I am extremely proud to announce that I ate an entire soboro donburi exclusively with chopsticks today. In its most basic form, this is a bowl of loose rice topped with scrambled eggs (flavored with a bit of dashi) and a bit of ground meat. It is a staple of cafeterias and bento shops everywhere, and I kind of consider it to be the Japanese equivalent of a sloppy joe – you eat it a lot when you’re a kid, then kind of forget about it, then when you rediscover it as an adult you realize how wonderful it is because of its simplicity and hey isn’t simplicity a good thing in itself and… I digress. The loose consistency of a soboro-don in our company cafeteria is such that almost everyone eats it with a spoon, since if you use chopsticks, you end up scooping it into your mouth anyway.
Of course, I automatically chose chopsticks, because well, let’s face it, there are certain standards to adhere to, no? If you start eating donburi with a spoon, pretty soon you’re sucking tofu with a straw because it’s easier, and eating shabu shabu with barbeque tongs because it’s faster. I ask you, what the fuck happened to tradition, heathen? A splintery pair of wooden sticks was good enough for your samurai/geisha/farmboy ancestors, and they’re good enough for you, too.
I have a certain complex about proper table manners and utensil usage because I look Japanese and therefore feel a deeper obligation than usual to have my shit together at the table. Reprazentin’ the gaijin set, ya know? Plus, people who can’t use chopsticks properly just look fucking retarded in public (since that’s the only place they ever use them, I guess), so I actually took the time to learn how to use them properly after I came to Japan (this saves me money on flyswatters ala the Miyagi Method, as well).
So now that you’re thinking about what a chopstick Nazi I am (I just realized “Chopstick Nazis” is the coolest synonym for “Yellow Axis” I’ve ever heard), I’d actually like to point to my good pal Molly, a blond, blue-eyed, card-carrying Gaijin-san, who, during our Tenri days, was famous for eating the university cafeteria’s curry rice with chopsticks. Now that’s HARDCORE. Curry fucking rice. That shit was pretty runny, too, if I remember correctly.
Anyway, the absolute antithesis of a Chopstick Nazi, without a doubt, was the head of the Japanese Studies Department where we studied. Besides being a generally unpleasant and stupid asshole (and I would love to say that to his face except that he’s now dead on top of being a stupid asshole – LOL!), Professor Uehara (nicknames: “Stumpy,” “Fuckhead,” and “Twat”), who I just positively adored, was a real – how to say? – banana. A Twinkie… You know, yellow on the outside with a creamy white filling… This guy, while on one hand exhibiting every feature of a dirty old Japanese man (including, uh, Japanese citizenship), was in such dire of need of proving to everyone that he was American at heart, that he ate soba noodles with a fork.
The donburi I ate for lunch, incidentally, was delicious.
5 thoughts on “Utensils, and proper usage thereof”
the key word here is donburi. the reason hashi work better than a spoon is because the donburi in left hand and shovel with hashi in the other is probably the most culturally oriental thing you can do. I say oriental because I think all variations of oriental do this. some overtly, some covertly – discreetly at home or some shit like that. anyway, I’m here until friday – I’ll try to call you before I leave.
Koreans are pretty pluralistic about chopstick grippage. Not all of them, though: some traditionalists feel there’s only one way to hold your chopsticks… but I don’t, for the life of me, know what that way is.
Plus, I’m a “wen-son-jabi,” a left-hander, which is all sorts of wrong from the Korean perspective.
As much as a twinkie Uehara was, was it not for his class on “insert some title here” this Cosmic Buddha site may not exist. I say, “All Hail the mighty Twinkie! May his teachings live on in a URL (and in a very poorly written text book).”
So…are you going to go off on knife and fork usage here in the US as compared to the UK? And are you getting enough roughage in your diet lately?
And what’s up with Japanese people who slurp pasta?