Thursday, April 1, 2010

17 Types of Cutlery

Any sophisticated diner wants to be familiar with the tools that may or may not be offered to them at the table. Knowing them by sight will be very useful, but it's also important to know why they offer you that specific knife for your purposes so... let's become educated diners together, shall we?

1) Dinner Fork: This is the long-tined fork you're used to. Why is it shaped the way it is? Well, see... originally forks only had two tines. This worked beautifully for things like meat. However, it doesn't work so well with peas or corn or such. More tines were added to make it easier to capture a variety of things from meat to legumes to vegetables.

2) Salad Fork: Same general idea of a dinner fork but it's a bit smaller and the tines are shorter. Notice that the tines are not an equivalent length apart. You've got one tine that's a bit wider (and sometimes notched) Why? This designed allows you to get more leverage will dining. See, there is some method to the madness. Here's the rule on salad forks: if your main course is a salad or if your salad is served as a side dish to your entrĂ©e, use your dinner fork. Otherwise, use your salad fork.



3) Fish Fork and Knife: These will usually be silver. Why? It's not just to be snooty. Fish is often served with lemon, which will react with steel and will create an unpleasant taste. So, if you're going to bother to go all out and buy the fish fork and knife set, make sure it's silver. As you may be able to tell, the tines on a fish fork are shorter than a traditional meat fork. But... but... a salad fork is shorter too, you cry. Don't worry. As we know, the tines on a salad fork are not evenly spaced. But a fish fork's tines are evenly spaced. The knife will usually be your dead giveaway. It will be in the same place in a place setting on the opposite side. These knives are not designed for cutting, they're more supposed to be used for seperating the fish meat from the bone cleanly. This knife is meant to be held the same way as the knife you're more familiar with, so don't worry.



4) Seafood Fork: These look like something Poseidan might yield. It can either have two or three short tines and is usually built to a) follow the shape of a shell and/or b) get into small spaces and spear the meat.  This is an extremely generic fork... keep in mind that there are lobster forks, oyster forks, snail forks (I know it's not a seafood, but it is a shell food), and shrimp forks. However, as most people can't even be bothered to use seafood forks so what are the odds of the average person using all these? That would be why there are so many shapes for a "seafood fork."




5) Beef Fork: A fork used specifically for picking up thin slices of meat (as you can guess beef would qualify). It's shaped like a regular fork but it's bigger and the tines are curved outward. You're not likely to see one any time soon... but just in case.






6) Relish Fork: This is sometimes called a condiment fork. If you see it, it looks like a mini fork with a long handle but... look carefully. There are two or three tines and they're set very close together. Often, but not always, the ends of the tines will be slightly splayed in order to hold more. All of this makes sense when you think of what relish and chutney are. So why not use a spoon? Don't be trashy! A relish fork allows for liquid to drain off which will make less of a mess and keep whatever food the server is topping from getting soggy. In a pinch, just use a seafood fork.

7) Teaspoon: A small spoon (not the measuring spoon) that is supposed to be used for... ready? ONLY BEVERAGES (though, actually, coffee does have its own spoon). Yeah, the theory is that everything else served at the table either has a seperate spoon or does not require one.

8) Tablespoon: A large spoon that is nowadays, usually used for serving rather than eating. So, naturally, the cutlery tablespoon holds the equivalent of the measuring spoon tablespoon, right? Nope, actually a cutlery tablespoon holds less than a tablespoon.

9) Soup Spoon: What? Really? We have to go through soup spoons?! Yeah, of course. Quick! What's the difference between a tablespoon and a soup spoon? See... ah, gotcha. Okay, here's the thing. A tablespoon is oval-shaped. How 'bout a soup spoon? Well, of course, because style is the name of the game, the shape will vary from set to set. But if we're talking standard definitions, a soup spoon has a rounded bowl rather than ovoid. It is also supposed to be slightly less than a tablespoon. These, of course, are the definitions for a Western soup spoon. Chinese soup spoons are usually made of ceramic and flat-bottomed.


10) Caviar Spoon: Oh come on! A... why would... but... that's just pretentious. It is, but if you're paying for good caviar, you want to do this right. For starters these spoons usually look distinctive. To me, they look like the Fischer-Price version of a spoon - sort of flattened, very round and with a long handle (in proportion to the size of the bowl). These spoons will often be made of glass, bone, mother of pearl and other non-metalic materials. But why? Caviar comes in tins without absorbing the metalic taste. If you had this thought, you'd be 100% right. You just want to make sure it's a spoon with a non-reactive nature. Also, think of the caviar culture and compare it to any other culture. The culture of smoking requires props... absinthe drinkers... pot smokers... wine drinkers... they've all got their own props. So don't judge caviar enthusiasts based on their spoon.


11) Dessert Spoon: Horray! Everyone knows dessert is best and, therefore, deserves its own spoon. It may be difficult to tell a dessert spoon from a soup spoon. Traditionally, the shape is ovoid (like a tablespoon) but the size is roughly the same size as a soup spoon. Oh, wait... I know the easiest way to tell a dessert spoon... It will almost always be placed above the plate (specifically so that it doesn't get confused). Why on earth would the dessert spoon for a formal dinner be so large, when desserts are typical small, delicate dishes? Well, piggie, the spoon is not supposed to be put in the mouth. You're supposed to eat from the side of the spoon.

12) Runcible Spoon: If someone asks you if you want a runcible spoon... they're being an ass. This is a nonesense spoon that does not exist and comes from Lear's poem "The Owl and The Pussycat." Though, on the flipside, if you want to make your dinners feel ignorant, apologize for not putting runcible spoons on the table and see how they react.

13) Steak Knife: A steak knife should be offered with any fibrous protein. What I find more interesting is that you can tell the clientele of a restaurant by their steak knives. How's that? Go to a middle of the road steak house... Your steak knife will be over-sized (and if it's family oriented, the tip will be rounded) with smaller serrations... A more upscale restaurant will give you a smaller sharper knife with a pointed tip. Seriously, check it out and tell me if I'm wrong.

14) Butter Knife: Smaller than a dinner knife or a steak knife and usually (but not always) with a rounded tip. What should a person use this for? Well, to be proper, you should ONLY use it to cut and spread butter.


15) Dinner Knife: Your generic, all-purpose knife you use every day.

16) Oyster Knife: Yup, it gets its own fork and its own knife. You will not usually find this on the table... but depending on the gather, you might. It's a short, thick knife designed to give enough leverage to pry open an oyster without breaking the knife itself.






17) Cheese Knife: Not a cheese slicer, a cheese knife. This knife has the feel of an inverse knife, thinner at the handle, wider at the end (to counteract the effect of how we humans naturally hold a knife and allow us to cut through evenly) and has a series of holes in it. Yeah, this isn't to mimic Swiss cheese... it's to keep the cheese from sticking to the knife.

5 comments:

  1. interesting! thanks

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  2. I'm selling some old cutlery on ebay and didn't recognise half of it! Your page helped greatly. Thankyou. GPWPoetry.

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