A few ways to cook venison

There are easily as many venison recipes as there are for beef and indeed many beef recipes were actually converted from recipes designed for wild meats such as venison. This stands to reason, since venison not only has a richer, fuller flavor, but it has the same cuts of meat; steak, roast, ribs, ground and so on. Deer are just normally much smaller.

A good-sized buck will dress out at usually less than 200 pounds, though a few get a little larger. Some species rarely get much over 100 pounds. 

The methods of cooking are as varied as with beef, too. Deer meat can be fried, baked, broiled, barbecued, braised, steamed, boiled, grilled, or even pit baked. It also makes dried meat and jerky even more readily than beef, partly owing to the fact that deer tends to be leaner, since it is wild. Beef is often raised to purposely put on weight quickly, which means more fat within the muscles. While marbling is desired for beef, it is not for venison.

Many people have favorite recipes, based in part on what cut of meat is being cooked. An important factor actually comes into play long before cooking; proper aging and treatment of the meat. If this isn’t done correctly, venison will usually have a gamy taste regardless of how it is prepared. If done correctly, the meat will have such a good flavor that it becomes almost difficult to cook it wrong.

The following are only a few of the great recipes, out of many hundreds.

Fried backstrap

The backstrap is an oval or circular piece of meat that lies on each side of the backbone, and near the upper part of the ribs. Both pieces of meat run the full length of the deer, but are about three inches in diameter, depending on the size of the deer.

Gristle and fat is practically absent, and the cut of meat tends to be naturally tender even in older deer. For backstrap steaks, the meat is cut into steaks across the grain so that you end up with many three-inch steaks about one inch in thickness.

The steaks are dredged liberally in flour until well covered, and then cooked in medium hot grease on the stove, sprinkling with salt, pepper, onion powder and garlic powder. Covering the fry pan helps retain some of the flavor that can be lost during cooking. The lid also helps keep the meat moist. Cook until it is cooked as done as you want it. As a tip, since deer is wild, it should be cooked more than corresponding cuts of beef. Unlike beef, it doesn’t normally lose flavor when doing this.

Fried backstrap is superb when served with fried mushrooms and fried onions.

Venison stew

Many people feel that this stew puts the best beef stew totally to shame. It is usually made with small pieces of venison, smaller than, to just over bite-sized, and well-trimmed. Two pounds of venison stew meat can make a large pot of venison stew.

To make it, put the meat in a good sized pot. Add diced carrots, potatoes, onions, corn, mushrooms and green beans, then cover with water until the pot is about 3/4 full. Sprinkle well with salt, garlic powder, pepper, oregano, sage and basil and then put over medium heat. Cook until the vegetables are tender, adding water if needed. For thicker soup, fill a clean quart jar half full of cold water, add a couple tablespoons of flour or arrowroot, cap and shake until smoothly blended, then add to the stew during cooking.

This is a wonderful dish all year long, but especially on the colder days of winter. There are also many variations on the stew.

Venison pot roast

As it sounds, this is made with venison roast that corresponds to beef pot or rump roast. Place the roast in a Dutch oven that has a tight fitting lid. Add an inch of water, several quartered potatoes, an onion or two that have been quartered or cut into eighths, a few cut carrots, a couple of quartered bell peppers and a can of stewed tomatoes or three to four tomatoes cut in eighths. Salt, pepper and add a couple bay leaves, cover and then cook at 350 degrees F until the vegetables are tender and slightly browned. Quite a few people feel that this is better than the best beef roast ever thought of and that it is far more tender.

These are only a few recipes. If you want meals to rave over, try venison chili, venison sausage and eggs, sweet and sour braised venison, venison steak smothered in mushrooms and homemade mushroom gravy, venison gravy over rice or venison and cabbage. Well-prepared venison has a lighter; more delicate flavor than beef and it blends very well to most vegetables. It is so good, in fact, that it is likely that if you ever eat it and don’t like it, there are probably one of three possibilities: The venison wasn’t properly processed initially, it wasn’t cooked properly or was over-cooked, or you don’t like meat.

Though a good-sized beef might weigh 500 to 1,000 pounds, there are people who would rather have an entire venison than have a full beef. Once you’ve tried it, you will see why.

(Picture by Dcrjsr)

How to Maintain a Cast Iron Skillet

Cast iron skillets were grandma’s favorite “fry pan”, and everyone’s choice for campfire cooking.  For durability, ease of cleaning and even heating, they can’t be beat. In fact, many cast iron skillets are family heirlooms, having been passed down for several generations.

