When Is a Tablespoon Not a Tablespoon?
(From Gourmet, September 1999. Reprinted in The Charleston Rose, November 1999)

Examples of Tablespoon Sizes

Consider the measuring spoons above. We found them all lounging in the drawers of our home kitchens. Each is designated a tablespoon, but as you can clearly see, some hold twice as much as others.

To solve the case of the changing tablespoon, we called the Office of Weights and Measures at the Depart- ment of Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology -- and discovered that we had wandered into a gray area of regulated but largely unenforced standards.

What's a cook to do? We can't help with most recipes, but recipes at GOURMET are developed with Williams-Sonoma measuring tools. Our tablespoon holds fourteen grams of table salt. For the record, Weights and Measures in New York State says a true tablespoon holds half a liquid ounce-about nineteen grams of salt.