July 29, 2003

Ditch chopsticks, Malaysians told

Chopstick use is thought to go back at least 5,000 years.
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia -- Chinese diners in Malaysia are being urged to ditch centuries of gastronomic tradition and ditch their chopsticks in favor of serving spoons.
Health Minister Datuk Chau Jui Ming said diners enjoying the favored pastime of communal dining should avoid dipping in with their chopsticks in order to stop the spread of infectious diseases like SARS.
"Chinese should kick the habit of using their own chopsticks to pick up food," the Star newpaper quoted Chua as saying.
He said other types of restaurants provided common serving spoons for their dishes, greatly reducing the risk of diners spreading disease via their saliva.
The clatter of chopsticks diving into shared dishes has been a feature of Chinese dining for centuries.
According to some historians chopsticks first emerged as an eating utensil about 5,000 years ago, starting off as rudimentary twigs.
Among those thought to have influenced the development of chopsticks is the scholar Confucious, who lived from 551 to 479 BC.
A strict vegetarian Confucious said knives would remind people of slaughterhouses and were too violent for use at the dining table.