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A splayd is a piece of cutlery which combines a fork, a knife, and a spoon. Some people may refer to splayds as “sporks,” although this usage is technically incorrect, since a spork only combines a spoon and a fork, without any cutting edge. Splayds may also be seen spelled as “splades,” especially outside their native country of Australia. The name is actually a reference to a specific brand of splayd, which came to be used as a common name through trademark dilution, much as people use terms like “kleenex” or “xerox.”
The splayd was developed by William McArthur in Australia in 1943. Allegedly, McArthur saw a photograph of women balancing plates of food and cutlery on their laps at a casual buffet, and he realized that a muli-purpose utensil could be very useful. He developed a splayd prototype, which his wife began selling in her shop, and the utensil really took off in the 1960s. Many Australians have some splayds in the silverware drawer from the heyday of this utensil.
The design of a splayd includes a scooped bowl like a spoon, topped with four small fork tines. The sides of the splayd are flattened so that they can cut through a variety of soft to medium-hard foods, essentially like butter knives. Splayds are not sharpened due to concerns about cutting the lips, cheek, or gums while attempting to eat with a splayd, but the edges are still sharp enough to be highly functional.
As with sporks, it is claimed that a splayd can be used for a wide range of things, from eating soup to pasta. Splayd producers make plastic, wooden, and metal splayds for a variety of markets, and some very fine examples of formal metal splayds can be seen in the collections of some Australian museums. Some kitchen supply stores also sell splayds, and they can be ordered from Australian importers who specialize in such cultural ephemera; many people find that splades are preferable to sporks, since they have a crisp cutting edge.
For picnics and casual events, a set of splades can be quite useful. The single combined utensil allows diners to keep one hand free for things like balancing a plate of food, a highly useful feature at parties where people might sit on couches, chairs, or the floor to eat. Generally, splayds are not appropriate for formal dining, in which several changes of specialized silverware are used.