It is the same in every Chinese restaurant. Just as inevitable as the appearance of a nondescript pot of tea is the question, delivered with a downward glance and what I imagine to be a hint of a smirk: would you like a fork?
Yesterday was a bit different. We were offered a selection of teas, from which we chose an amber-coloured, pleasantly bitter brew. The servers also appeared to be having some fine motor skill difficulties of their own, each spilling a bit of the tea which they were so prompt to pour. And the predictable query came as I was tackling a dish--a stolid, if satisfying, pan-fried turnip cake--whose size and texture made it suitable for advanced chopstick users only.
When it comes to eating Asian food, a bit more manual dexterity would not go amiss (I could at least figure out how to hold the chopsticks between the right fingers), if only to ensure that I get my fair share of repasts like these.
There were plump steamed scallop dumplings, their creaminess punctuated by slivers of ginger, unpromisingly named pork and radish dumplings, overflowing with peanuts and herbs, pert pink prawns enrobed in a greaseless, beignet-like batter, and smoky grilled quails, so tender that their poor little bones practically melted underneath our teeth. Even the turnip, though perhaps better shared by a larger party, had its stomach-lining place.
With my wallet only £10 lighter, I emerged into the bright sunshine (no, really) with two belated resolutions for the New(ish) Year: more dim sum (particularly here) and remedial chopstick lessons.
While I'm at it, can anyone show me how to twirl spaghetti?