Chopsticks Came First
K’uai-tzu are the most widely used eating utensils in world
To those unfamiliar with Oriental terms, k'uai-tzu might sound like the name of a new martial art or next season's replacement for television’s, “Kung Fu.” But it is actually the name of the second most popular eating utensil in the United States, and by a wide margin, the most widely used eating utensil in the world. K'uai-tzu (pronounced kwi-zu), or chopsticks, were used in China in the fourth century 8.C., long before Europeans stopped eating with their hands. “Today, chopsticks remain the most popular eating utensil in China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam and other East Asian countries influenced by Chinese culture,” says Chun King consultant Ms. Anne Byrd. “Here in the United Stales, they rank behind the knife and fork in eating utensil popularity.”
Historians believe the use of chopsticks began because of the way Chinese food is prepared. Generally meats and vegetables are cut into small pieces before being served which eliminates the need for a knife at the dinner table. Usually about eight inches long, chopsticks are normally made of wood or bamboo, although modern ones may be made of plastic. More elaborate pairs are made of enameled wood, ivory or bone, and have even been known to be made out of gold, brass and silver. “Through centuries of use, chopsticks have also been associated with many superstitions or practices,” Ms. Byrd points out.
Chopsticks have been used as gift items between friends sometimes decorated with inscribed poetry or painted with good luck designs. A gift of chopsticks to newlyweds suggests a wish that the couple will quickly have children. “Also, it is still common for a pair of chopsticks to be placed upright in the bowl of rice offered at a memorial service for the dead,” adds Ms. Byrd. “The chopsticks thus mark the sacredness of the offered rice, and also are a sign to prevent the coming of evil spirits to disturb the peace of the dead.”
The word “chop” is derived from k'uai, which means “quick” or “speedy,” but many people experience just the opposite when they use them. But mastering the Oriental art of chopsticks is not difficult, as some believe. All it takes is practice. Beginners can learn to best maneuver chopsticks by starting with frozen egg rolls, heated crisp and savory. After a little practice, separate items such as chow mein noddles or Oriental dinners can be tried. – Desert Sun, 1979
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