Personal Story: The Filipino Art of Spoon & Fork

I pulled out the utensils drawer and grabbed two sets of spoons and forks. The dinner table was almost set. A heaping bowl of steaming white rice and a bowl of cooked chicken adobo rested on top of trivets. On one side of the table, two placemats sat side by side, each with a white plate in the center. I took a seat and instinctively placed one fork on the left side and a spoon on the right side of the plate. I did the same for the other plate, as my husband sat next to me, waiting to eat.

“Alright, let’s eat,” I declared as I piled two large spoonfuls of rice at the bottom half of my plate. With the serving spoon, I balanced a drumstick to the top half of my plate. I then took a few spoonfuls of the sauce and drizzled it over the chicken and rice.

I was ready to chow down. Using both hands, I picked up the utensils on either side of my plate. I held the fork like I was holding a hammer and the spoon like I was holding a pencil. With my fork, I poked the chicken with enough force to keep it in place. I used the spoon to flake off a small bite size piece of meat and then spooned the meat closer to the rice. The sauce that I had drizzled earlier formed a rich savory pool around the base of the rice. I partitioned off a bite sized section of the soaked rice with my fork and pushed it into the spoon with the chicken. I lifted the spoon and took satisfactory bite.

I performed this action a few times until I turned to my husband to ask how the food was. It was then that I watched in bewilderment as my husband was shoveling rice into his mouth with only the fork. I stared at the spoon, still lying untouched, completely disregarded.

“You’re supposed to use the fork to scoop stuff into the spoon. This is how Filipinos eat,” I explained.

I started to scoop some rice into the spoon using the method I described while I nodded my head for agreement.

“See, like this,” I instructed. I continued with the motions while his face focused on my plate as I demonstrated the proper method.

“I got it,” he proclaimed as if a light switch had turned on in his mind.

Using his left hand, he reached over to the right of his plate and lifted the spoon. I scrutinized his technique. He attempted to scoop rice into his fork with his spoon, with the inside curve of the spoon facing away from him. With enough food on his fork to fill a half a tablespoon, he lifted it up as small clumps of rice fell off. He balanced the remaining contents into his mouth. After a few seconds of chewing, he turned to me and smiled, proud of his accomplishment.

Aww, he did try but it was awfully painful to watch. As a Filipino, I grew up using a spoon and fork and my husband did not. He was adept at stabbing meatballs with a fork and he could pick single pieces of rice with precision with a chopstick. He continued to fumble along as I started to remember how awful I was at using chopsticks the first time.

Whenever my family would eat at Chinese restaurants, we would always ask for forks if it wasn’t provided. My dad would hail the waiter over, and explain that we were Filipino and that Filipinos don’t use chopsticks. Actually, it’s not only Filipinos but a lot of other Southeast Asian countries use the spoon and fork method. I thus came to the conclusion that most Americans probably think that all East Asian countries use chopsticks, but I digress…

I stopped him before he tried to heap another spoonful of rice into his fork. I tried to explain again that, “You hold the spoon with your right hand and the fork with your left hand.” He switched hands and made a second attempt. This time he held the fork facing away from him while pushing rice into the spoon.

“Hmmmm,” I sighed with my lips pressed against each other.

“You’ll get it next time,” I said encouragingly.

I picked up my spoon and fork and started to eat again. He did the same and said “This is really good,” as he smiled at me. Enjoying our meal together was all that mattered.

-Jamie

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