I try hard not to lug around a heavy purse or bag, opting to carry only my keys, phone, wallet, and sunglasses in a small purse. A few years ago, however, an unexpected addition made its way into my purse and has found permanent residence: plastic utensils.
As a poor culinary student in Paris, my food mainly came from leftovers I brought home from class and the grocery store. I rarely ate at restaurants since I couldn't afford it, but I allowed myself to purchase pastries and sweets from the bakeries as inexpensive treats.
After trekking across town on two Metro lines, I found a new pastry shop that had been on my radar and eagerly bought a beautiful pot de creme. Since I was starving, I walked across the street to a bench in the park so that I could eat it immediately. To my disappointment, I had forgotten to ask for a spoon and was too intimidated to go back and ask for one in French. Rummaging in my purse, the only thing I found was a pen, which is what I used to get every last bit of pot de creme out since I knew it wouldn't survive the hot Metro ride home.
To prevent this from happening again, I purchased a set of plastic Hello Kitty cutlery (the kind children use) when I made a visit to Chinatown. That sturdy, light blue knife, fork, and spoon stayed faithfully in my purse, ready at a moment's notice for an impromptu picnic or spontaneous snack purchase.
The cutlery has been used in Rome on roast chicken from a market and, since the knife is made completely of plastic, frequently on airplanes. While I've since lost pieces of the original set, IKEA has come through with inexpensive replacements. The plastic cutlery has even made an appearance at a San Francisco beer garden, when coworkers bought a round of sausage sandwiches but had no utensils to divide them into shareable portions.
While I don't travel as much as I used to, this bright orange set of utensils, secure in a resealable plastic bag, is always with me. The knowledge that it's tucked into my purse lets me buy and sample food with abandon, knowing that what to eat the food with will never be a problem.