To chopstick or not to chopstick?

23:04, Jun 18 2014

Back in the nineties (back when my hair was a mess, not because I had no time to groom properly*, but because I simply didn't know any better) I took a course in Mandarin chinese.

Because I neither live in China, nor spend significant amounts of time with any Chinese people my list of Mandarin phrases has shrunk from being enough to manage a somewhat stilted conversation on a variety of bland, safe topics to "hello", "how are you?", "my name is...", "thank you", "goodbye", "no problem", "I don't know", "happy birthday" and the oddly specific "I would like to buy a sweater". 

During this time, it wasn't unknown for my fellow students and I to go to a local Chinese restaurant. We got to practice reading the menu and this is also how I know that chickens' feet are actually quite tasty if you can get past the fact that they look a bit like tiny, wizened hands. Our Chinese teacher would sometimes accompany us and would explain which of the doughy dimsum bundles that all looked the same to us were savoury and which were (weirdly) sweet.

He also provided informal tutelage in the art of wielding chopsticks which has stood me in good stead many years down the line. Because, let's face it, chopsticks can be mighty tricky at the best of times but if you have bad technique they're nigh on torturous.

Yep, if you're ever in Shanghai and want to go sweater shopping followed by lunch at a noodle house, I, apparently, am your girl.

But I have this suspicion about my use of chopsticks. I think I might be a chopstick wanker.


Because the fact of the matter is, here in good old New Zealand, we have been blessed with a great quantity of that wondrous invention known as "the fork".

This is not to say that you can always find one when you need it. In a staff tearoom you're as likely to find a clean fork as you are to find scat confirming the presence of sasquatch infestation. But yeah. Forks. We have those.

And here's the thing. Forks...they're just better than chopsticks. There is no special skill requirement. Pick one up and dig in. You would be hard pressed to find a more perfect food delivery tool than the humble fork. Certainly chopsticks, for all their streamlined simplicity, cannot compete.

And yet whenever the Silver Fox whips up some delicious noodle-based meal... out come the chopsticks. Now, if I were eating the same dish at a chinese restaurant I would say my use of chopsticks was just part and parcel of the experience of eating out, but when I'm at home am I just showing off... to myself? And if so, why?

What I'm saying is, I think I'd probably be happier just using a fork. I think I'm only using the chopsticks because I can. Or in some feeble attempt at being "authentic". Either way I think it's a bit silly.

So do you chopstick? And is it just for show or do you genuinely prefer them?

*I almost never get near a hairdryer these days. Bloody babies.