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Austin, United States

I have spent most of my career as a French professor and a research librarian, and have been reinventing myself as a writer. I’m...

Can You Chopstick?

I gave myself a treat today and ate at one of my fav restaurants. I like getting the plastic bowl with cover, because I can wash and reuse it. HAH! Besides, it’s fun to eat out of. I always ask for the chopsticks because there’s something different and beautiful about eating your meal with chopsticks. My mind goes back to a time when I had Japanese and Chinese roommates. We had so much fun drinking tea, and I always tried to guess how one roommate (We had split up a two bedroom apartment into 3 units – each bedroom and the living room. I recall paying $25/month! I paid off my new car in one year!) made a certain kind of pork, but he would never tell me the ingredients. It was a fun thing for us, me guessing and him demurring. My fiance at the time would sometimes join us for a drink of superb Jasmine tea, not the cheap variety, but one of the many awesome ones from the true orient. And then there was the mouse I found in Raymond’s rice can. Most of all was the lovely Japanese melodies my Japanese friend played for me. He was so romantic! Geez, I was young then!

All of these thoughts went through my mind as I ate the most delicious teriyaki! It was superb! Maybe it was extra special because I used the chopsticks. I have developed a bit of skill with them and it makes eating oriental dishes more tasty, more elegant, more interesting, more wonderful. That we can use two tiny sticks and pick up almost any darned (that’s dar-ned…!) thing is such a wonder. Could we teach monkeys to use them, I wonder? Probably not. However, I’m not so sure about crows and those large Parrots in New Zealand. I forget their names. (I want to say Kiwi, but that’s a fruit! :( ) These are birds with a great deal of intelligence. I think all birds are pretty intelligent. Crows and parrots use tools. They will use small sticks to reach food. They will bend them if necessary. They will also cut certain plant leaves to make tools and fashion them to reach food. Amazing. But I digress….

Chopsticks make eating food seem like a great adventure. So I always ask for them in oriental restaurants. One day, one of my oriental friends and I were discussing chopsticks, and I said I wasn’t sure I was doing it exactly right. He laughed and said, “You use chopsticks like a little kid!” HAHA! I thought I was being so elegant, right? HAH! I was glad to know. I still laugh over that. But even if I have the proficiency of a child with the use of chopsticks, if I ever get stuck in the jungle, I can use two sticks to eat. No problem! It’s also a survival skill! So I reason…. If I ever go to Japan (won’t happen in this lifetime), I can take chopstick lessons! Now that would be fun….

Haven’t you ever noticed though that it’s just NOT as fun to eat oriental cuisine withOUT chopsticks, but with a…ugh!…FORK? OH BLASPHEMY! No matter how good the food is, it just isn’t AS good with a fork as it is with chopsticks, no matter your level of proficiency. Haven’t you ever noticed that? Oriental people think we Americans who can’t use chopsticks are rather clumsy people. Kind of like “White man can’t jump”.

You see, it helps to know these little cultural tips, and though I may be clueless, I am delighted to share them with you! :)) I often wonder where my former friends are today. I know that Raymond became a well-known artist. He was quite good back then too. His paintings were beautiful.

Ah…the good old days were made of chopsticks and Jasmine tea…and sometimes…mice.

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