Chopsticks: Something Waygo Can’t Help You With

Believe it or not, Waygo has limitations. (Thank goodness we have a blog, though, to help you when Waygo app can’t!)

Photo credit: tanakawho

Photo credit: tanakawho

Let’s commence with a story. August 12th, 2001. Ma Liu, a 16-year-old Chinese exchange student walked into my family’s home to begin his year-long study abroad in the U.S. Having almost zero first-hand experience with Chinese culture, my family was in for an adventure.

I’ll never forget our first dinner together: the quintessential American meal of hamburgers and french fries, albeit comprised of homemade buns baked by my father and gourmet sweet potato fries cooked by my mother. Ben stabbed the top bun with his knife, lifted it to his mouth, and commenced eating. And the roller coaster of cultural-exchange had begun!

When I arrived in China, the tables were turned. As it so happens, I ate my very first meal in China with Ma Liu’s family. I thought I knew how to use chopsticks, and oh was I wrong! I had never before been in an entirely fork-less world and had never navigated such tricky food items, like slippery dumplings containing searing broth. And of course being the newbie, all eyes were on me, resulting in particular clumsiness. During that meal, I also learned my very first fun fact about chopsticks: the higher a girl holds her chopsticks, the further away she’ll be married. The lower she holds her chopsticks, the sooner she’ll be married. I was happy to be in the former group!

Over the course of that first year in China, I became as comfortable with chopsticks as with forks and knives. Mastering the skill of eating with chopsticks just takes lots of observation and tons of first-hand experience, which means eating large quantities of Chinese food.

History of Chopsticks
Chopsticks originate from China, dating back to the Shang Dynasty, or roughly 3,500 years ago. Used across Asia, each country has its own unique spin. In Japan, chopsticks are shorter. In Korea, chopsticks are usually metal. Widely unknown outside of China, not only are chopsticks used for eating food, but also for cooking food, serving food, and in other tasks, such as tending fires.

Photo credit: camknows

Chopsticks are oftentimes used for cooking. Photo credit: camknows

Etymology
In Chinese, chopsticks are 筷子 (kuàizi). The character, 筷 (kuài), is a semantic-phonetic compound, meaning the character has a meaning component and a sound component. 快 (kuài) means quick and 竹 (zhú) means bamboo. Makes sense, huh? Chopsticks were once made from bamboo and allow for quick consumption.

筷 = phonetic component of 快 (kuài) + semantic component of 竹 (bamboo)

子 (zi) is added to 筷, as it is with many single characters to create a noun.

Fun Facts
You mean there are more fun facts than the one I shared above about how a girl holds her chopsticks? Yes, these utensils are fun! Eating with chopsticks is said to use 30 joints, 50 muscles and thousands of nerves. In ancient China, silver chopsticks tested for poison in food. If poison is present, then silver chopsticks turn black. Thus, the royal family ate with silver chopsticks in order prevent their assassination.

The Chopstick Diet
If you never master the art of eating with chopsticks, you’ll loose weight. Although you’ll  appear uncultured during your time in China, at least you’ll look slim.

The Politics of Chopsticks
Seriously? Yes. Consider the environmental impact of disposable chopsticks. Reusable chopsticks are becoming more common as a result. Wikipedia notes that:

“In China, an estimated 45 billion pairs of disposable chopsticks are produced annually.This adds up to 1.66 million cubic metres of timber or 25 million fully grown trees every year…In April 2006, the People’s Republic of China imposed a five percent tax on disposable chopsticks to reduce waste of natural resources by over-consumption…

 

American manufacturers have begun exporting American-made chopsticks to China, using sweet gum and poplar wood as these materials do not need to be artificially lightened with chemicals or bleach, and are appealing to Asian consumers. The USA also has an abundance of wood, reducing the number of trees that are cut down in Asia.”

Who would have thought that China actually imports chopsticks from the U.S.? Something tells me that they are not each individually stamped with MADE IN THE U.S.A.

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Cases like this one are used to carry and protect one’s reusable chopsticks.

Chopsticks Etiquette
Never leave your chopsticks stuck vertically into your food. This resembles incense for a deceased one, therefore signifying death. If you’re in Vietnam, resting your chopsticks in a “V” formation after eating is also interpreted as a bad omen. Also, don’t use a chopstick to spear your food, like you would use a fork.

Shopping for Chopsticks
Do you remember this blog post written by Ryan? Learn a lesson from Ryan and don’t drink beer before bargaining for chopsticks.

Practice, Practice, Practice
So although Waygo can’t assist you actually use chopsticks, at least you now know a little bit more about them. If you promise to learn how to successfully eat with chopsticks, Waygo will have your back when it comes to ordering delicious foods to consume. Watch this YouTube Video to begin learning how to use chopsticks. If you’re absolutely starving and you have yet to learn how to eat with chopsticks, all restaurants should have spoons, and today, some restaurants will even have forks on reserve. As a last resort, use your hands–the tradition of eating with hands proceeds even the ancient tradition of chopsticks.

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There are many creative variations.

As always, happy eating!

 

Ali