As part of Janet's series based on her question: "What can you teach?", I am going to teach you how to use chopsticks. If you already know how to use them, I can probably make it easier on you. Those following along at home will need:
A pair of chopsticks
I will be demonstrating with a nice pair from my parents, but go ahead and raid your local take-out place for some wooden ones.
Some easy-to-grab food
When I ran an activity about chopsticks in college (for real --- it counted as an educational program), I used popcorn as a training food because it's light, sturdy, and has lots of handy nooks and crannies to grab. For today's demo, I will be using strawberries, because that's what I was eating for breakfast.
So, let's get started! First, place the bottom chopstick in your writing hand in the crook of your thumb and resting on your ring finger. The skinny tip should point in the same direction as your fingers. I'm making a shadow-puppet bunny to show you that the index and middle fingers are free to move about.
Handy Tip #1: You want to have more distance between the skinny tip of the chopstick and your ring finger than there is between your ring finger and the fat end. It's like a fulcrum, so the longer the distance, the less effort you have to exert for more force. For this pair of chopsticks, I go a little more than halfway, but depending on the length, I'm as far as 2/3 along the chopstick.
Next, place the second chopstick between your thumb, middle, and index fingers, similar to how you might hold a pen to write with it. Do your best to make the chopsticks parallel and that both ends line up.
Now, let's get those chopsticks together! Using your thumb, index, and middle fingers, move the top chopstick downward so that it meets the bottom one.
Handy Tip #2: The bottom chopstick does not move! It just hangs out, and the top one does all the work. So, let's practice opening and closing the chopsticks for a bit.
Watch the scissor action! Keep that bottom one still!
Got it? Okay, turn to your practice food item. First, figure out how to grab your food. Everything has an easy and a hard way to grab it; sometimes it takes some experience, but a lot of times, it's common sense. Let's take my breakfast strawberries:
On the left, we have the easy way: I'm taking advantage of a natural indentation in the fruit, and the force of my chopsticks is helping me hang on to it. On the right, we have the oh-so-much-harder way: I'm pushing into the strawberry from the outside in, and the slick skin is not helping. This is when most people develop hand cramps.
Handy Tip #3: Always go for the easy way of grabbing things. I know it sounds obvious, but it will make things so much faster and easier. For example, go for sushi from the side, not from the top, so you are less likely to squish out all the goodness.
With a little practice, you can become a chopsticks master! However, if all else fails:
Handy Tip #4: It's okay to shovel food into your mouth. I'm serious! If you have a bowl of rice, and say, an order of beef and broccoli, put some beef and sauce over your rice, put your bowl up to your mouth, and use the chopsticks to push the food into your mouth. This is completely acceptable, and really, the only way to eat rice with chopsticks.
Good luck! I'm confident that you will move from popcorn to real food in no time at all.