Learning to use Chopsticks: an invaluable skill in modern culture

Everybody should learn how to use chopsticks.

Seriously, they should. And I’m not just saying this because I’m Asian and biased toward Asian-related utensils. (I’m not by the way. If anything I’d lean toward more Italian-cuisine utensils like wooden spoons and a grater.)

Anyway, everybody should learn the art of being able to hold two thin sticks in one hand in order to pick up food to eat. It’s not easy. But whoever said anything in life is?

Once you master the artistry of chopsticks, there’s this feeling of unanticipated triumph. You weren’t expecting it, but you finally got the sesame chicken (cause let’s be honest — you only order one of five things off a Chinese food menu) to your mouth without stabbing it, or having it fall off your chopsticks. As the eternal cliché saying goes, practice makes perfect.

Have you ever gone to an Asian restaurant that automatically gives you chopsticks instead of forks and spoons? Some restaurants I’ve been to in Rochester and Buffalo do this. Rather than give people forks, it is tradition to set out chopsticks. Can’t use them? Herein lies the ensuing awkward “Can I get a fork, please?” with the responding “sure” with a judgmental glare thrown in.

Some people would rather suffer through asking for a fork than simply trying to use chopsticks. The difficulty of using chopsticks for the first time is more overwhelming and frustrating than just being able to eat right away with a fork. However, taking the time to learn how to hold and use chopsticks to eat not only will make you look more cultured, but it’ll let you feel that sense of accomplishment at succeeding in something difficult.

The task of using chopsticks may seem daunting but in the end, you’ll have picked up a trait that, much like swimming, you never forget. Rather than trying to bypass the more difficult route, work through it and tough it out. You might be hungry a little longer, but you won’t be taking the easy way out either. It’s a good metaphor for life.

The first time I tried using chopsticks for an entire meal was horrible. It’s not a skill that comes instinctually. I was with my brother and his friends and we were at a sushi restaurant. Everyone else was using chopsticks easily and I didn’t want to be the one to stand out. Let me tell you, trying to pick up sashimi the first time you use chopsticks in years is not easy. Aside from the ever-increasing natural blush on my cheeks, my brother and his friends were all really nice and encouraging about using chopsticks. I got through the meal slowly but surely and more determined than ever to continue to use the chopsticks. Every time I ate something after that meal, I forced myself to use chopsticks. It wasn’t because I had a sudden craving for General Tso’s or chow mein; I simply wanted to improve my chopsticks-using skills. Today I even consider myself somewhat of a pro (though I think still I tend to hold them the wrong way.)

The moral of the story is to not give up and take the easy way out. Sure, chopsticks are hard to use, but once you get to that level of competency, there’s no going back. You succeeded and anytime after that is just second nature. Life is not like a box a chocolates, like Forrest Gump’s mama always said.

To me, life is a lot like a bowl of sticky white rice — hard to eat with chopsticks, but not impossible.

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