Rate your ability with Chopsticks:
1- Does stabbing my food count?
2- I need to use both hands.
3- I can use them, as long as the objects are large and square
4- I can pick up more than 3 grains of rice with them
5- Samurai: soup consumption
If I had to rate my chopstick aptitude, I would probably give myself a big fat 0. The above scale is rendered inapplicable when it comes to me. In other words, I’m that one person at Yum Cha that will deny chopsticks and ask for a fork because I simply ain’t got time for ’em. Now throughout my 21 years I have faced some physically arduous and mentally challenging experiences, and yet there is one particular matter that I have attempted over and over again and simply cannot master; the fine art of chopstick-ing. After a solid seven years of Youtube tutorials, demonstrations from Asian friends and persistent failed attempts, do you know what I’ve finally concluded? I ain’t got time to learn how to operate two wooden sticks.
You see, sushi is my lunchtime meal of choice and I feel so uncultured as I self-consciously consume those delectable pockets of Japanese goodness with Western utensils. But then again, I feel like an uncultured misfit when I attempt to actually ‘use’ chopsticks because my lunch always ends up missing my mouth. Actually, let me correct myself; food doesn’t JUST miss my gob, it misses my face altogether.
Chopsticks are wonderful utensils and I both admire and envy those who can use these instruments. They enable the individual to exude a sense of elegance as they slowly pace their way through their meal. Poise and mindful eating; two concepts this Greek with stubby fingers has not been blessed with. Growing up in a hungry Greek household meant that, to quote the great palaeontologist Ross Geller, ‘If you didn’t eat fast, you didn’t eat’. Greeks ain’t got time for pacing themselves when it comes to food consumption; we eat intensely enough to consider it a form of exercise. Greeks ain’t even got time for knives and forks. We use edible cutlery in the form of bread; after all, this makes Kebab/Yeeros consumption much more efficient. Therefore, I ain’t got time for fumbling about with chopsticks. As far as I’m concerned, they’re not a vehicle for directing food in my mouth, they’re the annoying red light or ‘Stop’ sign that makes my trip much longer than it needs to be.
I tried to explain this concept to my friends when we were dining in a Thai Restaurant, to which one replied, “Hannah, you realise Greek’s have their own form of chopsticks too? You have souvlaki sticks?”
No. They are not the same thing.
A souvlkai skewer represents the pinnacle of culinary convenience and embodies everything that is uncivilised about the Greek way of eating. Unlike chopsticks, there is no art to holding a souvlaki skewer correctly, and you needn’t worry about looking like a clumsy fool; you simply grip it in one hand and chew chew chew away because lunch is already pierced onto it. Ain’t nothing graceful about Greek ‘chopsticks’; the ends are sharpened like mini spears to make our eating look even more primal. Some call it paleo, I call it primal.
Chopstick etiquette is skilful, souvlaki sticks deny the need for table manners altogether. They are not the same thing. I rest my case.
Indeed, I wish I could use chopsticks correctly to impress all the waitstaff at my local Sushi Train. But I know that I will just end up looking like this: I ain’t got time for rice explosions. I ain’t got the patience to deal with dumplings rolling around like mini bowling balls or soy sauce leaking all over the place… I ain’t got time for a mini food fight with myself, nor do I wish to present myself as everyone’s slapstick lunchtime entertainment. Chopsticks? Nah, a fork will do thank you!