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Chinese Takeout in the Movies and on Television

Have you ever noticed that when Chinese takeout is being consumed in a movie or on a television program that the characters:
1) invariably are using chopsticks to eat it with (and not the "giveaway", cheap, and difficult to cleanly separate kind of chopsticks but the really nice kind of chopsticks with decorations on them).
2) are eating directly from the white paper container pail (even the quart size).
In my life I've always eaten and have noticed others eating Chinese takeout with a fork. How many chowhounds (forget the general public) own a very nice pair of chopsticks? And generally it's also eaten on a plate (having been transferred from the container pail) in real life. Is there any reason why in this case tv and the movies are so far from reality?

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  1. Talk about timely. I was asking myself that as I watched Ghost Whisperer on Friday night. I know, my taste in chow is better than my taste in media.

    1. I own several pairs of nice chopsticks.

      As for eating out of the container, I'd say that half the time I do. The other half, I manage to get it on a plate before attacking it.

      1. I own no good chopsticks.

        Eating out of the container must be a "New York" thing!


        5 Replies
        1. re: TexasToast

          Not this NY'er... LOL

          Way too messy and then you would end up eating one item at a time and not enjoying the buffet like opportunity...

          1. re: Michele4466

            But it's always couples or "good friends" so they share boxes and sticks. Saves on washing up, as no-one can afford plates and dishwashers (because their rent is too high).


            1. re: TexasToast


              As much as I love my friends and family, I find the sharing thing (not the food but eating out of the same carton) unappealing, except with my husband... especially if it is more than just two...

              As for the no plates, a lot of takeout places can and do provide eating utensils ;-) There goes that theory...

              As to the OP, there HAS to be a reason for this... is it usually NY based movies and the preception thing? Any ideas?

              1. re: Michele4466

                "is it usually NY based movies" ... lol. well, actually, it's what *hollywood/ca* thinks is how it's done in ny. in my neighborhood, none of the takeout places even use those kind of containers anymore and haven't in a long time. they use these tupperware type plastic reusable/recyclable containers with snap on lids. very convenient.

                as for the "eating directly out of the container" part, never. we always use plates -- how else do you get a portion of rice with it? and how else would you share? and yes, we have our own "nice" chopsticks to use instead of the stuck-together-wooden ones that you get with delivery.

                1. re: LNG212

                  I agree, most places serve cooked dishes in nice "glad" type boxes / containers. They are very sturdy and definitely reusable.

                  White rice, however, still comes in those white containers.

        2. It's a cliche and a sort of dumb one at that. Unless the dish is noodles, it's non practical. As for eating out of a box, it's sort of like eating in your car. On occasion sure, as a preference or habit nada.

          1. On my kitchen counter is a mason jar full of chopsticks. Some very nice, some plastic that I buy by the dozen at an Asian market, some nicer wooden ones and some still in their paper wrappers.

            We spread our food out buffet style complete with serving spoons and eat from plates. We normally buy for more than one meal when we order take-out. I expect to have leftovers for lunch the next day or dinner the next night. I prefer clean food in the containers.

            1. I always feel sorry for the guy/gal who has to start off with the box of steamed rice -- while others are gorging on the s/s pork, broccoli/beef, cashew chicken, etc.

              1 Reply
              1. Just finished watching the movie Manhattan, and there is a scene where Woody and his 17-year-old girlfriend (life imitates art...) are eating Chinese takeout out in bed with chopsticks. It struck me as very unrealistic and impractical, and its funny to see this post right afterward. It also struck me that in 1979 when the movie was made, Chinese takeout wasn't as common outside of New York as it is today, and this was part of the feel of a move so titled.

                I do agree that in the movies it seems everyone is always eating out of the box, which I never do, but I don't agree on the chopsticks. It does in fact usually seem to me that they are using the disposable wooden chopsticks that often come with takeout. It never seems apparent that they are higher quality sticks "with decorations" (??)

                Personally though I do eat taekout from a plate not a carton, I usually do use chopsticks (the disposable ones that come with). I guess it's just habit and nostalgia - my Dad traveled a lot in Asia and taught us to eat with chopsticks when I was a kid, so part of getting takeout for me has always been eating with chopsticks. I don't imagine I'm alone, why else would they include the disposable sticks with every order?