The beauty of a really good cast iron skillet, one that is thick, well made and seasoned over time is that when you use them to cook in, they actually contribute to the taste of the food, and they provide some iron content to whatever you are preparing.

Most really good cast iron, is old cast iron. If you don’t have a family member that is willing to pass theirs on to you, you may have to find one at a flea market or antique store.

All cast iron must be seasoned before using. This prevents the iron from becoming rusty after it is cleaned, and adds flavor to whatever you are cooking. It also seals the porous interior surface of the skillet and prevents food from sticking.

If your skillet is new, or used and you have just thoroughly scrubbed it, you will need to start over with the seasoning process. Most skillets are seasoned using a shortening such as Crisco. Put a thin layer of shortening on the inside surface of the skillet, and put the skillet in an oven set at 350 degrees. Leave the skillet in the oven for 1 hour, let it cool, and store it away. You can expect some smoking from the skillet during the process.

Each time you use your skillet, simply clean out the skillet with a paper towel, rinse with hot water, and use a brush to clean out any leftover food in the pan. Technically, you should not use soap and water in your skillet, and you should most definitely never put it in a dishwasher.

If your skillet doesn’t already have a thickened crusty outer surface, it will. Carbon collects on the outside of the skillet, adding to the overall even heating capabilities of the pan. If you have to clean this off eventually, there are several substances that the pan can be soaked in without destroying it. A lye and water bath, over a period of several weeks, or months, will eventually loosen up the outer residue. Lye is caustic and should be handled with extreme care. Once the residue is loosened, the skillet is rinsed well, washed several times with soap and water, and seasoned once more.

With proper care your skillet should last you a lifetime, and be around for many generations in the future.

How to use a Rice Cooker

If you like making rice but you would like to take the hassle out of the process, then you might consider investing in a rice cooker. There is a wide variety of rice cookers available, too, so chances are you will be able to find one even if you are on a budget. However, if you have never used a rice cooker before, here are some easy-to-follow instructions.

First of all, your rice cooker should come with a user guide and manual. Always make sure that you read this information before you try using the rice cooker. Keep in mind that the instructions will vary slightly depending on what type of rice you are using. For example, you will not use the same amount of water for long grain rice as you would with short grain rice. This is an easy mistake that can be corrected if you carefully pay attention to the type of rice that you are using. 

Place the rice cooker on a flat, level surface free from any disturbance. All rice cookers will have a steam spout. Getting any part of your body accidentally near the steam spout will result in an injury, even if slight. Some rice cookers have a spout dial that you can turn away from any path of bodily movement. 

Place the rice into the removable rice cooker bowl and rinse thoroughly, once. You do not have to wash the rice until the water runs clear. If you want to add any spices or seasonings to the rice, you should do so now because the rice cooking process will help to infuse the rice with those seasonings. Add water, according to directions of your recipe. Typically, every cup of rice requires almost double the amount of water. Next, wipe off the outside of the bowl completely. Doing this will prevent damage to the rice cooker’s hot plate. Place the rice cooker bowl into the rice cooker and replace the lid. Make sure that the lid is completely on the bowl, otherwise the rice will not cook evenly. Only the steam hole should allow steam to escape. 

Most rice cookers have two cooking options: “Cook” and “Warm.” Turn on the “Cook” function after you have replaced the lid onto the bowl. Now, all that you have to do is wait for the rice cooker to flip the cooking switch to “Warm.” Normally, you will hear some sort of sound to signal that the rice is done cooking. For best results, do not open the rice cooker immediately. Wait at least 10 minutes or until most of the steam has dissipated. 

As you can see, using a rice cooker is not difficult. Although rice cookers may look unfamiliar, you can easily learn how to use them!

Health Benefits of Garlic

Garlic, or Allium Sativum, has been used for medicinal purposes in many cultures for thousands of years. The oldest use of garlic has been as an antibiotic, but over the years research has shown that it can help treat and prevent many illnesses and ailments, including reducing the pain in those with Rheumatoid arthritis. Garlic is part of a species in the onion genus, Allium.

Garlic is an herb best known for flavoring food, but its well-researched health benefits have been gaining it attention for centuries. Conditions that have been treated with garlic are high blood pressure, high cholesterol, coronary heart disease, heart attack, Atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), prostate cancer and bladder cancer.

Garlic has also been used to prevent colon cancer, rectal cancer, stomach cancer, prostate cancer and lung cancer.

