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Like skiing and speaking a foreign language, chopstick use is a skill ideally acquired in childhood. But with a little perseverance, adults tired of feeling boorish in Asian restaurants can become adept.
Step 1: Position chopsticks
In your right hand, traditionally used even by the left-handed, rest the thick end of one chopstick on the webbing between your thumb and forefinger so that about an inch of it sticks out beyond your hand, and rest the other end on your ring finger. Keep your fingers loosely curled.
Successful chopstick use depends on stabilizing this bottom chopstick, which doesn't move, to leave your thumb and forefinger free to maneuver the top chopstick, which does.
Step 2: Grip bottom stick w/ thumb
Grip this bottom chopstick with the bottom of your thumb so it is immobilized and sits firmly on your ring finger.
You can use the tip of your middle finger to stabilize the ring-finger end of the chopstick.
Step 3: Grip top stick w/ fingertips
If you're holding the bottom chopstick correctly, your entire index finger and the top joint of your thumb are free to move around. Grip the top chopstick between the tips of these fingers so that its tip lines up with the bottom chopstick's tip.
Step 4: Maneuver top & bottom sticks
To pick up a piece of food, maneuver the top chopstick to grasp it with the tip and brace it against the bottom one.
Etiquette requires that you use chopsticks neither to chop nor to stick. For that, use knives and forks.
Step 5: Lift food w/ chopsticks
Now, carefully lift a piece of food with your chopsticks, taking care not to let it slide out. Sweet success.
Did You Know?
Many sushi aficionados insist that sushi should be eaten with the fingers—an excellent fallback position if you have trouble mastering chopsticks.