                3 Replies
                1. re: Pincho

                  Whoa! Chinese takeout wasn't as common outside of NY????
                  I wonder how my family's take-out only restaurant made it then. In CA, Chinese take-out was very common. BTW...we never gave out chopsticks unless they asked for them or if they asked for any utensils at all. Most of the time, they just took the food. We also did not deliver. We just closed our doors last year, after 50 years in the same building/city.

                  1. re: justagthing

                    Totally agree- I grew up near Chicago and we got Chinese take-out all the time, way before 1979. How would a New Yorker know what was popular outside NY anyway?

                    What WAS uncommon was to see white (or non-Asian) people using chopsticks- now that was exotic.

                    Of course now we're so burdened with the idea that NOT to use chopsticks is de classe that people insist on using them for sushi (not necessary) and for things like Thai and Malaysian rice-based dishes for which chopsticks aren't even appropriate.

                    1. re: John Manzo

                      When we go to the Thai restaurant I say, I know this isn't appropriate but may I have chopsticks.

                      I like to eat food all the time with chopsticks because it makes me think about my food and enjoy more. I ask because I know they have them. If I went to another restaurant that was non Asian and I knew I could get them I would also ask.

                      For sushi I use chopsticks for sashimi and maki is there was a sauce. For nigiri and more traditional maki, I use my hands.

                2. I think I remember an episode of Sex in the City with Carrie and Big eating Chinese takeout in Big's gleaming (and unused) kitchen. They're using chopsticks and eating out of the boxes. Maybe it's to show their intimacy or maybe a kind of reverse snobbery. No plates for them! Or maybe it's just a TV/movie cliche.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: Glencora

                    But, when they showed the four girlfriends eating in Carrie's living room, they passed around the containers and used plates...thoguh they did use the paper wrapped wooden chopsticks...

                    I agree with a few posters that, perhaps it is to illustrate that they ARE eating chinese food and in some cases for timing and plot purposes...

                    1. re: Michele4466

                      I still think it's a "movie in NY" thing. It was said to be as much by Hector Elizondo's character in "Runaway Bride."

                      How else can you explain why you never see anyone eating Chinese out of a carton in Minnesota?


                      1. re: TexasToast


                        True, I guess it is a supposed depiction of NYC life... though modified for effect.

                  2. My opinion? They are shown eating from the take-out boxes so there will be no question that they are eating Chinese take-out. Most often that fact is somewhat relevant to the story line or character development. I only eat that way when I am eating alone. Seems more sanitary, anyway, in a group. I have to add, though, that I am addicted to using a small rice bowl, so I often transfer some of the dish to top off that bowl as well. No quirky habits here ;o)

                    As to the chopsticks: For take-out, there are the really cheap wooden ones and the better quality, rounded, wooden ones. Most often I notice people on film shown eating with the better, rounded ones, not the lacquered, expensive kind.

                    1. I have a set of good chopsticks because I once went out with a guy who was Chinese American (and a professional cook!). I never use them, though, because I've never been able to learn how. I don't hold a pencil correctly, either.

                      1. Wow and to think I was excited when the local chinese put the food in a plastic bag so the oil and sauce did not get on my car carpet.

                        First meal. I always ask for extra chopsticks, you the cheap wooden ones you pull aprat. What's the big deal. It gets take out from plate to mouth. We NEVER eat directly from the white containers or the horizontal tin pans. Spoons on the table, take what you want, NO DOUBLE DIPPING WITH YOUR CHOPSTICK.

                        The next morning after exercise or walk with the dog and I am staring into the fridge for breakfast. Yes I will absolutely grab a fork and eat straight from the container.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: jfood

                          Mine have always done that. Even if it's all brown-bagged up, they'll still put it in a plastic bag.


                        2. I have lots of nice chopsticks, but I have been collecting various oriental dishes and things since I was a child (Shogun influence). As for eating from the takeout container, when I lived alone, I did it all the time. I'd hit the local Chinese to bring dinner home and dig right in. I usually don't eat rice, so that wasn't an issue. Now that I am married and have to share my food, we eat our Chinese takeout from dishes; me with chopsticks, him with a fork.

                          1. Diving right in with a fork comes across as a guy thing. To show someone carefully dividing up the goodies onto two or four plates would probably slow down the plot action, even though that's how well-behaved folks would do it.

