Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Chopticks and I

I am often intrigued by the evolution of habits. Especially in cultures across the world. There are those questions that we often end up pondering over. I have a few recurring ones of my own. For example, "who would have declared jackfruit edible?". I mean the person must have been awfully hungry to open such an ugly looking fruit expecting it to be edible.
I also wonder almost after each of my encounters with Asian food over how noodles must have evolved. It is amazing how different cultures rely on different sources of carbohydrates and make them in their own way. Whether it is roti, bread, rice or noodles the basic purpose is same, to provide carbohydrates.
Or sometimes, much to my dislike, I see people happily opening oysters. Who would have first opened an oyster !! I secretly hope that there should have been a lag of a few centuries between the discovery of oysters being edible and people actually starting to relish them.
One of these persistent questions is also, "Which resident by the banks of Yangtze river would have invented chop sticks?!!". I mean, there must have been a point in the history of Asian food habits where one fine morning a plump little Chinese (or Japanese or Taiwanese) man (or woman or child) must have gone, "I am going to eat my food with these two sticks!".
Of all the things that I get tired from like explaining people what I do for a living and trying to preserve my long nails between my lab work, eating with chopsticks is one such utterly tiresome process.
What is more annoying is how Westerners follow the saying, "When in Rome do what Romans do". Most Aussies I know have a black belt in using chopsticks. I am usually the only one in the group who asks for a fork in a Chinese restaurant. But it is funny watching an Aussie insisting on using chopsticks while an Asian sometimes even completely bypassing the English language. :)
When words fail, they are comfortable pointing at pictures of coconuty Laksa soups. :)
I think this is the reason why most Asian women have perfect lean figures. You can only eat so much using chopsticks. After a while the painful effort of picking up your food with sticks must overpower hunger. That is what they should do to reduce obesity across the world. The day when an American eats a big mac with chopsticks there would be an answer to world obesity!
What also surprises me is that India with her formidable culinary arsenal of everything ranging from puran poli to kati kababs could not invent an innovative piece of cutlery! All we could think of was fingers! Although the way Indians eat using hands differs just as much as all the dialects in a single language, it is still a disappointment that the land that gave the world nothing (zero) could do nothing to revolutionize eating.
I must confess that I have fully inherited the Indian attitude. I look at food and decide how to eat it. If I can eat noodles with a fork and I already know how to use a fork, I find it taxing to try and learn a new way of eating noodles just to be a perfect Asian diner. When I see pizza for example, I automatically change over to using hands. And I must also confess that there is no greater joy in this life than eating cold fragrant curd rice with lemon pickle using nothing but your finger tips on a hot summer afternoon!!


Bipin said...

...or hot varaN-bhaat with spicy mango pickle on a cold evening. :)

Abhijit Bhave said...

Very Interesting !! :-)

Soulfull Rhytm said...

after reading all these musings, and bout you being mystified by how food habits have developed......i would say one thing.

that In case someone asked , 'who thought the longest and hardest over this obscure and interesting topic'...i would ask them to go hunting for the purplemoon

मंदार जोशी said...

I TAG you on my blog

Pipa said...

ha, ha, ha...

I totally agree with you about chopsticks helping with portion control..,