How old were you when you first learned how to use chopsticks?
But the real kind, not the cheater kind that have the ends tied together. The kind where you can hold one in each hand and stab the food — which I’ve since learned is a big no no. I think I was somewhere in the mid-teens range. (Did I guess right Dad?) And then even after learning, I hardly used them on a daily basis. Maybe they got used when we had Chinese take out at home or when we went out to Asian restaurants. But even then, forks were always on the table as a viable second option.
Its different here.
Forks are not always an option in restaurants. Sometimes spoons are, but only if you ordered soup or curry. It’s all chopsticks, all the time folks! Good thing I came over prepared and well practiced. But even so, I’ve since learned that the way I hold my chopsticks, isn’t even the same way my Japanese colleagues hold theirs (and no it’s not just because I’m left handed and hold mine backwards…).
In April, all of my munchkins had to start using their training chopsticks at lunch. Everyone has a spoon and fork as backup, but they are very strongly discouraged from using them. These training sets are so cute. They are small chopsticks that attach at the end and have three little rings for the kiddos to put their fingers through to teach them proper finger placement and technique for when they can start using the real things.
Side story – so the preschool has extra sets of chopsticks for when students forget theirs, which happens from time to time (usually when their father packs their lunch box and forgets…) Anyway, one day my little Lefty forgot her pair of training chopsticks and my Japanese co-teacher ran downstairs to the kitchen to get her a spare set to use. But when my munchkin went to put her fingers through the rings to use the chopsticks, she was so confused as to why the rings didn’t line up with her fingers! My Japanese teacher was equally as confused. I just looked at them and laughed, then went back down to the kitchen to get her a fork. Left handedness really makes things complicated because really, who ever has an extra set of left handed chopsticks!
Anyway, nine months later all of my little guys are pretty proficient at using their training chopsticks. Sure they still drop food all over themselves, but they’re 4, they forget where their mouth is as the food is going into it (doesn’t matter if they’re using a spoon, fork, chopsticks, or their fingers). However, today at lunch I noticed three little monsters using adult chopsticks! The same type that you and I would use, the regular, non connected, no finger grippy ringed version!
These little ones are FOUR years old and they can use regular chopsticks!
What’s even better is that sometimes they don’t understand that you can’t use chopsticks for everything. Case in point; I eat oatmeal, a piece of fruit, and some cut up carrots everyday for lunch. Only one of those things do you really need a utensil for. My kids always say, “Teacher Allison, oatmeal again?” And then they laugh. (They are usually laughing at me). Then they follow that question up with, “why no chopsticks?” Or my favorite, “why spoon?”
I just look at them and say, “because I can’t eat oatmeal with chopsticks.” They used to look confused by my answer, but by now I think they just accept that fact that their teacher doesn’t have enough finesse to eat oatmeal with chopsticks. And I’m okay with that.