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A brief history of Chopsticks


As you may by now have noticed, I’m rather a fan of mealtimes. I adore cooking, and I adore food, and I like to pay attention to what I’m eating. What I don’t do enough, however, is pay attention to how I’m eating.

Chopsticks, for example. Why do we use them? Where do they come from?

History of Chopsticks

A sneaky Google on a lazy Saturday led me to discover some ancient stories that I wanted to share with you all. Like anything with origins as old as the chopstick, the exact truth has been lost in time. However, these stories must once have their basis in fact, and I find that wonderfully fascinating.

So, here goes.

At least 5,000 years ago in China, the ancient people used to cook their meat and fish in boiling water or oil. To retrieve it once cooked, they would use gathered twigs, and save scalding their fingers.

Once the population boom struck, and food became scarce, chefs had to become creative. They would chop meat up into much smaller morsels before cooking it, thus rendering a knife at the table unnecessary. These chopstick-twigs were now perfect as eating tools.

Simultaneously, Confucius – the great Chinese philosopher – was telling anyone who would listen that knives were immoral, as they were a representation of violence.

So, chopsticks became commonplace, and would be carefully crafted out of bamboo or any other cheap wood.

Of course, the smartest and richest members of the Chinese dynasty wanted their chopsticks to be fashioned out of silver. It seems they believed that silver would turn black if it touched poison. Today, we know that this is simply not true, and unfortunate aristocrats weren’t nearly as safe as they might have believed.

This little tale, however far its translation through time has strayed from the truth, is a lovely piece of people’s history. I have always loved using chopsticks in Asian restaurants, and always endeavor to struggle on through, scooping up a grain of rice at a time, rather than giving up and resorting to the knife and fork that the pitying waiter continues to offer me. I hope this little tale only heightens your enjoyment of using chopsticks, and that you too will continue to persevere.

published by Sophie


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