Di Bawoh Rang Ikang Kering
Random Ramblings of A Retired Retainer


Tuesday, February 22, 2005
(Derumo, my Guest Blogger will take over today's post)

This is my theory on why the Malays and Indians do not use chopstick when eating. In China, the weather is very cold in winter. When they cook their food, it is hot and had to be kept very hot in the cold winter air. It was not possible to use your fingers to retrieve the food- be it porridge, rice, fish or vegetables. So, the best way to get the food was to use the available sticks or bamboos. With one stick / bamboo you can poke the fish /meat /vegetables but you cannot scoop the porridge or rice. Two sticks will be required to pick the food or to shovel it to the mouth. Instead of putting your two fingers to pick up the food, two sticks were better. By the time the food travel from the pot to the mouth, the food was cooled by the air and it is just nice to chew and swallow.

The availability of lots of bamboos in Chinamade it the ideal material for the chopstick. The Europeans had no bamboos but they had other woods and they have to carve it into fork and spoon. It represented the open fingers (check your fork, they always have five fingers - at least mine is) and the closed fingers (spoon/ladle). It is difficult to cut the flesh /meat so you have to hold it. Holding with the fingers is too hot and therefore, the wood carved instruments is used. So, for different purpose, different implements were used by the European. That's why you have to have an armory of eating implements to the left and right of the plate. The Chinese were more practical where the two chop sticks have multipurpose use - they even use it to catch the flies and to pick up coins besides to poke to the enemy's eyes during the kungfu fighting.

In the tropical and desert region, the weather is relatively hot and there is no need to eat your food when it is hot unless you want to get you tongue scalded. Therefore, they waited to cool a bit and there is no need for the fork knife, chopstick since you can use the natural fingers to pick, tear, and put it in your mouth. The palm can be cupped to gather the grain /rice and push it into your mouth. So the Malays and Indians in Malaysia are heating from their hands.

However, you have to be careful to eat with which hand - left or right hand? So there is an etiquette of the use of hand - you don't shake with the left hand (except Baden Powel-Colin Powell's cousin -Baden Powell attacked the Zulus and killed thousand of them while Collin Powell attacked the Iraqi during the Desert Storm and also killed thousand), you don't hand other things to others with the left hand, However, at times you drink water with your left hand holding the glass. . If you're using fork and spoon or chopstick, then you right hand is clean- and you can hold the glass and drink. However, if you're eating in the traditional Malay style - your right hand will be dirtied with rice, gravy and to use it to hold the glass to drink will be bad. So you use your left hand to drink and your left hand to hold the spoon to cedok the lauk. So when you are attending a Malay kenduri, don't bother what your next chair guest say, the glass on you left is yours.

However, the left hand is used just for other specific purpose .i.e. at the toilet or bathroom. Sometimes, we keep wondering why left hand and water is used and not toilet paper. Perhaps, the same theory of cold weather holds where you don't use the cold water to pour over yours.