Studies have shown its effectiveness in lowering LDL cholesterol levels without hurting HDL cholesterol levels. Research shows that garlic seems to block the liver from making too much LDL cholesterol. It also helps to prevent blood clots so it’s able to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke.

As an antibiotic, garlic is effective against athlete’s foot, thrush, viral diarrhea and Helicobacter pylori (ulcer-causing bacteria).

It’s best to eat fresh garlic to attempt to obtain the full medicinal effect. Supplements may also be used. Good supplements will contain alliin.  This allows the body to make the best use of it. Garlic is classified as both a food and medicinal herb.

Interesting facts about garlic

Grave diggers drank crushed garlic in wine in early 18th century France, because they thought it would protect them from the plague that was responsible for the deaths of many people in Europe.

Soldiers were given garlic to prevent gangrene during World War I and World War II.

Garlic is second in sales as a best-selling herbal supplement.  Echinacea is the first.

Garlic has been found in the tombs of the ancient pharaohs dating back to 3200 B.C.  It has also been found in Greek temples.

It was used by pyramid builders because they believed that it gave them strength.

There are almost 70 variants of garlic growing in the Holy Land.

Louis Pasteur demonstrated in 1858 that garlic could kill infectious germs.

Garlic was given to the original Olympic athletes in Greece possibly as a performance enhancing agent. 

Ancient medical texts from Egypt, Greece, Rome, China and India prescribed medical applications for garlic.

Hippocrates advocated the use of garlic for pulmonary complaints and for abdominal growths.

Garlic is possibly the most researched herb for medicinal uses.  While there is still over its effectiveness, centuries of research and use do show that there is some degree of health benefit, but there is still no solid research on how much a person has to consume in order to obtain the full benefits.

How to use a Melon Baller

If you are making a fruit salad or you want to present fruits in a different way, why not try using a melon baller? Melon ballers are relatively inexpensive yet useful, and they will save you a lot of time and effort in trying to create circular forms out of fruits. If you have never used a melon baller before, here are some simple and easy to follow instructions that will help you get started. 

First, you will need to decide what fruit you are going to make balls out of. This is important because some fruits are not appropriate for a melon baller. For instance, it would be difficult to use a melon baller on a strawberry (even though it is possible). Apples would be equally difficult because the flesh is quite hard. However, melon ballers are best for large fleshy fruit, such as muskmelons (cantaloupes), papaya, mangoes, and watermelons. As you can see, melon ballers are best used for melons, hence the name of the tool.

There are different types of melon ballers. Some are made out of wood, while most are made out of stainless steel. The metal melon ballers will last for a long time, although you must take proper care of them. Most melon ballers come with two ends of different sizes. One end is for larger balls while the other end is for smaller balls. Some melon ballers will only have one bowled end, while the other end may just be blunt or may have a different function, such as scraping the fruit’s flesh. Choose the melon baller that you think will be most useful for you.

To use the melon baller, wash and cut the fruit down the center. If you are cutting a melon, you can steady the fruit by slicing off a thin piece of the bottom or the top, and then setting the melon down on that flat surface. Be sure to remove all of the seeds if you are using muskmelons. Wash the fruit again, and then use the melon baller as if you were scooping out ice cream. If you want fully-formed “balls,” you will need to make deep plunges into the flesh and then scoop. If you want half-balls, you will simply just scoop using shallow moves. Start from the middle of the fruit where there is usually a cavity. For instance, muskmelons’ centers are usually filled with seeds, and once the seeds are scooped out you have a great starting point for using your melon baller. If you are using the melon baller on a mango, just start closer to the edge. That way, you will get more “fully-formed” balls.

As you can see, using a melon baller is easy as pie. Don’t let this strange-looking gadget fool you into thinking that it is difficult to use. This is one of the easiest kitchen tools that you will use.

Researchers Suggest that Eating Bugs is a more Environmentally Friendly way to Live

Is it possible we’ll live in a future that includes insects as part of a routine diet as a main source of protein?  While insects are currently eaten in some parts of the world, Westernized societies typically shy away from eating bugs.  However, one team of researchers thinks eating mealworms as a primary food source is the best way to go.

A team of researchers in the Netherlands suggest that mealworms may be a chief source of protein for humans in the future. Calling mealworms a “sustainable” alternative, the researchers suggest this insect is a better alternative to pork, poultry, beef and milk.

According to NPR, the Dutch researchers indicated that while the concept of eating bugs is not a new one, that little is known about the effects of producing insects for food and how this would impact the environment.

