Most people I know would find it hard to say something exciting, even interesting about chopsticks. They might think that chopsticks would easily lose out in a beauty contest with curvy, well-wrought spoons or forks. Yet in the international rankings of eating utensils held annually at American Fork City, Utah, chopsticks always seem to come out near the top, way ahead of eating with hands, for example, as is the practice in some south Asian, Islamic and African countries, not to say that I have anything against fingers as long as you wash them first. And after living all these years in Hong Kong, I have come to regard chopsticks with great respect for the superior dexterity, flexibiiity and liveliness they bring to the table compared with rigid, cold steel, judge-serious cutlery. Spoons get credit, of course, for eating soup, cereal, ice cream and yoghurt. But I’ll take chopsticks any day for the precise way they attack a fresh green salad and manipulate those messy lettuce leaves dripping with salad dressing. Furthermore, living in that part of the world where age still counts and being kind of old myself, I’ll go with chopsticks. Where were spoons and forks 3500 years ago?
Over those many years, chopsticks became more than just eating utensils but, as we continue to discover in our buying trips to almost every country in Asia where they are made, a minor art form in some cases and even collector items. Amazing Grace sells thousands of pairs each month through our website and stores in Hong Kong International Airport — from engraved silver dragon chopsticks made in Vietnam, Chinese jade chopsticks that some people put in their hair, and blue and white porcelain chopsticks with bamboo designs — to chopsticks inscribed with classic Chinese poetry, bamboo chopsticks adorned with Thai hilltribe dolls, and rosewood chopsticks inlaid with mother of pearl — chopsticks that speak for themselves in the languages of the countries they were made. Not the kind of chopsticks you will find in restaurants, but chopsticks you would like to put on your table when guests are coming. In the 40 years we’ve been in business, I guess that adds up to a lot of tables and tons of food. The website www.chinesechopsticks.com is the entry point from which the entire range of Amazing Grace chopsticks can be accessed.
An internet search will bring no shortage of information about the etymology, history, use, types and styles of chopsticks, the etiquette of using them in different cultures and how to play chopsticks on the piano, none of which I will bore you with here. Astronaut Donald Pettit can give instructions on eating tea in microgravity with chopsticks (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7obLT4s2-HA) as he did in 2003 on the International Space Station, perhaps the first time chopsticks went into space. But it makes you wonder if one of those Chinese dragons making the celestial circuit for many centuries now didn’t have at least a pair or two tucked into his or her scales.