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:
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:
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> …
… 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