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Erik's Chopsticks Gallery

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) and Trivia

Last Updated 2000-01-02

Why do you collect chopsticks?
Where are chopsticks used traditionally and/or on a daily basis?
What are chopsticks made of?
When, where and how were chopsticks invented?
What about the environmental impact of using chopsticks?
Are reusable chopsticks sanitary?
How do I clean and care for my chopsticks?


Why do you collect chopsticks?

Why chopsticks? They're not Pokemon, Beanie Babies, etc., and the mere fact that you can't buy them at the corner gas station along with prepaid phone cards or get them free with your hamburger is enough to make finding them half the fun. I got started a long time ago, because I thought those inexpensive wood chopsticks with the decal print designs were attractive and practical. Since then, I don't go out of my way for those mass-produced ones. As you can see, I am actively seeking (and finding) those truly unique and interesting specimens.

Where are chopsticks used traditionally and/or on a daily basis?

Chopsticks are used in Japan, China, Korea,... The Japanese call them "hashi" (or sometimes "ohashi.") The disposable chopsticks are called "waribashi" and chopsticks rests are called "hashi-oki." Chopsticks are called "Kuai Zi" by the Chinese. In Korea, chopsticks are called "jhuk kha rak", and are usually made of metal. I believe chopsticks are frequently used in Vietnam as well.

Chopsticks are not used in Thailand. Filipinos traditionally eat with their hands.

What are chopsticks made of?

You'd be surprised! - Everything from the familiar bamboo and wood to metal, bone, ivory, plastic; and ornamentation ranging from stone to abalone or mother of pearl inlay, including precious metals and gems. I'd love to hear of more unusual materials or designs anyone has seen.

When, where and how were chopsticks invented?

I am currently researching this subject, and welcome any and all contributions of relevant history or anecdotes.

See also: Journal Article: "Getting to Grips with the Perfect Chopsticks" New Scientist, 1996-February, 17, page 6

What about the environmental impact of using chopsticks?

Generally, I'm against using disposable chopsticks. It is a tremendous waste of wood, especially according to some environmental advocacy organizations. However, some manufacturers deny accusations of cutting virgin wood for chopsticks, using only the 'scrap' pieces for disposable chopsticks production. External Links:

Are reusable chopsticks sanitary?

This is a issue of reasonable concern. Disposable wood and bamboo chopsticks are, of course, not reusable, especially by restaurants. However, restaurants that use plastic chopsticks normally wash and reuse them just like any other flatware. Unless they develop cracks or gouges, chopsticks can be sanitized every bit as well as plastic cutting boards and plastic dishes. It is my understanding that the sanitary codes for restaurants dictate a very high water temperature to eliminate bacteria. I don't think any restaurants reuse non-disposable wood or bamboo chopsticks, even though it is a matter of debate whether wood is a natural antibacterial agent. See: How do I clean and care for my chopsticks? External Links:
Are Chopsticks Unhealthy? [Broken Link].

How do I clean and care for my chopsticks?

If you regularly use ordinary non-disposable wood, bamboo or plastic chopsticks at home, you will probably wash them by hand in hot soapy water. I have never tried using a dishwashing machine. Placing the chopsticks in a mesh bag might keep them from flying around the dishwasher (getting broken and jamming the mechanism), but might prevent thorough washing and rinsing.

Quality wood or lacquer chopsticks should be washed immediately after use. Wash them by hand in mild soapy water (use antibacterial soap if you prefer), unless the manufacturer suggests otherwise. Wood should be re-oiled after being wiped completely dry. Rub the chopsticks with any edible oil (such as vegetable oil). Extended exposure to water can ruin the finish or raise the wood grain, making the chopsticks feel rough. Re-oiling wood chopsticks, as well as wood bowls and spoons, can restore the smooth finish.

 


 

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