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A past perspective ... NYT 1893
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|Author||Topic: A past perspective ... NYT 1893|
posted 07-02-2010 03:13 PM
I wonder how the writer might have viewed things 10, 20, 30, etc years later? what would you write today?
STUDY IN FOLKS AND SPOONS SNARES IN TABLE SILVERWARE FOR THE DINER OUT
New Designs That Are Constantly Corning Into Fashion Demand Alertness on the Part of the Guest --
There was a time when the table was but a snare for the unwary possessor of an appetite set by the cook in his skillful treatment of things edible. On the table of today the silver- smith shares honors with the cook in setting snares with his glittering wares, reproductions of the well known articles which have in the growth of civilization come to replace lingers, and new creations that have grown out of new conditions, or old conditions newly recognized. The silversmith’s opportunity is the continual changing of in manners and in table service between the two there being perfect sympathy.
For the ordinary dinner for each individual are needed two spoons, three knives, and four forks. The spoons are a large one for soup. a small one with a gold bowl for Roman punch, both to be placed in front of the cover; the knives are for meat, entree. and game, laid at the left; on the right are forks for the same purposes, and one more intended for fish. Usually, both knives and forks grade in three sizes, the largest lying closest to the plate. For the salad course, one of the earliest-removed pairs is returned again to the table. But as courses may be multiplied, so may the need tor knives and forks, yet the number is not added to in the original laying of the table.
A dinner served a la mode begins with oysters - as long as the bivalve is in season -- and the plate holding them is at each place as the guest sits down. Once any fork would have done tor the oyster, now it has its own, a very pretty one, five or six inches long, with two flat rather broad prongs, taking up an inch or a little more of the forks length. To imitate the novelty and prove its purpose, the fork is laid on the oyster plate; a year hence it may take its place at the end of the fork line, flanking the cover.
In the fish course the individual is passed over and the server has the new fancy for helping his dish - fish fork. It is the old fish knife or scoop slit into tour or five prongs of uneven size the two outer ones being twice the width of the inner ones. Beyond the sentiment that dishes and forks are made tor each other, this fish fork is no improvement on its predecessor.
The soup spoons of a service, which once helped vegetables, have been ousted by vegetable spoons, the idea and designs being adapted from England, where no table service is considered complete without them. For dry vegetables the spoon has a pointed bowl; for such as have gravies or sauces the bowl at the lower edge is deeply depressed and rounded up like a cup -- a very ugly shape. Both styles have larger bowls than the soup spoon and handles two or three inches longer. For taking stuffing from a capon or turkey are spoons with the pointed bowl or the vegetable spoon with handles a foot long.
The dinner progresses until the salad, when comes a huge novelty, a substitute in silver tor the lettuce fork and spoon of carved wood. The new creation is a formidable pair of tongs, one end terminating in a large spoon and the other in a large fork, whose prong tips are slightly curved in. Altogether the tongs are a foot long, and the half curve, where you are to grasp them for use, is a handful. The idea is pretty enough, but the present form of carrying it out is too massive, lettuce being so very light. In open worked silver with a shortened handle the lettuce tongs will become dainty and appropriate.
In strongest contrast as to delicacy in conception and make is the novelty or the year and of the decade the “strawberry fork." For several years fashion has decreed that strawberries should appear at table with their stems, and be eaten by holding the stem of a berry in the fingers dipping the fruit in powdered sugar, and biting it from the stem. A process that the enormous size to which the fruit has come to be grown has made practicable. The forks are to replace the stems and keep the fingers from becoming stained or sticky while thus eating it. They have a length of five or six inches, one inch or a little more of which is taken up by two slender pointed prongs. The designs shown have delicate handles of twisted wire with prongs beautifully chased.
For years that uncertain contingent party of the social world that wants to be correct ix any- thing has not known how to eat its ice cream. As a result, between the fork and spoon honors have been easy. The silversmith has at last seized the situation and taken advantage of it for his own profit and the peace of the uncertain. He has designed the ice cream spoon. Its size is that of the teaspoon; its bowl makes it distinct from all or its kind, the lower edge becoming flat and pointed like a trowel. The spoon has rather triumphed as the preferred article, since it has become correct to serve with ices a cordial, a few spoonfuls of the liquid being poured over the ice.
Throughout the dinner a tiny little fork resting on tho olive dish will show that at some tables the fingers have been banished from it. But once helped, they remain still the only means for conveying the much loved often disliked relish from the plate to the mouth.
Sometime during the pudding course, or probably at the end of the dinner when coffee is poured the rarest novelty in silver may appear. lt is a wine burner, and its purpose is to burn our of spirituous liquors the alcohol they contain. It is an oblong shallow cup that will hold a desert spoonful of brandy. At one side of the cup is a crescent shaped piece of open-worked silver -- is greatest width an inch, intended for a handle. The object lying behind the burning of the alcohol is a temperance one. Through submitting the wine to the process the intoxicating properties are destroyed and yet the flavor is preserved. There are some epicures who draw temperance lines, and to them the wine burner commends itself in usefulness.
In natural sequence supper follows dinner, but the novelties appropriate to it are some of those used at dinner, while in the use of others it has to divide honors with the luncheon table. With the latter supper has to share the new combination spoon and fork intended serving chicken or celery salad. This clever idea of some worker in the precious metal has, at the end of a long delicate handle, what begins as the bowl of a spoon and ends in three prongs of a fork, sloping outward beyond the outer edge of the bowl.
