Picking Up Some Chopstick Wisdom

"Chopsticks: A Cultural and Culinary History," a new book by Professor Edward Wang, is a trove of chopstick trivia.

Photo courtesy of Veer

Think you know all there is to know about chopsticks? Probably not, says Edward Wang, professor of history and coordinator of Asian Studies at Rowan University in Glassboro. The Cherry Hill resident’s new book, Chopsticks: A Cultural and Culinary History (Cambridge University Press), can fix that.

Growing up in Shanghai, Wang learned early on from his mother the proper use of chopsticks.  “When I was five, we spent an afternoon, two to three hours, with her instructing me,” he says. The key, he says, is keeping the lower stick stable and using the upper stick like a claw to pick up food.

Along the way, Wang, 57, snapped up a trove of chopstick trivia. Here are 10 tasty tidbits:

1. Chopsticks have been used for more than 7,000 years.

2. More than 1.5 billion people eat with chopsticks daily.

3. Some Chinese rulers used silver chopsticks to detect arsenic in food. The poison discolors the metal.

4. Chopsticks are helpful in dieting as they slow eating.

5. Lacquer prolongs the life of chopsticks.

6. Since chopsticks are used in pairs, they make popular wedding gifts across Asia.

7. Disposable chopsticks were used in Japan as early as the 7th century.

8. Chopsticks are used in fortune telling and martial arts.

9. Training chopsticks for children were developed several decades ago in Japan. The upper stick has rings to help kids correctly place their index and middle fingers.

10. Chopsticks vary in length. They are 20 centimeters (nearly 8 inches) in Japan and 25 centimeters (nearly 10 inches) in China.

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