I am in Denver this week attending the Ph.D. residency, a required module for my study. My husband has a good friend who lives in the area and he graciously offered to let us stay with him and his wife. We were having dinner in one of the Japanese restaurants with them one night and I could not help but decide to write about this little incident.
Both my husband and his friend love sushi. They ordered over 15 varieties of nigiri sushi and sushi rolls among two of them. I noticed that his wife did not eat the sushi but would use her chopsticks to take the sushi to her husband's plate. According to the couple, she does not like sushi at all, but enjoys the experience of using chopsticks to serve her husband with the sushi pieces.
It seemed a bit odd to me, but I thought that was sweet of her to do that (her husband could use chopsticks perfectly, but I thought they just enjoyed the dinner time more by doing that among themselves).
Her husband was asking for a piece of tuna sushi while she picked up the salmon sushi at first. While her husband told her that it was the wrong piece, she began poking at different pieces with her chopsticks and asked if that was tuna or not.
That raised my eyebrow. For both Japanese and Chinese table manner, once you use your chopsticks to touch a piece of food, that piece "belongs" to you. You are supposed to pick it up with your chopsticks nicely and transfer it to your own rice bowl or plate. It is considered rude if you poke at different pieces of food with your own chopsticks. For those who are lost in this Asian table manner episode, consider using your own fork poking at whatever you see on a buffet table.
She even tried to be neat and grouped all the scattered pieces together. Both my husband and I finally put our chopsticks down and called it a night. We felt that it might be impolite to tell the couple on the spot and decided to bring it up casually the next day.
Moral of the story: Treat the chopsticks as your fork or spoon. Use serving chopsticks, forks or spoons when getting food from a plate that you are sharing with others. You can use your own chopsticks to pick up individual pieces of food, such as sushi or egg roll. Be careful not to touch other pieces while you are doing that.