Special Purposes and Everyday Use – Looking at Catering Cutlery

Mar 20, 2013 by

Catering, by its nature, is democratic. Somewhere, somehow, there is a restaurant or bar serving every kind of potable and comestible imaginable for every kind of taste. Some of these dishes and drinks have special implements associated with them; others are eaten or drunk using what might be termed as everyday use crockery and eating or drinking items.

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Some Oriental meals are a prime case in point: they’re eaten with chopsticks, which in the West must constitute special items of catering cutlery. Actually, to be quite proper about it, chopsticks probably count as crockery, as they are made of china or porcelain when they are designed to be permanent and hygienic to use.

Cutlery must be made of metal, or it is not cutlery. The word is thought to have an etymology specifically related to cutting; and its relationship to cutlass (a cutler was originally a manufacturer of knives, swords and cutting instruments) suggests that metal is a defining characteristic of the item. As such knives, forks and spoons are all now referred to as cutlery; though in actual usage terms catering cutlery may also refer to plastic or fake wood items, which are used for identical purposes.

The special items of catering cutlery commonly used in the UK are long spoons; steak knives; oyster knives and forks; pickle forks; fish knives; children’s cutlery; and any other item that may be specific to a particular type of food or dish. In some restaurants a spaghetti fork with a twining handle may be used; a pizza cutter, when delivered to the table for use by customers, may also be considered as special catering cutlery.


Everyday use cutlery is the stuff familiar to all: the knife; the fork; and the spoon in its basic variations. Where a spoon is of an irregular size or shape, either in head or handle, it may be thought of as special purpose. The most common special purpose spoon seen in British restaurants and catering establishments is probably the soup spoon, which has a rounder, more bellied head than the common dessert spoon.

A long handled spoon may be used in the service of either desserts or drinks; for instance, when serving hot chocolate in a tall glass or when serving a sundae or a Knickerbocker Glory. The long handled spoon is also often served with lattes when served in a grande mug.

Children’s cutlery forms a whole sub class of normal or everyday cutlery, which may nevertheless be thought of and referred to as special cutlery because it has a purpose outside of the absolute norm. Children’s cutlery is not used in every restaurant or eating house in the land, whereas some form of adult sized eating equipment always is – therefore, child-sized knives, forks and spoons are abnormal to some degree.

Children’s cutlery is normally scaled down for a child’s hands (assuming the child to be between the ages of four and 10, roughly – and will be less sharp than the adult equivalent, with blunted tines and a less serrated edge to the knife.

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