Sporks are literally older than sliced bread...
The svelte knife-fork combination is deceivingly old -- the word "spork" first appeared in 1909 inside the Century Dictionary (sliced bread wasn't around unitl '28, FYI), and the first patent appeared in the 1970s, registered by Van Brode Milling Company. Today the spork is produced by countless discount dining-ware conglomerates that provide fork/spoon convenience to prisons, cafeterias, schools, and fast food restaurants the world over.
A cultural phenomenon... sort of
Sporks are almost exclusively found in bins by the ketchup packets in public dining areas, but they're not that practical to keep in houses outfitted with capable knives and forks. But the idea -- and silliness -- of the spork have made a mark in the American zeitgeist. It's referenced in Wall-E, for example, when the titular robot can't make sense of how to sort it into his clearly defined "fork," and "spoon" categories. Even President Clinton publicly compared his presidency to the spork, saying it was "the symbol of my administration … No more false choice between the left utensil and the right utensil.”
Urban spork legends
A fictitious rumor has circulated that claims spork origins directly track back to World War II. Allegedly, General Mcarthur thought chopsticks were too "barbarian," for use by P.O.W. camps that housed captured Japanese soldiers, and that forks may be a safety concern. His solution? The almighty spork. Fortunately, this story is as fake as the "spife," a spoon/knife mash-up that I just made up five seconds ago.
Waxing poetic, on the spork
For an example of the spork's indelible place in popular Western culture, look no further than the decidedly ironic (and outdated) blog, Spork.org. Here's a sample quote: "A spork is a perfect metaphor for human existence. It tries to function as both spoon and fork, and because of this dual nature, it fails miserably at both. You cannot have soup with a spork; it is far too shallow. You cannot eat meat with a spork; the prongs are too small."
I think that makes sense. Or maybe I'm just tired of eating ramen with my hands.
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Wil Fulton is a Staff Writer for Thrillist. He'll never use his hands to eat again. Even with finger sandwiches. Follow him @wilfulton