Chopsticks are an interesting and versatile utensil that have always been a part of my life. I actually find it easier to eat spaghetti out of a bowl with chopsticks, than on a plate with a fork and spoon.
And they aren’t just for eating either; there’s many a time when I’ve used them for cooking. Long chopsticks make a great stirring utensil for tall stockpots or stir frying. I’ve used chopsticks to pop items out of tiny jars, in replace of tongs, and even for draining pasta directly from a pot.
There are many kinds of chopsticks – Japanese have pointy ones, Chinese have ones with blunt ends, Korean-style chopsticks are metal and flat. I hate the sound of any kind of metal rubbing together, so eating at Korean restaurants are usually a careful experience for me.
I’ve been asked before how you eat rice with chopsticks. Well, in some cultures, the rice is stickier so that you can easily pick it up in clumps with your chopsticks. In the Chinese culture, you pick up your bowl, bring it close to your mouth, and use your chopsticks to shovel the rice. This is perfectly reasonable in Chinese settings, but in other cultures it is considered rude. There are actually quite a few universal etiquette rules as well, along with the culture-specific ones.
Children are taught how to use chopsticks at a young age. Nowadays you can buy fancy schmancy kid-sized chopsticks that are connected at the top like these easy training chopsticks or these Hello Kitty chopsticks that come with finger loops (fyi – those two are affiliate links, just trying something out and if I don’t like it I will remove).
But when I was growing up, we did it the old fashioned way, using only a pair of short chopsticks (take-out chopsticks are usually the right length), a rubber band, and a piece of paper.
To be honest, I never could hold the chopsticks in the absolute correct position and at some point my parents gave up and just let me use this modified grip I adopted. I can actually use the correct form now but it takes me forever to eat that way, so I usually don’t bother.
As to how to wash them, my mom taught me this little trick as I got a little older and started helping out with the housework. Soap ’em up with your sponge – individually if they have food caked on them but you could also do a few at a time if there’s no debris. Then, under running water, gather a bunch of them in your hand (I would say no more than 6-8 chopsticks as it gets more difficult to handle when you add more than that). Holding the bundle in one hand, bring your palms together under the water with the chopsticks pointed in a vertical direction, and rub your palms together while being careful not to drop any of the chopsticks. The chopsticks will rub together and make a clattering sound while the soap is rinsed off. Easy peasy.