Silver Spoon Specialists | Do you eat from the front or sidesaddle?

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Last week we took a look at the Continental vs. American style of using a knife and fork in the post Cutlery Conventions and I promised Suzanne Sokolov that I would take a look at the silver spoon this week.

Silver Spoon

An array of spoon sizes - table to demitasse.

Silver spoon sizes

Before we get into the actual process of how we use our spoons, lets take a look at a few different examples.  In this photo from left to right we have:

  • English Georgian tablespoon
  • place spoon
  • large gumbo spoon
  • teaspoon
  • bouillon spoon
  • chocolate spoon
  • demitasse spoon
With the exception of the tablespoon, all of these are American.  Note the huge difference in sizes, with the tablespoon towering over all the others.

Silver spoon uses

Many of my American guests and clients are very surprised to see that I am quite happy to use a tablespoon for just about everything but dessert and stirring a drink.  Compare it to the place spoon immediately to the right.  The place spoon is it’s American counterpart, and when ‘lacking’ (and please note I do use quotation marks) the ‘proper’ (again, please note the punctuation) spoon this would be the appropriate fill-in.  The tablespoon is much larger in comparison, with a longer handle and a bowl that is close to twice as big.

As I have all the others I do use them, but to me a tablespoon is the all-purpose eating spoon. Suzanne S sent me a tweet after reading last week’s post saying –

Silver Spoons


Silver spoon styles

silver spoon

The points at which food exits the food to enter the mouth.

Now we come to the actual handing of spoons.  Just as there is  the two-handed and zig-zag method of using a knife and fork which divides fairly neatly along geographical lines, so there is a similar distinction with spoons.

When using my gigantic tablespoon (or any spoon) I don’t eat from the front, but put the side up to my mouth and then tilt the spoon to transfer the food into my mouth.  In contrast, Mr. Magpies uses the front of the spoon as the point of transfer.

From years of observation, it seems to me that ‘front to mouth’ is a common style in the US.

Which method is ‘correct’?

I suspect that the sidesaddle method is used in England, because those tablespoons – which are the ‘normal’ size – are simply too big to easily use the front.

While I mainly see ‘front to mouth’ in the US, perhaps I’m seeing a strange aberration from the norm and sidesaddle is more common?

I don’t know.

In contrast to the knife and fork debate in which I found plenty of articles and sources ready to weigh in, I can’t seem to find anything very satisfying explaining the spoon phenomenon.

There is a brief mention on Wikipedia’s table manners entry noting that in the UK soup is sipped from the side of the spoon not the end, but nothing about US customs.

Please weigh in with your experiences.


Do you find the tablespoon to be strangely huge? 🙂



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10 thoughts on “Silver Spoon Specialists | Do you eat from the front or sidesaddle?

  1. Karen RilstoneNo Gravatar

    Hi Nan,

    Your spoon article ended with me trying out various sizes of spoons. The large spoons were eaten from the side; the small (very small) spoons were attacked from both front and side. Now I must confess that I was eating chocolate mousse with the small spoon. Maybe that made the difference.

    I was thinking about the knife and fork positions. When I lived in Brussels, not only was the fork moved to the right hand, knife to the left, but also the grip on the knife was from underneath., with the thumb and forefinger on the top of the knife handle. Does Mr.
    Magpie do that.

    Curious in Kitchener,


    1. SilverMagpiesNo Gravatar Post author

      Hi Karen –

      I don’t think eating chocolate mousse is a good test for spoons…when I eat chocolate mousse I think the spoon is lucky to escape intact 🙂

      I shall have to check if Mr. Magpies holds his knife like that, I couldn’t tell you to win a million dollars right now!!


  2. CaroleNo Gravatar

    Oh, thank you! Now I know that I have 8 chocolate spoons; they’re too small to be bouillon spoons but for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out their original purpose.

    I learn something each time I read your blog.

    1. SilverMagpiesNo Gravatar Post author

      Hello Carole

      I’m so pleased to have helped! Yes, chocolate spoons…like tiny bouillon spoons…why chocolate needed to have its own spoon is another story.

  3. Stephanie GabrielNo Gravatar

    Fascinating! I’ve never even thought about how this could be a regional preference. I may have just found an interesting piece of trivia to talk about at the dinner table!

  4. KeriNo Gravatar

    What a lovely post with such timely, excellent reminders!

    Thank you!!

    Who loves bringing out the good silver on holidays 🙂

  5. James BaldwinNo Gravatar

    During the 18th century, the common mode of eating was “Dinner A La Francaise”. Many many dishes arrived at the table during each course, diners were given empty plates, and were expected to help themselves. Therefore they required a serving spoon each, and this is one reason for the enormous size of 18th century table spoons!

    1. SilverMagpiesNo Gravatar Post author

      James –

      Welcome to Silver Magpies. I’m extremely flattered to see you here. Thanks for that tidbit about the sizing of tablespoons. I had forgotten about serving norms and instead gone done the wrong rabbit-hole seeking an explanation in the kitchen – tablespoons and teaspoons!


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