Posted by Shirley Metz
in Asia & Pacific, Expeditions and Of Interest
Whether you are a whiz at the sticks or perish the thought of using the unwieldy things and ask for a fork instead there is more to using these simple eating utensils than meets the eye. The first known sets of chopsticks were from China in about 1200 BC, were made of bronze, and were used as a cooking tool. It wasn’t until about 400 AD that people started using them to eat with and the rest is history because the use of chopsticks spread like wildfire, uniquely through Asia. Chinese culture arrived in Japan via Korea and in Japan they were first used only in Japanese ceremonies.
Chopsticks are not all created equal. Japanese chopsticks are usually shorter and are traditionally made of bamboo or wood and are often lacquered. The Koreans make their chopsticks flat and rectangular while the Chinese chopsticks are essentially longer and thicker than either Korean or Japanese. Japan made the first disposable chopstick; blame the Chinese for using 45 billion disposable chopsticks a year whereas Japan uses only about 24 billion!
Just like Miss Manners has her rules of etiquette there are definite guidelines to follow before using a pair of chopsticks, some which you probably didn’t even know you were following…or not.
- Do not rub your chopsticks together. You might think you need to remove splinters but the restaurant proprietor takes it as an insult thinking you believe the chopsticks to be of low quality.
- Do not pass food chopstick to chopstick. This is how bones are passed as part of Japanese funeral ceremonies.
- When not using your chopsticks place them on a ‘chopstick rest.’ If you don’t have one place them on a plate or lay them on the edge of the bowl.
- Place chopsticks horizontally with the tips on the left.
- Don’t stab your food with your chopsticks. Rice is offered to spirits at a funeral, death bed, and/or Buddhist altar in this manner.
- Do not use one chopstick. Chopsticks are not to be used individually.
- Do not serve yourself from a shared plate with your chopsticks. Use the serving utensils.
- And don’t use chopsticks as drum sticks.
Related expedition to Japan: Japan Wildlife Tour