Today on the tray: Chopsticks

chopsticksFebruary 6 is National Chopsticks Day.

So, is the holiday intended to celebrate the eating utensil, or the song? I don’t know—there was some discussion of it yesterday on William Shatner’s Twitter feed. Glad to see the Trekkers have moved on from discussing tribbles and obscure Star Trek continuity errors.

Let’s take a moment to listen to “Chopsticks” as performed by renowned pianist Liberace.

Liberace performs “Chopsticks”

You know who has a real problem with chopsticks? Sister Bertrille on The Flying Nun. Sure, she can fly, but she can’t master chopsticks. In the clip below, while dining in a Chinese restaurant with Sister Jacqueline and some of the orphans, she offers a merry musical complaint about how hard it is for non-Asian people to use chopsticks. “Why do they give us chopsticks?” she sings. “What we need is a knife and a fork!”

Clip from The Flying Nun, “The Reconversion of Sister Shapiro” (Feb. 29, 1968)

The scene is from “The Reconversion of Sister Shapiro,” a Very Special episode about a Jewish girl who is staying at the convent while her parents are away. If you watched any television in the ’60s or ’70s, you may recognize the girl: That’s Pamelyn Ferdin, whose credits include appearances on Family Affair, The Brady Bunch, The Odd Couple, Star Trek, Lassie, Daniel Boone, Bewitched, and others, including voiceover work as Lucy in some of the Peanuts specials and Fern in Charlotte’s Web.

This clip misses the first few seconds of the song, so you don’t hear the gong and the musical cue that lets us know we’re in a Chinese restaurant. I think it was a rule in 1960s-70s era television that whenever Asians are shown, they must be accompanied by a gong and/or and some variation of the Oriental riff. I remember it being used not only on The Flying Nun, but on Here’s Lucy and Family Affair and just about every La Choy commercial. In fact, here’s an excellent example: La Choy makes “honorable egg rolls” swing American!

La Choy Egg Rolls commercial (1960s)

If you just can’t get the hang of chopsticks, you can always eat “honorable egg rolls,” since they’re a finger food. Happy National Chopsticks Day!


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