Chopsticks are a very familiar item in the life and culture of the Eastern countries in general, including Vietnam. If the culinary culture of the western people is to use knives, forks, spoons for eating food, then the Easterners mainly use chopsticks and spoons. In Vietnam, the meals of the Vietnamese never absent a pair of chopsticks. Easterners have been taught how to use chopsticks in daily meals since we were little. For me personally, chopsticks are not just daily necessities, they also contain a beautiful culture.
About origin, there are many sources of information about the birth of the chopsticks. But two views are used to say the most about the origin of chopsticks, one belonging to the Chinese, and one is about the ancient Vietnamese. These two points, however, have one thing in common: the wet rice culture of the East. Because most countries have the habit of using chopsticks, they have a long history of rice.
In Vietnam, the chopsticks are thought to be derived from the image of birds using their nebs to pick up food. We all know that Vietnamese people believe in and respect the flamingo (a long-high legged bird, like the white stork). The image of chopsticks is inspired by this bird’s pair of nebs.
Not only a popular item in daily life, a pair of chopsticks is also considered to be important to the Vietnamese because it often used as a metaphor for many everyday problems. The first image that Vietnamese people use chopsticks to metaphor is the conjugal love. By the thinking of Vietnamese people, the chopsticks must be “a pair”. Similar as Vietnamese adults will need to married a person who deserve with them. When the couple’s happiness is not perfect, one would compare with the image of “deflected chopsticks”. Vietnamese people also attach importance to the pair of chopsticks. To be considered a complete pair of chopsticks, the two single one must be exactly the same from the shape, size, length of chopsticks. Especially for pregnant women. Older beliefs suggest that if a pregnant woman does not use the perfect pair of chopsticks, the child could be born with the legs is not equal. Thus, we see another aspect that is the spiritual role of chopsticks in the life of the Vietnamese.
The next value that often use chopsticks for metaphors is family sentiment. Because in Vietnamese culture in particular and the East in general, family members when eating together will often use chopsticks to pick up food for each other. Therefore, the presenter of the meal will have to match the chopsticks to all members of the family. This culture is very rare in the Western world. It not only expresses love but also expresses the bond between members of the family. The most typical example of this is the story of “One chopstick and a bunch of chopsticks” that are almost every Vietnamese knows.
Different from the culture of Korea, Japan… is using chopsticks made from plastic and metal, Vietnamese people use bamboo chopsticks mainly. Bamboo chopsticks are thought to enhance the taste of the meal. This is also perfectly suited to the lives of the Vietnamese because almost every family in the village is associated with the green bamboo trees. Good bamboo chopsticks are usually fragrant smell of bamboo that only delicate ones can feel. I believe that this elitist culture will remain permanently attached to the Vietnamese future very long after.