Posts Tagged “food”

The first time I was ever complimented on my chopsticks use was while I was living in Reno. I was sitting in Meadowood Mall food court eating my Panda Express chicken teriyaki bowl on some lazy afternoon, and this random Asian couple actually came over to my table to ask me where I learned to use chopsticks. Thinking I was doing something wrong, I replied that I had just figured it out on my own, and how should I be doing it? Through seemingly non-native English, they replied that I was using a specifically Japanese grip. I was confused, but didn’t think much of it.

Over the years, I’ve had a couple of other people mention that I hold my chopsticks in an unusual way, but still thought nothing of it. However, since moving to Japan five months ago, I’ve been complimented on my chopsticks usage by half a dozen random Japanese people (including my Japanese teacher, my school’s manager, and the ramen slinger at a shop near my apartment), most recently this afternoon.

I occasionally eat lunch with my Japanese teacher after our lesson, and today she told me about a traditional Japanese-style restaurant with a lunch counter (which doubles as a sushi bar) a few blocks away. I don’t really have any way of finding little hole in the wall restaurants in the area on my own, so I gladly accepted the invite.

During the meal, she told me the special names for soy sauce and green tea when each is paired with sushi (both of which I promptly forgot), and quizzed me on my ability to describe my surroundings in Japanese. When we were each paying for our lunches, a waitress asked her about my chopsticks, and described my usage as “more Japanese than most of our customers.”

Having finally had enough of the mystery, I wanted to know what was up with how I use my chopsticks. After a brief discussion, I learned that I hold my chopsticks in an “elegant” and “noble” manner. Apparently, when Japanese kids grow up, they tend to grip the chopsticks in whatever manner gets food to their mouths in the most expedient way possible (and don’t bother relearning), but children of high upper class families have a specific way they hold their chopsticks, which I’ve accidentally taught myself.

From the way she was describing it, I’d analogize it with the difference between a Cockney accent and Received Pronunciation.

So I guess I’m one step closer to being Japanese than I thought. If only I could speak the language.

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