Dinner date with the wife at a Japanese restaurant. Nice place. Tucked away in the subterranean corner of a shopping mall. We actually had to use a MAP to find it inside the building. Not kidding.
The first thing I notice as soon as we are seated is a pair of chopsticks put there for each of us. (Heh heh… yeah, right! They expect me to eat with THESE?) The smirk on my face fades away as soon as I hear, “Hey, do you want to try eating with chopsticks? Let’s try, come on! It’ll be fun!”
Now if you haven’t heard of male ego, then you’re a male. So there I go, head held high, chest puffed up and ready to face Armageddon. I ruined my evening with one word: “Ok”.
I now begin to feel the map was just the beginning.
Now this restaurant was expecting a lot of chopstick-illiterate chaps like me. So they even printed instructions on the wrapper. With line drawings of long, delicate fingers. Not like mine at all.
Brilliant! Ok, relax. I can do this. Primary objective: Make sure the food survives the journey from plate to mouth, without falling back into my plate or that of the big dude at the next table. Secondary objec… well, let’s just forget the drawings because I’ll never look THAT graceful eating with chopsticks. Not even if I am born Japanese for the next 6 lives.
So wife and I begin our training. Chopsticks 101.
- Take chopstick number one and hold it between your thumb and forefinger. No, not at the fingertips. You know that webbed, folded corner between the two fingers? The one you hardly use because you are not a duck? THAT one. (Funny, I never noticed until today that it reminds me of a T-Rex)
- Now hold chopstick number two between the fingertips.
- Keep chopstick one still and move chopstick two like you’re writing with a pencil.
- Now pick up food, bring it towards your mouth (now my hand is quivering like crazy, as if I just heard someone say “Let’s watch ‘New York‘ again!”)
- FINALLY reach the destination (home, sweet home) and grab the food like a hungry shark before it can slip away
- Repeat process until you die of a thumb cramp
First course. Soup and veg salad. I almost told the waitress she might as well take the salad away because I never touch bland, boring food. Ever. But I wanted to warm up before a grand-scale embarrassment with the main course. So I picked up a few strands of grated carrot from the salad bowl, carefully led them away from gravity and successfully dropped them into my soup. Primary objective failed.
Wife on the other hand, was attacking the vegetables like a pro. This is supposed to be her first attempt at using chopsticks? Great. Just Great. I stared at her for five whole minutes, while a chandlerbing-style thought ran in my head, “Look at her GO! It’s as if she was a samurai in her previous life. What’s wrong with ME? Oooh… don’t open THAT door!”
Ok, time for a break. Few spoonfuls of soup later, I’m back in the arena. Little piece of cabbage is precariously perched between two thin wooden points… slowly and VERY VERY UNSTEADILY rising from the earth… and we’re almost ther… OOPS! My fingers just moved a quarter of a nanometer and the cabbage escaped, spinning and soaring through the stratosphere in slow motion and landed with a big splash in the soup.
Not my soup.
My darling wife looks up with an expression that says, “You are one friggin’ step away from becoming sushi”. Ok, that’s enough of the salad for me, thank you.
Main course. Wife orders a chicken-shrimp-noodle-something. After half an hour of listening to the waitress pronounce weird names of the vegetarian entrees, I decide to go with a safe choice, “I’ll have whatever she is having. But I am a vegetarian. So could you make mine with no meat?” Now I don’t know the Japanese word for ‘freak’, but I’m 100% certain the waitress used it then.
The food arrived. Looking oily, brown, extreme-fried. DELICIOUS! Just when I’m about to dig in, the wife points to some white-ish blobs at a corner of my plate and asks the waitress, “Isn’t that shrimp?” I said, “What? NO… that can’t be shrimp. Mine is the veggie dish. No meat”, and looked up at the waitress with an expression of hope and desperation. “Right? Please say yes”
The waitress takes one look at my plate and says, “No. No meeth” (Sweet relief!) “Only shRRimp”
Me: (WTF!) “What?”
She: “Yes, yes. No meeth. Only shRRimp. You eeth seafood. You like ith”
Me: “No, no. I don’t eat ANY kind of meat. Not even seafood”
Her expression could only have one meaning. You poor bastard. I pity your sad little life.
She: “In my counthry, we eeth seafood AND we eeth meeth” (Fantastic country!) “It’s okay. You wanth me to puth your noodles on another plathe?”
Me: (What exactly is the point of THAT?) “No, the plate is fine. Thanks. Just remove the shrimps. That should be ok”
Exit shRRimp. Now let’s double-check. Noodles. Oil. Cabbage (Not AGAIN!). Onions. Deep-fried onions. Mega-fried onions. Soy sauce. Broccoli. Tomatoes. CHOPSTICKS! (Mommy!!)
A solid piece of cabbage didn’t survive the trip to my mouth. Now I’ve got a big, entangled mass of oily noodles sniggering at me. I wait for the waitress to leave, so I can embarrass myself in peace. But she is engrossed in an animated conversation with my wife about ‘my counthry, your counthry’.
Finally I picked up the tattered bits of my beaten ego and feebly asked her for the one and only thing I wanted in the whole, wide world.