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April 11, 2010

An unnerving silver-gilt combination epergne and candelabrum
Posted by Teresa at 08:07 PM * 183 comments

This is an ephemeral bit of fluff, because all too soon, the auctions will end and be forgotten. I will nevertheless observe that I’ve found a corner of eBay, “Antiques > Silver > Silverplate > Other,” that’s full of objects that ought not exist outside the works of Edward Gorey. For instance, the Victorian silver-plated grape scissors. I pasted the link to Patrick in chat.

“You mean to tell me the Victorians had dedicated scissors for grapes?” he asked. “They couldn’t eat grapes without their special grape-scissors?”

“High-end Victorian tableware had special utensils for everything,” I told him. And it’s true; they really did. The proliferation of specialized Victorian serving pieces was a perfect-storm-style collision of technological ingenuity, unbridled commerce, social insecurity, and conspicuous consumption. This is why we have items like the asparagus tongs, fish slice, tomato server, delicately pierced A-1 Sauce bottle holder, silver repoussé muffineer, and the likeable but undeniably Goreyesque hedgehog toothpick holder.

Serving dishes proliferated too, growing stranger and more specialized (or just more elaborate) to justify their existence. Pickle containers have never been more ornate. If I understand the nomenclature correctly (which I probably don’t), more complicated models can be pickle cruets. They reach their apex as pickle castors, at which point they look like they were intended to hold holy relics.

(Am I being unfair to the Victorians? I certainly am. The egg cup with a built-in internal egg-cutter and the Martian-spaceship-domed breakfast warmer with ram’s hooves are both Art Deco, and the deceptively steampunk-ish teakettle is Jugendstil.)

I think the original Miscellaneous Other category was invented for epergnes. I wish to nominate as the pièce de résistance the two-foot-high silver-cherub-supported centerpiece/epergne with a vigorous gout of Victorian art glass coming out of its top. There’s a compote that’s just crying to accompany it.

From The Unstrung Harp:

Mr. Earbrass returned from a walk to find a large carton blocking the hall. Masses of brown paper and then tissue have reluctantly given up an unnerving silver-gilt combination epergne and candelabrum. Mr. Earbrass recollects a letter from a hitherto unknown admirer of his work, received the week before; it hinted at the early arrival of an offering that embodied, in a different but kindred form, the same high-souled aspiration that animated its recipient’s books. Mr. Earbrass can only conclude that the apathy of the lower figures is due to their having been deprived of novels.
Comments on An unnerving silver-gilt combination epergne and candelabrum:
#1 ::: Gar Lipow ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2010, 11:35 PM:

As a really occasional commenter in threads, maybe I'll try to take advantage of the Making Light group mind. I seem to remember that the Victorians invented the spork before it was called the spork (well as a serving instrument, not tableware). Does anyone know what it was called?

#2 ::: Vance Maverick ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2010, 11:35 PM:

I've often wondered, in retrospect, just why it was Gorey appealed so much to me at the age of 9 or 10. Just about nothing that I get from his work today would have been comprehensible to me then -- except for the strong graphic sense. (Kate Beaton's comics based on Gorey book covers work to some extent off of that.) Now, for example, it makes perfect sense to me that he and Frank O'Hara should have been friends and roommates -- but what chord could O'Hara have struck with me then? Anyway, thanks for bringing back Mr. Earbrass.

#3 ::: Vance Maverick ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2010, 11:36 PM:

The runcible spoon.

#4 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2010, 11:37 PM:

The universe is considerably brighter now that I know muffineers exist. They aren't as interesting as the name suggests-- I was thinking of some sort of test pilot slash swordsmen of pastry-- but the name is there nonetheless.

As for grape scissors, they make sense to me. I have other dedicated pairs of scissors, after all.

#5 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2010, 11:37 PM:

I wonder how much of this stuff ended up at pawn brokers, via fired servants or broke homeowners.

* * *

A few years back I went to an exhibit at the Cooper-Hewitt (?); the works of the couple who introduced servant-free simple entertaining. What a relief that must have been . . . to almost everyone but the silverware industry.

#6 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2010, 11:40 PM:

The tomato server has found a new life as a slice-of-jellied-cranberry-sauce server.

#7 ::: Vance Maverick ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2010, 11:49 PM:

In case it's not clear, Gar, my 3 was to your 1.

#8 ::: Steven M. Bellovin ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 12:15 AM:

Why am I reminded of To Say Nothing of the Dog?

