With Ann Rickard
With Ann Rickard

Sticks of doom and not of delight

IS IT just me or do you have trouble with chop sticks?

It's highly likely that's a question never put to you before - and I'm only putting it to you rhetorically, I don't expect an answer - but it's an interesting one to ponder in the scheme of things.

I've visited Asia dozens of times over the years and have eaten hundreds of meals in China, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia (very delicious it was too) and I have ploughed my way through a tonne of sweet and sour pork in Chinese restaurants here in Australia - yet I have never mastered the wretched chop stick.

You might consider this a topic wholly unworthy of discussion but when you are the only person at a table of 20 people who must ask (with sheepish look on face) for a fork because you can't pick up a spring roll with two bits of thin wood, then it is a scenario worth examination.

It's not that I haven't tried.

I've pushed bok choy about the plate on many occasions, once I even managed to get a chunk of it up a millimetre into the air before it splashed down into the soy sauce and ruined all the shirts around me.

Every time I'm presented with chop sticks I pick them up (reluctantly, I think they feel my hatred) and have a good go with them.

If I'm dining with annoying chop stick aficionados I fake it for a while, poke the rotten sticks around the plate pretending it's a breeze to pick up a slippery satay-coated noodle with something that resembles a knitting needle, but it can't be faked for long.

The only choice is to fess up and call for a fork or pretend I'm not hungry and couldn't possibly eat another bite of those delicious seafood dumplings I am actually gagging for.

I've watched babies and toddlers use chop sticks with masterful skill (if anything is going to make you feel inferior it is watching a 12 month old professionally scoop up peas with two thin sticks) and I've watched old shaky men who can barely lift their arms from the table pick up a single grain of rice with breathtaking precision.

I've gone on to YouTube and watched presentations on "how to learn to use chopsticks in one minute".

A minute? I've been trying for a lifetime.

My patient husband - himself a whiz with chop sticks - has tried to teach me in the secrecy of our kitchen.

"Get your two bottom fingers to hold the bottom chop stick firm and control the movement with the top stick by using your index finger," he's said many times as we drool impatiently down at a bowl of fried rice.

Two minutes later, the air is thick with sticky grains of rice and blue with curse words and we're reaching for the phone to call a divorce lawyer.

I do know my table etiquette, I'm a dab hand with knowing a fish knife from a butter knife and no-one can beat me when it comes to holding a fork the correct way...but the chop stick?

My enemy.



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