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Yesterday on Angeliki's blog she mentioned her European cutlery habits
(as I called them) and her method of swirling pasta with a fork against
a spoon. Which got me to thinking about forks. The origin of the fork
is shrouded in mystery, but most seem to agree that it was a medieval
invention. I have also heard tell that Henry VIII of England was the
originator of the fork, but most likely he simply made its use more
popular. In any case the fork is certainly a convenient utensil. It can
be used to take up a good portion of food and bring it to the mouth and
it can also be used in a stabbing fashion to pick up pieces of meat or
vegetables.

But not everybody in the world uses a fork. Millions of people around
the globe use chopsticks. When I was a young man in my early twenties
I decided that it was time to learn to use chopsticks. I had always loved
oriental food, and it seemed fitting to eat it in the traditional way.
So I started learning. And I think I got pretty good at it. I was never
good enough so that I could pick up a single grain of rice (the usual
benchmark). But I could pick up a single pea. Not bad. Besides, I don't
know anybody who would want to eat rice one grain at a time — Zen
buddhist monks perhaps excluded.

Then in 1984 while I was living in Dallas I went to a local Thai restaurant
in my neighborhood — very good food there. I ordered a couple of dishes
and when they brought them I started eating them with the chopsticks, as
usual. As I ate I noticed a group of people across the room. They were
probably Thai themselves, my guess is related to the owners. There were
about 8 of them sitting at a big table.

And then I noticed something strange: Not one of them were using chopsticks.
They were all using forks.

I considered that a good lesson. Forget about "being cool" or the traditional
way — forks were much more convenient. After that I always used a fork for
oriental food.

Well early this month I went to my local Ming Wah restaurant and got an
order of Kung Po Chicken (extra hot, of course) to go. Once I got home
and put it all into a bowl with some rice I started to grab a fork, automatically.
But then I stopped. I got to wondering if I could even use chopsticks it
had been so long. So I got out a set.

As it turned out I still had the technique. But I noticed something else
as well. With a fork you can pretty much just load the stuff into your
mouth. The tendency is to eat bigger bites and to eat faster. Using the
chopsticks, though, slows you down. And you tend to take much smaller
bites at any one time.

Smaller bites and a slower process. Which has to be better for the
digestion; and also makes you eat less and not get fat.

I don't think I'm going to stop using a fork. But I do think I'll go back
to using chopsticks for the oriental dishes.