The Friendliest Utensil

Spoons are the preferred utensil for everything from caviar to camping grub. They hold liquids and solids, never wear out, and are hard to hurt yourself with. And they’re adaptable for highly specialized activities. Here are some of our favorite twists (click images for larger versions).

1. Spork, by Moscardino. A proto-spork consisting of a spoon, fork, and knife was patented in 1874; the word spork was coined later. This biodegradable one made of corn-based plastic was invented in 2000.

2. Spork, by Light My Fire. Created as part of a portable meal kit for a Swedish outdoor-accessories company, this combination spoon, fork, and knife made of polycarbonate looks like plastic but doesn’t melt in boiling water.

3. Korean spoon, by KGrocer.com. Unlike most cultures that use chopsticks, Koreans use spoons for rice. This modern sudgarak (which just means “spoon” in Korean) has a large, circular mouth and long handle designed for eating both rice and soup.

4. Caviar spoon, by Sur La Table. Luxurious mother-of-pearl suits the costliness of the roe and offsets its dark color (silver and stainless steel spoons oxidize the roe and impart off flavors).

5. Gelato spoon, by Savoia. Small, delicate metal or plastic spoons with a shovel-shaped bowl are used for Italian gelato, which is softer and comes in smaller portions than regular ice cream.

6. Grapefruit spoon, by Williams-Sonoma. A serrated edge easily separates the fruit from the membrane. Grapefruit spoons are spin-offs of orange spoons, which were created when fruit became more readily available with the 1869 completion of the nation’s first transcontinental railroad, according to Feeding Desire: Design and the Tools of the Table, 1500–2005 (Assouline, 2006).

7. Chinese soup spoon. The deep oval head holds a lot of broth-based soup. This version originated during the Qin Dynasty (221 BC to 207 BC). Restaurants also use them for amuses-bouches because the flat base allows them to stand up by themselves.

8. Appetizer spoon, by Crate & Barrel. With elegant handles and delicate proportions, these are made for serving spreads and dips at fancy parties. In the early part of the 20th century, silversmiths started creating highly specialized utensils, including an asparagus fork and a fried-oyster spoon. In 1925, President Herbert Hoover capped the number of utensils in a set at 55.

9. Plastic medicine spoon, by Walgreens. The hollow handle with measurement markings allows easy, accurate dispensing of cough syrup. This spoon was invented in the late 1700s.

10. Egg spoon, by RSVP Endurance. Small-sized, with a blunt rounded end designed to scoop the inside of a soft-boiled egg without breaking the shell, these became popular in the United States in the early 1800s.

Scanner spoon art by Chris Rochelle.