Wednesday, February 4, 2009

A spoonful of ..

It appears that, for me at least, it is always the silliest little things that can lead to the most culture shock. It tends not to be the government, the schools or the taxes that make me realize it's a 'foreign' country. But rather, something so simple, and yet so foreign. In this case, silverware, or more specifically, spoons and forks, and their uses.

Growing up in the US, every basic set of silverware sold in a store, regardless of it's actual design, contained the following pieces:

Desert/Salad Fork, Dinner Fork, Knife, Tablespoon, Teaspoon.

For the basic everyday place setting, we used only the dinner fork, knife and teaspoon. The 'tablespoon' was better known to me as a 'soup spoon' and that was pretty much it's only purpose in life. It was the big spoon that sat in the drawer unused unless it was Campbell's soup time. Grab the ritz crackers, smash them all over the top of your soup, and then get that rare implement out of the drawer and dig in!

The desert/salad fork was used primarily for cake. Yummy! If the little fork was on the table it meant something really tasty was on it's way - hopefully chocolate, with chocolate frosting.

But then I moved to Denmark. Now, as this is the only foreign land in which I have lived, I have no idea if their version of silverware use is exclusive to Denmark, or if this is one of those European things. But, here is your basic set of silverware found in all the stores here:

Fork, Knife, Teaspoon, Tablespoon.

Attention here must be given to the teaspoon. Notice the size. Notice that little-itty-bitty speck of a spoon. Reminds me of the spoon that is given only to those learning to use silverware for the first time - the baby spoon.

But no, that is the teaspoon in Denmark, and in general, it's not on the table. They use the monstrous tablespoon as their everyday spoon. Granted, it IS called a tablespoon, so perhaps they're onto something here and if so, it pains me to admit, if we're going solely by names, they're using it correctly and Americans are not. But, but, tis just a 'name' given randomly at some point I am sure! My dear danish hubby eats his morning cereal with this particular spoon. I just can't bring myself to do it; it just seems SO huge.

On the other hand, the little-itty-bitty, can't pick up anything with it, spoon is used for dessert. And this is where logic fails me. For the life of me, I cannot comprehend eating cake with a spoon; it just sends my brain into a tizzy and confuses my taste buds. It may be okay when it comes to ice cream, however, it's so small it will take you several hours to actually eat the bowl of ice cream, and you know what that means for the ice cream - it turns into the wicked witch of the west and screams.. "I'm melting!"

It's always a fun evening at our house when we have Danish relatives for dinner; I like to confuse the hell out of them by using the typical American place setting. After all, our wedding cutlery did come from the states so... tis only natural!

And now for something completely different. When it comes to the Danes, and their love of modern design, you may end up with silverware that looks like this....

I can't begin to explain what these 3 pieces of silverware might be useful for, unless perhaps one is trying to lose weight, so I won't even try.


  1. Loved this post! The Asians use their cutlery similarly to the Danes so I didnt find anything new on this aspect. I found this American system rather interesting.

  2. When it comes to that little spoon, I use it almost exclusively for putting sugar in my coffee. But I have eaten plenty of danish desserts with it at other people's homes. That being said, almost all danish desserts I've had are very moist. I'm still struggling with Aeblekage - which despite its name "apple cake" is really applesauce topped with whipped cream and rasp (sweetened bread crumbs). Every time I hear "aeblekage" I get all excited... and then profoundly disappointed. It is, however, perfectly suited for being consumed with the little spoon.

  3. hence my reason for ordering 12 AMERICANIZED place settings from! LOl
    so I set our table my way... plus the little spoons that Mads has when we have our egg cups out! LOL

  4. oh Patti - you are sooo funny! Ruth forwarded this to me so I went to your blog to check it out! Maybe, just maybe, if I used a dessert spoon that small I would not look this way! Great blog! debb

  5. You can actually get those medium-sized spoons and forks in Europe. That kind of spoon is just called a "dessert spoon" -dessertske.
    Take a look here:

  6. In my experience (as a Swede) the teaspoon is actually mostly used for tea (or coffee or hot chocolate). And absolutely never for icecream. If you serve icecream you'll either have dessert spoons or just whip out the big ones. We do eat cake with a spoon if served at someone's home, but in a restaurant there's usually a dessert fork.

  7. Hi, just stumbled upon your blog from Mads and Kelli's site. :)

    Yup, those are the standard, but as mentioned, you forgot the dessert spoon. :)

    If you go to fancier restaurants you will find salad forks and fish knifes etc. - in which case, I'm pretty grateful for the outside --> towards plate eating order.

  8. In Denmark I was used to:
    Kniv og gaffel: fork and knife for eating dinner
    Teske: teaspoon for stirring coffee and tea
    kagegaffel: little fork for cake
    Desertske: medium sized spoon for æblekage, icecream and pudding.
    grillbestik: really sharp knife for steaks.

    But here in Seattle it's like people don't care or even know how to use a knife.

    I find myself always having to ask for a knife all the time as I find it difficult and not very well mannered to eat everything with a fork like a 2 year old.

    At thanksgiving and Christmas my new family surprised me (don't get me wrong, I love them, but sometimes they just seem so weird to a Dane like me.) I was expecting a nice table with tablecloth and candles, but they used plastic plates and plastic forks and went to sit in the living-room in front of the TV while eating. First they loaded their huge plastic plates with a massive amount of food, then cut up everything in little pieces like they were making it ready for babies, and then just used the fork in their right hand to eat everything with.

    So it's interesting to see that somebody actually HAVE nice silverware there, and know how to use it. :)


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