My friends were recently sharing instructions on how to eat sushi on Facebook. Well, I’m here to tell you that not only were they eating sushi wrong, if they follow those instructions they are STILL eating it wrong.
Here’s the deal: You don’t need to use chopsticks. Ever. Not for Japanese food, not for Chinese food, and certainly not for Thai food.
I eat chirashi with a spoon. Yes, a spoon. It doesn’t matter if that’s not how Yukio Mishima ate his chirashi before he committed Seppuku—with a spoon I get all the delicious soy sauce and wasabi-soaked rice at the bottom of the bowl without difficulty. And that’s what eating utensils are for.
Yes, my dear westerners, I can hear you saying, But you’re Mexican, not Asian! That’s precisely my point—I didn’t grow up using chopsticks, and there’s no reason why I should start now.
Your attempts at eating Asian food like a native don’t make you more authentic. In fact, sometimes it’s quite the opposite. For example, the Thai rarely ever use chopsticks. So it turns out that all along you’ve just been proving to the waiters at SriPraPhai that you’re a pretentious American.
Before you run off to Google how they eat food at every country in Asia, take a minute to think it through. Why would you? Why should you? Just because Koreans use chopsticks doesn’t mean you have to any more than they should have to use a fork to eat mac and cheese.
What if I like using chopsticks, you ask? Two friends who were fortunate enough to hear my rant in person said the same thing. I answered their question with another question: Then why do you use chopsticks only for Asian food?
I can tell you’re still not convinced. Maybe you’ll listen to the mighty Sylvia Plath (from The Bell Jar):
This poet ate his salad with his fingers, leaf by leaf, while talking to me about the antithesis of nature and art. I couldn’t take my eyes off the pale, stubby white fingers traveling back and forth from the poet’s salad bowl to the poet’s mouth with one dripping lettuce leaf after another. Nobody giggled or whispered rude remarks. The poet made eating salad with your fingers seem to be the only natural and sensible thing to do.
Got it? Now, go eat your sushi in comfort. And don’t feel obligated to order sake or a Japanese beer with it, either. Have a Mexican beer!
When you’re done I’ll tell you why it’s so dumb to put a slice of lime in your Corona.