The chopsticks battle

After living in Australia for a while, I am ready to leave my chopsticks culture behind.

After living in Australia for a while, I am ready to leave my chopsticks culture behind.

Comments about this post on ABC Open 500 words – I quit

He bit on the boiled chicken piece, then put it back onto the communal plate and picked another. I was 8 years old then and he was a visiting elder; even my parents wouldn’t dare to confront him. Since then I couldn’t stop thinking about the disgusting saliva that the elder left on the chicken piece.

With time, I also witnessed other hideous eating etiquette that others exhibited within my own community such as double dipping and picking up shared food or ladling the common soup with their own chopsticks or spoons which they had sucked on.

The more I appreciated the way Australian food was served using serving cutlery and the more I heard about how prevalent Hepatitis was in Asian communities, the more I dreaded attending any eating events where I knew chopsticks would be used.

I didn’t have that anxiety with my own family. Since arriving in Australia, they began using serving chopsticks or spoons when dining.

I thought of ways to persuade my close relatives to do the same without offending them. Ideas grew in my mind of what to say at the start of the meals such as “Son, you have ulcers in your mouth, and I’m sure you don’t want to spread it to others around this table so can you please use the other ends of your chopsticks to pick up food from the communal dish?” or “I’m having a sore throat today and I don’t want to pass it on to you so I’ll use a different chopsticks to pick up food. Anyway, if we all can do that, we won’t have to worry if anyone’s sick amongst us.” Those scenarios never eventuated because I lacked audacity. So I developed the habit of stuffing all the food into my bowl before any chopsticks started their manoeuvres. It did look to others that I was rude and greedy with food. All the time at the table, I kept watchful eyes on dishes to avoid picking up food where others’ chopsticks had touched.

On holiday tours, I always asked to have separate family meals from the group but that desire couldn’t be satisfied all the times. So at gatherings, after so much hesitation in the past, I began to ask the restaurant for serving cutlery or placed them myself on dishes and soup bowls then suggested the guests that we should better use them. After some time, I even developed the courage to remind others if they forgot to use the serving chopsticks or spoons. I also asked people to desist from displaying their affection for me by picking up food and placing them into my bowl. Usually the elderly were reluctant to change their habits as were half of the people who I knew who had resided in Australia long. People went cold towards me after that as they must have thought that I was discriminating against them!

It was suggested that I shouldn’t upset people but just quietly find something to eat later if I didn’t want to eat with others. However, I think refraining oneself from putting their own utensils in the communal food is a sign of respect for others and it is time people learn and the culture changes. I can no longer be contented with how the chopsticks behave in my culture!

A while ago, I was glad not taking part in my workplace’s Christmas party steamboat lunch by pretending that I needed a specially prepared meal. Even though serving metal nets were provided, they were not sufficient in number and at the climax of eating, every man and his dog were busily wading their chopsticks in the steamboat..

Don Hồ – a famous Vietnamese singer – who recently visited Hong Kong wrote on his Facebook fan page in February 2015 that the restaurants there now gave two pairs of chopsticks for each guests, one for personal use and one for picking up food from the common plate. I welcome this change in the chopsticks cultures!

Be happy, don’t worry!
That handsome man who looks sexy,
Can’t harbour deadly bugs in his spit,
That would make you a victim of its hit.

Be happy, don’t worry!
Don’t create disharmony,
By insisting on serving cutlery,
When the chopsticks are wading nicely.

Be happy, don’t worry!
Enjoy the food and eat slowly,
Think positively and live peacefully,
Everyone at this table is healthy.
(Burlesque-style poem)

Image credit
by w00kie.

After living in Australia for a while, I am ready to leave my chopsticks culture behind.

After living in Australia for a while, I am ready to leave my chopsticks culture behind.

One thought on “The chopsticks battle

  1. hiMe, If I am in town in the middle of the day and I am hungry, I usually buy some noodles. As I use chopsticks. I find it easier. But that is not the point. I love your blog and I love all that Vietnam has brought into Australia. I am glad if you want to embrace Australian ways. But please don’t give up your Vietnamese ways.


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