To stop destroying forests, China’s government has mandated that people must immediately stop using chopsticks and start using forks and knives due to the burden they are placing on the world’s forests.
But alas, Chopsticks are a cultural icon in many Asian countries because they represent the ability to make do with minimal resources. Their simplicity is a direct reflection of the ancient maxim, “less is more”.
Residents of China, the largest country on the planet, are believed to use an astonishing 80 Billion pairs of disposable wooden chopsticks every year. A mature tree yields around 4,000 pairs of chopsticks. China used up the equivalent of 20 million trees in just the past year.
Now a leading official has called for diners to start reusing their cutlery – and has even suggested that the Chinese should turn to knives and forks instead of chopsticks.
This is not the first time that authorities have raised concerns about the use of chopsticks in China. In 2006, a five per cent tax was imposed on all disposable chopsticks and wooden flooring, but it evidently had little long-term effect.
Then again, as the comedian Jerry Seinfeld once joked, parting the Chinese from their chopsticks is no mean feat.
They’re hanging in there with the chopsticks, aren’t they? You know they’ve seen the fork. They’re staying with the sticks.
I don’t know how they missed it. Chinese farmer gets up, works in the field with a shovel all day. Shovel. Spoon. Come on. You’re not plowing 40 acres with a couple of pool cues!
Chopsticks vs. Forks and Knives
There is much you can do with chopsticks that can’t be done with a fork. But there are things you can do with a fork that you can’t do with chopsticks — like cut thru many foods. You can split some things apart with chopsticks, but it’s not easy, and they have to be pretty soft.
Also, chopsticks give you greater reach than forks when you want to score that last tasty morsel that’s at the other end of the table before someone else snatches it up!
Additionally, chopsticks are especially “bad” for eating Chinese food, which is often taken from a communal bowl or plate. It’s almost impossible to eat with chopsticks and not transfer germs back to the food, but it is possible to prevent that with a fork, if you try. Of course, once you throw rice into the mix, then you’re going to be spreading around germs with either utensil.
They are each good at what they do and the strength of each is also a weakness. Chopsticks are good at finely manipulating small pieces of food. This is a good way to eat small bits of meat and vegetables. Rather than scooping it all up, chopsticks let you manipulate the food finely and eat exactly what you want. Forks are obviously better for things like steak and mashed potatoes. It is a stabbing and scooping implement and excels at shear volume.
Given America’s weight problem, maybe we should be passing out more ecologically responsible chopsticks.
Here are some other Pro’s to forks and knives over chopsticks:
- Speaking from experience, if you break just one finger, say because you were bowling and you suck, you can’t use chopsticks anymore. (On the other hand, it gives you a chance to practice being ambidextrous.)
- Very hard to pick up escargots in their shells – or any kind of circular hard foods – without one flying off somewhere. Which begs the question, why are you eating snails in the first place??
- Using chopsticks can lead to repetitive stress injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome.
- If a chopstick falls on the floor, it’s circular and it will keep on rolling… and rolling… invariably until it will roll under something that you can’t move/access.
One last Pro to using chopsticks over forks and knives:
You can use chopsticks one handed. Try cutting your steak one handed!
Last, but not least, Chopsticks can create great art!
Where do you stand on this issue? Sound off in the Comments below.
Humbly submitted for your consumption,
—Mee Magnum (“Chop! Chop!”)