Pea Tips and Spicy Pig's Ear
She suggested meeting at Asia City on Washtenaw one Sunday. One of Ann Arbor's Chinese high school classes would be there for lunch and a lecture by Yu-Jin Kung, a formidable woman of a certain age who once taught Chinese table manners to American diplomats. Her talk was in Chinese, but Frances whispered a simultaneous translation in my ear, and a few items struck me as not only easy to remember but delightfully arbitrary.
Mrs. Kung says: "Eat from the front of your plate to the back. Only dogs eat from the middle. Also, don't shake your chopsticks, and don't ever put your chopsticks in your mouth." If this seems like an odd rule for an eating utensil, she delicately demonstrated that your chopsticks are meant to convey the food to your mouth. Once they're knocking on the door, your mouth is expected to do its part. (The adept Mrs. Kung also demonstrated how to drink from a glass without smearing it with lipstick, which--if you're wearing lipstick--is not easy.)
She ended on a grand, philosophic note: "Use your very best manners, all the time, even when you're all alone. That way, when you are out in company, you will be relaxed and natural."
So let's eat!