A tale of two cuillères

Dish ran away wih spoon

This is a story of two spoons, one French, the other English. La cuillère à café was petite yet shapely, designed to stir a tiny cup and bring small, delicate tastes to elegant rosebud bouches. The other implement was a practical sort, the more generously endowed cuillère à thé. Despite their similar functions, between the coffee spoon and the teaspoon there was not a drop of comprehension.

“Pardonnez-moi, Mademoiselle,” said the coffee spoon. “Around here we take our coffee in thimble-sized tasses. You are rather too hefty for our liking.”

“Well, excusez-moi,” said the teaspoon, polishing her accent. “I am much appreciated all over the world for my spoonful of sugar. And I’m a whizz at scooping breakfast cereal. You may look pretty but you are clearly not up to snuff.”

“Pfft! I can assure you my lineage is sterling. Not only do I stir with the best but I am used at many fine French tables with dessert.”

“Dessert? But that is the job of the fork.”

La fourchette to eat dessert?” scoffed the coffee spoon. “Ma pauvre cousine, quel manque d’éducation!”

“You sure talk fancy in French but you strike me as a bit of a lightweight. How much do you weigh, exactly?”

And that is when things got rather ugly. They scooped and clashed and poor teaspoon, for all her heaping size, rather swooned. La cuillère à café was petite but she packed a good punch.

“I shall leave this place and never return,” declared teaspoon, defeated. And off she went, accompanied by a dish.

And it was ainsi.

The moral of the story? Here in France the cuillère à café, also known as la petite cuillère, is commonly used for coffee and dessert. If you, like me, feel the need for the heftier teaspoon, you will have to import it.

Do you prefer to eat dessert with a spoon or a fork?


  1. Food,Photography & France · November 20, 2015

    Lovely story….luckily we have lots of delicate silver cutlery from my mother and lots of chunky modern stuff….we’re ready to deal with dessert or pudding:)

    • MELewis · November 20, 2015

      I would have expected no less of you, Roger! Lucky you to have inherited a good artillery of silverware.

  2. roughwighting · November 20, 2015

    Sweet! I love the idea of a smaller cuillère. Perhaps it would help me eat a smaller portion of dessert! 🙂 Sometimes I use BOTH fork and spoon, if I’m’ having my cake and eating it too’ – with ice cream on top.

    • MELewis · November 20, 2015

      Oh, it is too close to lunchtime to ponder cake and ice cream! The smaller spoons are elegant with coffee but I find them impossible for breakfast. Thankfully my rather motley collection of cutlery contains both. Bon appétit!

  3. BigLizzy · November 20, 2015

    I prefer to eat desert with a forklift, myself. Just sayin’. If I’m going in, I’m going BIG. Ha! This is a very witty and fun post, dearest, Mel. We need some levity and joi de vivre these days. I’ve been so sad about the attacks on Paris (and elsewhere) and the state of the human condition lately. This was a nice boost. Thank you, my friend. Bises!

    • MELewis · November 20, 2015

      Lizzy, my big beautiful friend! Thanks for bring your wonderful sense of proportion to this post. I am so glad you laughed and indeed, after this sad week I decided it was time to add some joie back into the vivre. It’s true that we can easily get down about the sad state of humanity these days, but then again, there is always dessert! And wine! Hope you’re staying well, nose to the grindstone bien sûr but enjoying a bit of fun. Big, big hugs! xo

  4. wanderingcows · November 21, 2015

    I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a coffee spoon!

    • MELewis · November 22, 2015

      Nor did I, and conversely, the French are also baffled by the teaspoon. In researching this post I stumbled upon comments on various food forums in French from people trying to figure out recipes with teaspoon measures.

      • wanderingcows · November 23, 2015

        That is hilarious and curious at the same time. I really wouldn’t have imagined it. I thought the whole world (or nearly) knew what a teaspoon is. Mind you, in reverse, I would be confused by a coffee spoon measurement in a recipe … and I’d probably take a blind guess.

  5. coteetcampagne · November 21, 2015

    I have been looking everywhere for a vintage set of cuillères à café that I bought years ago. Just realised the damn things were in my old car which we sold this summer!!!! ?@~}+?_*&?%!

    • MELewis · November 22, 2015

      Oh dear, hope you got a good price for it! 😉

      • coteetcampagne · November 22, 2015

        A good price for???
        Sorry, sunday night brain freeze..

      • coteetcampagne · November 22, 2015

        Sorry Mel
        The car of course.. I thought we were talking about one of my posts!
        Think I need a holiday…

  6. Multifarious meanderings · November 22, 2015

    That was a beautiful story. You should illustrate it!
    Spoons get the thumbs up for me – I gave up on forks a long time ago. I eat my deserts swimming in custard if appropriate, and forks are no match for custard. Some deserts taste even better if you eat them with your fingers…

    • MELewis · November 22, 2015

      Glad you liked my little story but afraid I have no illustrative talents! 🙂

  7. midihideaways · November 23, 2015

    Great post Mel, a wonderfully humorous description of cultural differences!! I prefer spoon and fork for dessert and fork only for cake. AND a tiny spoon for chocolate mousse, as it’ll last that much longer 🙂

    • MELewis · November 23, 2015

      Oh, yes, definitely with you on drawing out the pleasure of the chocolate mousse! 😀

  8. memoirsofahusk · November 24, 2015

    Interesting. Made me think about Apostle spoons – when I was little we always used ours (I didn’t know what they were then) for boiled egg eating. Now I have only teaspoons and they are clumsy by comparison.

    • MELewis · November 25, 2015

      Apostle spoons? I had a Catholic upbringing but never heard of those. Your comment makes me realize, however, that the cuillère à café is actually perfect for eating soft-boiled eggs. For some bizarre reason, that makes me very happy!

  9. Mél@nie · November 25, 2015

    huge “like”, ’cause excellent, comme d’hab’… et tu n’es pas allée avec le dos de la (petite) cuillère! 🙂 amicales pensées et bisous pluvieux… ❤

    • MELewis · November 25, 2015

      As usual you have enriched my French, Mél@nie! Did not know that expression but having looked it up, I think I will use it. Describes me perfectly: ‘Être direct, très franc, voire rude, y aller carrément, franchement.’ Ha, ha! Merci for your compliments, most welcome on this cold wet day. Bisous!

  10. Osyth · November 25, 2015

    I LOVED that little tale …. and I’m with Multifarious Meanderings – you need illustrations (Lear style would be luvverly). When we married we received few gifts on the basis that we are old and should need nothing (presumably) but my darling not-cousin Kate gave us a pair of extremely dainty filligreed spoons with which to feed one another ambrosial desserts (according to her equally pretty note). We do!

    • MELewis · November 25, 2015

      What a lovely story! No one is too old or well-tooled for that kind of meaningful and thoughtful gift. So glad you enjoyed my spoonful of storytelling. May you and the Brain enjoy decadent desserts for many years to come!

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