The History of the Tablespoon


I’ll admit that even for me, this is a weird topic.  Who in the world cares about spoons?

I blame it on a combination of no caffeine and my proclivity for having random-thoughts at the least opportune moments.  It was early morning hours, and I watched my coffee burble gleefully in the Keurig, waiting patiently for the dark brew to finish.  Walking back to my desk, I set down the coffee and reached for my creamer, measuring exactly one Tablespoon (measuring is key, anyone trying to lose weight can tell you that).  Suddenly, a thought struck me as this plastic spoon tipped and dropped the powdery concoction into my cup.  Why is this a tablespoon?  There is no way I’d ever use this at a table!

Thus began the curiosity of “Why is a tablespoon, a tablespoon?” and further along, “why is a teaspoon called a teaspoon?”.  I knew it must have to do with history, but had not a clue as to what it’d actually started out as.

Spoons have been around as long as humans have been able to carve curves into wood, from neolithic era until modern day.

Tablespoons obviously “existed”, but were nameless until the 1700’s.   It was customary for Europeans to bring their own spoons to the table, so much to the extent that they’d carry spoons with them just like we now carry pens, wallets and other various “necessities”.  Once the spoon started being placed on the table, rather than being carried by the user, it began to be known as the Table-Spoon, and yes it came along with the Table-Fork, and the Table-Knife.

Eventually the rest of the spoon-family came along, including Tea, Coffee, Dessert and Soup spoons.  As the dessert spoon and soup spoon gained popularity in every-day use, the Table-spoon began to to be used more as a serving spoon, rather than as an eating spoon.  It wasn’t long until the tablespoon (no longer hyphenated) began being used for cooking, and gained popularity as a standard of measurement, 4 fluid drams (drachms), 15 ml, about 1/2 a US fluid ounce.

Thus was born the tablespoon as we know today, the larger size spoon no longer used for eating, sometimes used for serving (ever wonder why you get those huge spoons in your kitchen utensil set?  Call one a “tablespoon” instead of a “serving spoon” sometime and see what reaction you get).

It’s time to finish my coffee, and maybe serve myself up another cup.

Thanks for reading!

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