Bill Said, Beth Said

So my friend, Bill decided to start a blog debate about chopsticks, of all things. I can’t blame him, though. We’ve always been picking on each other’s heritages. He’s Irish-German, the poor thing.

Since I associate blue with the Yankees and red with the devil, my words are in blue, and Bill’s words are in red. The blue italicized words are from my original email to Bill.

And finally, my unprovoked attack on chopsticks last month caused a small stir. Evidently, there are some people out there who feel very strongly about eating with those stupid wooden sticks. So I saved an email I received from my Asian friend, Beth, defending them. Now Beth is a fine human being who happens to hail from The Philippines, and feels a cultural attachment to chopsticks. I guess those sentiments are not unlike the countless everyday examples of Texans who still rides horses to work because they feel a similar cultural connection – but I digress. Anyway, here is what Beth had to say:

Leave the chopsticks alone, will ya? They represent humanity’s first step towards civilization. They used their hands to eat before the chopsticks came along.

I guess that means we shouldn’t use gas, matches and electricity to start fires then. I challenge Beth to start a fire this winter in New Jersey by only rubbing chopsticks together, since that process would represent humanity’s first steps in creating fire. Please rent Cast Away starring Tom Hanks as a training video. Also, if you don’t want to start a fire using chopsticks, I want you to use only wood in your life – no more metal, steel or plastic for you, Beth.

I very obviously didn’t imply that we should forego modern amenities. I was merely trying to point out the simple beginnings of cutlery, and much like historical artifacts, chopsticks should be preserved.

And maybe if more Americans used chopsticks, obesity wouldn’t be such a problem here. I find myself eating less when I’m using chopsticks. I mean, seriously, how many obese Asian people do you see (apart from the Sumo wrestlers – and they’re revered in their country)?

Okay, then I want you to sell your Honda Civic and buy a brand new horse. I mean, cars are harmful to the environment (just like obesity is harmful to the body) and the best way to cut down on poisoning the atmosphere would be to not to drive your car. I bet you would travel a lot less if you had to take a horse to go out with your friends. Plus, I don’t think measuring inefficiency is the best way to evaluate something either. I am sure you do eat less because you are using chopsticks; that shows how inefficient they really are when compared to a fork and a spoon. Sort of like how you would travel less on horseback if comparing that to a car.

What is your definition of efficient, Bill? Being able to consume the largest amount of food as fast as you can? That’s not very healthy, if you ask me. Doesn’t your body digest food better when it’s consuming smaller portions in slow increments? Wouldn’t that be more efficient?

When you use chopsticks you carry smaller portions of food and prolongs the duration of the meal. Sure, chopsticks are not for the yuppies-on-the-go, what with all of the fancy schmancy McDonalds in every corner to tempt you with french fries to go with your SuperSized indigestion.

It’s not just a romantic attachment. You just hate it because you can’t use it properly.<

It is a romantic attachment, otherwise you wouldn’t see chopsticks just in Asian restaurants and Beth wouldn’t be saying things like, “they represent humanity’s first step towards civilization.” Eating chopsticks is the equivalent of using a bow and arrow, or staying at a hotel that doesn’t have a television or indoor plumbing, or buying a corded telephone, heck, even sending a letter in the mail to someone who has email – they are all things in the past that we have emotional attachments to, even though technology offers us better and more efficient solutions.

Well, if we took your attitude of dismissing our past simply because we’ve created something far more superior, then we should be able to go ahead and destroy the Coliseum and replace it with something like your Mile High Stadium. While you’re at it let’s just go to some of our oldest museums and trash every priceless piece of artwork you can get your hands on. Why keep those ratty old things when we can make better pictures with our digital cameras! Hell, we can bring people back to life and have them dance with vacuum cleaners because of computers!

This technology of which you hold so much stock in, isn’t all that great, Bill. True, I’ve benefited from technology, and I’m not about to live without it, but even you must admit not everything technology offers is always better.

And what is so wrong with having a romantic attachment to something that was indicative of simpler times….something that is tied to aeons of culture and history that no amount of technological advancement can ever replace?

Did you know that the great scholar, Confucius, who was a vegetarian, helped develop chopsticks? He believed that knives would remind the people of animals being killed in slaughterhouses, and thought they were too violent to be used at the table. They had to find another way to serve their food, and I’m guessing small pieces of wood were all they had.

Yes, there is something definitely very wrong in that indeed. Shame on Confucius for wanting to promote non-violence!

Look, I’m not saying I’d drop my spoon and fork and eat with chopsticks for the rest of my life. I’ll be damned, though, if I let you disrespect an entire culture’s eating habits, especially one so closely tied to my own.

But the point I’d like to drive home is that NO ONE is forcing you to use chopsticks, Bill.

If you agree with Bill, leave a comment on his blog, but if you agree with me, leave me some love here.

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~ by Binibining Beth on October 4, 2005.

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