Cumberland Times-News

Maude McDaniel - Living

February 11, 2012

History of chopsticks and related subjects


Now there are some big questions in life, like where did we come from, and even bigger questions in life, like where are we going? Today, however, I prefer to talk about chopsticks.
I think we can all agree that the Chinese are brilliant and innovative, and have had a big hand down through the ages at making civilization more civilized in their own ways as time goes on. Which makes it all the more amazing that the Western world came up with forks and knives some centuries ago, and the Chinese, though earlier, with — chopsticks.
I believe that this has had such a tremendous impact on global development that it can even now barely be grasped. I try to, but it keeps slipping.
For one thing, I do think, historically, the Oriental part of the world has been less developed healthwise. I am sure chopsticks have something to do with that.
In China, perhaps they have fewer cows, because steaks are hard to navigate in a country where really sharp chopsticks are few and far between. So obviously a lack of cows would cut back considerably on the milk production for children throughout the country, which can’t be good. (On the other hand, there is an argument to be made that Americans who need to lose weight should change over to chopsticks immediately.)
The earliest written reference to chopsticks in English occurred in 1699. The Chinese word for them is “kuaizi,” which is translated (I love this) as “quick little bamboo fellows.” (Oh yes, and Wikipedia scrupulously points out that “chopstick” is not to be confused with “chapstick,” which we should all make a note of right now.)
It seems that, in general, the East has the West licked as far as food utensil history is concerned, since experts believe chopsticks originated first of all, at least 1500 years B.C. A set of bronze ones was excavated from about 1200 B.C, and the first written reference dates to about 250 B.C.

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