Conversation recall · Universal Knowledge

Salvador Dali’s Spoon

Have you heard that thing about Salvador Dali and the spoon? I have come across this story in so many places that I can’t remember where I heard it first. It’s used to illustrate the benefit of taking short naps, especially to aid creativity, and offers a way to do it.

The story goes that Salvador Dali used to take short naps sitting in a chair. He would place a plate on the floor under his right hand, and hold a spoon in that hand. He would doze off briefly, and when he dropped the spoon onto the plate the noise would wake him, and, refreshed, he would go back to work.

A web search of “Salvador Dali spoon” offers many variants on this story: sometimes it’s a key rather than a spoon, or a bowl rather than a plate, and it might have been metal or ceramic. The current top three search results are stories from, and

My interest here is whether this counts as “Universal Knowledge”. In my experience it doesn’t, certainly among my friends and family. I mentioned it to my brother last week when he was visiting from Spain. The subject of siestas came up and I said, “Like Salvador Dali and his spoon”. He hadn’t come across it, but he will, I’m sure.

Some years ago I did the same thing with “keeping Anthony Trollope hours”, mentioning the same things that I wrote about in February. Last year he quoted them back to me, he told me about Trollope’s habit of writing for three hours, every morning. And even if he finished a novel in those three hours he’d just start on the next one, without a break. “I told you that years ago”, I said. He told me that he’d read it on the web and didn’t recall any conversations with me about it. Maybe it’ll be the same with Salvador Dali’s spoon (or key), and the ceramic (or metal) plate (or bowl): he heard it here first.



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