The dish ran away with the spoon.

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The dessert spoon: everybody knows what one is and what it’s for. If, after a big meal, you’re served … say … a banana pudding, you need a little spoon to eat it. The same is true here in France, of course: to savor a mousse au chocolat, you need a little spoon … for a crème brûlée, you need a little spoon … for a slice of chocolate cake, you need a little sp …

Hold on, wait just a minute …

One of the cultural differences I noted soon after arriving in France is the prevalence of the spoon as the utensil of choice for eating dessert, no matter its consistency. Sometimes, this makes perfect sense — the mousse, the crème brûlée, the little carton of Danone yogurt. But, sometimes, I would look at my dessert, and then I’d look at the utensil I’d been given to eat it with, and I’d just scratch my head.

Take this, for example:

© 2013 Samuel Michael Bell, all rights reserved

Now, I’d naturally reach for a fork to dig into this, but I can see the logic here:

Mousse covered in chocolate → spoon.

This one, though, is a little harder to explain:

© 2013 Samuel Michael Bell, all rights reserved

A spoon for an éclair? Really? Okay, okay … I’ll go with it:

Custard covered in baked dough → spoon.

A few weeks ago, though, when I stopped by the neighborhood Starbucks, I realized just how engrained this French spoon obsession really is. I ordered an espresso and a “roll aux fruits rouges” (“red fruit roll”). It’s a sweet pastry, kind of like a cinnamon roll, but with raspberries and red currants inside. Now, I’d normally just pick something like this up and eat it with my hands, but my French Starbucks hosts thought it proper etiquette to serve it with …. <drumroll> …

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© 2013 Samuel Michael Bell, all rights reserved

… a spoon.

That’s right. A spoon. And a plastic one at that. Alright, folks, whatever. I get it:

Sweet thing to eat → spoon.

Maybe it’s a vestige of the fact that most French desserts are creamy confections, or at least contain a creamy confection? Maybe like leaving chopsticks resting in a bowl, using a fork to dig into a dessert is just rude? Maybe there’s a French government subsidy for spoon manufacturing?

Who knows? Tell me, fellow expats and amis français, have you had the same experience? What do you know about this that I don’t?

In any case, bon appétit … and may there always be a dessert spoon with your dinner!

© 2013 Samuel Michael Bell, all rights reserved

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8 thoughts on “The dish ran away with the spoon.

  1. Perhaps it’s an anglo saxon thing, the dessert service with fork and spoon? I’ve definitely never encountered a fork with dessert, wait, no there was one not that long ago, even a knife to go with it. Can’t remember what it was though, sorry!! In Germany you get a small “cake” fork with anything that’s of firm-ish consistency, even cream cakes…

    1. I know they have dessert forks here, but I must say that encountering them is rare (or has been for me). Being as tongue-in-cheek as I tend to be about these things, I just HAD to post about this once I encountered the spoon with the “red fruit roll.” 😀

  2. I feel the same way every time I get a big spoon when I order a spaghetti dish. Twirling pasta around a fork is sooo complicated.
    As my mother always said “spoons are for children and tourists”

  3. Interesting observations. I never thought about it. All I know is that when I was growing up in France, we would never eat with our hands…always had to use a fork or a spoon…except for croissants or pains au chocolat.

  4. I never thought about it neither. I would eat anything with a spoon (except spaghetti), and I have no trouble getting my fingers dirty. Back home in Montreal, I think they usually give you a spoon or a fork (and knife, if necessary) according to what’s in the plate. Gros bon sens. Depends on the restaurant I guess.

    Speaking of utensils, I never ate a burger with a fork and knife before coming to France. They sometimes serve it as if it were meant to be eaten with utensils. It’s frustrating 🙂

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