The Perfect Utensil


For some, the perfect eating utensil is the most elegant, the most practical, or simply whatever they're used to. But me? I want a utensil that allows me to eat the most amount of food with the least amount of trouble. Let's begin.

Like most Westerners, I grew up with the knife and fork. It's the perfect combination for a culture that eats primarily meat (although I'll never understand why manners dictate you switch hands for slicing and eating). Ideally suited for steak, the fork/knife can handle a wide variety of other foods. So it's good, but not the best. Let's look at some other options.

The chopsticks are the choice of the East. They are an elegant utensil, and you're super-cool if you can use them. But cool as they are, they just don't make any sense for countries whose primary dish is rice. I mean, seriously guys, how am I supposed to eat this?

Next up is the spork. The scooping action makes it an ideal choice for rice and small pastas, and the tongs give it the versatility to spear larger chunks of food. The spork is almost perfect, but used alone, it is difficult to get reluctant peas onto the shovel or to slice foods too big for one bite.

Enter Thailand. In Thailand, chopsticks are only used for noodle dishes (sometimes not even then). The preferred combination is a fork and spoon, but you'll have to throw out your Western mindset: the fork goes in your off hand. The spoon is your primary utensil.

The spoon allows you to carry much more food. And the fork allows you to fill the spoon to overflowing with a minimum of effort. You can also use them to cut anything except a tough steak.

But then why are you eating tough steak anyway?

The fork-and-spoon is the best combination I've found yet, to the point where I often ask for a spoon when I visit the States. But there is one eating utensil that tops even these.

The tortilla! This amazing invention serves as a plate, but you can eat it! Pile it with food, roll it up, and shove it all into your mouth. The best part is, when you're done, there's nothing left to wash but your hands.

Geez, I could go for some Mexican food right now.

How about you? What do you like to eat with?


Steve MC said...

Never thought of cultural differences with utensils.

My rules of cooking are it should never take longer to prepare than to eat, and never take more plates to prepare than to eat it with, and so I'm big on sandwiches. :-)

MattyDub said...

A note about switching utensils: recall that it's only an American requirement to switch hands. Europeans don't do that at all. The (possibly apocryphal) story I heard about the reason why dates back to pre-Revolutionary days. The colonies were divided as to Loyalists and those who favored Independence. Apparently while eating at pubs and what-not, people would get stabbed by the person sitting across the table from them while in the midst of a heated debate about whether or not to revolt. So proprietors started requiring that customers would put their knives down or into their left hand (not clear on this part) when they weren't actually cutting meat.
Like I said, it's just what I heard.

Matthew MacNish said...

I was about to say the best thing to do was wrap it up, and use your hands. But then you stole my thunder.

Unknown said...

Drat. You're making me hungry :P

jjdebenedictis said...

India also uses roti bread to eat with, and I went to (I think it was) a Kenyan restaurant where the meal was served on a bed of sourdough-like flatbread that you ate with.

I have trouble eating with roti. You're supposed to tear off a bit, make a little cone of it, then scoop up the (generally drippy) dishes with the cone. The food is soooo yummy, but I--in the throes of my Western gluttony and instant gratification addition--simply cannot get it into my mouth fast enough using roti.

jjdebenedictis said...


Angela Brown said...

How about this? Let's categorize everything as "finger foods", with the exception of soups and sauces. Then just use your hands. Unless there's been some sort of an incident or birth defect, you've got two. You pick up, scoop and grab. Who needs a knife then? Or a fork? lol!!!

With soups, just pretend the bowl is a cup and have at it. :-)

Nancy Thompson said...

I'm a true Westerner, switch hands & everything, but I love chopsticks, too. And if the rice is made correctly, nice & sticky, it's not a problem. But I'll tell ya, having grown up in California, there's nothing like the tortilla, 'cept maybe pita, or better yet, pogacha!

(Can you get Mexican food in Thailand? I live in Seattle, and you just can't find real Mexican food here, not like in California. *sigh*)