Chopsticks are the most important utensil in my kitchen. I use them to eat, to cook, to stir my tea, to hold up the lid of my pots when I make bone broth, to do everything. You can buy very expensive and elaborate chopsticks but I prefer them plain and wooden. I love when the ends start to get really dark from frequent use.
- Chinese people have been using chopsticks for over 5,000 years. First, as a cooking utensil, then for eating.
- Around 400 BC there was a population boom across China that severely impacted resources. Cooks were forced to chop food into smaller pieces so it would cook faster and use less fuel. This was a perfect size for tweezer like chop sticks to pick up food.
- In 1878, Japan created disposable chopsticks, typically made of wood or bamboo. You can find them today in Asian sit-down and take-out restaurants.
- The chinese characters for chopsticks are, 筷子, pronounced kaui zi, translated as small piece-picker-uppers, or quick fellows, or fast sticks.
What Chopsticks are Made of
- Common materials are bamboo, wood, plastic.
- Wealthy ate with chopsticks made of ivory (before the worldwide ban), jade, coral, brass, agate (silica found in volcanic rock).
- Most privileged ate with chopsticks made of silver. The emperors of China preferred silver chopsticks because it was said they would turn black when they touched poison. This went untested because all emperors had royal food tasters who would first eat the food. We now know that silver has no reaction to poisons like arsenic or cyanide but can change color if it comes in contact with garlic, onions, or rotten eggs.
- More ornate chopsticks can have carved or printed dragons, phoenixes, unicorns, lions, or Chinese zodiac animals at the top.
- The use of knives became obsolete with the growing use of chopsticks to pick up smaller food pieces and the non-violent teachings from the philosopher, Confucius. He thought the sharp point of a knife evoked violence and warfare, killing the happy mood during meals. It is believed this is why Chinese chopsticks are blunt on the ends.
- Chinese chopsticks are rounded, more blunt-tipped, less decorated, and longer then the Japanese chopsticks. One reason is the Japanese dine on individual small dishes served right in front of them. The Chinese eat family style and have to reach for food up to an arms length away. The Japanese consider chopsticks an art form admired for their beauty and utility. The Chinese value chopsticks as a utility first.
- The position a girl holds her chopsticks can show how far she will have to travel to find her husband. If a girls holds her chopsticks at the top, her future husband will live far away. If she holds them close to the bottom, she may marry the boy next store.
- Dropping chopsticks will bring bad luck.
- If you are dining with family or very close friends, it is acceptable to serve yourself or others with your chopsticks. Elders should always be served first and the best pieces of food as a sign of respect and love.
- If you are dining with acquaintances or new friends, use serving chopsticks and spoons for serving. If there are no serving utensils, your chopsticks can be used upside down for serving.
- DO hold your rice bowl close to your mouth and use chopsticks to push rice and food into your mouth.
- DO rest your chopsticks next to your bowl if you are taking a rest from eating.
- DO rest your chopsticks on top of your bowl if you are finished eating.
- DO wait for elders to pick up their chopsticks before picking up your own.
- DO teach your children how to use chopsticks correctly. It reflects badly on the parents when they do this incorrectly because it is the parent’s responsibility to teach the child.
- DON’T stand chopsticks up in a rice bowl. This resembles incense sticks at a funeral.
- DON’T spear food with your chopsticks.
- DON’T use your chopsticks to search through a platter of food to find something in particular. This is sometimes called grave digging.
Did I miss anything?