Daughter: “Do we have a choice?”
Me: “Well not really, if we truly want to appreciate all things Vietnamese.”
It’s true, we have not used a fork at all for our Viet meals. I wanted our family to learn and appreciate the culture and part of that was using Asian tableware and chopsticks. The biggest difference is how much fuller we get sooner and how the muscles in the hand get sore faster.
Chopsticks have been around for over 5000 years. It is believed that the earliest version of the chopstick were two twigs to stir the cooking pots. When fuel was scarce, and in order to shorten the cooking process, food that was chopped into smaller pieces aided the cooking process (this began about 400 BC and possibly why the knife no longer showed up at the table). Often in the recipes I am cooking, the author suggests taking a chopstick to break the ground beef or pork into smaller pieces.
Stories and folklore surround the chopsticks. Back to the knife, Confucius, in his nonviolent teachings, believed that a using a knife at the dinner table would remind people of the slaughterhouse, thereby, encouraging the non use of the knife. Other stories say that if the chopsticks are uneven you might miss a plane or a boat! And, if you hold a pair of chopsticks upright in your rice bowl, it is considered offensive.
Chopsticks are made with a variety of materials. Bamboo is more commonly used because the wood is cheap, resistant to heat and when you eat with them, there is no odor to the taste. We own a few lacquered and artistically designed chopsticks. Not everyone in Asia uses chopsticks, but in Vietnam, they are exclusively used and especially now in our home. Of course, if we want to cheat, we can use the “forkchop” – chopsticks on one side and flip it over and you get the fork/knife gadget! Confucius say: “The honorable and upright man keeps well away from both the slaughterhouse and the kitchen. And he allows no knives on his table.” So in our home, mama say: “in order to be truly Vietnamese, we must use chopstick.” It’s working, because the other day I made some eggs and bacon for dinner and daughter say: “where are my chopsticks?”