To find out, the team set out to quantify the environmental impact of eating bugs, reported Discovery News.

“The suggestion that insects would be more efficient has been around for quite some time,” Dennis Oonincx, an entomologist at Wageningen University in the Netherlands, said, according to Live Science.

As a result, Oonincx and a team of researchers decided to test this theory and examined the greenhouse gas emissions created by five different species of insects vs. those of cattle and pigs.

Oonincx said about the results were “really are quite hopeful.”

In their findings, Ooninix and his colleagues argued that there are many advantages to eating insects, especially mealworms, instead of livestock as a primary food source. They indicated that livestock create excessive greenhouse gasses which create harmful environmental effects, whereas mealworms do not emit methane.

Additionally, the researchers noted that livestock take up a large amount of agricultural acreage and insects would take up less land which could be used for crops. Another benefit, say researchers, is that mealworms can survive on grains and carrots, unlike livestock which consume a significant amount of resources in order to survive. According to the Discovery article, the demand for food for animals is expected to rise considerably by 2050, 80 percent.

Although the researchers admit there is a disadvantage in that mealworms need to be kept warm in order to grow; creating heat energy for them could cause some offset in environmental impact.

Overall though, they suggest there are more benefits than drawbacks.

“It proves the hypothesis that insects can be a more efficient source [of protein], and I definitely believe there is a future for edible insects,” Oonincx said. “It may not be as the animal as such but regarding protein extraction there is a lot to be learned and a lot to be gained.”

The full study was published in the Dec. 19 issue of PLoS ONE.

How to use a Pressure Cookeruse your Pressure Cooker Safelypressure Cooker Cooking

The modern pressure cooker is not the mocking, spurting, dangerous monster it once was. There are many clever innovations being used in the manufacturing of these magical cooking pots. They are now creating safe, upbeat, and stylish models which are easy for almost anyone to use. Once you find out how fast and safe the new pressure cookers are, you will never go back to the crock-pot!

By using a pressure cooker you will be able to take the toughest old rooster and stew him up easily making delectable dishes like chicken and dumplings, a savory fricassee or even make fried chicken from that old bird, all in the modern pressure cooker.

Cooking with a pressure cooker will save you money because it will enable you to buy the less expensive cuts of beef, pork, and poultry and then bring out the deep flavors of the meat by cooking them under pressure.

Busy cooks save time by using a pressure cooker because this method of cooking is marvelously fast; you can make a stew in 10 minutes, cook potatoes for mashing in 7 minutes and even cook a whole roast in 20 minutes.  Plus you can create delicious sauces and gravies by using the cooking juices which are packed with the good flavors from the meat or vegetables you have used.

The instructions that follow are the simple and general directions for use.  Recipes and cooking times will vary with each dish being prepared. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions and recipes which come with every new pressure cooker and follow them precisely.

Find a recipe for the item being cooked. Pour the specified amount of liquid into the bottom of the cooker. Add the cooking rack if using. Add the food products you will be cooking.

Make sure the vent hole in the lid of the cooker is clear; you should be able to see light through the hole.

Place the lid on the cooker unit and lock into place.

Place the regulator in place on the stem located on the top of the lid.

Bring the heat under the cooking unit to high heat and allow the unit to heat until the regulator begins to jiggle. Reduce heat until the regulator rocks gently.

Cook for the specified time per directions.

Turn off the heat and allow the cooker to reduce the pressure naturally if called for in the directions; this is done by turning off the heat and allowing the cooker to sit undisturbed for around 20 minutes. Or you may need to reduce the pressure quickly by running the unit under water until pressure is relieved; don’t worry, it will not explode.

Before opening the unit, make sure all pressure is gone by checking the locking device, it will have dropped.

Here is a quick chart listing the cooking times of some foods generally know for taking a long time to cook.

Beef, pot roast, rump, round, chuck, blade or brisket, 1 1/2 lb to 2 lb. 35-40 minutes

Whole bone-in chicken, 3 lb. 12-18 minutes

Pork roast 2-3 lb. 35–40 minutes

Turkey breast, whole bone-in 30-35 minutes

These meats will be done to perfection and many will come out of the pressure cooker fall apart done.

Vegetables will retain their shape and texture in a pressure cooker, plus you will be left with all the nutrients they had, in the cooking juices left in the bottom of the cooker.  Save these to use in sauces, soups, and to flavor gravies.

Here is a quick overview of cooking vegetables and beans in a pressure cooker.

