Spoons come in as many variations as possible, the task they’re up to, defines the spoon! We’re a long way away of the spiral-shaped snail shell (cochlea in Greek and Latin), or the chip or splinter of wood (Anglo-Saxon “spon”). Men don’t wear their spoon in their belt anymore, nor do women hang it at their belt, next to their house keys. Neither do we carry our eating utensils with us when we travel, in a special case in our pocket, although French men still do carry their knife with them, when invited and use it to eat with, no matter how nice you lay your table cutlery, or how fine it is.
Musical spoons, souvenir spoons and egg and spoon races, survived history! I don’t think people make music that way nowadays, to loosen the spirit of an animal and obtain its positive spiritual benefits, fun alone will be enough a reward. Anyway, if you love spoons, you should have lived in Victorian times, diversity of spoons all around, each course required its own utensils!
Formal dining, still has strict rules concerning the use of a spoon! You’re not allowed to sip from them, nor use your fingers to push food onto them (spoon in your right hand), that’s why you have a fork (left hand)! You’re supposed to put them on your service plate or saucer when finished eating, never leave them in your bowl or cup!
The French use their tiny, small coffee spoon “cuillère à café”, as a measurement in contrast with the rest of the world, using the teaspoon. The French Duc d’Orléans had many silver coffee spoons, but not one teaspoon in his famous collection!
Silver spoons meant wealth and no matter how poor you were, even as a peasant, each couple had to have their own silver spoon, considered more important than having a decent bed in the 1500’s. It’s a long way from the Egyptian religious ceremonies, where ivory, wood, flint or slate spoons were decorated and filled with hieroglyphics. The wealthy Greek and the Romans used bronze or silver spoons. England showed off in 1259 with evidence of spoons and every British king could only become one, after being anointed by a ceremonial spoon.
Some of their names are heavenly, what about this one “Mother-of-pearl”, an egg spoon used by the Edwardians, a bone spoon, as silver can be stained by egg yolk! A bit the same goes apparently for caviar, silver can change its taste, so use a spoon made of gold, animal horn or wood in case you would offer somebody this dish!
The “pieds-de-biche” or “trifid” spoon, was a French design, having a flat handle, swelling towards the end with a cleft shape. The trefoil on it, comes from the fleur-de-lis, the lily representing French kingship and at the back you can see the hammered stem going up onto the back of the bowl.
In Tudor and Stuart times the christening spoon, silver or gold for the rich and copper or brass for the poor, became fashion. I remember the still existing custom, of being offered a full set of expensive cutlery for my confirmation, not particularly something you wanted as a twelve year old, but that was the beginning of your “wedding dowry”.
Talking about spoons makes me think about spaghetti, can’t help it, I know you should eat it with a fork alone in Italy, in order not to be rude, as spoons are for children, amateurs or people with bad table manners! So the French would say: “N’y va pas avec le dos de la cuiller”, which means don’t act blunt or deliberate (note that the French word for spoon, can be spelled cuiller or cuillère; both spellings are correct)!
Leaving you with a little bit of good advice: “ He who sups with the devil should have a long spoon”, warning you, that if you are surrounded by dangerous people, you have to make sure, they can’t harm you!
And we can’t forget T.S. Eliot’s warning, with one of the most famous poems of the 20th century:
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons.
So let go of limitations, love and scoop up life, in vintage style of course!