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Thanks to a somewhat curious nature and an upbringing that featured daily interactions with people from all over the globe, I've gone through life with a certain willingness to appreciate other cultures. I readily admit all that I know isn't all that there is, and there are things beyond our shores worth understanding and potentially even embracing.

However, I just don't get chop sticks. And it's not chop sticks' fault.

Not that they, or worldwide wielders of chop sticks, are likely too concerned. I mean, there are a lot more of them than there are of me. In fact, there are a lot more of them than there are of anybody, so as long as there isn't some dinnerware version of the Electoral College, if there was a vote, chop sticks would win.

As with most things, my confusion about chop sticks as an eating utensil of choice follows a somewhat sour-grapes-ian arch that begins with me scattering food like a deranged orangutan at feeding time, then nearly blinding myself. It then moves somewhat quickly through my denouncement of tools favored by much of the world as a stupid idea designed to drive us crazy and bring down Western civilization.

Which is completely unreasonable, an incredibly "Ugly American" attitude and ... about par for the course.

The thing is, I both understand this and own my issue. I am, clearly, wrong. I should be more open to the experience of dining with a utensil that predates virtually every single element of Western culture except all the stuff covered in the Ten Commandments.

However, as narrow as my scope of thinking admittedly is, I can't help but conjecture, "You had thousands of years to come up with a way to eat stuff, and the best you could do was two sharp sticks?"

I mean, I get it. The tools we use aren't always that great, either. You have to figure out which of the forks is for your salad, which is for dessert and which is for stabbing your brother under the table (hint: the longest one). With knives and spoons for this and that and every other gazpacho, we've tend to go with the "more is better" theory of cutlery, at least until the invention of the Spork. OK, even after the "invention" of the Spork.

If, from an early age, you had been taught to use chop sticks, the process of handling dumplings or picking up small grains of rice is second nature. And you'd be wondering exactly what I'm doing over here flinging pieces of Orange Peel Chicken around and stabbing myself in the face.

I, on the other hand, am considering the assurance that "if you put in the effort, you'll get the hang of it," and wondering if the act of eating is something I really want to have to work at. I'm one step away from using my fingers for everything, including more than just the croutons in my salad, so adding a training requirement probably isn't going to land with me.

I mean, sure. If I practiced really hard at using chop sticks, I'd probably pick it up. And if I practiced really hard at Acapulco cliff diving, I might be good at that, too. It's just all the bad stuff that might happen first sort of negates any potential benefit.

I mention all this not just because I want to rip on someone else's eating habits. Or because using chop sticks is sort of like Madonna speaking with the British accent. Trying a little hard, aren't we?

However, studies indicate that, in order to stay sharp mentally (hey, any port in a storm here), you should try new, unusual things. Take up a musical instrument. Do Sudoku. Learn Bulgarian. Eat with chop sticks.

And since all those other things sound super hard, I landed (not literally, thankfully) on chopsticks.

Commentary on 07/27/2018

Print Headline: Picking up new skills

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