In Search of 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.

(Also, this has absolutely nothing to do with writing. Don't worry. There's an Air Pirates sketch coming on Friday).

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 the common manners that 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 (in the West anyway). 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 shove 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, and put the fork in your left hand. The spoon is your primary utensil.

The spoon allows you to carry much more food. The fork, meanwhile, provides the means to fill the spoon to overflowing with a minimum of effort. You can also use the fork and spoon in conjunction to cut almost 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! The tortilla is amazing in that it doubles as a plate, but you can eat it! Pile it with food, roll it up, and shove as much into your mouth as you can handle. 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?


Anna Scott Graham said...

I became accustomed to using a fork and spoon for pasta while living in the UK, and the fork and knife combo as well, using the knife to 'push' things onto the fork. Better than ones' fingers, definitely!

AM said...

Interesting and fun post. I'm all for the tortilla!

Quick question: Is the Mexican food in Thailand similar to the US'? Is there a Thailand version of Mexican food like there is an American version of Mexican food?

I'm wondering because I was surprised at the extreme differences between America's versions of Mexican food and the real thing.

I don't understand why the Mexican's aren't cooking Mexican food like its prepared in the States. 8^)

Just kidding, there is no comparing the US version with authentic Mexican food. Can’t ever beat the real thing.

fairyhedgehog said...

It depends on the company I'm in. Lamb chops just demand to be eaten with the fingers but I don't do that unless I'm alone.

Adam Heine said...

Anna: I grew up using my fingers to load the fork, even though my mom told me not to every time.

AM: San Diego (my old home) has pretty authentic Mexican food actually, so I've been spoiled. In Chiang Mai, typical Thai-Mexican food is okay (they can certainly do salsa), but the portions are too small and expensive for me. Fortunately there's one or two foreigners, including a guy from Southern California, who know how to do it right :-)

hedgehog: That's awesome. If I ever made lamb chops for myself, that's how I'd eat them too.

Sara Raasch said...

Tortillas = Best. Food. Ever.

Matthew Delman said...

Here's my random fact of the day:

Only Americans switch their fork from their left hand while cutting to their right hand when they eat.

Europeans, from what I understand, cut and eat with the fork in the left hand. Apparently, that's how the Nazis could unearth American spies during WWII (dunno how true that is though).

Natalie Whipple said...

Well, I'm left-handed, so all this "eat with that hand" is confusing me.

My Vietnamese friends were big on the spoon/fork combo too. They'd get those big Asian soup spoons and put fork their noodles into that, then get a little broth. Yummm—it was very effective.

You know how I feel about sporks (it makes me freakishly happy that you have one in METAL).

I also like the "tortilla" thing. In India, they eat a lot on Naan bread like that. Forget the utensils all together.

All that said, I don't like taking big bites. I'm one of those freaks who prefers to savor my food.

Joshua McCune said...

Yes! Perfect buildup and perfect conclusion!

Cindy Heine said...

Is this a hint of what you want for dinner tonight, honey?

Adam Heine said...

Sara: So true.

Matt: Hugely fascinating, but frustrating if it's true. I always resented the switching-hands manners to the point where I didn't like eating steak. I guess I eat the European way now.

Natalie: Better than metal, it's titanium! As for savoring food, there was no time with my brothers or my friends. To quote Friends: "If you didn't eat fast, you didn't eat!"

Bane: Thank you.

Awesome Wife: Well, if you're offering...