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China Daily 2018-07-21 17:00



You’ve got to hand it to the Chinese. Chopsticks, a clever tool indeed, provide a convenient way to eat an amazing range of foods, extending way beyond Asian cuisine.

I’ve handled them deftly for decades. While it used to amuse me, it mildly annoys me now that Chinese react with such fuss and astonishment to see a foreigner handle them — as if someone from a country that put a man on the moon would somehow be incapable of maneuvering two simple sticks.

My first exposure to chopsticks came way back in the 1960s via the elementary piano tune known as Chopsticks, which prompted my inquiry as to what the word meant. Not long afterward, my parents introduced me to Chinese food at King Fong Cafe in Omaha, Nebraska, which, I only learned recently, was among the landmarks of the heartland city’s once-thriving Chinatown in the early 1900s. (The restaurant’s owner personally brought the teak furniture and other decor by boat from what is today’s Guangdong province.)
我第一次接触筷子是在20世纪60年代,当时我听到一首初级钢琴曲《 Chopsticks》,我很好奇这个单词是什么意思。不久之后,我父母带我去了内布拉斯加州的中心城市奥马哈的King Fong Cafe。我最近才知道,这家餐厅是这条唐人街的地标之一,这里在20世纪初曾繁荣一时。(这家餐厅的柚木家具和其他装饰小物都是通过海路从广东省运到美国的。)

As you can see, China’s influence stretched far and wide long before opening-up in the late 1970s or today’s Belt and Road Initiative. So the notion that most foreigners cannot use chopsticks is, simply put, fiddlesticks. (And, to be honest, I have never once in my long life seen a Westerner marvel that a Chinese person can wield a spoon and fork properly.)

In fact, I have undergone special kuaizi training (improving dexterity, for example, by constantly picking up peanut kernels when I lived with my Chinese tai chi master) and experimentation (exploring the use of chopsticks to snap up popcorn and donuts; I’m working on ice cream).

But there’s one Western food for which chopsticks are truly a godsend: salads. After moving to China in 2014, I bought a salad at a convenience store, and the clerk handed me kuaizi. I balked at first, but then thought, “What the heck” and gave it a whirl.

Amazingly useful! I could pick and choose each morsel much more carefully, without having to fumble about trying to spear the crispy lettuce or cherry tomato and then maneuver it mouthward.

Another clear advantage of these simplest of implements is that they regulate the pace and volume of eating. It’s much harder to “pig out” by shoveling food with chopsticks than with a fork and spoon.

However, in the spirit of globalization, let’s not overlook the finer points of knife and fork, for example when eating steak or, much more likely, pizza. (Most Westerners, by the way, eat the latter using an even simpler tool — their fingers — and definitely without ketchup.)

The trick to tackling a steak or pizza using knife and fork is to do something counterintuitive: Switch hands. If you’re a “rightie”, hold the fork in the left hand to spear and anchor the steak or pizza slice, which allows you to use your right hand to more skillfully and powerfully cut with the knife.

In fact, a handy thing about the fork is that everyone is basically ambidextrous when using one. I venture to say that, for Chinese and foreigners alike, switching hands while using chopsticks is not so readily done with aplomb.

英文来源:“CHINA DAILY”微信公众号
编审:董静 丹妮
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About the author & broadcaster

James Healy is from the United States and has been a copy editor at China Daily since 2014. He is an advanced student of Chen style tai chi and enjoys Chinese culture, food and carvings.