I recently ran across this fascinating, seven-minute film reel from the 1930s. The first two minutes show French artisans making wooden spoons using traditional methods.
But what, you may ask, takes up the other five minutes? If you watch the whole thing, it appears to be a montage of footage from a festival. What’s the connection with spoon making?
It’s not obvious from the film, but this is a wooden spoon festival. Or, to be more precise, it is a French festival in the city of Comines called La Fete des Louches, or ladle feast, and it features people dressing up in red costumes and throwing wooden ladles out of castle windows while a crowd below tries to catch them.
There is, of course, a legend about the origin of the practice: a medieval nobleman locked in the top of the tower decides to toss his spoon out of the window to alert the people to his plight, and they eventually storm the castle and free the nobleman. Or something like that. (My college French is a little rusty.) It was formalized as an official festival in the late 19th century. The point is that this is a real festival that still goes on today.
Or maybe the point is that one way to keep traditional handicrafts alive is to throw handcrafted items into crowds of excited people.