When a tablespoon is not a tablespoon

The next time you're cooking and carefully measuring out a tablespoon of an ingredient, consider this fact, recently reported by Gourmet magazine: All tablespoons are not created equal.

While a true tablespoon holds about 19 grams, according to the Department of Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the tablespoon in your kitchen drawer might hold as little as eight.

The reason? While the housewares industry is regulated by the government, the standards are largely unenforced."It's not a public-safety problem and there has been no outcry, so the industry probably just doesn't bother with it," says Michael Newman of the NIST.

The only time it really makes a difference is in baking, "where the chemistry of baking soda and salt matter," says Mary Donovam of the Culinary Institute of America.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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