Teaspoons, like socks, are prone to disappear, but where does the missing cutlery go? Photo: Shutterstock
Kate Whitehead
Kate Whitehead

The case of the disappearing teaspoons: my quest to discover where missing cutlery ends up

  • For some it’s socks, for others it’s teaspoons. Among the smallest items in the cutlery drawer, they have a habit of mysteriously vanishing
  • Following an intensive investigation, a poll of friends and reading a scientific study, I believe they are either on another planet, behind the sofa, or in the landfill

At the start of the pandemic I had a dozen of them. A year ago, it was down to five. And now there are just three. I’m talking teaspoons and they are disappearing at an alarming rate.

Nothing else is missing, the rest of the cutlery drawer is intact, it’s just the teaspoons that are going walkies. What’s going on?

Before I launched into a full-scale investigation, I replenished the lost items. Intriguingly, while Marks & Spencer sells knives, forks and dessert spoons in combo packs, when it comes to teaspoons, they are sold in packs of six and a staff member assured me they are a popular item.

An informal poll of eight friends confirmed it – the worst affected buys a dozen every Christmas to replenish her stock. So, where do all the teaspoons go? One pal suspects his have run off with his missing socks. Another thought they might be down the back of the sofa.

How do teaspoons disappear, and where do they go? Photo: Shutterstock

I went online in search of answers and came across a paper by researchers at a medical institute in Melbourne. They secretly numbered 70 teaspoons and tracked their movements over five months. At the end of the study, 80 per cent of the spoons had vanished, and the rate of disappearance was higher in communal lunchrooms.

The researchers interviewed staff and gave them the opportunity to admit to spoon stealing, but that didn’t account for such a high attrition rate. Their 2005 paper, “The case of the disappearing teaspoons: longitudinal cohort study of the displacement of teaspoons in an Australian research institute”, concluded with a nod to Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

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They speculated that the spoons could be quietly migrating to a “spoonoid planet” where they “enjoy a uniquely spoonoid lifestyle, responding to highly spoon oriented stimuli, and generally leading the spoon equivalent of the good life.”

I like to think of my missing teaspoons living the good life somewhere beyond the astral belt, but I suspect, as they are such wee things, I may have accidentally thrown them away.