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Author Topic:   An article about eating with spoons made of different metals

Posts: 1970
Registered: Nov 2004

iconnumber posted 04-21-2012 02:14 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Polly     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Spoons made from different metals.

Posted by
Oliver Thring

    Me and my spoon
If you thought spoons were only vehicles for food and parody, think again. What should cutlery be made of?

Has anything amusing ever happened to you in connection with a spoon? When Private Eye asks the question, the answer is usually no: the Me and My Spoon column features spoons because spoons aren't especially interesting. Or weren't until now. The other day I went to a dinner about spoons. Or, more specifically, on what spoons are made of, which would be a good name for an inspirational movie about spoons. It was at the Indian restaurant Quilon, and the idea was to see whether using different metals in cutlery affected the taste of food.

They sat us down in front of seven shiny spoons: copper, gold, silver, tin, zinc, chrome and stainless steel. We were about 12: Harold McGee looking owlish, Heston Blumenthal with his arm in a sling, some academics, journalists and PRs. The dinner was organised by something called The Institute of Making, which sounds like a university for toddlers but is in fact "a multidisciplinary research club for those interested in the made world". "Artist and maker" Zoe Laughlin, one of its founders, was there. Her website,, includes "a selection of biographies" variously written by "a friend", "a parent", "a sibling", "a stranger" (someone she met on the Tube) and "a pet" ("Zoe has no pets," we're told).

In front of me was a booklet with background research. "In this project," it informed, "we asked ourselves how do these materials taste, do they affect the taste of food, and is it possible to understand, and thus design, the affect (sic) they have?" Overleaf was a series of tasting notes on spoons. Copper, I read with a creeping sense of terror, is "found to slightly inhibit saltiness", silver has "a slight bitterness", zinc carries an "earthly, dry, rasping tendency" while poor old stainless steel was prosaically glossed as "familiar".

The food at Quilon is deliciously spiced and complex: it was impossible to focus on the spoons. To me, these varied only in their metal-ness – copper tasted more metallic than stainless steel, which tasted more metallic than gold. As far as I could tell, this was more or less it. But around me cooed a table in raptures at different "flavours" in the metals. "I dare you to try the copper spoon with the grapefruit!" challenged a dauntless soul. "Check out the taste profile of silver with beer foam!" raved another. Even Blumenthal, who looked thoroughly baffled by proceedings, gamely chipped in by observing "there's a bitterness to the zinc".

To me this dinner, with its tasting notes and the rest, seemed like the dernier cri in shark-jumping foodie bullshit. Yet there could be the germ of a good idea here. The gold spoon was nicer than most of the others: it was neutral and clean and barely tasted metallic. And the taste of an eating implement does affect the taste of the food. A friend of mine loves the wooden stick at the end of a lolly, while I hate its splinters and the way it dries your tongue. Plastic spoons always taste greasy, and are only good for babies. They say caviar should be eaten from bone. Perhaps stainless steel isn't the best metal for cutlery, perhaps metal isn't the best material for cutlery at all – though on current evidence I reckon it is. What do you think?

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June Martin
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Posts: 1326
Registered: Apr 93

iconnumber posted 04-22-2012 12:57 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for June Martin     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Fascinating topic, Polly. Can't say I have any extensive practical experience with comparing the effect of various metals on the taste of food, but it sure sounds like fun. Just as there are folks who swear they can smell the difference between sterling and silverplate, I'm sure there are those who swear to be able to discern taste differences.

Of course we all know about the need to vermeil silver pieces that are used for sulfuric foods like eggs. There are certain foods that are supposed to be prepared in copper pans. It wouldn't surprise me if there were subtle differences in taste based on the kind of material it is being prepared, served or eaten with.

Would love to do a tasting test like this sometime. And the organization sponsoring the tasting sounds very interesting too!

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