Can anyone actually eat with a spork?

By By Robert St. John
Sept. 11, 2002
Robert St. John is the executive chef/owner of New South Restaurant Group. His weekly food column appears in newspapers in Mississippi and Louisiana. If you have questions or comments, he can be reached at robert@nsrg.com or (601) 264-0672.
The evolution of flatware has been slow.
For thousands of years, man was content to eat with his fingers. In the 1500s the fork came into common table use. Spoons appeared in the mid-1700s. Every utensil since then has been a variation on the same theme.
In the 19th century, Victorian society began molding flatware from sterling silver. The Gilded Age citizenry set extremely elaborate and ornate tables and invented flatware we didn't even need. How else does one explain olive forks, grape shearers and asparagus servers?
The fork and spoon are basic in their design. They are impervious to modern advancements and improvements, or so we thought.
Just when you thought it was safe to go back to the dinner table
Enter the spork
A "spork" is a cross between a spoon and a fork. (spoon + fork = spork). It is usually plastic and has the shape of a spoon, but at the tip are a set of small jagged tines. The number of tines varies from spork to spork, but usually there are three or four. Sporks are found in fried chicken franchises and barbecue shacks.
The spork is the world's most useless eating utensil a result of man's endless desire to tinker.
The question of the day is: Can anyone actually eat with a spork? I say, no. I have never been able to eat anything with a spork. It's not sharp enough to stab food and the stumpy little tines prevent you from drinking any liquid from it. Being plastic, any serious eating or heavy lifting done with the spork results in a broken spork.
The spork has been around since the mid 1960s. Its birth can be traced to the rapid growth of the fast food industry and the need for an all-in-one disposable eating utensil.
Proper name
The proper name for a spork is a runcible spoon (patent info, 1970 Official Gaz. [U.S. Patent Office] 11 Aug. tm 65 Van Brode Milling Co., Inc., Clinton, Mass. Spork for Combination Plastic Spoon, Fork and Knife).
The first literary mention of a runcible spoon, was in the late 19th century, in Edward Lear's poem, "The Owl and the Pussycat."
Which they ate with a runcible spoon;
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
They danced by the light of the moon."
I have no idea what that poem means (I just don't "get" poetry). Mr. Lear must have been on some serious medication when he wrote it. I have never eaten a quince, but I guarantee there is no way to eat one with a spork. And if anyone out there knows what an edible mince is, give me a call.
Ready for more?
A spork should never be confused with a "woon." A woon is a small, flat wooden spoon passed around with cups of ice cream at children's birthday parties. It is the second most useless utensil.
And a "stroon" is different from a woon. A stroon is a straw with a small spoon on the end served with slushies and Big Gulp Dr. Peppers.
Occasionally you will find a spork with its edges milled or serrated This is called a "knork" (knife + spork). This flatware hybrid has to be the third most useless eating utensil.
Our lives are full of useless inventions: solar powered flashlights, inflatable dartboards, black highlighter pens and helicopter ejection seats. But, in the world of impractical and ineffective contrivances, sporks reign supreme.
Crescent City Grill Seafood Gumbo
5 cups shrimp stock
5 cups chicken stock
5 Gumbo crabs
31/2 cups tomatoes, diced with juice
2/3 cup tomato Sauce
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 bay leaves
21/2 teaspoons basil
1 teaspoon oregano
11/4 cup corn oil
11/2 cups flour
2 cups okra
3 cups onion, medium dice
11/2 celery, medium dice
1 cup green onion, chopped
1 cup bell pepper, medium dice
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
3 tablespoons garlic, minced
2 tablespoons Crescent City Grill Creole Seasoning
3 tablespoons Crescent City Grill Cayenne &Garlic Sauce
2 pounds shrimp, peeled
1 pound claw crabmeat, picked of all shell
1 pound lump crabmeat, picked of all shell
1 pound oysters, with juice
Bring first 10 ingredients to a boil. Reduce heat to a brisk simmer and continue to cook skimming the tomato-like foam from the top of the stock. While the stock is simmering, make a dark roux (approximately 10 minutes) using the corn oil and flour.
To the roux add the okra stirring constantly. Once the okra is incorporated into the roux add the onion, celery, green onion, bell pepper, parsley, garlic, Creole seasoning and hot sauce stirring well to incorporate. At this point you should have something that resembles a black gooey mass.
Add the shrimp and continue stirring until shrimp turn pink. Add the crabmeat and oysters. Turn up the heat on the simmering stock. Transfer the seafood-roux mixture to the hot stock and stir until the roux is completely dissolved. Bring the stock to a boil once more and then reduce to a simmer. Remove the Gumbo crabs and serve over rice.

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