This post is about the spork. It has no place on a wedding blog, really, but you’re a brave trooper to read it. It has FICTION in it. Or, pseudo-fiction. It’s silly. Very silly. A writing exercise, really.
You all know the spork:
As a word of caution, this post is entirely about sporks. Its one tenuous relationship to weddings is that while composing my as-yet-unpublished post about my friend and groomsman Andy, I stumbled upon a memory we had once of a discussion of utensils. That’s it. Jessica and I are not going to have sporks at our wedding, as far as I know. Or maybe we will, if that’s what my parents want because sporks are a wedding tradition in both their families from generations ago that I didn’t know about.
So: Andy asked me, many moons ago when we were on this weird, beautiful island called “College” (or at least that’s how I remember it going down) – “Bret, if you could choose one utensil and one utensil only to have with you on a desert island, which would you choose?”
After a few minutes of deliberation I said with supreme confidence: “A spork. I would choose a spork.”
And in that moment, the emerged a fundamental, axiological difference between us, a difference that is still healing. A difference that gnaws at my soul when I breathe deeply.
Andy shook his head. “No,” he said, softly at first. Then he thumped his fist down on the table and looked at me with eyes a-gleaming, and thundered “NO!” as bellowishly as he could. I sat, stunned, transfixed by this man I thought I knew.
“That’s… that’s the wrong answer,” he uttered in hushed tones, as if each word agonized him more than the previous one. “The spork, it… it diminishes the utility of each component piece without offering anything of its own. It is a bastard child from Hades, the Unholy spawn of two once-noble parents; it is the runt of the litter of the universe. For you see, the very notion of what it means to be a fork or a spoon was brought into question, which is perhaps the worst misfortune a child could visit upon its parent. And for what? To create a hybrid creature that’s laid low for decades, no doubt planning its brutal takeover of the Utensil’s Council? To unseat the knife, the spoon, and the fork as King of Flatwares? Moreover, what does it say about the creativity of humans, that we portend to “invent” a new & improved device whereas in fact, the two devices that were merged together can themselves perform feats the spork could never dream of? Let’s see a spork hold down a 5-pound pork butt while you slice it. Let’s see a spork win me that Fastest Soup Eater In The Western States contest.”
Taken aback, I froze. I collected my thoughts, took a breath.
“What about versatility?” I offered.
“No,” he replied calmly, but the type of calm that belies a molten fire of raging magma. He leaned back in his chair, crossed his arms, and looked off towards nothing.
“No versatility. It would only be versatile if the fork and spoon parts were still entirely functional as forks and spoons; instead, you get a crappy short-tined jabby little fork and a defective spoon that can only hold like 2/3rds the liquid of a normal spoon. Further, most sporks are shoddily-made plastic abominations that fall apart after three uses, which is not hard to understand since utensil-manufacturers have correctly assumed that one one would ever buy a really nice spork.”
He had a point, and yet so did I. Or I thought I did. I mean, have you seen this spork?
I mean, talk about innovation! And accusations against this genre-bending spork that it’s “not fair” are ludicrous – it’s fairer than the weather in May. In mild climates. It’s a stroke of mild genius – very mild – and combined the fork and the spoon in ways never before imagined. One way, specifically.
But Hell – I don’t know what I was thinking. I mean, it was college. Back then, I thought silly things like exams and papers and beer and girls were important. I thought, “sure, the fork and spoon parts of the spork are shallow and bastardized versions of their older siblings, and yet, even with its diminished utility, wouldn’t you rather have two partly-great items instead of one fully-great one?”
For awhile, Andy and I didn’t speak. It was the low point of a friendship that had seen its highs and lows, from the magical day we spent together in The Forbidden City, to the time we fought fiercely over a game of Scrabble where an extra blank had gotten into the board somehow. It wasn’t until we swore a Blood Oath to never discuss our disagreement in public that we got back to being pals.
I am breaking that Blood Oath today.
I steadfastly adhered to my choice for years, probably for no other reason than to disagree with Andy. That’s always fun to do. But the other day it finally hit me, like a bullet out of nowhere, like a beanbag from the ether: Andy was right. He’d been right the whole time!
