A Staff Report from the Straight Dope Science Advisory Board

Why is it so hard to get a good spork?

February 28, 2000

Dear Straight Dope

I have searched everywhere imaginable (Internet, numerous camping supply stores, army surplus stores, kitchen supply stores) for a spork: one that is strong and durable enough to be used for a backpacking trek. I haven't seen it. Perhaps there is a reason why no sporks are being produced, or perhaps no one has considered it. Either way I think it would be a very worthwhile tool to have in a backpack, so where could I find one? And why are they not readily available?

So, Chris, what's the deal? Are you using AOL's lousy search engine or did you get tired of checking links after the first few? I found your metal spork easily. But you'll have to wait until the end for your link because Cecil pays me by the word (ha!).

For those who don't know, a spork is a strange eating utensil. It has the shape of your everyday spoon, but at the tip of the spoon's bowl tines are notched in. The quantity of tines can vary, but usually there are three or four. Sometimes one of the spork's edges is milled and sharpened to serve as a knife of sorts. As for why they're not more common, I used sporks as a young pup at camp and for the most part I found them fairly useless. The tines were too short to spear anything with any resistance, and soup tended to dribble through the gaps. They're not the most elegant looking utensil, either--they look . . . wrong. But that's just me.

"Spork" is actually a proprietary term, since the thing was patented on August 11, 1970, by the Van Brode Milling Company, Inc. However, the Oxford English Dictionary (yes, 'spork' is in the OED) cites a supply catalog from 1909. The web coughed up a band named "Spork," and supposedly there is a giant spork about 25 feet tall in front of the Chem/Biochem Building on the Kansas State University campus. I offer this last item only as a rumor; perhaps one of the Teeming Millions can confirm or refute. Make yourselves useful.

You requested a metal spork that might prove useful while camping. I found a few rather large sporky looking utensils in an old Dansk catalog, but these were silver and looked like something you serve slabs of turkey with. Plastic sporks are easier to find. Check out your local KFC or Taco Bell. If you find a plastic one, you can join the whole spork subculture (oh, it's out there) and attempt to make a 'foon' out of your spork. Evidently this involves inverting the bowl of the spork by pressing against the back of it. I have no idea what one does with a foon, but hey, free country.

OK, I've tortured you enough, you layabout. Here's the address at which you may find your metal spork--in titanium, no less: www.tripleaughtdesign.com/tispork.htm.

Will you be eating Spam with your spork?

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