                            1. Funny that I was thinking the same thing because I saw it twice on TV shows in the past week and I thought that it was weird that they do this on TV. I have very nice fancy chop sticks and holders, both pointed Japanese and blunt Chinese style for a formal dinner. I also have bundles of decent Chinese bamboo ones and packages of the cheap Japanese disposable ones. I'm a NY'er and never saw anyone eat out of the containers except on TV or when you get a lunch combo and all the items are in one container for each person. The only time I have ever done it is with leftovers when there isn't enough left to plate.

                              1. I own quite the collection of nice chopsticks and I find myself eating much more than chinese or the like. I find that I eat slower and more intricate - enjoying & contemplating my food, instead of stuffing food in, with a fork full ready right behind it.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: andlulu

                                  Spoon, fork, chopsticks, it doesn't matter what I use, the food still gets shoveled in at the same speed. It might actually be faster with the chopsticks.

                                2. One of my pet peeves up there with how they always hold the phone on the outside of their hair, and how, when watching a videotape or DVD, they only turn off the TV to turn off the video.

                                  And, yes, we own nice chopsticks, but we always plate our food.

                                  1. After giving this some thought I have a suggestion. Maybe if in a film or movie you must show a character eating (for whatever reason) the chinese container pail provides a way of doing it without having to have actual food (or something that resembles food) in the shot. Obviously a plate but even a soild white hinged styrofoam container wouldn't conceal what's being eaten as well as the chinese container making it then necessary to provide actual food (or something that resembles food) for the shot. As for the chopsticks maybe it just looks more attractive?

                                    1. Forget the chopsticks for a moment -- I can't recall the last time my chinese food came in carton!

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: a_and_w

                                        Rice (whether white, fried, or brown) still gets carton-packed in my nabe (and spareribs come in the "traditional" foil-lined paper bags), but most items arrive in aluminum dishes with foil-backed cardboard covers or in styrofoam dishes with plastic covers (or some combination of dish and cover). That goes for Indian, Mexican, Italian, Thai, and BBQ delivery, as well as Chinese.

                                        We have several pairs of nice chopsticks, BTW, and always plate the food, usually using large bowls we bought at an Asian supermarket for that purpose (eating delivery meals).

                                      2. Don't know about the chopsticks, but what always got me was the containers are always white on TV or movies! Usually, and as far back as I can remember, Chinese takeout or delivery came in colored cardboard containers(most often red with white characters).

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: Wiley

                                          It seems like I get the plain white containers mostly from the Chinese Chinese places and the colored ones/foam ones from the Chinese American places.

                                          1. re: Wiley

                                            We only used the white containers in our take-out restaurant in S. CA. for 50 years.

                                            1. re: Wiley

                                              White containers with red characters in Central VA. And I haven't seen any of the reusable type containers that everyone else is mentioning here in Charlottesville, but my step-mom's favorite place in Remington uses them.

                                              1. That was a great link. Now I'd like to see a page devoted to pink bakery boxes on screen. Here in New York our pastry boxes, like our chinese food containers, are white.

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: SunnysideUp

                                                  Pink bakery boxes -- properly pink doughnut boxes -- are the rule rather than the exception in Los Angeles, where most films and television are made.

                                                  And in LA, fan (rice, noodles, etc.) comes in the little white Chinese-takeout boxes, but tsai (the garnishes/entree) comes in hinged white Styrofoam boxes.

                                                  1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                    I'm aware of both points, thanks, but it bothers me a little when I see films and shows set in NY, not filmed on location, using pink boxes. They sure are pretty looking, just not authentic. But I'm also aware that there are many details and art department choices that are inauthentic or inaccurate, irrespective of setting.

                                                2. My guess is that it's a ploy to say something about the characters. Such as, "hey, look how casual and laid back we are."

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: ClairfiedButter

                                                    I agree and have always found it to be an appealing visual. It's also economical film making by overstating the obvious. Also, notice how many times the actors will use the chopsticks to point or emphasize while in conversation. This would normally be considered rude (utensil or chopstick jabbing) in real life. However, it works as a tried and true, if hackneyed, directorial device.

                                                  2. I'm with a and w. With the exception of rice, Chinese has been coming in black plastic containers with clear lids, which I can't stand(I feel like the flavor is changed from some type of osmosis from the plastic)I guess that would not be glamorous enough for TV or Film.

