Chopsticks

I had sushi for dinner tonight.

It was delicious.

But since I harbor a deep fear of sounding like Faith Middleton on her interminable “Food Schmooze,” listing random foods and gushing tediously about how good they taste, I’m going to talk about chopsticks.  Because it’s relevant, and because I was thinking about chopsticks as I ate my delectable vegetarian sushi tonight.

First of all, let me establish that I am a big fan of chopsticks.  After I first learned to use them, as a kid, for a week I cut my food into little pieces and ate it with chopsticks.  It was pretty inefficient, I guess, but I was really into my new-found chopstick skill.  (It reminds me of when I first got a sleeping bag and thought it was so cool and comfy that I slept in it, on the floor next to my bed, for a week.)

So anyway, chopsticks.  I’m still pretty decent with them.  I’ve had a half-Japanese friend tell me that I hold them the ‘right’ way, though she’d always held them the ‘wrong’ (yet also perfectly functional) way.  So chopstick use was one thing I wasn’t concerned about on my recent trip.

Our last night in Seoul, we hosted a dinner for eight people: seven Koreans plus the decidedly non-Korean me.  I wasn’t as accustomed to Korean chopsticks as I am to Chinese or Japanese ones, though I liked them.

Chinese chopsticks are the long, blunt-tipped ones.  Japanese chopsticks are more delicate and tapered, coming to a finer tip, and are often shorter.  Korean chopsticks are generally made of stainless steel, with a nice weight despite their slim profile.

This picture is a great illustration of the different kinds of chopsticks.

So anyhow, I was eating dinner, feeling a little self-conscious because I was the only vegetarian and I didn’t speak Korean, and I accidentally dropped a tiny piece of food into my drink.  Which wasn’t a big deal, and I fished it out and went on with my life.  But my colleague noticed.  He had the waiter (an older gentleman that I think owned the tiny family restaurant with his wife) bring me fat Chinese-style chopsticks as well as a fork.  Indignant, I refused to use any of these alien utensils, and didn’t drop anything else for the rest of the night.

The next day brought me to Beijing.  I was eating lunch with my American colleague and two of our Chinese hosts at an amazing vegetarian Buddhist restaurant (which I wrote about here).  Not five minutes into the first course, one of our hosts laughed with surprise at how adeptly we handled our chopsticks.

See?  I wanted to say.  I don’t need no stinkin’ fork.

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