The spork, well – it’s just not a strong contender for desert-island flatware. And this despite major advances in spork technology over the years that have rendered the once-mocked utensil respectable, or at least something you might not be embarrassed to carry with you.
Why don’t we review:
A brief history of the spork?
Check this out:
I know, right? This is an early design of a spork-like instrument from all the way back in 1907, when nickels cost a penny and pennies were made out of leaden asbestos. The dictionary claims the word “spork” – a portmanteau of spoon & fork – was coined in 1909, although its use among common folk likely predates its dictionary acceptance by several years. The dictionary’s always behind and I have to say I’m thrilled that chillax, automagically, cheeseball, and bromance were newly accepted into the OED in 2010. I mean, thank Goodness. No more shall I be forced to describe my bromances knowing full well my usage of the word was not supported by the Ministry of Words!
But wait – Edward Lear, in his 1871 poem The Owl & The Pussycat, describes his characters eating mince and quince with a “runcible spoon” – a term which, though of arguable meaning, appears to describe a spoon with serrated or tined edges. There is even an unverified rumor going around – you’ve probably heard it – that a rusty spork was fished out of the ocean off the coast of Japan that was carbon-dated all the way back to the birth of Christ, meaning that Jesus Himself probably got his spork on from time to time.
Plus check this out right here:
By the late 1800s, both sides of the Atlantic welcomed the manufacture of sporks. England’s Folgate Silver Plate Company manufactured a combination spoon-fork in 1875. In the United States, Samuel W. Francis patented a spoon with fork tines and a sharp edge for cutting. 35 years later, Harry L. McCoy patented something called a “cutting spoon.” Several more spork-like cutlery patents appeared during the next 50 years, some with odd shapes consisting of square bowls and extremely long tines, but none of them used the term “spork.”
Show me a spork with extremely long tines and I’ll show you a band name!
The term has also been trademarked, as I learned here:
The name Spork was trademarked registered by the Van Brode Milling Co., Inc., of Clinton, Massuchests in 1969 for a piece of cutlery combining the features of a spoon, a fork and sometimes a knife. A New York Times article mentions that Hyde Ballard of Westtown, Pennsylvania filed an application to register “Spork” as a trademark around 1952. In the United Kingdom, “Spork” has been trademark registered by Plastico Limited (TM 1052291) since 1975.
As anyone can clearly see, the spork’s history is still growing, evolving, changing. If you went 200 years into the future and told me a spork was now called a foon and was the Official Utensil of the 2211 Olympic Games, I’d believe you.
There came a point in our discussion where I remembered to ask Andy what he would bring with him on a desert island. He looked me in the eye, put his palms out in front of him as if he were on the verge of delivering the film pitch for the next big hit, and said:
“One… single… ivory… chopstick.”
No, just kidding! He didn’t say that. I think he said fork, although I say when you’re on a dessert island you’re probably going to want to cut a lot of things, and forks aren’t good cutters. They can jab and dig and fork like champs, but they have no sharp edges and hence have low serrationality. But then again, maybe Andy said knife. Or perhaps he choose the insanely useful finger fork:
Or maybe one of these indispensable egg cubers:
Or this Roll-n-Pour gadget that allows you to pour beverages even when your hands are dirty, which will be essential when you’re bartending on the deserted island:
But whatever utensil he chose, well, it wasn’t a spork. Nor a salad spork. Nor any hybrid utensil, verily, like the knork, the chop grater, the half-spoon, or the soup knife. And over the past ten years, I’ve come to accept his rejection of the spork. It’s a silly thing to bring along when you go to a desert island, because when you’re on your own, you need something solid to hold onto. Something you can trust in your weakness moments. Something that defines you, that belongs to you, that complements you. And that thing, we’ll, it’s ain’t no spork, pal.
Besides, it was never about the spork. It was about being friends again.* And a friend is worth all the sporks in the world.
*Note: Andy and I have actually been friends the whole time. That was a fictional ruse on my part.