                                                    I guess the white box and chopsticks are sexier, like when someone goes shopping on TV they always come back with a baguette or some kind of loaf of bread sticking out of their grocery bag.

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: Porkchop Express

                                                      Sadly, that is increasingly the case with containers. Some people seem to like the plastic for its microwavable ease. Eating cold, leftover lo mein by the light of an open refrigerator door will never be the same...

                                                    2. My favorite pair of chopsticks is a nice rosewood set given to me as a gift many years ago... and we've many pairs in the kitchen, not to mention a thousand of the cheapies left over from the carryout boxes. And we usually don't eat out of the cartons until they come out of the refrigerator the next day as leftovers.

                                                      1. This life long NYer eating Chinese Food since the age of 4 has never known anyone in real life who eats out of cartons.

                                                        It's a Seinfeld thing!

                                                        4 Replies
                                                        1. re: Fleur

                                                          This life-long ABC has been eating Chinese food since before I can remember, and my three siblings and I ALL eat Chinese take-out—with chopsticks—directly out of the carton/container.

                                                          1. re: mclaugh

                                                            Ok, probably as soon as I hit "REPLY" I will say 'OY! I know what that means!" but, right now, I don't so please tell me: What does "ABC" mean?

                                                        2. I'm not an authority on my fellow New Yorkers' eating habits, but I eat out of a carton, on the couch, in the front of the tv with my Chinese-American boyfriend all the time. In addition, we lean over the pizza box instead of using plates. While we can afford it, we also don't own a dining room or kitchen table and are pretty messy. Therefore, maybe we're not a representative sampling of New Yorkers, gay men or Chinese food eaters.

                                                          3 Replies
                                                          1. re: SunnysideUp

                                                            What do you do if you want to put food over the rice?

                                                            1. re: serious

                                                              That's when the bowls come out, never a plate.

                                                          2. I also prefer the wooden disposable chopsticks to the nicer ones I own. They provide better stability and friction in the hand and with handling the food.

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: SunnysideUp

                                                              I agree. The wooden disposables grip very nicely. The polished or laquered ones don't grip as well.

                                                            2. Well, being a native New Yorker, I really hated to see most of the chinese restaurants going away from the cardboard box. It just didn't seem authentic to me. I guess it's what you're used to. Whenever I order a pint of shrimp fried rice just for myself, it usually does come in the box and yes I do eat it right out of the box with my cheap chopsticks when out. When home I use my beautiful painted ones I have had for over 15 years. I actually use chopsticks very often in my everyday life to eat other food as well. I love eating my fruit salads with it, I like grabbing the cut up bite-size pieces of cantaloupe, melon, and pineapple, instead of stabbing them with a fork. Somehow to me it seems almost barbaric. I also love Vietnamese Pho noodle soup and I eat it with the chopsticks and asian soup spoon.

                                                              Okay, that's a question, how many of you use the asian soup spoon in your everyday home life. My husband and I do, it's bigger and we enjoy that a lot. I love soup.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: potbelliedkiln

                                                                Good idea with the fruit salad. Chopsticks are also great to cook with, especially on non-stick surfaces.

                                                              2. Just for the sake of mentioning it, there is a Chinese food scene in MY FAVORITE YEAR. Mark Linn-Baker explains the proper technique for the use of chopsticks to Jessica Harper, with some detail as to how to place the stick along the line of the forefinger, etc. He then concludes by tossing them over his shoulder and says something to the effect of, "Forget the chopsticks. They'll make you crazy."

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: Fydeaux

                                                                  When I first saw that years ago, I was struck by his saying that they were eating dim sum - take out dim sum - wow, New Yorkers had take out dim sum in the 1950's! I still can't get take out dim sum in the burbs of Boston...

                                                                2. Strangely, that's EXACTLY the way we used to eat Chinese food when I was living in the dorms in college. Invariably out of the box, and using my favorite pair of chopsticks.

                                                                  To answer your question though, we own more than 12 pairs of chopsticks, probably.

