A History of Chopsticks (And How to Use Them!)
Chopsticks: they can either make or break a meal, depending on whether or not you can use them. But here's something you might not know: it takes over 50 different muscles to use chopsticks - no wonder so many people struggle! What's more, these frustrating little tools have been around for more than 3000 years.
The oldest chopsticks ever discovered are made of bronze, and date back to the late Shang Dynasty in China (~1200BC). However, the first chopsticks were probably made of wood - which doesn't preserve well. So, in all likelihood, wooden chopsticks were in use hundreds of years before people made them out of metal.
They may be ancient, but their design hasn't needed much tweaking. Chopsticks are long and thin, making them perfect for reaching the bottom of cooking pots (and picking food up without burning yourself!). However, while chopsticks are common in many countries in Asia, there are subtle differences in style and shape.
Chinese chopsticks are longer and thicker, with a rounded end. This is because traditional Chinese cuisine involves sitting around a table and sharing many dishes - the chopsticks need to be longer so you can reach over the table!
In Japan, the chopsticks are smaller: here, people do not tend to share dishes - each person has their own, so there is no need for long chopsticks. In addition, the Japanese eat a lot of fish: their chopsticks have a pointy end which makes it much easier to remove any fish bones. They also use the chopsticks differently - more like a tweezer, which requires more wrist strength. Shorter chopsticks are easier to use like this.
Korea have different chopsticks again! Korean chopsticks resemble Japanese ones, but flatter, and they are made of metal (rather than wood, bamboo, or plastic). Metal is easier to clean and does not get damaged by fire or high temperatures. When your cuisine features plenty of barbequed food, metal chopsticks start to seem like a great idea!
Even the great Chinese philosopher Confucius had something to say about chopsticks. He was a vegetarian, and believed that having knives or at a kitchen table was a reminder of violence to animals. Confucius preferred the rounded, simple chopstick - and many historians believe he was partially responsible for making chopsticks as popular as they are in Asia.
But why should Westerners bother to learn how to use chopsticks, when knives and forks do the job?
Well, perhaps we're biased, but it does seem slightly more authentic! Although chopsticks can be very frustrating to learn to use, it's very rewarding when you manage your first bite - and it tastes even better when you know you've earned every mouthful.
So, have we convinced you to give chopsticks a chance? Here's a link to a video to show you exactly how it's done:
If you'd like to test your new skills, why not book a table with us? The best way to learn is to practice.