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Jun 26, 2010 10:59 AM

What is a table spoon *really* used for?

So I'm imagining I'm going to order new silverware. I've gotten quite an education in the dinner size, lunch size, and place size, the latter of which is sort of a made up size created in the 50's to substitute for for having both a dinner and luncheon set. ANYWAY.

I was always taught that you shouldn't leave dirty utensils on the table, and therefore each course should never have more than two utensils, one for each hand. So for a main course, you have a knife and fork. So what do I do with this "table spoon" all the sets seem to have? I don't like the shape for soup, and it's too small to use as a serving spoon. I'm thinking of going open stock, so I can get a soup spoon instead.

What do you think?

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  1. You use the table spoon for dessert. If you're setting the table for multiple courses, it goes above the plate with the dessert fork, parallel to the edge of the table, their handles pointing to the hand used to pick it up. But a soup spoon and table spoon are largely interchangeable, and the only time you'd want to have both is when setting the table for a three course dinner that involves both soup and dessert.

    2 Replies
    1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

      Wow...I learn something every day - I didn't know that a dessert spoon and a soup spoon are interchangeable! Makes me wonder how that's going to affect my ice cream eating....?

      At the ricepad pad, Mrs. ricepad uses a tablespoon to eat cereal (hot and cold), while I use a teaspoon, and we both use teaspoons for desserts.

      1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

        A table spoon is not used to eat with, merely to serve with. It's too big to get in your mouth - at least politely. A soup spoon is deeper and holds a tablespoon, 50% more than a dessert spoon. A dessert spoon is the normal 'spoon size' in the US.

        A soup spoon has a specific purpose and is designed for the job. They are relatively rare in the USA. I do not consider a desert spoon and a soup spoon interchangeable - but most of America does.

        A soup spoon also stops the confusion of "I wonder if I should be eating the ceviche with the fork or the spoon?"

      2. Well, yes... I think you're right, if I'm following your correctly. Two utensiles for each course, but you can have the untensiles for all courses on the table when guests are seated. Or, if you have a staff of servants, many of the untensiles can be presented as each course is delivered (pre-plated). But not many folks today entertain that way, except for occasions like White House State Dinners. The "tablespoon" can be used for soups or dessert. But a round deeper soup spoon is traditionally used for cream soups.

        Whether you're thinking about stainless or sterling, ALWAYS go with open stock if you possibly can. Last year I had to replace a 40 year old set of dinner sized stainless from Holland, because it's no longer available. Whether china, crystal or flatware, open stock is the ONLY way to fly.....! And as the years roll by, if you decide you want to add two tablespoons, a cream soup spoon, and an oyster fork for each place setting, open stock allows you to do that. Fun!

        1. The volume ratio of teaspoon to dessert/soup spoon to tablespoon is 1 - 2 - 3. Tablespoons are for serving which is why there are usually only a couple for a full set of cutlery.

          1. I always just assumed that the larger of the two spoons in each pace setting was a "table spoon" and the smaller was a "teaspoon." I've also assumed the the tablespoon IS a soup spoon. Therefore, when choosing flatware, my decision was often driven by how well I thought the table spoon would serve as a soup spoon.

            1 Reply
            1. re: CindyJ

              all of this discussion has been very confusing to me! I mean the place setting comes with a big spoon and a little spoon. I thought the big one was typically called a "tablespoon"