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Monday, August 15, 2005
The conventional wisdom on this subject is that the Chinese consider it the chef's duty to carve meat or slice vegetables into bitesize morsels. Chopstick were then invented to serve tools to pick up morsels of food and rice. But there is much evidence to suggest that their use was originally motivated by by aesthetics but by practical consideration.

Chopsticks were introduced sometime during the Chou Dynasty, probably a century or so before the birth of Christ. Until the Chou Dynasty, stir frying did not exist. But China faced a serious fuel (i.e., wood) shortage. Forests were cut down to clear land for agriculture to feed a burgeoning population.

Stir frying developed as the most efficient method to use the least amount of wood as fuel for the shortest period of time. Because the food was cut before stir frying, the meat and vegetables cooked much faster than by other methods.

During the Chou Dynasty, few people owned tables (a luxury, especially with the wood shortage), so a utensil was needed that would allow diners to eat with one hand only -- the other hand was needed the bowl of rice. Because most Chinese dishes have sauces, chopsticks enable users to scoop up food without getting goop all over their fingers. And now chopsticks allow non-Orientals the opportunity to propel goop all over the tablecloths of Chinese restaurants.

And why did the Chinese decided to use chopsticks in the middle of this supposed wood shortage? Only some of the chopsticks were made of wood. More were made of ivory and bone.

(abstracted from WHY DOGS HAVE WET NOSES? By David Feldman)
posted by infraternam meam @ 4:11 AM  
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Name: infraternam meam
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About Me: I am now at the prime of my life and have been married for the past 25 years. Sickly at times, but wants to see the elixir vita, so that I will be able to see my grandchildren from my two boys.
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