You’ve seen them at Pan Asian restaurants and cafes and may even have gotten a pair with your takeout order. Some street vendors serving noodle bowls and dumplings also provide these utensils with the food. There’s something just so intriguing about these thin instruments.
We’re talking about chopsticks, of course! Here’s what you need to know.
The Vegan Origins of Chopsticks
According to historians, chopsticks were first introduced in China nearly 5,000 years ago. They were initially used to retrieve food from utensils. During a period of resource scarcity, Chinese cooks devised a new way of preparing food by cutting it into bite-sized pieces, so it cooks quickly and requires fewer resources. This also meant that there was no longer a need for using forks and knives at the dinner table, leading to the invention of chopsticks.
Chopsticks also originated from the non-violent teachings of Confucius. A vegetarian through and through, he expressed his disdain for sharp utensils at the dinner table that would remind eaters of the violence, warfare, and brutalities of slaughterhouses. He encouraged using blunt utensils for eating food, making chopsticks a prominent part of the Chinese culture.
The Different Variants of Chopsticks
Over the years, chopsticks made their way to other Asian countries, such as Japan, Korea, and Vietnam. As different cultures embraced these culinary tools, different versions of chopsticks became available. For instance, early Japanese chopsticks were made from bamboo or other wood. It’s also believed that initially, the Japanese used chopsticks for religious ceremonies.
Historical accounts also indicate that silver chopsticks would sometimes be used to check the safety of the food being served. It was believed that silver turns black when in contact with poison, although this has been proven a myth.
The materials used for chopsticks also indicated the eater’s social class. For instance, wealthy diners would often use chopsticks made from silver, coral, agate, and ivory, while wooden chopsticks were used by the less privileged.
The Popularity of Bamboo Chopsticks
Today, bamboo chopsticks are commonly used. They’ve become especially popular because of their eco-friendly and sustainable nature. They’re reusable, easy to clean, and facilitate the dining experience.