                                                                  1. I have Hungarian born friends living in NYC, (they do have a cook), who asked me once if anyone I know has ever ordered from those Chinese (food) menus that are slipped under the door. My family might have starved without them. The menu slipped under the door? Is that a NYC only thing?
                                                                    Those white containers often leak. I agree with earlier post that eating from container on film is to create 'atmosphere.' Guessing most people plate. Not so practical, however, if you are ordering in at work. What's sadder than a grease soaked paper plate?
                                                                    How about the sight of saved plastic packets of duck sauce - a single man thing? Ditto on saving unused red wrapped cheap chopsticks.

                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                    1. re: serious

                                                                      Nope, those menus appear everywhere!


                                                                      1. re: serious

                                                                        A long time ago I decided to start throwing away all the packets and extra stuff from every order. It was difficult at first but then you get used to it. I suggested this to a friend of mine but her frugal nature couldn't handle it so she tried to explain, when placing an order, that she didn't want packets and then she tried to give them back to the delivery guy - neither worked and now her fridge is stocked with packets she will never use.

                                                                        If there are enough menus under your door when you get home from work, you can wipe your shoes on them.

                                                                        1. re: serious

                                                                          In Los Angeles they get stuck in the screen on your door (if you live in a house), in the gate (if you live in a gated building) or just, sometimes, left on top of the mailboxes (if you live in an apartment building with the mailboxes outside).

                                                                          The same with tree-trimming, home-repair, home-construction, gardening and gym membership trial advertisements.

                                                                        2. I actually do own some cheesy plastic chopsticks, just like you get in the restaurants. They come in a pack of 16 or 20, go right in the DW and cost about $2. And no--I don't eat out of the container because it's impossible to get the rice/entree in the same bite! I like to place single bites of the protein next to/over the rice so I can get a bit of both at once--but I don't pour the entree over the rice, making a soup. That's gross, plus impossible to eat with sticks.

                                                                          1. it's actually one of my favorite dinner party tricks: make a giant bowl of peanut noodles and fill chinese take-out boxes with them, offering a variety of add-ins like tofu, carrot, cucumber, peanuts, hot sauce, soy sauce, etc. everyone sits/stands around eating dinner out of the take-out box with their choice of chopsticks from my VAST collection. most are those melamine ones, which i'm not sure you would classify as nice, but i do have some nicer wooden ones and that set of multi-colored ones that moma used to sell. i usually don't even offer forks, as i have some of those kid-friendly kind that are joined at the top by some sort of cute sea or farm animal for the unititated. clean up is super easy!

                                                                            1. I think this just might be a practical thing. On a set, they may not have plates or running water to wash the dishes. It may just be easier for the cast to eat right out of the box.

                                                                              1. I have a set of 6 pairs of nice bamboo chopsticks. I love chopsticks.

                                                                                If I get a noodle dish or fried rice, I love to eat straight out of the container. Maybe because I saw it on tv so much and maybe because my mother didn't allow it. With a dish accompanied by rice, it just doesn'T work.

                                                                                1. OK, I own many types of chopsticks, but then again, I am an ABC (as someone else mentioned). Also, most Chinese places, that cater to the Chinese customer do not use the paper cartons, but styrofoam boxes nowadays. Often we cut off the lid and use that as a plate, if needed, but usually we use a bowl or plate, but we do not plate, we eat family style with the food in the middle of the table or in the kitchen with people going back to help themselves for seconds, thirds, etc...

                                                                                  On another note, my girlfriend had her engagement party catered. All items where in the traditional aluminum trays. We transferred to nicer trays for an awesome arrangement in the middle of their terrace. For 'plates' she bought the red boxes and had chopsticks for all to use. So everyone grabbed a box and walked around the buffet setting to pick up the rice and all other assortment of Chinese foods. It was quite fun and yummy! Made for a very memorable experience. She did not have forks on the buffet table, but I don't recall anyone asking for one either.

                                                                                  1. I'm an ABC as well in case that makes a difference... or not. I've never eaten out of the carton, even when eating alone (unless it's cold out of the refrigerator) and never with chopsticks of any kind. If eating with others, we will get individual plates and put the food on our plates to eat off of. And because I'm getting plates, I eat with forks, because to me, it doesn't make sense to use chopsticks with plates. Chopsticks go with bowls, and I hardly use bowls at home.

