The serious dieter’s guide to utensils
Recently, a good friend of mine started on the quest that many, if not most of us will face in our lifetimes — one which sadly involves neither dragons nor magic rings; he set out on a diet in order to lose weight for a quality-of-life bump. His weapon of choice: a free SparkPeople diet plan, complete with a weekly routine of core-strengthening exercises. One evening as we poured over the daily statistics, the tabulated calories, grams of fat and sodium tracked in several neat line-graphs, I recognized that he has achieved a goal that few, if any of us, reach. He has become a Serious Dieter.
If you’re reading this article, you are most likely a Serious Dieter (or like myself, winding the path as a hopeful initiate) who are approaching dieting from a rational mindset. You’ve no doubt started by discovering the oft-quoted statistic that 95% of dieters fail is from a 60-year old study performed by Dr. Albert Stunkard with a small sample size, and taken to heart that dietary science and meal planning have progressed in the interim. You most likely Have A Plan1 and are Sticking With It. You’ve probably taken mental inventory of the activities which cause you to stress-eat2, and have started controlling these negative environmental variables in order to keep up with the “Calories In, Calories Out” mantra that is at the core of all sustainable diets.
Despite this rational approach, you’ve doubtlessly encountered the most difficult hurdle that any Serious Dieter faces along this path: the restaurant. Like my good friend, who simply threw his hands up at tracking his calories from restaurant fare on a weekend when he was treated to several nice meals, the questions on any Serious Dieter’s mind when presented with scintillating new culinary options are, “can I eat this?” and “how on Earth do I keep the calories down?”
The answer most diets have to this dilemma is, “order small, eat small,” and this answer seems to satisfy most Serious Dieters.
It is my pleasure to inform you that there is, in fact, another answer. As a rational observer of eating habits and a self-described Critic of Forks, I have noticed that modern dietary regimes neglect to evaluate utensils. Let’s face it: when it comes to flatware in the Western World, our options are sadly limited. Any Bed, Bath & Beyond will happily lay out variations of all kinds on the standard knife, fork, table and teaspoon set. But what about all of the other choices for the Curious Eater? Surely the Western culinary world would be all the richer for a greater selection of eating utensils.
“But where will these new choices come from? India? China?” The Serious Dieter cries. “Been there, done that.”
Never fear, gentle readers. This list will satiate even the most avid utensil fans amongst you! Prepare yourself for a garden of delights — or rather, a 6-item list with accompanying pictures.
Honorable Mention || Knifoon
The knifoon, one of those perennial urban legends that inevitably springs up when you talk cutlery with your less-than-sober dorm-mates, poses the question that all cutleryphiles ask themselves: have you ever before wondered what the convenience of eating with a spoon, coupled with the cutting power of knife, felt like? I sure have. But try taping a spoon & knife together; either the knife cuts you as you handle the spoon, or your cheek bleeds as you chow down on a bowl of Honey Nut.
For the Normal Eater, the knifoon would not be a workable solution. For the Serious Dieter, nothing could be a greater boon to reinforcing slow, steady eating. Unless you’re savvy about the placement of the knife (a serrated edge along a flatted side of spoon), or deft in your usage of the spoon whilst chowing down on your iced cream (eat slowly, and to one side), the knifoon is savage in its retribution.
As the knifoon is not easiest to make (unless one is well-versed in metalsmithy, or the fine art of plastics) nor to mod, and no one actually sells them (a shame if ever there was one), the knifoon can only garner an honorable mention on this list as my only direct experience with it has been to lovingly diagram it here.
Fifth || The Freeloader Fork
Considered a novelty by some, an indispensable eating accessory by others, the Freeloader Fork is an extendable fork with either a telescoping or fold-out handle that allows one to snack from plates within a reasonable radius — some up to 21 inches. While the telescoping model has a certain chic appearance, I greatly prefer the sturdy folding-handle version that I have conceptualized in vivid proportion.
Based on folding travel flatware, this extendable fork has several sectional parts that fold out to reveal a fully-reinforced handle, giving this fork multi-plate snacking ability without compromising on its structural integrity. It doesn’t have the same smooth lines as the Freeloader Fork, but few pieces of flatware do.
The Serious Dieter no doubt sees the immediate value in the Freeloader Fork. Not only does its large eating radius allow you to sample different dishes — thus cutting back on your need to order multiple plates — it actually cuts down on the amount of food that you can consume, as every bite must be expertly poached from the plates of others. One of the best pieces of dietary advice when faced with stress-eating situations or high-calorie fare is to use a diverting mental context to assuage, or at least take your attention temporarily away from, hunger — and nothing could be more diverting than having to mentally plan and execute feats of high-flying daylight robbery from your friends and neighbors.
The Freeloader Fork can be purchased for around 9 USD at any fine internet novelty retailer.
Travel Folding Flatware can be purchased for about 17 USD at most camping or travel retailers.
Fourth || The Straw-Spoon
Also known by its French name, “cuillère avec trou,” the Straw-Spoon is an indispensable tool for the connoisseur of college-affordable cuisine. Those who aspire to culinary delectation of Cup-of-Noodle have no doubt swilled countless gallons of late-night ramen; these are the heady folks who have learned, painfully, that the Western spoon is simply not equipped to handle the tiny size of the standard noodle cup.
