This famous phrase forms the bases for my new line of inquiry. We live in a world obsessed by what we eat – whether you’re addicted to junk food, whether you overshare great restaurants and recipes on Instagram or are just simply confused about which products suit your ethics. Food is a big part of our contemporary society in the UK.
Today I ate:
- Porridge with blueberries, sultanas and nuts.
- 2 slices of toast with peanut butter.
- Mackerel and broccoli stir-fry with rice.
- 9 chicken McNuggets
- 1 McDonald’s Hamburger
- 1 Big Mac
- 1 small fries.
The last four helpings were all in the name of art, I promise (more to follow shortly). I can still feel the last bite of the Big Mac trapped somewhere. But what I have just offered up is an opportunity to judge me, and we all do it. We define ourselves by where we eat and what we eat.
At my birthday meal last week everyone at the table was using chopsticks proficiently. Being proficient is one thing, but chopsticks are still more difficult to operate…so why use them in place of a knife and fork? I use chopsticks at every oriental meal, I even used them for the mackerel stir-fry I ate earlier…at home. Yet still I was surprised that ten people elected to use chopsticks over a knife and fork.
Reasons for using chopsticks:
- Oriental meal – etiquette, the proper way.
- Authentic – despite the challenge.
- Demonstrates cultural awareness.
- Social pressures- being seen to be doing the right thing.
Now, living in a multicultural city is clearly the most obvious reason why every guest at the meal had learned to use this authentic method of eating. Exposure to different foods etc is common in the city. I will normally dine out at least one night a week. One night in a month will easily be pan Asian…and I will use chopsticks.
However, what interests me is that I didn’t need to learn this skill. A knife and fork is nearly always offered alongside chopsticks. I only ever used a knife and fork back home on the Isle of Wight and likely it it is still the same for many people today. In most rural areas around the UK it could even be considered pretentious to use chopsticks.
The chopstick is quickly becoming an object that speaks of my cultural journey over the past fourteen years. It highlights the differences between my rural upbringing and my present city life, through the food I eat and the tools I use.