Turns out, chopsticks are still ripe for innovation, even after more than 6,000 continuous years of use in pretty much all of Eastern Asia.
In what will surely go down in the annals of history as an achievement as momentous as the harnessing of electricity, Japan's Marushige Confectionery company has recently unveiled edible chopsticks that are meant to be both environmentally friendly and to preserve age-old Japanese agricultural practices.
Oh, and they also happen to taste like furniture.
Marushige's chopsticks are made with igusa (soft rush) reeds, the material traditionally used to make tatami, the floor mats found throughout Japan. RocketNews24 reports that the Nagoya-based company is openly billing the chopsticks as being "tatami-flavored" and that they hope the creation will promote the cultural significance of igusa, which has seen a decline in cultivation and use in recent years.
Igusa is by no means normally considered a food ingredient in Japan, and is said to have a bitter, grass-like taste.
So far, Marushige Confectionery has found two restaurants—Casa Afeliz Ginza and Umato, both of which are located in Tokyo—that are willing to offer the chopsticks and have their customers act as guinea pigs. It's not clear at the moment if Marushige also plans to sell the chopsticks outside of the participating restaurants.
These newfangled chopsticks are by no means the world's first edible cutlery. Back in 2016, Indian cutlery company Bakeys unveiled a line of "sweet", "savory", and "plain" spoons, all of which were edible and made of rice, wheat, and sorghum. At the time, Bakeys expressed interest in also expanding to a line of edible chopsticks, but have yet to do so.
Just in case you were under the impression that edible chopsticks that taste like furniture are pretty much the last thing humanity needs—far behind portable goldfish walkers and the inevitable resurgence of Pogs—consider that back in 2013, it was estimated that China produces more than 80 billion disposable chopsticks a year. That's a lot of garbage.
And despite that huge number, China is still faced with an acute chopstick shortage that has led to a rise in disposable chopstick imports from companies in the US.
All that is to say that the world is most certainly in dire need of more chopsticks made from alternative materials. Guess the future tastes a hell of a lot like traditional Japanese floor mats.