                                                                                    I'm always struck that they order kung pao chicken and moo shoo gai pan. I really am Chinese, but I don't know what moo shoo gai pan is! I just found out about three years ago what Crab Rangoon was (I didn't know they had cream cheese in China!)! When my parents opened a Chinese restaurant in 1979, I saw egg foo young on the menu. It was the first time I ever heard of that! Who makes up this stuff?!

                                                                                    Regarding the movies, I think eating out of the box with chopsticks establishes that they are eating Chinese food. Getting plates and using forks would kill the scene.

                                                                                    1. Im from Toronto, and here the chinese food we get comes in aluminum pie tins (almost) with styrofoam lids. It's realyl hard to find a take out place that gives you the containers. When I went to Florida a number of years ago on vacation, we ordered chinese take out and got the food in the movie-like white containers. I was so enamoured by them that I asked for extras, brought them home and ate out of those containers for months until I ran out (literally put food into the containers to eat with chopsticks). It was such a novelty to me!

                                                                                      However when I was in Florida, we transferred them all to plates, seeing as there were a bunch of containers containing one dish each, who really wants a whole dish of lemon chicken or chow mein when you can have a little of everything!

                                                                                      1. Continuity purposes. Scenes often take several takes to do and often they combine the best bits of takes to do a scene. Disposable breakaway chopsticks never break the same way, and they get stained from eating. White boxes hide the contents of the food so one can never tell how much was eaten and if the contents changed. This prevents continuity mismatches.

                                                                                        Ex. Take one: An actress was really hungry or her character is supposed to be voracious. She delivers the last half of her dialogue with her scene partner that the director likes.

                                                                                        They reshoot the first half.

                                                                                        How is crew supposed to replicate a her plate as it looked in the beginning of the shoot, and make sure each noodle and grain of rice looks the same on the plate? How to serve out the right amount on the plate? Did someone take pictures? How to replicate the same break and stains on the chopsticks from eating?

                                                                                        Take 2+ would take long setup, and would require paying someone to pay attention to the looks of the plate.

                                                                                        It's just easier and less expensive to make the actor eat out of a to-go box with more expensive chopsticks.

                                                                                        7 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: 3y3z4

                                                                                          But wouldn't that be true of any eating scene. If you are shooting a scene with roast chicken, you would have the same continuity issues.

                                                                                          1. re: Kalivs

                                                                                            and they typically will roast 5 or 6 chickens for this reason.

                                                                                            1. re: Kalivs

                                                                                              Yes, you are correct, continuity is a problem for food in general for both film and TV. To a lesser extent, also theatre.

                                                                                              Ever see a scene with someone eating a snow cone? It's hilarious to watch it change shape and color in ways that have nothing to do with ways in which they are eating it, but the number of "takes" it took to shoot the scene, all mashed up together.

                                                                                              And they do have several roast chickens purchased or cooked onsite specifically for continuity issues.

                                                                                              I work in theatre, and have friends in film. What I'm saying is true.

                                                                                              Yes, some might call this over-thinking, but continuity mismatches can take the audience out of what they are watching. Most productions aim for their audience to "suspend disbelief" -- unless, of course, they are going for a meta and/or Bertolt Brecdtian presentation of their story, or just have fun breaking the fourth wall.


                                                                                              More fun with continuity: For things like tattoos, the makeup team does things like make temporary tattoos for actors to wear. This makes it so that the size and shape of a tattoo is always the same, and not up to someone drawing it. There is a Harry Potter video somewhere where they show this for the Dark Mark tatoo.

                                                                                              Wardrobe can have several copies of the same outfit, for various reasons.

                                                                                              In shoe-string budget films in which characters are eating ice cream, they are really eating colored mashed potatoes cuz they don't melt as quickly.

                                                                                              Colored water or regular water is used for characters drinking alcohol to prevent actors from getting slobbering drunk during scenes.

                                                                                              1. re: 3y3z4

                                                                                                I remember watching a Seinfled episode, a scene in the diner, where Elaine's salad went up and down, up and down!

                                                                                                I read somewhere once that Bette Davis would stub her cigarettes when they called cut and then go back to the right size cigarette, depending on where they picked up!

                                                                                            2. re: 3y3z4

                                                                                              Everything you see was a choice. Some are thoughtful, some are not. To answer your first question: Someone in production made a choice for the character to use chopsticks instead of a fork. This could be a visual shortcut to say to the audience that this (Western) person is "worldly" and/or "cultured" vs. someone who grew up in the sticks, away from easy access to foods of other cultures and parts of the world, and eats with a fork.

