The owl and the Pussycat went to sea
In a beautiful pea-green boat:
They took some honey and plenty of money
Wrapped up in a five-pound note.
In the second verse, they marry - a simple ceremony - (an early example of marriage equality?)
And hand in hand on the edge of the sand
They danced by the light of the moon.
They dined on mince and slices of quince
Which they ate with a runcible spoon.
(Edward Lear - 1910)
But what, you ask, is a runcible spoon and why am I quoting Edward Lear?
Lear loved nonsense verse and nonsense words. The idea may have come from his friend George Runcy who talked of designing a spoon for children with tines at the end. Some were in fact manufactured in the early 1900s and it's not known if the spoon or the invented word came first. Like Lear, I like a fanciful word. And anyway, how often does it arise that I can suggest eating with a runcible spoon, whether it be peas, mince or quinces?
Is the runcible spoon the inspiration for the Splayd, (far superior to the Spork)? This multi-function utensil was the invention of Bill McArthur, of Potts Point, New South Wales in the late 1940s. It went viral, as they say in media-speak, - popular in Australia, America and GB particularly for the stand-up buffet. Boxed-sets are still available in our "better department stores", very reasonably priced. As their website tells us, "they are always in demand for gift giving". I have boxes of them, no longer required. I'll keep a dozen and perhaps start de-cluttering by giving them as birthday and holiday presents. https://www.splayd.com.au
Investigating on eBay, I'm SHOCKED to see that Sporks are being passed off as Splayds. Don't be fooled. Splayds have a distinctive mid-century modern simplicity and sophistication.
At left - Splayds
Our very own runcible spoons
I eat my peas with honey,
I've done it all my life.
It makes the peas taste funny
But it keeps them on the knife.
(Anonymous - 1871)
In vintage etiquette manuals, peas are classed as a “difficult” food, along with artichokes, asparagus, sea urchins & rambutans as dessert. It is recommended they not be served at a formal event because they are awkward to eat when knife and fork are held correctly (see post HKLP 21 Nov. 2017). Scooping is definitely out. If served, it is suggested you mash them onto the top of your fork, or impale a few on the tines or better still, if mashed potato is also served, incorporate them into the mash. (We are told, “At all times, consider what the person opposite you is seeing”.)
Sod that for a lark! Squashing? Mashed potato? Because I love peas, I must confess that I’m guilty of the surreptitious scoop.
Friend A.W. and his father were fortunate to be included in a dinner where grouse was served. A delicate situation threatened as the game bird was tasteless, dry and stringy. After dinner A.W. asked his father how he had managed to keep accepting another helping so politely. He hadn’t noticed that each time his father accepted more grouse, he also took more mashed potato, which he used to cover and hide the inedible bird.
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