Etiquette & superstition: a multitude of spoons

spooon
This four foot long spoon attached to a tree outside this house in our neighborhood is puzzling to me. True, I own a four foot long spoon, but I keep it in the kitchen. Maybe this house is the secret hideout of The Tick.

ETIQUETTE: Everybody who complains about utensil etiquette usually complains about the forks. “The forks! There are so many! It’s so hard with the forks!” I wonder about these everybodies sometimes. It’s as if they just sit there staring at the left-hand side of their place settings and never bother to notice the abundance of spoons on the right-hand side, and even above the plate. These everybodies are going to have heart attacks with the spoons if they’re already having trouble with forks.

If you go into the early to mid-20th century etiquette books you are going to see a lot of dissension about spoons. As an example, ’50s edition Emily Post will tell you that tablespoons are a little arrogant to have around the house, but she makes no mention of soup spoons or what one is supposed to eat soup with. Amy Vanderbilt from that era has no problem with tablespoons but really only likes to talk about dessert spoons, unless she is upset about teaspoons showing up where the soup spoon should be (though she makes little mention of the soup spoon itself, relegating it to a few diagrams). The ever-thorough Etiquette Scholar does a very nice job of outlining the 14 types of spoons one may commonly find at a table, though he does not mention the scalloped sugar spoon.

Let’s just make this simple. If you’re at a formal dinner, your soup spoon is going to be to the right of your knife and your dessert spoon is either going to be above your plate or will be provided when dessert is served. They also should be helpful with providing your teaspoon with your tea saucer and/or your coffee spoon with your demitasse service. If anybody looks at you with an “Oh! The Wrong Spoon!” face, it is their fault for providing you with the wrong spoon at the wrong time. Give them a withering “I am doing the best that I can with what I have been provided” face in response and we’re done with that.

SUPERSTITION: Two spoons inadvertently placed in a single cup or saucer signal either an impending wedding, a second wedding, or twins. Spooning gravy backhanded will lead to arguments within the house.

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