Fresh green beans 2 lbs. 2 -3 minutes

Carrots cut in chunks 2 lbs. 4 minutes

Corn on the cob – 6 ears 3 minutes

Whole potatoes (For mashing) 5 -7 minutes

Do not be afraid to try cooking almost any food in a pressure cooker.  All it takes is a well maintained pressure cooker, and following the manufacturers instructions, recipes, and directions to make quick, easy, flavorful meats, vegetables, one pot meals, and even desserts in mere minutes using your handy-dandy, modern pressure cooker!

What is a German Friendship Cake

A friend, relative, or neighbour, gives you a little tub of indeterminate goo with instructions to follow for days on end. The goo is actually a sourdough starter for a delicious cake called a German friendship cake. You may wonder what a German Friendship cake, is, sometimes called as Herman the German actually, and where it originates.

The German Friendship cake comes from the Amish Community in America. The Amish originally came from the Anabaptist community in Switzerland. The friendship cake is an adapted recipe, from sourdough bread that the Amish gave to sick and needy neighbours. The Herman recipe is a sourdough cake recipe, which is centuries old.

On receiving the sourdough starter, you need to follow the instructions, which accompany it. You need to put the starter into a large mixing bowl and put it in a safe place, not the ‘fridge, at room temperature, to allow fermentation to occur. Cover the bowl with a clean cloth. You then feed and stir the starter for ten days according to the instructions. Counting the day you receive the starter as day 1, follow the instructions, which came with the starter. Stir on the second and third day, feed on the fourth day with milk, sugar and flour. Stir well and cover. Stir on days five, six, seven, and eight, feed on day 9 and then on day 10 divide the starter into four portions, or however many portions your instructions advise. To one portion add the remaining ingredients and bake your cake. The other three starter portions are, one for your next friendship cake and two to give away. Various web pages carry the instructions for dealing with the Herman starter, but you should follow the instructions which came with your starter, where possible. The instructions look far more complicated in writing than they actually are to accomplish.

You can make your own friendship cake starter. Typing “recipe for friendship cake starter” into an internet search engine will yield many recipes. You do not have to use the starter for the cake detailed in the accompanying instructions, you can use it for other recipes for bread, cakes, and scones. There are many interesting suggestion on the internet. There are even whole websites dedicated to the friendship cake with information and recipe suggestions and variations.

Herman is like an edible chain letter, except it is not as irritating or as threatening as many written chain letters. Tending the sourdough starter and mixing the eventual cake is a good way to involve children in the kitchen. Herman provides an elementary cookery, maths and science lesson. Herman also makes an extremely tasty cake that the family will enjoy.  

Easy tips for cutting up meat before it is cooked

Whether a person procures meat by hunting, or raising and butchering it, or buys it at the store, it isn’t an uncommon occurrence  to sometimes find that the meat needs to be cut before cooking it. This may be cutting a roast to produce steaks, slivering the meat for a specific recipe or even cutting a large cut of meat into smaller portions to stretch it out. There are some great tips to help a person get the best results out of the process.

Freeze it

Partly freezing meat usually makes it much easier to slice. This doesn’t mean that the roast or whatever should be frozen solid. Rather, it should be chilled until ice crystals are beginning to form. When this is done, the knife can slice more easily through, especially with thinner cuts, but also with thicker ones. The meat also doesn’t slip under the blade as easily, so the danger of being cut is minimized.

Against the grain

Meat cells tends to be longer in one direction than in another. This is referred to as the grain. It is normally far better to cut across the grain rather than with it. This can make a huge difference in the tenderness of the final product. A mistake that many people make, including a fair share of butchers, is to cut with the grain. At times, the meat may even look better when it is cut this way. Once cooked though, people may find themselves needing to chew through long meat fibers. This can make the meat harder to chew, and thus it seems tougher.


The sooner after cutting the meat that it is cooked, the better. If it is cut well in advance, many of the juices from the meat may seep out, with a dry result. The juices also have a great deal of the flavor that can be lost. According to a long time butcher in Southern Oregon, name withheld, “Our shop was known for selling the very best cuts of meat. Actually, we got the meat from the same sources everyone else did. The difference was that we cut individual orders right there on the spot when the customer ordered it. They thought that it was because we wanted them to see exactly what we were doing. In part, that was true. More importantly though, the meat then contained more juices and simply tasted better once it was cooked.”

