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November 01, 2005

DIY: How to Properly Use Chopsticks to Eat

Today's "How to" article courtesy of English-blog contributor Linda M.:

Chopsticks are a Way of Life

Approximately 3,000 to 5,000 years ago, chopsticks, two even-length narrow sticks, were developed in China to be used as an eating utensil. They vary in size and length, but they are usually tapered at the end because it has more surface area in order to hold the food. Chopsticks are made with plastics, ivory, bone, metal, wood and bamboo. They are mainly used in the eastern Asian countries, such as China, Korea, Japan and Vietnam. Plastic chopsticks are more common and modern now, because it is cheap and it does not contain any bacteria on it after it is used. It is believed that in ancient China, silver chopsticks were used, because it was able to detect if there were any poisons in the food. If there were any poisons on it, the silver chopsticks would turn black. Chopsticks are very important in the Asian culture. A lot of the American people have not yet been able to effectively use it as a main eating utensil. There are several steps in order to correctly use the chopsticks and eat something successfully . . .

. . . It is very necessary to be able to properly hold a pair of chopsticks, especially if one lives in the eastern Asian countries, because that is their way of life and it is how they eat. The first thing that should be done is to obtain a pair of chopsticks, whether it is made of wood or plastic, it does not matter. When holding a pair of chopsticks, think of it as using a pair of prongs and instead of having something in the middle to hold the two sticks together, the fingers would be enough to provide this support. What will happen is that the bottom stick held in the hand will be stationary while the top stick will do most of the controlling and do most of the work of picking up the food. It is probably best to start of with foods that are easy to handle, such as shrimp, scallops, thick noodles and other various foods.

Once there are chopsticks available, take one stick and hold the chopstick like one would hold a pencil in a fist, except the fist is not closed. The chopstick should be placed in the “V” between the forefinger and the thumb. The ring finger and the smallest finger should also support the chopstick, because it keeps the chopstick in place and not move. The thick end of the chopstick goes on top while the bottom, thinner end of the chopstick goes on the bottom. The thinner end of the chopstick will be used to pick up the food, because there is more surface area, and it will make the process a lot easier.

Next, take the second chopstick and hold it like a pencil. It should be held like one is about to write on paper, with the first chopstick still in its stationary position. The second, or upper, chopstick should be held between the middle and index finger, yet the thumb should anchor it. The upper chopstick is the one that moves up and down in order for one to pick up their food. The chopsticks should always be even and parallel to each other. If this is not the case, then it will be very difficult to pick any type of food up, because there is not enough surface area to pick the food up, especially when one end is higher than the other.

To begin moving the chopsticks and actually starting the process of picking food up, raise the middle and index finger up and down while at the same time, using the thumb as an axis. The bottom chopstick should still be stationary and not moving. Lower the chopstick towards the food and pivot the top chopstick and then clamp down on what you are trying to pick up. When picking up rice, it is easier to just use the two chopsticks as a shovel and scoop up the rice.

The chopsticks can be used very effectively with different purposes. It can be used like a fork, a knife or even a spoon. Many Asian people use their chopsticks to eat soup with it or to pick up rice. They use it to pick food up, like many Americans use with a fork. They also use it like a knife by breaking or cutting their food up into smaller portions. It is very useful and saves people money from buying other more unnecessary utensils.

When using chopsticks to eat, there are eating etiquettes that are included in the Asian culture. When one is not eating, the chopsticks should be placed on the chopstick rest, but if there is not one provided, then it should be laid down on top of the bowl in a neat manner. The chopsticks should never stand in a bowl of rice with an end sticking up like a dagger, because it is very impolite. Also, the chopsticks should never be pointed at someone, because that is a sign of disrespect. They think this, because it is the same mentality as pointing a finger at someone’s face. It is rude and very disrespectful, especially if it is to an elder. If there are communal bowls in the middle while everyone shares the food, and there are no spoons to get the food to put on the personal plate, then the thicker end of the chopstick should be used, so that germs are not shared. People do not use the thicker end of the chopstick and they do not put it in their mouth, so this is acceptable. It is also said that the end of the chopsticks should be moistened, because it is suppose to be easier to pick food up, especially if a wooden or bamboo chopstick is being used.

In conclusion, chopsticks are usually pretty easy to use once it is done over and over again, with a little practice and a small bit of patience. It is a different and fun way to use an eating utensil, especially if one grew up using simpler utensils such as a fork. It can be used for mostly any type of food and it is very effective.

~Linda M.

Comments for Linda's article "Chopsticks are a Way of Life?" Please leave them below:

Posted by lhobbs at November 1, 2005 11:09 PM

Readers' Comments:

Linda M.,

The article, “How to Properly Use Chopsticks to eat,” was written by Linda M., and it discusses the history, instructions, and etiquette of using chopsticks. As indicated in the thesis statement, “there are several steps in order to correctly use the chopsticks and eat something successfully.” The article allows the reader to engage in the art of chopsticks, and learn interesting facts about its politics.

Linda starts off her article describing the origin of chopsticks usage. About 5,000 years ago chopsticks were developed in China as an eating utensil. Nowadays you will see chopsticks being used in most Eastern Asian countries. The main reasons this method is used is because it is cheap and does not contain bacteria. There are several types of chopsticks but it is believed that ancient China used silver chopsticks in order to detect poisons in their food.

Chopsticks are two evenly long, thin sticks tapered at one end. The first stick should be held like a pencil while the second stick is held in a “V” shape parallel with the first stick. It should be held between the index and middle finger, using the thumb as a guide. It is important to leave enough surface area so it is easier to grasp food. By moving the second stick up and down it will provide the accurate action to pick up food. There are other ways to use chopsticks too; such as shoveling, which is used for food like rice.

There is also a certain etiquette involved with the use of chopsticks. They should never be left stick straight out of the food dish and they should never be pointed at someone; this is a sign of disrespect. When dishing out food from the serving dishes, the thicker ends are used to prevent spreading germs.

All in all, Linda interpreted the usage of chopsticks in a precise and effective manner. She allowed for the audience to get a vivid picture of the exact way to hold chopsticks, making sure each detail was accurately described. She also included facts about the history of chopsticks so the reader will be educated on the subject. By explaining the etiquette she has described the proper way to use chopsticks without offending anyone. With the knowledge Linda displayed in the article, the reader will be left with an accurate interpretation of how to use chopsticks correctly.

One suggestion the reader may come to is that the thesis indirectly lead the reader away from the point of the article. The statement mainly indicated the process of using chopsticks, but failed to mention the other important aspects she covered in the article. If the statement included something about the proper way of using the Chinese custom of eating utensils, her article’s introduction would have been much more effective. This being the only negative aspect found, the reader would be quite satisfied with the article. It may also leave the reader with an overwhelming desire to try chopsticks at their next meal.

Samantha V.

Posted by: Samantha V. at April 10, 2006 05:10 PM

good but it should have been with the pictures

Posted by: Anuradha at September 26, 2006 01:09 PM

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