I have been a real slug since the New Year began and writer’s block on top of that doesn’t make for great blogging. My apologies. But then the other day we grabbed a quick lunch at Noodles and Company. We always order from the Asian side of the menu while all around us everyone is consuming Mac & Cheese, Buttered Noodles or Spaghetti & Meatballs. Pretty Midwest. I had Pad Thai w/shrimp, while Curt ordered Indonesian Peanut Saute w/beef. And sure, this isn’t authentic Thai or Indonesian food but for “fast food” its pretty good. They always give us silverware which is wrapped in a napkin so we have to unwrap the fork to get to the napkin however we never use the fork. No, we don’t eat with our fingers but go get the chopsticks. We love the fact that they offer chopsticks and the wrapper on Curt’s set said it all:
We have a lot of chopsticks at home too but everyone has their favorite so many are rarely used.
Curt likes the Japanese style with pointy tips and square sides. Our son likes round ones with a semi-sharp tip while I like square sides but not pointy (Chinese style). We don’t use them for every meal but I think we use them more than the average Midwest family of German descent. My son usually makes a ramen or udon soup for his lunch and uses them exclusively for this meal, eating all the noodles and vegetables first and then picking up the bowl and drinking the broth. He’s 23 but we gave him chopsticks as soon as his hands were able to control them. He had one of those “trainer” pairs that are hinged at the end. He says he remembers when the hinge broke and they were a lot easier to use then.
Recently at work (plastics division at a factory until a “real” job comes along) he discovered he forgot to bring a fork for his lunch which happened to be leftover stir-fry. First thing he decided to do was try to fashion chopsticks out of plastic scraps. It didn’t work very well but its noteworthy that he considered making chopsticks. He ended up fashioning a primitive spoon and finished his lunch.
At home we use them whenever we have stir fry or Asian food or meals that just lend themselves to sticks rather than forks. Salads are ideal.
History moment: Generally believed to originate in Ancient China, chopsticks can also be found in some areas of Nepal and Tibet and are the traditional eating utensils of greater China (blunt tips), Japan (pointy tips), Korea (metal, and we find uncomfortable to use – metal on teeth you know), Vietnam and northern provinces of Laos, Thailand and Burma. Chopsticks are commonly made of bamboo or plastic but are also made of metal, bone, ivory and various types of wood. Disposable wooden chopsticks are a not insignificant environmental issue. The Chinese, alone, are reported to use (and dispose of) 45 billion wooden chopsticks each year requiring 25 million trees to produce them.
While writing this I wondered about the name chopstick and discovered it is an English word. According to the Oxford English Dictionary the word is derived from Chinese Pidgen English where “chop, chop” meant quickly. The earliest published use of the word is in the 1699 book, Voyages and descriptions by William Dampier, where it says “they are called by the English seamen Chopsticks.” They have very different names in China, Japan, etc. but all contain fast or quick in their meaning. Now I know a lot of you are saying, quick? It takes most of us forever to eat with chopsticks. Trust me, practice makes perfect and a little tip is to make sticky, short grain rice and not the long grain. It will clump nicely and it can be picked up easily and quickly. Well I need to wrap this up, dinner is ready and its sweet sour pork. Get out the chopsticks.