I lived in China for about 9 months in 2003. Before I went, I was familiar with chopsticks. I knew how to use them and I appreciated their novelty. I got compliments from the locals. Ni hui yong kuaizi! (You can use chopsticks!)
But I firmly believed that chopsticks were a rudimentary way to eat food. Chopsticks, I would have told you, were to cutlery as the horse drawn cart is to the car. I thought the Chinese just hadn’t invented the knife and fork.
But over the time I spent there I changed. I strongly believe the chopstick is a better tool than the knife and fork.
There’s sophistication in using only one hand. It’s delicate to grip rather than spear the food. It makes sense to have the chef chop things into bite size pieces out the back.
Knife and fork might be easier for kids and the infirm, but dining isn’t just about efficiently filling yourself with food. It’s a cultural ritual of our lives, and the Chinese have got at least one aspect of it right. Now, if they could just stop offering me the eyes out of whatever is for dinner…