How do you identify an amateur chopstick or hashi user in a Little Tokyo restaurant? His head keeps moving closer to the plate. All Caucasians seem to think that handling these wooden sticks is as easy as signing their names on credit cards. In actuality, it calls for a bit of skill. So today, for the benefit of you readers who must stab your food with your chopsticks in order not to go hungry for lack of proper skill, we are going to give you a free lesson in etiquette.
The following set of instructions is supplied by an expert in the field. He’s the proprietor of a popular Chinese restaurant in San Francisco’s Chinatown. Since Chinese chopsticks are a bit more difficult to use, are bigger, and have a lacquered surface, if you can master them, the Japanese throwaway type you will find in most of Little Tokyo should be simple for you to manage. According to our expert, here is the proper technique in numerical order:
- Put one chopstick at right angle to right hand, nesting it in crotch of thumb.
- Put third finger right, hand against it. This stick never moves.
- Take up second chopstick in right hand the way you hold a pencil.
- Ready? Set? Manipulate!
- During a time of mourning, for example, chopsticks are taboo. The prestige of the diseased rises in proportion to the number of mourners who eat with their fingers.
- Laying chopsticks across your bowl is an indication that you are through eating. If you go to Chinatown, beware. Don’t rest until you finish.
- Also, any number of secret messages can be sent with chopsticks such as, “Family Hold Back,” “pass the egg foo yung” or “you spilled some mustard on your coat.” – Shin Nichibei, 1964
Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J Graber, is the Site Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia