Chopsticks

(Through Rose-Coloured Glasses)

50 years ago in Hong Kong, adoration and worship of the West were the norm of the day.

Once, father brought us to a restaurant to learn British table manner, how to properly use the forks and knives, in what order they were used during the courses of dinner, how to cut and eat like a lady and a gentleman, where to put them when finished. It was quite a treat for us kids.

At home, we were still stuck with our Chinese-ness, we still used the chopsticks, all the time. But I have to admit, I didn’t know how to use them properly. As long as I could swing the two sticks open and close to grasp some food, and able to put them into my mouth, I was satisfied. I figured, that was all I need to survive, no matter how my parents scolded me.

Later in university, I was told superiorly by a British friend, “Chopsticks are for savages. For those who lived in the forest, using two sticks to pick up food to eat. We are more civilized, we use forks and knives.” Such conceit. I was stunned. I went home and determined to re-learn how to use the chopsticks properly.

The whirlwind of Ping Pong Diplomacy swept across the globe. Entered the dragon, onto the world stage. Although under a different social-political system, the economic power of China is unquestionable and enviable, by the whole world. The status of the Chinese has been on the rise, especially for the last few years.

Take Hollywood as an example. Many movies now depict actors at ease, using chopsticks, properly and skillfully, although they may still order by the numbers, still eat egg-rolls, drink wonton soup and ask for the fortune cookies, but they no longer laugh at our way of eating, or view the chopsticks as novelities, as strange and uncivilized behaviour.

Look around you in real life, in chinatown, more and more Canadian know how to order real Chinese dishes in restaurants, not just Dim Sum, and no more Dinner Combo. They bypass the forks, in favour of the chopsticks.

50 years later today, the wind is blowing from the other direction. The adoration turns East. The Chinese culture has finally established herself as another civilized alternative.

All these years, I have lost contact with my British friend. I should track him down one day and quote to him this, from “The King and I”.

King: You will order the finest gold chopsticks.
Anna: Your Majesty, chopsticks? Don’t you think knives and forks would be more suitable?
King: I make mistake, the British not scientific enough to know how to use chopsticks.

PS Do you know the famous Japanese lacquered chopsticks (Wakasa-nuri hashi) are produced in the City of Obama, Japan?

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