The meaning of food in Chinese culture as more than mere nourishment is evident from the moment you are seated at the table. Instead of a place setting of assorted silverware, you will find a single pair of chopsticks.
Chopsticks themselves represent the principles of TCM’s Yin and Yang Theory. One stays still while the other moves. The moving chopstick helps the digestive system to function better by stimulating Stomach energy frequency. Also, when used and held properly, chopsticks simulate the digestive system further by exercising and massaging the first index finger, which is where the Large Intestine energy meridian begins.
Chopsticks are elegant extensions of the fingers. The very experience of using chopsticks puts the diner in an Eastern frame of mind. Food is selected, balanced and savored, one piece at a time, helping one eat slowly and mindfully, which also benefits the Stomach.
Anthropologists believe that chopsticks may have originated 5,000 years ago as branches broken from a tree or pieces of bamboo joined together like tweezers that were used to stir and select small morsels of food from big simmering pots.
Dining with chopsticks has a certain etiquette. For example, a small quantity of food taken from the serving dish is placed in a rice bowl, which is held close to the chin, so the chopsticks make small scooping motions to lift the food into the mouth. When serving yourself, it isn’t polite to search around in the serving dish with your chopsticks, or replace a piece of food once you have taken it. When you are finished eating, the chopsticks should be placed parallel across your rice bowl, not crossed over each other, which is thought to invite bad luck.
Learning the etiquette of Chinese dining may be simpler than learning to use chopsticks. Here are a few instructions to help you do it properly.
- Place one chopstick in the hollow between your thumb and index finger, resting the lower end below the first joint of the third finger (ring finger). This chopstick remains stationary.
- Hold the other chopstick between the tips of the index and middle fingers, steadying its upper half against the base of the index finger. Keep it in place with the thumb.
- Move only the upper chopstick with the index and middle fingers, lifting the fingers to open and close the chopsticks.
- Practice on things as big as a fortune cookie and move on to smaller pieces of food when you’re ready. Enjoy!
The honorable and upright man
Keeps well away from both the slaughterhouse and the kitchen
And he allows no knives on his table.