Chopsticks and Fortune Cookies

Jeff and I indulged at our local Chinese restaurant this evening. I love Asian food, and favor good Japanese (freshly made, without all the damned MSG and additives), but as this is Steubenville, we settled for our only Chinese place in town.

One of the things I have noticed about this area is that not a lot of the natives utilize hashi (chopsticks.) Opening up the cheap paper packet and popping the two bits apart often draws stares. Actually placing them in our hands and using them properly will cause jaws to drop in disbelief. We begin our meal with wonton soup, and in the traditional Japanese spirit, we eat it with our hashi. The entire meal, from soup to rice, is navigated to our mouths with these clever tools, without fuss or mess, each morsel quickly picked up and delicately placed on the tongue in quick succession. Manners dictate that one does not "bite down" or suck on one's chopsticks, and the food should be placed in the mouth rather than bitten off the chopstick with the teeth. Fingers work the top chopstick, so that it correctly forms a pincer by which items are picked up, and the touch itself is effortless and light.

I learned how to use chopsticks from my mother (who once worked in an Asian restaurant) and who can pick up an overcooked pea without leaving a dent on it. Jeff learned from his stepmother, a very strict Vietnamese woman who certainly lacked a sense of humor when it came to proper table manners and the tools used. We have hosted an exchange student from Japan, and are very familiar with Asian cultures. We also cook Asian foods often, and even have a large set of "cooking chopsticks" that are used in place of a fork or spatula when turning meats and such in the wok. Hence, we do not normally read the restaurant chopstick wrapper's instructions! The entire entry today is inspired by the words of wisdom imparted by our wrapper:

"Welcome to Chinese Restaurant. Please try your Nice Chinese Food With Chopsticks the traditional and typical of Chinese glonous history and cultual.", the wrapper begins. Well, it is a wise wrapper, for we are indeed in a Chinese Restaurant. But I do begin to have doubts about Chinese Chopstick factory "spell check" programs at this point. We moved on to the step-by-step instructions, eager to see their recommendations for productively using this nifty tool.

Step One: "Tuk under tnurb and held firmly". This step is accompanied by a diagram of a right hand with the first chopstick resting on the loose fold of skin between the thumb and the index finger. Note, the pointy end does point away from you!

Step Two: "Learn how to use your chopsticks. Add second chopstick hold it as you hold a pencil." This is fairly straight forward.

Step Three: "Hold tirst chopstick in originai position move the second one up and down Now you can pick up anything!" Anything? Like elephants and dead bloated whales? Neato keen, wise chopstick wrapper!

"Productof China" - well, isn't that nice?

I don't think I shall share with you what the wise fortune cookies told us. (They did make the wise chopstick wrapper look like a MENSA member in comparison.)


I will tell you the fortune that I have once taped to my monitor: "Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it." My husband and I collect fortune cookie fortunes, by the way... we used to have a small jar that held them all, but I think it got lost in the move last year.

19 responded with...:

AnnieElf said...

Two things Autrice -

1. cooking chopsticks? I'd love to see these. Picture please?

2. when do I get to stop laughing over my desk like a demented idiot. The instructions have me in fits. Thank God school is out.

Kamsin said...

Nothing like authentic Chinglish to go with you chopsticks (I think it's quaidsi-not sure on sp.- in chinese). I lived in China for a year and had to learn to use chopsticks pretty damn quick. The mangled English always crakced me up, it's like a weird form of poetry and always makes me wonder what nonsense people have written in Chinese characters, cause I bet we do the same!

paris parfait said...

Very clever post! I'm afraid I'm never mastered the art of using chopsticks. Then again, the only time anyone ever tried to teach me was while having sushi at the Ritz in San Francisco - not a place in which to embarass oneself! The Chinese restaurant in our neighbourhood routinely brings me a knife and fork (by now they know me). My daughter worked in a sushi restaurant in Savannah and has mastered the art of using chopsticks. Probably I should get her to teach me. :)

R2K said...

: )

Laini said...

So funny! I was just having a conversation last night about "Ingrish" which is apparently the term for the faux-English phrases on those cute little Japanese stationery sets like Hello Kitty? I love the nonsense on those things! Great take on the prompt!

Becca said...

Do the Chinese have as much trouble eating with forks as we do with chopsticks?

I'm pretty good at it - my daughter in law is Asian, and my husband lived in China for a while, so he taught me. I'm certainly not an expert, though.

My daughter in law has cooking chopsticks too. They are great for stir frying.

Loved this post - very entertaining!

sundaycynce said...

Delightful post, Autrice. Thanks for sharing and for giving us all a happy laugh.

AnnieElf said...

Hi Au. Quanah uses chopsticks all the time and no doubt had occasion to do so at that same Chinese restaurant. By the way, he is probably now in Steubenville as we speak for the big reunion with Erin after two months apart. I hope you find that jar of fortunes just packed deeply away somewhere. What a treasure that would be to go through.

Chelle Y. said...

My mom is from Thailand, and I have never learned to like that food or eat from chopsticks. I am a weird girl!

DJPare said...

Very enjoyable! I grew up in a small non-ethnic American town as well, so I can picture the stares I would get there if I started using chopsticks...

NuttersNotes said...

Your story reminded of me of my early choptick using days. I picked up a sushi roll...placed the roll in the wasabi/soy sauce mix...lifted it up about a foot...only to have the roll escape the chopsticks, do a half gaynor, and land right back in the wasabi/soy mixture. The judges gave it a 9.5. I, on the other hand, took my tie and shirt to the cleaners.

Thanks for the tips...I need to lighten my touch with the stix

Mardougrrl said...

Hee! This made me crack up. :) I love using chopsticks too...although I am not as adept as you obviously are.

And I stick favored fortunes in my journals, or picture frames, or mirrors.

~NanCourt~ said...

My BF is Chinese so he is quite good with the sticks. I hate them and always use a fork. I love watching his mom cook with her sticks though.
We used to keep all of our fortunes but they were taking over the house as we eat Chinese no less than once a week. Now, we read the fortunes, add, "...under the bed sheets" to what it says, laugh like naughty children and throw them out. Imagine, "You will be known for your good works"....under the bed sheets. ;-)

Autrice DelDrago said...

Nan LOL... we do the same, only we add "in bed."

In other words, my favorite fortune becomes: Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it... in bed!

Another favorite: Success is doing what you love and loving what you do... in bed!

Ceebie said...

Very nice post. I spent 16 days in Japan two years ago and used chopsticks the whole time. It was funny how I felt like I was stabbing my food when I returned to North America and used a fork! Also, have you checked out www.engrish.com?

GreenishLady said...

That's so good - the instructions! We don't often get offered chopsticks, and I'll confess the only time I used them was in a Japanese restaurant that didn't offer knives and forks. You've reminded me to take the next opportunity to try them out. Thank you.

briliantdonkey said...

very nice post. Thanks for the very enjoyable read on this week's prompt.

BD

Roadchick said...

Please to be enjoying your post most funny!

The 'chick loves directions written by those with a less than perfect grasp of English, but then has to consider the hysterics that she would send them into trying to write directions in their native tongue. Of course, one does wonder why someone with a good knowledge of English doesn't do a quick proofread. Maybe because then it would not be as much fun!

Personalized chopsticks said...

Practice makes perfect when it comes to using chopsticks. It may look complicated but the key is that the bottom chopstick remains still while the upper chopstick moves to grasp the food.