Sporks. Some of the most versatile and underutilized eating utensils. As children raised in a seemingly clear-cut world where forks poke and spoons scoop, we usually encounter these boundary-defying do-dads at bowling alley birthday parties or the occasional fast food joint, places we would hardly expect to see our paradigms shaken. For most, the spork’s existence is easy enough to laugh off and forget about, since they will rarely encounter one in their everyday dining experience. But for some of us, it is enough to shatter the foundations of the very dinner tables we sit at, sending us questioning.
Are they a simplification of cutlery usage? Are they a complexification? Are they both? Neither? Is there a difference? Maybe they just are–though by their very existence outside of our limited tableware categories, they chip away at our perceived boundaries.
Maybe that’s why we banish them from our tables. It’s easier to ignore what doesn’t fit our existing boxes, or at least to trivialize and mock its existence. We’ll take sporks in our Taco Bell drive-through bags*, but to allow them in our five-star restaurants and dining rooms would be an embarrassment.
Because sporks are a joke. At least that’s how people see them. Never quite forked enough to be forks or spoonish enough to be spoons, they don’t quite belong anywhere. They want too much. They want to be too much. They’re mixed-up and funky, good enough for the occasion novelty, but no one is going to rewrite the table-setting rules for them.
My current spellchecker doesn’t even recognize “spork” as a word. Perhaps that’s because it clings to linguistic convention as if it were a virtue in itself, an full set of acceptable possibilities rather than a descriptive form that constantly to encompass the breadth of reality.
But I’m here to call for a renewed appreciation of the spork. The utensil that will cut through your cake and carve through your ice cream. The utentil that refuses to fit your boxes, if only because your boxes are too small to fit it if it tried. The utensil that hints at the infinite possibilities of form and function for human eating devices. The utensil that reminds us of just how many ways there are to be.
Whether it’s a plastic spork with your rice bowl or a double-sided golden spork (see below) with your caviar ice-cream sundae; whether it means adding “spork on the left” to your etiquette handbook, adopting a post-structuralist method of non-linear, non-categorical table setting, or just sticking the one spork you own in the one bowl you own because you’re in college and don’t have to deal with that stuff yet, the spork can have a place in your life. Use the spork. Embrace the spork. Be the spork.
*I don’t wish to diminish or erase the existence of sporks that are in fact plastic fast food cutlery, but only to push for a world in which we don’t see this as the only possibility of spork life. There are, of course, sporks that don’t wan’t to be a part of your rigid table arrangement, and that’s fine too. There is no wrong way to be a spork.
Now lets just take a moment to appreciate the wonderful beauty and diversity of the spork world: