Takeo deserves the credit for not only teaching me how to eat with chopsticks, but his philosophy that was demonstrated in the use of them. After we moved in together and set up housekeeping, I really wanted to adopt some of the aspects of my new Japanese roommate’s life. One of the more nuanced, tricky practices was to eat with chopsticks. I was all thumbs and would have probably starved to death if not for my BF.
During one of our first meals together, Takeo explained that I had to hold one chopstick perfectly still. The other one moves to pick up a morsel of food. He explained that each chopstick must have an individual role. However, in order to keep your food from dropping, the chopsticks must work together. He smiled at me and said that we can be like chopsticks. We each can enjoy our own particular roles, but to keep our relationship together, we must work together.
Takeo and I often shared meal preparation duties, too. For instance, he might prepare the rice, set the table, and help gather the ingredients for a main dish I’d be cooking. Another day, we’d reverse the roles.
The chopsticks were usually present at most meals, even if the food was western style. Spaghetti was an especially difficult challenge, so we resorted to conventional implements for those meals. Out of habit, chopsticks were still present at both of our places, though.
I can honestly say that the best meals I ever ate were in the company of Takeo. I also must honestly say that the best meals I ever ate were also with my original, biological family while growing up. To be sure, the meals I ate with extended family and friends also fit into this category.
Lately, though, I’ve been taking most of my meals alone. Sometimes, I reminisce about the times the entire family ate dinner, together. In fact, it was a hard and fast rule that we had to be present, together, at the evening dinner table. The only exceptions being absence from home or illness. It was one rule we happily obeyed.
As my two siblings and I grew older, we were integrated into the dinner preparation process, more and more. Mark, the youngest, might set the table, Deb, the middle child, might help with the beverages, and I might help mom stir a pot or mind the skillet. These regular duties, taught us the value of cooperation in the preparation of balanced meals.
During dinner, we all took turns talking about some aspect of our day. Mom might mention an old friend she met at a club meeting. Maybe dad accomplished something amazing at work. We children usually talked about school and friends. All of us kept informed about family doings while we nourished our bodies with wholesome, tasty food.
On weekends, we often ate three meals together on either Saturday or Sunday, sometimes both days. Holidays were the same, but sometimes we’d share meals with grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins at our place or theirs. I fondly remember those meals with extended family as some of the very best.
Even though I less frequently share meals with someone else, I do treasure the breakfasts, lunches, and dinners shared with others. Whether the meals are at home or at a restaurant, the food seems better with good company.