding chopsticks the wrong way.
Here are some proper Chinese etiquette concerning chopsticks:
  1. Do not use chopsticks to make noise during normal dining circumstances.
  2. Do not use chopsticks to stab food unless it is to help cut large food items.
  3. NEVER leave chopsticks standing vertically in any bowl of rice or food because stick-like objects standing vertically are used for offerings to deceased family members.
  4. The thick end of the chopsticks may be used to transfer food from a common dish to one's bowl although this may be rude in other cultures.
  5. When rice is in a bowl, the Chinese will hold the bowl to one's mouth and use chopsticks to push rice directly into the mouth whereas Koreans find it rude to pick up the bowl from the table and eat from it (no wonder they use metal rice bowls!).
I'm sure there are other rules concerning chopsticks, so feel free to post in the comments section on anything chopsticks related. Wish me luck!

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