Tuesday, November 22, 2011


This game, I guarantee, will make your Thanksgiving like no other.

Almost ten years ago, I collected recipes from my family and created a family cookbook, which I gave to everybody at Christmas. It had plenty of recipes, of course, but there were also little bits in there that chronicled our family history. One of those was a ditty I wrote about the game we call Spoons, which  was played at every big family get-together. Perhaps it will become a family tradition for you as well! In fact, if the whole world played Spoons, I think everyone's aggression would get used up, their laugh muscles would get a good workout, and we'd find an unexpected avenue towards world peace, though we might have a few more broken tables.


(Interpreted by Katrina Donovan)

After any sort of dinner event at Gramma Carol and Grampa Bill Donovan's house, we would either sing (to the magnificently talented accompaniment of Jane Riley on piano!) or play a good, rousing game of Spoons.

Playing cards
Big, durable table  (no fussy, delicate tablecloths!)

1. First, count the folks playing. For our purposes here, let's say you have 10 people.

2. Go through your cards and make sure you have four of a kind for each person. So if you have 10 people, make sure you have four Kings, four Queens, four "3"s, four Jacks, four Aces, four "9"s,  four "2"s, four "7"s, four "6"s, four "4"s... See? There are 10 total. It doesn't matter which ones, really ...

3. Clear table and seat everyone around table.

4. Subtract 1 from the total amount of players and put that amount of spoons at the center of the table, within reach of everybody. (It helps to arrange them as they appear above, so that everyone has equal grabbing access.) So in this case, put 9 spoons at the center.

5. Dealer shuffles the cards and deals four cards a person, face down.

6. Everyone is allowed to look at their cards for a second or two, to determine if they stand a chance in h-ll of getting four of a kind.

7. Dealer yells "go," or something equally creative, and everyone picks a card to discard to the person on his or her left. If played correctly, you will hear a collective "whump" of hands hitting the table.

8. While you slapped your unwanted card to the person on your left, however, your right side neighbor has given you his or her rejected card. All players pick up the new card to their right, determine in a millisecond if it will suit their purposes of getting four of a kind, and then "whump," everyone discards another card to the left. This continues and, again, if done correctly, there should be a "whump" every 2 or 3 seconds. (Hint: It's never done correctly.)

9. Enter individual strategy. This is where personalities emerge. When you have four of a kind, you take a spoon from the center of the table. Some folks scream and grab a spoon. Others will very slyly sneak one off the table, so as not to arouse attention and to feel superior to their clueless family members. BUT -- As soon as one person has taken a spoon, the floor opens for anyone to grab a spoon and the one person who ends up unlucky and spoonless (remember? There were only 9!) gets a letter. As the game is called "Spoons," the first letter is "S." Let's suppose you have a particularly slow family member who loses six games in a row. He or she gets "S," "P," "O," "O," "N," and "S." That person is then taken into the backyard and shot. Or eliminated from the game. It depends on crowd temper. 

The winner is the one person who is not eliminated and who is left with a spoon in their hand at the end of the game.

The tricky part of the game is keeping your eyes on the spoons (to see if any have disappeared) WHILE you are simulataneously looking at your cards (and the newly arrived card on your right) to see if you have four of a kind. It's a nerve-wracking balance, guaranteed to chase away a food-coma.

Warning: Family members who ordinarily appear docile and who have supported you through thick and thin will turn against you without a second thought. Wrestling and biting over utensils has occurred in the past and will no doubt occur again. You have been warned. 

Helpful hint: Small children or people with very short arms should be strategically placed close to the spoons and should wear protective body gear.


  1. Oh my goodness, I *love* this game! It has been years since I've played (something I need to change--stat!), but it is seriously one of the best games out there. It can be a bit dangerous, but it is so much fun to play :)

  2. Isn't it, Bobbie? I hope to play it on Christmas Eve with my friends! I introduced it to my in-laws a couple of Thanksgivings ago and the results were hysterical!

  3. Those spoons are so gorgeous! Where did you get them if I may ask?

    1. Hi Sophie! I wish they were mine! I actually found the image in an online image search, but I'm realizing lately that I need to be good about grabbing pictures from google images. I didn't know about getting permission for sharing photos like these and I'm trying to be more careful. I still don't know a lot about it, truth be told, but I'm trying to learn more so I can do right by all the photographers who share these images.

      Thanks for visiting SSW!