Spoons — if not as old as the world — are certainly as old as soup,” said the learned anthropologist Laborde. However, their recorded history seems to begin in Egypt more than a thousand years before the birth of Christ. Those early spoons were used mainly for ointments.
The spoon was often the only worldly possession owned by an individual and it was common to will it to another person upon one’s death. Early history in Wales and some Scandinavian countries relate that spoons were carved and given to a young mans intended for her to hang on the wall as a message she was taken (hence the term: spooning).
Wooden spoons were items listed in the inventories of early settlers in America (in Jamestown and on the Mayflower) in the early 1600’s. In fact wooden eating and cooking implements were one of the items enterprising Indians sold to those early colonists.
The Indians whittled them mostly from Laurel wood (now often called cottonwood but includes trees such as the Aspen. If you’ve seen a wooden match; you’ve seen laurel wood). Wooden eating and cooking implements were used by both rich and poor for nearly all of the first century of American colonization. In fact, the first metal fork in America was owned by Governor John Winthrop of Boston in 1633. It was from England and came in a leather case with a matching knife and bodkin. Very, very wealthy families added such items to their household inventories over the next 30 to 40 years’; but it was well into the 1700’s before metal eating implements were common-place in the colonies.
Long after the introduction of metal implements for eating, wooden spoons continued to be favored as kitchen tools. In the 1894 edition of the WhiteHouse Cookbook by Ziemann and Gillette; a good wooden spoon for cake making was listed as a necessary item for kitchen equipment.
Today it is well documented by scientific study that the harder the wood the better the use for kitchen work (hardwoods have tighter pores so food does not lodge in it). Some common hardwoods include: alder, apple, ash, birth, cherry, chestnut, mahogany, maple, oak, poplar, teak and walnut. Other not so commonly known hardwoods are: blackwood (African); boxwood, Brazilwood, cocobolo (Central America); ebony; koa (Hawaiian); lignum vitae (South American, very slow growing); persimmon (called white ebony!); purpleheart; and zebrawood (African).
A Short History on Wooden Spoons – from The Spoon Lady
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