Acquired Tastes

On June 8, 2013, in Activities, by Catharine Steffens

By William Herold ’14 I’ve always had an aversion to the idea of “acquired tastes.” Originally hearing the idea refer to drinking wine, it always seemed illogical and impractical to me to do something one dislikes many times only in order to like it later. Why would something that few people enjoy the first time be a popular, or even accepted, practice? Only after running full force into a brick wall of cultural difference in Beijing and my concussion healing did I find the answer in those intimidating slivers of wood with which people all around the world struggle. Before this trip, I considered chopsticks, or kuàizi (筷子), to be completely antiquated. After years of battling slippery noodles, dry rice, and other utterly confusing Asian-type foods in Chinese restaurants around Phoenix, I usually just asked for a fork. I always wondered why, with such a rapidly changing environment, China would not change their choice of eating utensils. If the goal of eating is to transport food from the plate to my stomach, the fork is clearly superior to chopsticks. However, only while learning to use chopsticks over the duration of my trip to China have I realized that this assumption was entirely incorrect. The modern goal of eating is to nourish the soul, or hún (魂), with conversation, self-discipline, and poise. While the fork can quickly shovel copious amounts of greasy food down one’s throat, chopsticks can teach a quiet dignity when eating that is unattainable with a fork. Through practice, control, and patience, anyone can use chopsticks well. “Acquired tastes” suddenly seem logical because learning to like something over time is one way to learn different virtues. My trip to China came with all sorts of fantastic experiences, but the most pleasant surprise for me was that it solved several of my philosophical struggles like this idea. So I still think that wine is disgusting, but coming to Beijing helped me discover that chopsticks are the bomb.

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One Response to Acquired Tastes

  1. Sra. Domínguez says:

    Wise words. I loved your entry on this blog. So, what was your favorite food to eat in China with these amazing chopsticks you mention?
    Sra. Domínguez



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