MARK’S ARTICLE -- August 13, 2010
“Eating with pointy things”
Have you noticed how some Chinese restaurants are now calling themselves Asian? Same menu, just with a different restaurant name. Have you noticed that? Well, you need to start paying attention to stuff.
Not only Chinese, but many oriental-style-eating establishments are now calling themselves “Asian.” Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Chinese… They’re going “Asian”
I really don’t know why that is. I’m assuming that “Asian” makes you think there’s a wider variety of food. Let’s face it, Asia covers a lot of area. Not only do you have China, Japan, Korea and Vietnam, but you also Russia, Kazakhstan, Iran, India, Nepal, Turkmenistan and a few dozen other countries. If your restaurant can cater to the taste of all those places, you’ve got an encyclopedic menu and a cook that’s certifiably bonkers.
I mention that to mention this. Montgomery County food critic Brad Meyer and I ate lunch at one of Montgomery County’s Asian restaurants last week. It was a place where the guy does the cooking at your table while he jokes around and throws the knife and spatula into the air. Something I’ve been practicing. Kay is not completely on board with the idea.
Both times I’ve eaten Asian with Brad, I’ve always tried to use chopsticks just so I won’t appear a yokel. That’s what snobs think when you don’t eat right. Snobby Brad comes to mind.
While I was sitting there trying to deliver fried rice to my mouth with two pointed sticks, I got to thinking… which was hard to do because most of my active brain cells were trying to work the chopsticks. At one point I said, “How the Sam Hill did anything like this ever catch on?”
Brad said something like, “Rice? It’s pretty much the staple in a lot of Asian countries. We’ve got mashed potatoes; they’ve got rice. Try to adapt.” The guy can be such a goob.
It just boggles my mind how a person would think to pick up a small pointed stick and then another, and all of sudden say, “Voila!” (or “Wingraw!” in Chinese) “These would be perfect for eating my rice!”
What kind of genius would come up with something like that? I’d come closer to understanding the time/space continuum than figuring out the intricacies of eating food with two pointed sticks.
The chopstick inventor was so much brighter than the person who invented the wheel. Just about anybody could see a good use in something that was round that rolled. But, two pointy sticks? Short of poking at stuff, what are you gonna do with ‘em? A genius, I’m telling you.
The biggest task would be to get others to accept the invention. Can you imagine the first guy who heard the inventor’s spiel? -- “Okay, do that again, only slower this time. – No, I’m just not buying it.” -- The inventor had to be the best salesman in the world. Today, there are a couple billion people in Asia eating with two pointed sticks. Each is so much more talented than I.
That’s why I dropped my sticks and drew a fork early into the meal. I can shovel so much better than I can pinch.
This has nothing to do with anything, but I really liked it.
Speaking of forks, those buddies didn’t just land in our laps. Took a lot of figuring to come up with pronged stabbers. The Greeks were the first to leave behind evidence of fork use. This was back when B.C. was real close to your A.D.s. Hey, I researched this stuff. Not so much the Chopsticks. Did you pick up on that?
While the Greeks were fairly smart, they never thought to put more than two tines on their forks. And, they just used ‘em for serving, not eating. That’s where the saying, “Okay, fork it over!” came into play. Possibly.
It took 1400 years for the fork to make its way to Europe. The Italians were the first to accept the concept, and they only adopted it because of spaghetti. Do you remember the last time you ate spaghetti with your hands? Whatta mess! Kay still gets after me for that. Even with a two-pronged fork, spaghetti can be a struggle. It wasn’t until the 17th Century that someone decided to add a third prong. They’d been looking at statues of Poseidon with his trident forever, yet no one grasped the concept of a fork with more than two tines. Renaissance my posterior.
Eventually, a mathematician decided to put a fourth tine on the fork. People went nuts. That’s when people started hitting the mashed potatoes pretty hard. A couple of real smarty-pants tried to put six tines on a fork, but were laughed out of Europe. Their names were Gillette and Schick. More is always better? Get real.
The British didn’t embrace the fork until the 1750s. They used it for about 60 years before someone thought to put a little curve in the tines. A little dip. After this, the British (most of ‘em) substituted a fork for a knife when eating their peas. It would be several decades later before North America started forking stuff. It was about the same time spaghetti reached the continent.
And, it was about 20 minutes into the meal before Brad got rid of his chopsticks and grabbed his fork. Whatta loser. “How are those two pointy sticks doing for you now, big guy! How’s it feel to be a member of the yokel club?” I didn’t really say that to him, because he hadn’t paid for my meal yet. Just ‘cause I can’t operate chopsticks doesn’t meal I’m a complete idiot.
To catch Brad Meyer and Mark’s review of Benihana's click on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=29_nxywmEH8.