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Is using chopsticks in the West an affectation?

Are chopsticks useless?

Published on August 4th 2009.

Is using chopsticks in the West an affectation?
Yes: - 32%
No: - 68%

Chopsticks are ridiculous - the culinary implement not the jokey piano piece that is.

Two pieces of wood, lacquered or not, raw wood or not, plastic perhaps.......who cares?

If you had to start from scratch and invent something really useless with which to pick up food then chopsticks would be high on the list. In fact they’d take the biscuit. They’d take the biscuit very slowly and very awkwardly.

Horses for courses you see.

In the Far East they're ok because that’s where chop sticks come from. But in the West their use in East Asian restaurants by non-Chinese is sentimental at best, and condescending at worst. If we did the whole Eastern thing properly, we’d be sat on the floor, rice bowl to the mouth, scooping the food in.

But we don’t do that.

We sit at a table with napkins and condiments on the tables, we eat from plates and we lift the food to our mouth – which is a long stretch for rice on chop sticks. In fact our dining rituals are the same in Chinese restaurants as they are at home or in any other restaurant apart from the one perverse habit of eating with a pair of one pronged sticks that are awkward to hold.

Nor do we adopt similar practices for other cuisines, such as eating Indian food with our fingers. In Indian restaurants we use the cutlery.

The fork was a technological leap which is relatively recent - four hundred years or so in its present form. They made eating easier. Using chop sticks in Chinese restaurants, unless they're part of your tradition, when nothing else you do there is Oriental seems odd. They don’t make the food taste better after all. Chop sticks are an affectation.

On the other side of the argument you could say their use is harmless enough. You could say they add a bit of atmosphere to a meal. At best they might add to the sense of occasion in a Chinese restaurant.

Or you could ask for a fork and stop hamming it up.

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59 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

The answerAugust 4th 2009.

This is the solution: www.gadgets-reviews.com/index.php?page=post&id=386…

AnonymousAugust 4th 2009.

Surely you should just shovel it in, never mind the taste... just fill the belly like you do on curry mile or with a meat (little of it) and potato pie in some Rochdale wet pub (with the Rochdale grip on the spoon.) Those supercilious waiters your reviewers are always moaning about will know you are real English pigsThere are two reasons for using chop sticks, one is to enjoy each morsel at a time with a little rice. no need to wrap it up and turn it into Japanese street food. Recall that the emphasis is on quality and sophistication, not quantity.The other is to recall that meat and fish were scarce and bowls expensive so it all was refined from a peasant cuisine with minimum resources. One of Ken Hom' sbooks describes how to live as a Chinese student on a sardine a day and a bowl of rice or a slice of red pork.Peoples from the Subcontinent eat with their fingers in the same way but not the over chilled recipes of Manchester.I am just of to eat my pilchard with a small fork.

James JasonAugust 4th 2009.

I bet the writer can't use chop sticks.

AnonymousAugust 4th 2009.

Why doesn't that top picture zoom in? I want a close look at her, erm, chopsticks

LizAugust 4th 2009.

They should consider the risks - splinters, eye gouging and cold food.

DescartesAugust 4th 2009.

I like them, but not because they're traditional or anything, I just like how using chop sticks changes the way I eat my food.

ELAugust 4th 2009.

I had this same conversation in Tai Wu a little while back with a chinese mate (who looks even better in her knickers than the model). Anyway, we're going again on Thursday and I now plan to embarass her by requesting a fork. Hah!

LouAugust 4th 2009.

Using chopsticks (the western way) slows down your eating, which gives your stomach a better chance to tell you you are full, therefore helping you to eat less. its good for dieting.

AnonymousAugust 4th 2009.

Use the "fast boys" if you like them, but use the right dishware with whichever you decide. Bowls and chopsticks are fine - eat in the way the food was meant to be eaten. If properly prepared there should be no need for a knife. Plates and chopsticks is a naff idea. Neither East nor West. A good way to waste an evening chasing the last grains of rice on a plate with chopsticks.

JaimeAugust 4th 2009.

How is it condescending to use chopsticks? Is it any more condescending than a borderline racist article which seems to imply that those in the east could benefit from being civilized by those in the west? Terrible, pointless article.

rosieAugust 4th 2009.

use chopsticks if you want to.don't eat like a chicken.

rosieAugust 4th 2009.

also,don't be the only white girl working in a Cantonese restaurant. you will have to use chopsticks and you will have the piss taken.straw mushrooms,anyone?

mark mAugust 4th 2009.

when in Rome.... shovel it in. That's what they are made for. Get gunk on your chin, enjoy the food and **** convention

AnonymousAugust 4th 2009.

What a shamefully racist article. Disgusting.

JamesAugust 4th 2009.

Ha, I love it. I always ask for a fork. Using chop sticks is like wearing a silly paper hat at Christmas just you've always done so.