The cold-meat fork has the original idea expressed in several new designs and one entirely new shape. The latter is intended for chipped beet and takes the form of a pair of scissors. A fork covered with satin-finished silver feathers, has its hilt bent at an angle and at the end or its long legs are rings through which the fingers can be slipped. The effect of manipulating the scissors is that of a bird stooping end pecking, the bill opening and closing. It is a quaint adaptation of a much copied form in nature, but is an awkward little trick and not very practical.
Another new silver piece is the “bread fork," a trident with a short cylindrical handle of bright repousse work and prongs of the same, three inches long, terminating in points. The idea and design is imported from the English table, where it is of practical use. The Britisher has his cold loaf on the table and slices it as one washes it. Whoever assumes the duty passes not the bread board for you to help yourself, but the slice on the tip of the bread knife. The fork is in helping to replace the knife. It has not “taken” here, its occupation, like Hamlet’s being gone our bread being served already slice and delicately placed on a plate.
At breakfast appears" the awkward, unornamented “cake lifter “ and the cunning little butter “spreader," as new adjunct to the lately added table article, the bread-and-butter plate. The "spreader " is a knife five or six inches long, with a blade varying in size from a halt to three-quarters of an inch. One side of the end. or the blade is rounded, the other side rises in a point divided into two teeth. You break apart your lump of butter with the teeth, and the blade spreads it on the bread. The butter knife of our fathers is no longer used. The new notion is to serve butter in tiny balls or curls or cubes patted in the home pantry and kept solid in a cool place until serving. For helping there is a spear or lance of silver or gold, the point of which is thrust through the butter ball and so transferred to the bread-and-butter plate.
To accommodate the fashion in serving, new styles or better bowls are seen. They are round and flat. with sides of open work silver 2 inches high. The silver shape is fitted with white or colored glass or china. Their usefulness is shown in warm weather when the glass is half filled with ice water or cracked ice and the butter balls float about solid and firm during the entire meal or until they are eaten.
In the new way for eating the orange the silversmith has followed the orange spoon with the orange knife and the orange holder. The orange spoon has its bowl pointed, and new designs are occurring constantly. The orange knife has a blade like a rounded soimiter, one side having: an edge, the other side teeth like a saw. The orange holder is an adaptation of the tong idea. It is not more than six inches long; one-half the length is the handle, the other half is a half globe divided in the center. In the half globe the half orange is held in place by the hand pressing the tong handle beneath. The half globe is [slit] in fingers and finished in bright silver without ornament.
Cracked ice spoons with small fluted bowls are to replace the pretty, insecure little ice tongs. New candelabra are fitted with un-burnable candles of porcelain, that are. in fact, lamps, the candle being merely the receptacle for the oil. Fitted with flower-decked shades the cleverly-made imitations will pass for the genuine article. A new thing concerning candelabra is the coating of varnish or lacquer which can be given either silver or gilt. This invisible protection will last with care for months and while it remains the metal will not tarnish, neither will it require polishing nor rubbing. All that is necessary is to wipe the candelabra with a damp cloth and immediately afterward with a dry flannel one. When the varnish wears off it can be renewed at the jeweler’s.
For one to be ignorant of the proper use of a novelty is nothing to he ashamed of. If you are ignorant, you are just a trifle old-fashioned– a season behind time. Frank innocence and tact will save a situation from awkwardness, and sometimes the resort to it is thought attractive. One rule to be observed is this: Begin to use from the outer end ot your line of knives or forks; it you are uncertain of a new, strange piece of silver, wait and watch your neighbor or your hostess and act accordingly.
Local customs and usages even in this traveled age of people and products, make certain ignorance or innocence very possible. A Southerner could not be blamed for not knowing which end ot the stalk of asparagus to eat, because it is not a vegetable of his latitude. In exchange a Northerner could not understand the artichoke, and in being ignorant he would be above reproach.
There is a certain sign language that obtains between host and guest, and between those who sit and those who stand and wait, and its meaning every well-bred child learns in the nursery. In the wonderful ups and downs in our country, the person who sits today at the finest appointed table may never have had the advantages of a nursery, nor of a mother who knew what civilization supplies to the top-ladder people. Such a person is in a kind of helpless ignorance, and how to enlighten him is the conundrum or many.
This overabundance of silver at table is due to the insatiable desire for novelty and the increased fortunes which allow the gratification or the desire. But as old silver is a patent of respectability, it is in no way banished from the ultra-fashionable table; it is used in preference whenever possible, the novelties being added according to their beauty or utility.
To own a set of old, wide, round-bowled Dutch spoons is equal to, and proof positive of an aristocratic ancestry. Excessive decoration is the fancy of today as it was in the years of the last Louis of France. The bow knots, fes- toons, and garlands peculiar to the period stated have been revived and applied to the ornamentation of our silver for the table. The handles and even the bowls of many articles are variously edged with garlands, or in some eases their entire surface is covered with conventional designs of roses, thistles, lilies, and natural fern leaves.
This gives opportunity for the employing of' repousse or beaten work, now brought to such perfection. As for the outer finish of any piece or set, the "satin" or “polished" is equally fashionable.
With this increase of work adding expense to the manufacture, the price of our silverware constantly goes down. The increased supply of silver in the market does not explain the evident paradox. Have recourse to the scales. however, and the truth is revealed. Our inherited spoons are very much heavier than any we buy today and leave to be inherited.
The depreciation of silverware -- always marked when solid "sterling” -- has crowded out plated ware. And in turn it has been crowded out by what is more common than most people believe -- services of gold. The applying of the word silver to our tableware is an Americanism, the sister nation using our language speaks of the same thing as plate.
posted 07-03-2010 10:23 AM
The "gilded age" indeed...
All times are ET
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