My wife and I were having lunch at Sapporo, a sushi restaurant in Ocean Beach. I like this joint. The food is good and the prices are excellent, and the Japanbience is toned down, which is to say, the servers aren't wearing kimonos; nor is there a sunken pebble garden in the center of the room, shoji blinds in the corner or Fu Manchu fonts on the menu, and classic rock, not Japanese flutes, plays at a low volume in the dining room. Not that there's anything wrong with heavy Japanbience, I just like that at Sapporo, there's a good chance you won't get a dirty look if you ask for a fork instead of using the chopsticks.
Yup, it's true—I'm that guy: Mr. Ask For Fork (AFF) at Asian restaurants.
Now, I know that AFF guys are despised. But I don't understand why. It just didn't work out between Chopsticks and me. After years of heartbreak, failure, embarrassment and terrible arguments, we decided to go our separate ways. Now, whenever I run into Chopsticks, I just nod hello and goodbye—then enjoy dinner with my steely companion, Fork.
So, the problem isn't really with Chopsticks anymore; the problem is my chopstick-snobby friends, and family, and yes, even my wife—the Grand Imperial Wizard of chopstick supremacists—who recoils in horror whenever I ask for a fork, as if my request is somehow insulting to the servers, the establishment and the entire continent of Asia.
The pathetic thing, however, is the servers often are insulted by this. Over the years, I've received many nasty reactions to my fork requests, as if I'd just asked a Christian-bookstore clerk where I could find the Barely Legal magazines. But I don't care. I'm paying good money to enjoy this meal, and eating rice with chopsticks is like drinking beer from a thimble.
What I do care about, though, is my wife's reaction, which would have been to roll her eyes in a way that said, “You disgust me, and I want a divorce” then team up with the waitress so they could tag-mock me throughout the meal.
So, I grunted my discontent, picked up the sticks and—while my inner AFF-man howled at me with mirth—began futilely poking my salad like a drunken, blind drag-queen in bed with a woman for the first time.
Question: If Chopsticks and Fork were to get into a fight, who would win? It turns out there's an ongoing debate about this on the web. And it turns out lots of people believe Chopsticks would win, because it's two against one. However, anybody with a booger for a brain or bigger will know that to be stupiculous. Fork is made of metal and has sharp points. Chopsticks are usually made from flimsy wood or plastic. It may be two against one—if the two are the Olsen twins and the one is Megatron. What're the Olsen twins gonna do to defeat Megatron, play keep-away with a potsticker? No! One fork would kick a thousand chopsticks' asses. It is, by far, the superior utensil—especially when it comes to salads.
With chopsticks, you pretty much have to settle for whatever specks are still on the sticks by the time they reach your mouth. But with the fork, you can impale some leaf, some sprout, tomato, onion—whatever combination you prefer. I call it “morsel management,” and it's what eating salad is all about. I mean, if it's a salad on the plate, shouldn't it be a salad in your mouth as well?
Also, the curve and shovel-like nature of the fork make it an excellent instrument for “dressing management.” Dressing tends to gather at the bottom of the salad. After every two or three bites, a good dressing manager will slide the fork underneath the pile of salad and turn the bottom to the top, like tilling soil, which spreads the dressing evenly through the salad. Chopsticks can't do that, so you end up with a salad that's dry on the top and soggy on the bottom.
So, after several painstaking minutes of failure, I threw the sticks down in disgust. “This is total crap,” I spat. “How can anyone eat like this?”
“It's easy, honey,” she said, as giant pieces of lettuce and cucumbers fell off her chopsticks and onto the table. “You just have to practice.”
“Practice chopsticks?” I harrumphed. “What is this, piano lessons?! I'll practice eating with chopsticks when Chopsticks practice arm-farting Lady Gaga songs.”
My remarks caught the attention of Chopsticks, and they glared at me with derision, as if to say, “Hey AFF-hole, what happened to our arrangement!?” But all those old, hurtful feelings came rushing back and our agreement had all but dissipated. It became about who could hurt whom the deepest, and they were winning, because it was two against one again, only my feelings aren't metallic. They were taunting, smirking, pointing and laughing at me, and it was painful. That's when the Cee-Lo Green song started playing in my head:
“I see you dining 'round town with your new girlfriend and I'm like, ‘Fork you'” / I guess the tines and the curve, got on your nerve, and well, uh, fork you, and fork her, too!”
After several minutes of this, I suddenly remembered why Chopsticks and I had an agreement in the first place. I took a deep breath and calmed down. Then I summoned the waitress and requested a fork. She smiled and brought it over, without any guff whatsoever. Chopsticks abruptly stopped laughing, huddled together and quivered with fear. Even my wife kept her eggroll hole shut.
Edwin Decker is now officially on vacation and will not return to this space until May 25. He will, however, be checking his emails at firstname.lastname@example.org from a Venice café patio overlooking the gondolas.