The Spoon, which is my favorite utensil to use for eating ice cream and soup, is also the oldest exclusive eating instrument known to mankind. This isn’t too surprising since as long as humans have needed food to live, that having something to scoop it up with makes sense. The spoon is generally used to transfer edibles from vessel to mouth, usually at a dining table. The spoons shape and style is generally named after a drink or food with which they are most often used, the material with which they are most often used, the material with which they are composed, or a feature of their appearance or structure.
In the beginning, spoons could have been a specifically shaped rock or even gourds were used. By the time of the Neolithic’s, who were already using pottery, the spoon was taking its shape that we know today.
Both Roman and Greek spoons were being made of gold, silver, bronze, and ivory. Of course, the gold spoons were to be used in ceremonial rites. Spoons are even mentioned in the bible. Exodus 25:29 (King James Version), The Lord told Moses:
And thou shalt make the dishes thereof, and spoons thereof,
And covers thereof, and bowls thereof, to cover withal:
Of pure gold shalt, you make them.
In the Middle Ages, it was common to give newly baptized infants a spoon. If the family were from Aristocracy, silver would be used. If of lower birth class, it was common to use horn or wood. So, the old phrase “Born with a silver spoon in one’s mouth” is meant for the determination of if you are born of privilege or not. Spoons were also meant to be kept for life. Much like or previous friend “The Knife,” utensils were not generally handed out at formal gatherings from medieval lords. One had to bring your spoon; or rather the shortened and popular version written on the invitations, BYOS.
Food preparation in the Middle Ages was dishes boiled and roasted, so the spoon was popular to get all the good bits out, especially if the meals were soups, puddings, and stews. The size of the spoon back then was roughly the same size as our modern Tablespoon. In these times, the spoon was forged out of a single piece of metal and shaped into a deep fig-shaped bowl with a round or square, but flat shaped handle.
Fast forward to the end of the sixteenth century where it was de rigueur to wear stiff lace ruffles at the neck. It was decided, after many expensive dry-cleaning bills, that drinking soup out of a bowl wasn’t cost effective, so they started to use spoons with a larger bowl; moving from the traditional fig-shaped bowl to a more of a pear shape which caused the widest part of the spoon bowl being moved towards the stem, and thus eating soup. Starting in the mid-seventeenth century and into the eighteenth century, spoons were being made into different sizes and into specialized shapes to facilitate ingestion. Such new spoons made are the teaspoon, porringer spoon, dessert spoon, tablespoon, and the mote spoon. The teaspoon held half that of the tablespoon and was made to fit in a teacup. The porringer spoon was slightly smaller than today’s desert spoon; it was made to eat hot cereal from the double handled porringer bowl.
To get the most desert into the mouth, the desert spoon was larger than the teaspoon but smaller than the tablespoon. The tablespoon was larger than the other three spoons and was used to eat soup made with juicy bits of food. The mote spoons were the same size as teaspoons, but with a-holes or piercings that were used to remove tea leaves and such from a cup of tea. By the second half of the seventeenth century, the shape of the spoon bowl changed again from pear-shaped to “Ovid shaped” which is like what we use today. To have more balance in hand, the end of the spoon was to be hammered wide, which then allowed room for engraving monograms or family crests.
Finally, by the eighteenth century, the shape of the spoon handle changed from flat to a curved shape that would change the way we held the spoon. Whereas the flat stemmed spoons were held in the palm like a scoop, the curved handle was held in hand more like holding a pencil, which is how we hold the spoon today!
In the nineteenth century, due to the rising middle class, machine-made spoons (and silverware in general) were being made in a host of sizes and shapes for various purposes and food courses. The 25 common spoons you may see or use are listed below: Please note, there are more than what I have listed.
Absinthe spoon, Bouillon Spoon, Chinese Spoon, Caviar Spoon, Citrus Spoon, Coffee Spoon, Chocolate Spoon, Cream Soup Spoon, Demitasse Spoon, Desert Spoon, Egg Spoon, French Sauce Spoon, Five O’clock Spoon, Iced-Beverage spoon or Ice tea spoon, Ice Cream Spoon, Oval Soup Spoon, Place Spoon, Tea Spoon, Table Spoon, Salt Spoon, Spork, Sporf, Spife spoon, Stroon Spoon and finally the M1926 Spoon.