Why you should care
These self-saucing and licking spoons are designed to make you rethink the way you bring food to your mouth.
We are presented with a table of strangely shaped, bone-colored cutlery and delicate round foods — some of the items are recognizable, some not. Without any instruction, we must figure out how to eat the food using the curious utensils. This is an intimate tea ceremony at Basta, a restaurant in Tel Aviv, where guests are challenged to rethink the way they eat.
“I tried to reimagine the use of utensils and the different ways in which they meet the body and serve as its extension,” explains Israeli ceramics designer Avi Ben Shoshan. Someone asks Ben Shoshan how to eat two egg-shaped half shells, one filled with chocolate, the other with thinly sliced almonds. “There’s no right or wrong, just do whatever feels right to you,” he answers. But what feels right about suddenly consuming food differently from how humans have for centuries?
Somehow the experiment works. And beautifully. Ben Shoshan’s utensils are designed to match natural dining gestures — a curved spoon scrapes smoothly around the plate to collect the last morsels of a meal; another spoon soaks sponge cake with melted chocolate as it’s tilted toward the mouth. There’s also a spoon resembling a tongue that mimics licking.
It requires you to slow down, to be patient, to savor the small drips.
Ben Shoshan works with pastry chef Michal Bouton to design food too. Among their creations are frozen tea and milk cubes, both well-suited for Israel’s heat. The modular cubes allow diners to adjust their tea’s strength and milkiness; the temperature can be adjusted with hot water that’s served in a jug with two eye slits, a spout that resembles a mouth and handles that look like ears.
The inspiration hit while Ben Shoshan was working in an open kitchen in Tel Aviv in 2013 after studying industrial design at the Shenkar College of Engineering, Design and Art. At the restaurant he watched people dine for hours on end. “I interpret the spectacle of eating in many different ways,” he says, “from sexy and sensuous to bizarre and fascinating or grotesque and revolting.” He aims to draw attention to this by designing utensils that do not dictate the manner of eating — “rather,” he says, “it is the manner of eating that dictates their use.”
Ben Shoshan designed the spoons earlier this year with physical, intuitive and primary actions in mind. And that approach is a bit of a game-changer. When it comes to innovation in culinary arts, the food itself is typically the main focus; the tools we use for eating have stayed the same for more than 3,000 years. Ben Shoshan’s utensils are designed around practicality and interaction — the experience of licking the hollowed-out interior of a spoon requires you to slow down, to be patient, to savor the small drips.
You don’t have to be invited to a special tea ceremony to experiment with a licking spoon ($8) or self-saucing bowl ($14). The utensils are available at Ben Shoshan’s studio in Tel Aviv or via email. When arranging an appointment to visit his studio, ask if a demonstration — accompanied by Bouton’s pastries — is also possible. It’s a unique opportunity to experience what might best be described as cutlery choreography.