#9 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 12:35 AM:

Would it surprise you, Teresa, to find out that I have a quite nice pair of grape scissors with a butterfly on the handles? Very art deco. If you like, I can send you a picture. There's also a double-ended pickle fork, various odd knives, fish forks, and the like, all inherited. Not to mention the odd larger bits of silver -- a pair of covered bowls that look like squashes from 1832 (dated by them saying "Mrs. Lovice A. Whitmore" on them, as Lovice Ayers married Charles O. Whitmore in 1832), a strange urn with various sieve-like portions that may or may not be part of it, my christening cup from the late 1950s, and ... well, you get the idea. Karen claims that living with me is like being in a constant version of the Antiques Road Show.

Anyone need an 1883 Hawai'ian dime? Or a 1909 plain VDB penny which still has a little of the original shine? Or cigarette lighters from the early days of the Polaris missile, or some internal company models of the Polaris or the mini-OTEC plant that Lockheed built?

An old painting that I just had cleaned is by Elihu Vedder, who did many of the murals at the Library of Congress. I could go on, but I won't.

The grape scissors have a cutting part with a flattened pair of bits that hold the grape stem that has just been cut, preventing the grapes from falling on the ground. Practical and useful, actually.

#10 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 12:36 AM:

Bishop's Bird Stump! Bishop's Bird Stump!

#11 ::: Zack ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 12:42 AM:

I wonder what future generations will make of the elaborate pewter and glass reading lamp in the shape of a hot-air balloon that we have next to our bookshelf. It's modern, as far as I know, but it looks like something out of a Gorey novel.

Tom's mention @9 of an 1883 Hawai'ian dime reminds me that the other week I found a 1992 Hong Kong dollar coin in a roll of quarters. I never would have noticed it if it hadn't failed to fit through the coin slot of the washing machine I was trying to start.

#12 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 12:51 AM:

I bought a tomato slice in the silver-plate pattern that my grandmother had (along with several other pieces). It's actually quite pretty (and yes, cranberry-jelly spoon suits it quite well).

#13 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 12:56 AM:

Tom, by nearly complete coincidence, I was just this afternoon telling my mother the story of how we found out that you know the rules for oyster forks off the top of your head, and you found out that that's uncommon knowledge. If the Cosmic Game Show Host had asked me to guess which one of my friends had inherited a pair of grape scissors and a painting by Elihu Vedder (cool!), you'd have been my first choice.

#14 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 01:03 AM:

Where, once, to peruse I was able
The bottle's informative label
This holder occults
Sauce contest results
Now what will I read at the table?

#15 ::: Lighthill ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 01:04 AM:

I discovered what an epergne was back when I read that Dante Gabriel Rossetti's obsessions with the wombat led him to procure one for his family. Said wombat reportedly liked to sleep in the family's silver epergne.

I wonder if Rossetti's contemporaries ever supposed that future generations would one day hear the wombat-in-epergne story and exclaim, "A wombat? How cute! How eccentric! Only... what is an epergne?"

#16 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 01:07 AM:

Bows to our gracious hostess.

Oh yes -- there's the strange scoop-like spoon with odd cutouts on the bowl, with handles which are obviously some sort of vine (I think grape). I've no idea what to call it. Neither does anyone else I've shown it to, other than a serving spoon. If I can get Karen down to the storage locker, maybe I could pull it out and send you a picture?

#17 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 01:19 AM:

I'd always assumed a runcible spoon was something vaguely spork-like, but never actually looked it up. At a party a couple of weeks ago, somebody was asserting that it's actually some kind of railroad track-switching tool, so that rather than being a dainty tea-set item, it was actually a six-foot-long heavy iron thing. I've got no clue whether there's any truth to that; Wikipedia and Google seem to think it's an imaginary spork variant, and have an Edward Lear illustration that's more or less along those lines.

#18 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 01:24 AM:

Lighthill at #15 writes:

> I discovered what an epergne was back when I read that Dante Gabriel Rossetti's obsessions with the wombat...

I was charmed by that, and passed it on to my wife and to a friend. Then I thought "How do I know Rosetti liked wombats? How do I know Lighthill isn't engaged in some genteel piece of trickery, for which I have fallen?"

Research (ok - Google) leads me to this piece in the British Museum: "Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Rossetti lamenting the death of his wombat, a pen drawing",_rosset.aspx

It's very cute but makes me feel a little melancholy. It is a sad thing to lose one's wombat.

#19 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 01:28 AM:

Through my mother's side of the family, I actually have a Victorian silver-plated grape shears; through my husband's side of the family we rejoice in the ownership of a set of six sterling silver runcible spoons.