KarenAugust 4th 2009.

Not sure about this. I think using chop sticks does add to the occasion. But it may also be a bit dodgy and as the article says a bit condescending: ooh look at this funny little Chinese things. And does the poster above understan what racism means?

East LancsAugust 4th 2009.

I fail to see how suggesting an alternative to a perceived inefficency could be tagged "Racist". I am baffled by American's continued use of handleless "grocery bags". Bah y'all!

DidsburyGirlAugust 4th 2009.

East Lancs I was ranting to a friend about those stupid american paper grocery bags just the other day! They just seem completely inefficient.

CasAugust 4th 2009.

I like those bags! Walking around New York cuddling my groceries, it's all different and nice.

DescartesAugust 4th 2009.

Hardly handy for the Friday big shop though eh

CasAugust 4th 2009.

No Descartes, but what self respecting yank wouldn't do the big shop and then load it into some massive SUV? These are small bags for ickle things!

DescartesAugust 4th 2009.

Ah I guess so Cas, this cuddling your groceries thing you do, is that a comfort thing? Which types of food stuffs are the most comfortable to get close to?

AnonymousAugust 4th 2009.

Only the BNP can rid us of the scourge of chopsticks.

HarrisonAugust 4th 2009.

Chop sticks are good for difficult jenga like competition

CasAugust 4th 2009.

I love my groceries equally. It's great in America when you squeeze the brown bag and it all crackles, puts a skip in your step!

AvoAugust 4th 2009.

I don't usually ever get offended but I don't see the point of this article and do agree with some other ranters that it could be racist.

It's a shameAugust 4th 2009.

Do you think the writer of this article can't use chopsticks? ;-)

Rams HeadAugust 4th 2009.

Doesn't the article poke fun at people who aren't Chinese using chop sticks. It doesn't attack the Chinese or other Far Eastern peoples just the weird way Westerners latch on to this one aspect of a different culture as if it somehow makes their restaurant visit more authentic.

AnonymousAugust 4th 2009.

I would East Lancs, I'm from Leeds and some american friends call me 'yorkshire pudding', how's that different from the N word? Many stereotypical racialist slurs include the mention of chopsticks.

MaxwellAugust 4th 2009.

Why cry racist all the time? We often say French people are rude, is that racist? Nope, it's observational. Racism is defined as 'hostility towards or discrimination against people of races other than one's own'. This article is laughing at the use by Europeans of a Chinese eating utensil. It's not racist but it may well be utensilist.

JamesAugust 4th 2009.

Yep it's definitely utensilist

CasAugust 4th 2009.

It ain't racist in any way whatsoever. Perhaps showing a semi naked lady holding a pair of chopsticks was gratuitous, but the article is certainly not racist.

EmmaAugust 4th 2009.

Its not racist. Would it be racist for the chinese to write an article about how daft the concept of a fork is? its a matter of OPINION.

AnonymousAugust 4th 2009.

Chopsticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me.

JohnAugust 4th 2009.

Of course this article could be construed as being racist, if you're really, really stupid. Oh God, that was a moronist comment !!

lucky chrisAugust 4th 2009.

My ex is Chinese. I stayed with her and her family for a while down south. Every day her mum would cook dinner - they had bowls and chopsticks, and just naturally gave me a plate and a fork (I never asked for a fork, and I can use chopsticks). That's about as racist as this article. Not very.

AnonymousAugust 4th 2009.

In chinese culture respect and saving face are masively important, which means that the chinese might interpret some descriptions of their chopsticks in the article above as being disrespectful to china or Chinese food culture for example" If you had to start from scratch and invent something really useless with which to pick up food then chopsticks would be high on the list. In fact they’d take the biscuit." I have no idea whether this is offensice (or even racist) but given the topic the supposed offence would have to be judged against chinese cultural norms not western ones...

CasAugust 4th 2009.

Anon, sorry that's bollocks. The'supposed offence' would have to be judged by western standards as we're in Manchester!!! If Schofield was sat in a restaurant in Beijing and said chopsticks were useless - that would again be his opinion and not racist! As it is he's typing an article for publication to a Manchester audience, are you mad?

East LancsAugust 4th 2009.

Can "Anon" please use a name so we can tell if there's multiple morons posting faux-offended political correctness under that moniker? Ta.

East LancsAugust 4th 2009.

Avo, couldn't agree more mate. Shoulda seen me demolish my lunch :o)

Anon no2August 4th 2009.

I quite clearly said I dont know or dont have an opinion on if this is offencive. My suggestion is that to your average mancunian it probably isnt an offensive but that doesnt mean that it wouldnt offend a chinese person, as our cultures are quite diferent.which isnt really reasonable grounds for east lancs to describe me as a mornon which quite clearly is offensive!

James TAugust 4th 2009.

