What food implement is used by every culture in the world?

Formal place setting

Regardless of where you live, eat, or travel to, there is one eating implement you will inevitably encounter - the spoon. As explained in this interview from The Splendid Table with Bee Wilson, author of Consider the Fork: A History of How We Cook and Eat, the spoon is used by every human culture in the world. And it's more than a mere implement, but also a reflection on culture.

For example, "If you look at Victorian times, the 19th century, whether in Britain or the United States, there's this mad profusion of spoons -- everything from citrus spoons and gravy ladles to tomato spoons and sauce spoons." Wilson goes on to explain one possible reason:

"But I think the big thing that happened in the 19th century was a new civilization of table manners -- a new anxiety at the table about touching food, handling food. These specialized spoons go along with that because it's a way of never feeling you have to get too close to food with all of its stickiness and noise. It's a way of being extremely polite. There were even special solid silver potato chip servers marketed by Tiffany's, which I think is a very rarefied item. I'm not sure many households have those today."

And as she goes on to explain, spoons also reflect politics. In the Restoration period, "It was crucial for Charles II to really impose his will and make everyone forget the fact that we'd done without a king. One of the ways he did that was through spoons."

You can read and listen to the full interview or learn more from the book. But the next time you're given a spoon to drink soup with in an Asian restaurant - don't feel out of place. It's part of the culture. And if any of you have a potato chip spoon - we'd love to hear about it.

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