                                                                                              I'm not saying this is a truism, but it's a visual shortcut for folks. If it's not a visual shortcut in the story, then it was the less expensive choice for production.

                                                                                              1. re: 3y3z4

                                                                                                "This could be a visual shortcut to say to the audience that this (Western) person is "worldly" and/or "cultured" vs. someone who grew up in the sticks.."

                                                                                                Yes I recall in the movie "Seven" w/ Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman they (to me) contrasted the sophistication and experience of the Freeman character to the youth and brashness of Pitt's character by showing Freeman drinking wine from a glass then cutting to Pitt drinking beer from a bottle in one scene.

                                                                                                1. re: 3y3z4

                                                                                                  "Everything you see was a choice."

                                                                                                  This is the answer. It is done for 'production purposes.'

                                                                                                  This is a global answer that could cover continuity (as eloquently stated upthread by 3y3z4), setting the scene, making it easier for the actors, and giving a strong visual clue to the character or scene.

                                                                                              2. We have 3 sets of 6 or 8 to package here, and I also have Asian soup spoons. We love sashimi and sushi and when we have it, DH cuts the fish, and I prepare the little dishes of condiments and a miso soup of some kind. My everyday dishes are black with kanji writing on them and the rest of the set I put together with red, black and white dishes. They make me happy when I plate up our meals.

                                                                                                1. I don't own REALLY nice chopsticks, but some decent ones. I usually only eat take-out if I'm on the go, so I use cheap ones. But I do use the chopsticks, until I get down to the bottom and switch to a fork.

                                                                                                  I also eat out of the container sometimes, depending on my situation. If I'm in a hurry or am only going to eat some of it, I eat out of the container. If I am sitting at a table and plan on eating the entire portion, I dump it onto a plate.

                                                                                                  1. First Chinese take-out experience .... the year was 1962 --University Ave Minneapolis. I was 6 years old. Nice chopsticks? Yes a couple pair. I eat out of the containers in my office for lunch probably once per week. I think the movies and tv do it that way because they can. It's just easier that way.

                                                                                                    1. I eat directly out of the cardboard box when I'm alone--though things like noodles come in plastic containers these days--but I never use chopsticks at home.

                                                                                                      I think seeing that image in movies was supposed to be Hollywood shorthand for "urbane". Silly, up there with movie characters always screaming "taxi!" when they hail a cab

                                                                                                      1. I have nice chopsticks but still usually eat with a fork. Never eat out of the container even if I'm alone. Always use a plate but I also usually have more than one item, like a stir fry, rice and at least one app. So I fill my plate with some of each.

                                                                                                        1. 1. Chopstics...yes, I can use them. I have several GOOD sets from my trips to Japan and China. But invariably, I'll ask for and use the splinter-ridden ones I get with the food.
                                                                                                          2. Out of the container...ONly if I'm by myself. Shared? No...plates are to be used.

                                                                                                          1. I was thinking about Chinese take away in US films and tv the other day.
                                                                                                            I'm in the UK and all Chinese take away food is now in plastic containers (used to be foil with cardboard lids). The white cardboard containers make it seem the food would be far tastier than from the plastic containers we get.
                                                                                                            If I'm back in the US I'll be sure to get a take away and eat it straight from the containers with chopsticks.

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                                                                                                            1. re: Paprikaboy

                                                                                                              I had an Irish friend visiting recently and this was one of her requests: Chinese food from "the little cartons". I didn't really get it, but I obliged her.

                                                                                                            2. I learned to use chopsticks when I was a youngling in Hawaii. We always had nice chopsticks growing up and always used them when we had takeout (which, despite what was claimed upstream, was NOT in NYC and WAS before 1979). We always plated our to-go food because of our family of three or four (depending if my step-father's ship was in port) sharing the meal. There have been plenty of times that I have eaten directly out of the container when dining solo.

                                                                                                              1. I have chopsticks at home. Depending on where I'm eating, I will put my rice in a bowl & either transfer the rest to plates or keep them in the containers and eat family style

                                                                                                                1. I think it's purely for aesthetics. It's people's jobs to design each detail of a set, down to the smallest details.

                                                                                                                  The box and sticks are easily recognizable as takeout and easily shows whatever sentiment the scene is trying to portray.
                                                                                                                  Usually it's intimacy, laziness, or sadness (i.e. romantic comedies after the breakup, before the blissful reunion. In the rain.)

