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While the precise origins of chopsticks are unknown (the first chopsticks may have been twigs used to spear a roast cooked over an open fire) they were definitely in use by the Shang dynasty (1766 BC - 1122 BC). Their enduring popularity since that time may actually be linked to Chinese cooking methods - before stir-frying the food is cut into tiny pieces, making them easy to manipulate with a chopstick. In the west, where fork eaters are in the majority, it is sometimes easy to forget that the fork has only recently become an essential item at the dinner table. True, the Byzantines used forks in the 10th century, and Catherine de M'edici introduced the pointed tines to the French court in the early 1500s. But in the United States, it wasn't until the eighteenth century that people felt the need for more than a knife and spoon. By contrast, chopsticks have been the utensil of choice thoughout all of China since the Han dynasty (approximately 200 BC to 200 AD).

 

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Chopsticks – A Cultural Phenomenon

Given its prominence in Asian culture, it is not surprising that chopsticks have transcended the boundaries of food. Poems have been written about them, and researchers at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University put the basic concept behind chopsticks to good use when designing the Mars Rock Corer. Studies have been conducted on whether chopstick usage helps improve memory, and whether it can aid children in learning to write Chinese. But whether you wrap your noodles around your fork or pick them up with chopsticks, here are some recipes for you to enjoy (and hopefully use to perfect your chopstick skills!)

 

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