Sharp knives

It is rather surprising how many people are amazed that more people are badly cut from using dull knives rather than with sharp ones. A dull knife requires more force to cut through the meat. A dull knife is also more likely to slip during the cutting. Additionally, a sharp knife cuts through the meat while a dull one tears through it. The knives should always be sharp prior to cutting the meat. 

Trimming fat

When cutting meat, it is the perfect time to trim off excess fat. The key to this is to leave some of the fat on the cut of meat. A low fat diet doesn’t preclude trimming off fat after the meal is cooked. Still, the fat contains a lot of the flavor and tends to mean that the meat will be more tender and juicy once it is cooked. When cutting off the fat, try to leave a quarter inch layer. If the meat contains veins of fat, called ‘marbling’, so much the better. Don’t remove the marbling.

By using these and many more tips that are available, a meal can end up tasting far better than can be imagined. It is worth knowing how to cut meat prior to cooking it. There really isn’t a secret to doing it, once the basics are understood. 

How to use Chopsticks

One of my favorite teachers, Mrs. McC-, felt that it was important that every one of her students learn how to use chopsticks. Living in the suburbs of Detroit as we did, her logic may have eluded many, but even then the world was increasingly global in nature, and she wanted us to be able to participate fully in it. Besides, we were but fourth grade students, and she still held absolute power. That fateful day, she ordered a cup of fried rice from the local Chinese restaurant (carry-out) for every single one of us, as well as a pair of wooden chopsticks. She demonstrated the technique for us, and then turned us loose, knowing that learning by doing was the way we would best develop this skill.

Obviously, we were messy and none too successful at first, but with patience, persistence, and practice, some of us became quite adept. You can too – most any Chinese restaurant has chopsticks available – either for the asking, or even there for the taking. I’ll share the basics, and you can go practice on your favorite dishes.

Holding the chopsticks is usually the hardest part for novices. All too often I hear people say “hold it like a pencil”, which, of course, is all wrong. That’s far too inflexible, and not terribly comfortable either. Try this method for comfort and maneuverability instead:

Lay both sticks together in the V where your thumb and index finger meet, letting the sticks rest gently against your fingertips. Now slide your middle finger just between the two sticks, just far enough to have one above and one below, with no more than a centimeter of fingertip sticking beyond them. You can grab the top stick between your thumb and index finger, holding the bottom stick against your ring finger with your middle finger. Notice that all of the action is taking place down by your fingertips, not up at your knuckles. You have much better control at the ends of your fingers, so work down there.

Now that you’re holding the sticks, go ahead and use your other hand to slide them up and down a little so that your grip is near the center (where it is easier to balance them) and so that the ends meet. When you’re more experienced, you’ll line them up automatically, but for now, it’s okay to do it manually. Once they’re settled in place, try a little motion. Note that the bottom stick stays put, you only move the top stick, and you do this by pivoting your index finger against your thumb. Your thumb may flex a little bit as well, but “Mr. Pointer” does the majority of the work. The rest of your hand just works as a frame. While you’re doing this, try to stay relaxed. Your motion will be restricted if you tense up, and worse, you’ll cramp your hand long before the meal is done.

Chopsticks can actually be used in three modes. The most straightforward is the motion you were just using, opening and closing them like pincers. This is what comes to most people’s minds as “eating with chopsticks”. This mode is best suited to chunky foods – small pieces of meat, chopped veggies, etc. Try it on little bits of rice and you’ll grow quickly frustrated.

Your second mode, and one much better suited to rice, is to use the pair of sticks as a scoop. Holding the points together to make a V, you can easily scoop a good bite of rice off your plate. If your rice is soggy and not sticking together, your scoop can push the rice right into your mouth from the plate/cup. By knife and fork standards, this isn’t the most polite means of eating, but it’s common with chopsticks. You’ll also see it employed when eating a cup of noodles.

The last way your chopsticks can work is as a skewer. One can stab into a piece of food, and the other then closes against the outside, providing support. With soft foods, this is also a way to cut smaller bites. I doubt that this last is considered a proper way of eating with chopsticks, but if you’re fed up with the other methods, at least this way you won’t have to starve.

Incidentally, being able to eat with chopsticks did turn out to be useful. In graduate school I befriended a number of Chinese students (and many other nationalities as well). We took a break from research one day and went out for lunch to an upscale Japanese restaurant they favored. Now granted, they had spent a good portion of their lives in the U.S., but it was most gratifying when they were not merely impressed that I could use chopsticks, but one guy proclaimed that I used them better than he. Thank you much, Mrs. McC-.