                                                                                                                  Same is true for ice cream. Nothing seems to convey depression in a film better than a lonely lady eating out of a pint of ice cream. And, naturally, polishing off the carton in one sitting.

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                                                                                                                  1. re: Azizeh

                                                                                                                    Interesting and as you made me think about it, rather accurate as well. So do me a favor and script me a "happy meal".

                                                                                                                    Is it just concluded to be happy because they are cooking it? Seems to me most celebratory meals in movies have to do with the actual preparation of the the meal being upbeat and happy experience.

                                                                                                                    So if a lonely lady eating ice cream convey's depression, script for me the meal which would be the opposite, the one that exudes happiness, joy. Give me your take, please.

                                                                                                                  2. I don't have "really nice" chopsticks but I own at least 10/15 pairs of wooden ones and about 20 of plastic ones. I buy set like these at our local asian grocer.


                                                                                                                    I never eat out of the cartons since I never get asian take out alone. If I did decided to get some on a rare night without my family I would happily eat out of the carton and save myself some dishes!

                                                                                                                    1. I'm always struck by the fact that they have 10-12 containers of food, even if the scene only has two people in it!

                                                                                                                      1. I have noticed that in the past. And they always seem to be wearing sweats and t-shirts. The guy's pants are grey, and the girl's pants are pink. I think it's just one of those standard images.

                                                                                                                        1. When I get an "entrée" like gen tso's chicken, it is packaged in a foil tray with clear plastic top. The rice and other foods like lo mein and sweet and sour chicken are in the white cardboard boxes.
                                                                                                                          The white boxes never have the pretty red Chinese style printings/chracters on them though (like a red bridge or something).
                                                                                                                          Shows like The OC and The Big Bang Theory always have them sitting in a circle away from a table eating from their individual containers. Must not eat the rice, just the meat/veggies and sauce.
                                                                                                                          No egg rolls for them either
                                                                                                                          (maybe we can't see them)

                                                                                                                          1. It seems a lot of the "eating out of containers" scenes
                                                                                                                            take place in a work environment - I'm a Law and Order
                                                                                                                            fanatic and they do it often - which would assume they
                                                                                                                            don't have plates and utensils.

                                                                                                                            But, as several posters have noted, those white cardboard
                                                                                                                            containers are pretty much a thing of the past so it
                                                                                                                            will be interesting to see what the writers turn to as an

                                                                                                                            1. I didn't read through every post so don't know if it's been mentioned, but it is easier for continuity if the food is masked by the white container. There's probably only a bite or two of food in there anyway.

                                                                                                                              In real life, I can't eat right from the container - all the sauce settles in the bottom half! And that's just the foods that still come in the paper container. I mostly see the great, totally reusable white plastic lidded ones now, too.

                                                                                                                              1. So I went Googling to see if I could find some Chinese food takeout container-dishes for the nostalgic among us, and look what I found on HuffPo: Chinese takeout containers unfold into plates (or bowls if you unfold just one side), and fold right back up to box up leftovers:


                                                                                                                                Pretty cool.

                                                                                                                                As to, well, china made in the style of takeout containers, couldn't find any, but maybe I didn't Google long enough. I had to stop because now I'm hungry :).

                                                                                                                                1. We always use chopsticks but they can be nice or cheap. We even use chopsticks for meals at home that are Asian.

                                                                                                                                  I think in the media they are trying to establish that it is Chinese that is being eaten.
                                                                                                                                  Those are symbols.

                                                                                                                                  In college we ate from the container.

                                                                                                                                  Now we are more likely to share plus have access to plates etc. Also some places cram more food into a Carton than others.

                                                                                                                                  1. Never use chopsticks and usually we're sharing the different foods, so we have plates. Oh, and a lot of the entrees don't even come in those white containers. The "house specials" like general tso come in an aluminum container with a plastic top. Only the rices and a few other things come in those white containers. i wish more did. I like those!

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                                                                                                                                    1. re: wincountrygirl

                                                                                                                                      I like the white containers but they leak.

                                                                                                                                    2. Now I'm craving American Chinese takeout!