I foresee very little use for either of these, and yet the possession thereof makes me smile. And go for the silver polish.

#20 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 01:32 AM:

Lighthill @15, I'd say that's a yes.

I'm not the best person to ask for a definitive opinion about current usage. I once mentioned my sewing kit to Jenna Felice, and she told me I was the only person she knew who used etui but wasn't a crossword-puzzle fan.

Tom, that sounds like it might be a bonbon spoon. Does it look like it's a close relative of these pieces?

#21 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 01:42 AM:

What you see here are the relics of an intensively stratified class system, stripped (pace Tom) of all of their value as social signifiers. Of course they're intricate, ornate, fascinating and slightly weird.

Remember the complex rules about fish knives in Britain?

#22 ::: Don Simpson ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 01:43 AM:

Usually I see the old silver versions of what we today call "sporks" identified as "ice cream forks" (try a Google image search on that phrase), but occasionalloy as "runcible spoons". However there is an interesting search result:
E. Cobham Brewer 1810–1897. Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 1898.

Runcible Spoon (A).

A horn spoon with a bowl at each end, one the size of a table-spoon and the other the size of a tea-spoon. There is a joint midway between the two bowls by which the bowls can be folded over

#23 ::: Tony Zbaraschuk ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 01:50 AM:

Henry Petroski has a gorgeous essay in one of his American Scientist column collections on Victorian silverware, focusing on the way in which a collection of tools optimized for individual use is sometimes better than, and sometimes worse, a smaller collection of more generalized tools. Apparently there's a point at which the expense involved, and the effort of keeping track of what the individual tools are all good for, outweighs the benefits of specialization. Then we swing back towards fewer but more general utensils -- but sometimes we get frustrated trying to use a generalist fork to eat oysters with.

#24 ::: Don Simpson ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 01:51 AM:

An "occasionalloy" is probably when one must be on their metal.

A comment on this page includes a possibly full listing of runcible objects:

#25 ::: Mikael Vejdemo Johansson ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 02:13 AM:

@TNH #20
I'm not the best person to ask for a definitive opinion about current usage. I once mentioned my sewing kit to Jenna Felice, and she told me I was the only person she knew who used etui but wasn't a crossword-puzzle fan.

I use etui quite a bit. Only not in English.

It's a perfectly appropriate name for a small container in Swedish, and I'd use it for a number of things in my current possession. In English, I'd probably substitute for some other container-synonym though.

#26 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 02:19 AM:

Not very much like them, T. @20. The item in question does turn out to be at home rather than in storage -- the handle is a trio of twigs, in silver, loosely braided, two of which end in leaves. Each twig is between one and two mm wide (so it's a very delicate handle). The bowl is fairly sturdy, compound, bilaterally symmetrical, with a cutout from the upper portion ending in a small cusp about an inch from either end of the bowl. The whole is 29cm long, about 7cm at the widest part of the bowl, and the bowl is about 3cm deep. The initials engraved on the bowl are EMG, which was my father's mother's maiden name (Elizabeth Manning Gardiner). Hallmarked "Sterling W&N". The N may be an H. I don't think it relates to Winsor and Newton, which is what shows up on a Google search for me. Being marked EMG, it's probably late Victorian or early Edwardian -- she graduated from college in 1901 and married my grandfather in the late 00's/early teens. If it were a wedding present it would have her married initials on it.

#27 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 03:17 AM:

It is, perhaps, regrettable that the conspicuous consumption of the modern era is so disposable.

These things, whatever their function, were meant to be kept, and admired. They were durable, in a way that the latest iShowoff can't be. There isn't, yet, anything special about an ancestor's mobile phone. And, the way the essential technology is changing on the inside, it wouldn't even be usable in the way that a pair of grape scissors might still be.

Though, weight for weight, scrap mobile phones are a richer source of gold than the ore from a gold mine.

#28 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 03:41 AM:

I could probably make good use of a set of English muffin tongs; they'd be a great help in avoiding burned fingertips near the toaster. Not that the tongs need specifically to be English, but rather, the muffins, which are called English, are instead American. Bread-like, not cupcake-like, that is. The tongs wouldn't likely be needed for standard sliced bread, which is larger than a muffin slice, and thus, easier to extract from the toaster without injury. Not every tool can be a multitasker, I suppose.