This is where the Straw-Spoon shines for the Serious Dieter. As the Straw-Spoon was designed to be used only with relatively low-calorie fare like Cup-of-Noodle, Miso, Chicken, and other similarly thin broths, this eating utensil effectively has a mini-diet built into its slim handle. While most would point out the phenomenon of the “Freshman 15″ as evidence that the College-Affordable diet has its drawbacks, most of this weight gain can be associated with mounting stress, binge-drinking and low motivation to exercise that usually accompanies one’s first year away from parental control.
However, the Serious Dieter, already tuned into the nuances of college dietary habits, have already arrived at the same conclusion which I now repeat: unless you swill gallons of the stuff, it is nearly physically impossible to gain weight on a Straw-Spoon / Cup-of-Noodle diet, if only because the less-than-ergonomic design of the Straw-Spoon makes you work for your soup in a way your college professors never did for that “A” in first-year Global Communications.
Spoon Straws, a close cousin of the Straw-Spoon, can be purchased as a set of 2 for 3.95 USD at KidSmart Living.
A true Straw-Spoon will have to be modded from an existing spoon (punch a hole in the center), or may be cast from plastic.
Third || Hors d’oeuvres Tongs
Hors d’oeuvres tongs bring to a meal what few other implements can: a touch of class. Nothing can be classier than grabbing a California Roll or mini-quiche from a communal plate than a pair of small, sleek tongs. These small, grasping, mini-tongs could in point of fact be used to quickly demolish a plate of garnished cheeses and crackers with deadly efficiency, as the poetry reading circuit hawks can attest. However, due to their design, they can only be eaten with cubed, cut, or small-snacky foods; while many diets decry snack foods when eaten in conjunction with full meals, “detox” days of cheeses, simple carbohydrates, grapes, quiche and mini-cocktail weenies are often overlooked by the major dietary plans.
The Serious Dieter will no doubt note that the efficiency of the hors d’oeuvres tongs comes from a two-part process–grabbing the food from a large communal plate (which is loaded with calories beyond any single person’s requirements) and then ripping apart said snacks with vicious alacrity using one’s fingers. What the Serious Dieter merely needs to do is extended the hors d’oeuvres tongs to a one-part process–from table to mouth. Herein lies the magic.
Hors d’oeuvres tongs are designed for grabbing but their symmetry is in fact awkward and ungainly for eating — many pairs of hor d’oeuvres tongs are merely slightly scaled-down salad tongs and are thus ill-suited to impossible to fit into the mouth. Merely figuring out the geometry of using tongs to eat while maintaining the veneer of class the tongs bring will take hours — the embarrassed looks from party-goers as you shovel mini-quiches into your gullet with a pair of tongs will no doubt quell nagging stress eating… and if you attend the event with other Serious Dieters, you’ll quickly realize that whomever claims the tongs first will be doing the rest of your party a serious favor.
A set of wooden Hors d’oeuvres Tongs will set you back 12.95 USD at Etsy.com
A metal set will cost about 5.00 USD at Amco Houseworks.
Second || The Corkscrew
Unlike its little brother, the “church key,” the corkscrew is an indispensable tool to more than just the wino lifestyle. As an overgrown, twisty toothpick, the corkscrew can be used as a stabbing/spear implement either in the service of hors d’oeuvres cuisine, or Asian-style meals that are prepared with thin slices of meat and thick, hearty vegetables in a thick noodle base.
While the Regular Dieter who has fallen on hard times recognizes in the corkscrew a key to cheap, extra calories that bloat stomachs and encourage stress eating (as alcohol and consuming empty calories seem to run similar paths), the Serious Dieter recognizes the thrill of a potential skewering implement to discourage hasty eating (as seen in the knifoon) with the slow, embarrassment of an implement used-innovatively (as seen in the hors d’oeuvres tongs). This Best of Both Worlds configuration, rarely seen outside of Borg nutritional supplements injected directly into the body, gives the Corkscrew the coveted number two spot on this list.
Unlike most other implements on the list, chances are you already have this one at home–and no assembly is required — so you start experimenting with this tool today.
First || The Single Chopstick
Anyone with even the slightest familiarity of Asian cuisine has no doubt used chopsticks — from the tapering Japanese hashi to the thick, fat Chinese kuaizi to the wooden breakaway chopsticks that are ubiquitous to landfills around the globe.
The Serious Dieter has no doubt seen these flat blocks of wood, plastic, or metal in pairs — but are not fooled by the dual-packaging strategy. The Single Chopstick is one of the single best dietary helps. Eating with the Single Chopstick has several benefits: it poses the greatest challenge for eating, as you are essentially using a rectangle to move food from your plate; it restricts your diet to things that can be stabbed, squished, speared, or my favorite, rolled.
“This can’t be right,” the Casual Reader might be saying to himself right now. However, the Serious Dieter was no doubt anticipating this entry from the beginning, as rational dietary planning no matter what the base philosophy ultimately yields similar results. The paste-like, typical American dinner fare has now met its match; no longer will you, the Serious Dieter, be slave to the mashed potatoes, creamed corn and gloppy macaroni cheese that tempts so many from their dietary goals.
And — perhaps best of all — sorry, no peas.
Available for free wherever there is fine Chinese, Japanese or Korean dining. Come in sets of two Single Chopsticks.