Just A Spoonful Of Yogurt
‘Each kind of spoon is used for a specific purpose, and should never be used except for that one.’ So wrote Lady Constance Howard in her 1885 Etiquette : What to do, and how to do it. ‘A grave error would be committed,’ Lady Constance continued, ‘by using a dessert spoon for tea, or a tablespoon for anything else but soup.’
Rigid 19th Century etiquette is one thing, but could using different types of spoons affect how food actually tastes to we 21st Century diners?
Yes, according to Oxford University researchers Vanessa Harrar and Charles Spence and their 2013 study: The taste of cutlery: how the taste of food is affected by the weight, size, shape, and colour of the cutlery used to eat it. Harrar and Spence would be in grave trouble for using plastic spoons, but Lady Constance Howard might find some corroboration in their research results.
These researchers discovered that tampering with the physical properties of spoons affected the participants’ impressions of how their food tasted …
i. Diners eating from an unexpectedly heavy teaspoon – weighing three times more than usual – liked the yoghurt the least. They rated it as less dense and less expensive, though they did find it sweet.
ii. Those eating the same yoghurt from spoons that were visually identical but lighter rated their yoghurt as tasting denser and more expensive.
iii. Using a blue spoon led participants to rate their pink yoghurt as saltier. This follows up on past research showing that subjects rated unsalted popcorn as tasting salty when they ate it from a blue bowl.
iv. Those eating their yoghurt from black spoons rated it less sweet than those using white spoons.
v. In other dairy news: Oxford subjects who sampled cheese directly from a knife rated it as saltier than those who tasted identical cheese from a fork, spoon or toothpick.
As we ponder the ‘whys’, Lady Constance Howard offers two more pieces of spoon advice:
🥄 ‘Whenever forks can be used, etiquette ordains that it is more in accordance with good manners to use them than spoons.’
🥄 As for the slurping (👀) of soup: ‘In raising the spoon to the lips, place the fingers under the handle, the thumb at the top, and drink the soup from the side of the spoon; do not put it straight into your mouth; and don’t clutch your spoon as if you would never let it go again.’
Header Art: Olivie Strauss