When I was studying at National Taiwan University in Taipei, I saw a pair of stainless-steel, reusable, portable chopsticks for sale at the gift shop. Since at this point I was eating every meal with chopsticks (except, of course, for my glorious fantuan breakfast–more on that in a future post!), and they were only a couple bucks, I figured I would pick up a pair for a more satisfying and sustainable chopstick experience.
As anyone who has eaten at a Chinese restaurant in the US knows, chopsticks often come in the disposable variety, which are made of either bamboo or wood–often in a single piece that you break apart. Well, when you figure that there are well over a billion people in the Chinese-speaking world, and almost all of them are using chopsticks for almost every meal, if even a fraction of those chopsticks are disposable, that adds up to a whole lot of timber. In fact, I didn’t really think about this until I read a recent Washington Post article about how China’s use of disposable chopsticks is a major contributor to deforestation. Although I didn’t realize the full scale of it at the time, back in 2008 it did occur to me that the more I used my reusable chopsticks, the more trees I would be saving.
However, to be totally honest, the main reason I liked (and still like!) using my stainless-steel pair is that it makes me feel like a real chopstick pro. These things come in a little case, and to fit in there they each come in two pieces that screw together–like two tiny pool hustler’s cues! Every time I use them, I feel like James Bond assembling a weapon, preparing to exercise my license to kill on a plate of dumplings or a dish of pad thai. Jen feels this makes me look a little weird (rightly, I might add), so she has asked me not to use them at the Chinese buffet. So sadly, they don’t see as much use these days. I do still keep them in my backpack at work though, and have more than once used them in a pinch to eat my lunch when I forget to bring a spoon or a fork. Jen probably did not intend her bean burgers to be eaten that way, but you have to make due with what you have.
As it turns out, you can buy reusable stainless-steel chopsticks online that seem pretty much identical to the ones I use. Now after realizing the plight of China’s forests, I like to think using them is both fun and crunchy–thus killing two birds with one arrow (as the saying goes in Chinese).