He called you a mormon. That's shocking.

AnonymousAugust 4th 2009.

How delightful it must be to dine opposite you Avo....

CasAugust 4th 2009.

Spelling offensive 3 different ways in two posts is a reason to call you a moron though! And that's coming from me.

And that's a factAugust 4th 2009.

Mormon's don't need chopsticks or forks. They just get some of their many wives to cut up the food and place it in their months for them. Every man should have three or four wives minimum.

AvoAugust 4th 2009.

I only eat like that when I'm at home though. If you study the majority of Oriental people in restaurants, that's how they eat too. I do eat differently when I'm eating out using chopsticks though because I'm too self conscious about what people might think even though I know at the back of my mind that the slurpy, bowl to your mouth way is the right way!!!

anon2August 4th 2009.

Mancon really needs a spell checker to bail out us dyslexics...

OAugust 4th 2009.

I was only saying the other day in Wasabi off Portland Street how usseless chopsticks are. When they brought me slices of pork I HAD to ask for a knife and fork or use the chopsticks to get food all over my face like a barbarian. Using chopsticks as opposed to a fork is like using a mangle when you've got a washing machine. The fork vs the chopstick is like the internet vs teletext. Ancient Western cutlery inventor 1Ancient Oriental cutlery inventor 0Fact. p.s. I ate at Wasabi with 2 friends, all 3 of us got food poisoning. Stay away.

big in japanAugust 4th 2009.

What a load of rubbishusing chopsticks is a craft and is part of the dining experience. having lived in Asia and used them everyday i have to confess i actually prefer to eat with 'sticks' (although maybe I just prefer asian food that you would eat with chopsticks). To say that they are inefficient is rubbish, it depends on what you are trying to eat and how good you are. i have been astounded at the pace of food consumption i have witnessed in asia with only a pair of wooden sticks.Chopsticks are part of the experience. If they are inefficient then so is carving a turkey. May as well just shove a firecracker in it and pick up the pieces (with chopsticks of course).

Yes, but...August 4th 2009.

If you're in an Far Eastern place and you're not adept at the chopstickery, get a fork. I however have no probs and think it adds to the experience :o)

daveAugust 4th 2009.

having married into the chinese culture, i have been taught using chopsticks for asian food, in asia, it is good manners to use chopsticks a certain way, picking them up in a certain fashion and using with care, just the same as using cuttlery in the west like shovels or using just a fork is considered bad mannered and rude, as is poking your food and sticking your chopsticks upright in your food in asia is considered extremely rude and ill manneredso in my opinion chopsticks with asian food in the west, is all about learning about the culture and enjoying your food, in the same way it would be enjoyed in china. this writer however comes across as a typical English man who writes with a narrow mind.

DaveAugust 4th 2009.

Dave, can you explain exactly how he is narrowminded? Oriental food as I was aware is a cuisine and not an artform. A bloody fantastic world changing, gave us pasta as well, kind of cuisine, but still just that.

Cas NOT DaveAugust 4th 2009.

The last rant twas me not Dave, sorry.

east lancsAugust 4th 2009.

The rant has less impetus now we know that Cas ;o)

JaimeAugust 4th 2009.

The article comes across as narrow minded because it seems less of a criticism of a utensil and more like an imperialist rant about how civilized the West is in relation to the East. I get it, you can't use chopsticks and someone was an arse with you about it, criticize them and their reasons for belittling you & your desire to use a fork but leave the insults out of it.

AnonymousAugust 4th 2009.

When I go to certain parts of France, especially around Marseilles, I find a lot of the toilets are the bendy down, piss all over your pants ones. These are useless, a rubbish design and I'm shocked anyone thought it was ever a good idea!! Our toilets are far superior. Does that make me narrowminded and racist or simply hygenic?

AnonymousAugust 4th 2009.

It's not chopsticks that are the problem but rather the staple food one is meant to eat it with them namely rice. Eating piece of pork, prawns etc relatively easy with them, grains of rice you are having a laugh. As to the point of the article, no it's not condescending to use chopsticks just futile and time consuming. Finally, I want to know what the lady in the photo is planning to do with them chopsticks as the look on her face and the way she is holding them seem to suggest she is not intending to use them for eating. Sweet and sour balls anyone?

angriochaddyAugust 5th 2009.

There will always be plebs from the West who scorn and mock every oriental refinement , including diet and eating rituals/customs . Even 18th and 19th century visitors to China and Japan showed themselves up as ignorant barbarians , incapable of understanding the subtlties of the culture and stubbornly sticking to their European eating habits , i,e ' shovel it down' !

east lancsAugust 5th 2009.

Indeed there will be such plebs. However Schofield is demonstrably not one of them. Oh and you reckon Chinese folk don't shovel it down? Hah! Get the bowl to your lips and slam the rice in :o)

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