#29 ::: Chris Sullins ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 03:47 AM:

@ Soon #10:

Schrapnell's had me on eBay duty nonstop for a month. Carpal tunnel and eye strain on top of being time-lagged six ways from Sunday! I'd rather be back in the Blitz.

#30 ::: Alison Scott ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 03:51 AM:

I see others have got here first, but grape scissors are a perfectly normal table implement. I don't *own* a set, but yer traditional grand English five course dinner includes a fruit course. The fruit is served in a huge bowl to pass round and take small amounts of, and there is often (normally) a large bunch of grapes and therefore grape scissors.

By comparison, those fruit platters you get on buffet breakfasts often include grapes, and it's pretty rare for there to be anything sensible to cut a small bunch off the main stem with. Oh for a handy pair of grape scissors.

But this reminds me of the time when Games magazine had a feature on 'what are these weird antique objects' and it included a napkin ring and an egg poacher.

#31 ::: Alison Scott ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 04:00 AM:

Also abi@21 -- are the rules for fish knives (and forks) particularly complex? You serve fish, you use fish knives. Is there more to it than that?

#32 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 04:13 AM:

Earl - shrimp forks are great for getting pickles out of jars. Some tools are multitaskers.

But dedicated tools? Oh my, yes. As soon as I saw my mother-in-law's cake tongs*, I had to have my own. They are indeed useful. And I was thrilled to inherit a compote spoon - it's great for fruit salad. Interestingly, it seems that having these tools motivates me to make things to use them with. If I had grape scissors, I'm sure I'd buy more grapes. And if the Victorians had a grape seed extractor, I'd be in heaven.

(As a 19-year-old, I came home from my first trip to England with a crystal salt cellar, silver salt spoon, porcelain egg coddler, and brass toast rack as souvenirs.)

*the German "Gebäckzange" can be literally translated as "pastry pliers" as well as tongs, which is also kind of whimsical.

#33 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 04:28 AM:

Alison Scott @31:
are the rules for fish knives (and forks) particularly complex? You serve fish, you use fish knives. Is there more to it than that?

Possession of fish knives in your silverware† set is a layered and interesting class marker in the upper strata of British society. You can be U enough not to have napkin* rings and still fall over on the fish knives.

Lemme 'splain. It all stems from the fact that it is very difficult to get the taste of fish out of silver.

If one has a household staff, one has enough servant-hours to clean the silver properly and get the flavor out. Or one can segregate one's (otherwise identical) silver into the fish and non-fish, but that requires a housekeeper with time for that kind of detail. I'm not sure what the solution was; probably a bit of both.

The Victorian era saw the rise of a new mercantile and civil service class, with the money to buy the trappings of their social superiors but not to employ the same quantity of servants per family. Fish knives and forks were invented to meet that shifted balance of costs between infrastructure and time.

So if you have silverware with fish knives, that's a marker that you have enough money for specialized utensils, above and beyond the basics. That's the basis of this entire intricate ecosystem of household infrastructure we're celebrating on this thread.

But the thing is, if you're really classy, your family already had its wealth, and thus its silver, before the Victorian era. Thus you do not have fish knives or forks, because your family was wealthy before they were invented.

I understand that in certain circles, "They're the sort of people who have fish knives" is the kiss of social death.

† This is the class of people who have silver, not plate, much less steel. Though my stainless flatware from Ikea does actually include fish forks and knives. I find this funny.
* Not serviettes, of course.

#34 ::: chris y ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 04:33 AM:

We have my great grandfather's grape scissors, and he wasn't high end at all, but an indigent curate.

However, that wasn't what prompted me to comment. I was perplexed to find that our corporate security software has suddenly tagged 'Making Light' as a possible phishing site. You're not trying to make a few bucks on the side, are you?

#35 ::: SeanH ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 04:35 AM:

Alison Scott #30: "normal" is clearly an extremely flexible attribute. I cannot imagine that I will ever eat anywhere so posh that it would be inappropriate to reach out and manually break off some grapes.

Debbie #32: toast racks, for my money, are terrible design. Or rather, they are very well-designed if what you want is for your toast to get cold as quickly as possible.

#36 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 04:45 AM:

SeanH - I realize that about toast racks now, but at 19, I was both a rabid and clueless anglophile. The stainless steel Coventry Cathedral tea-caddy spoon has proved much more useful.

#37 ::: chris y ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 04:45 AM:

33. Ha! Yes!

"Phone for the fish knives, Norman
As cook is a little unnerved;
You kiddies have crumpled the serviettes
And I must have things daintily served."

- John Betjeman

#38 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 05:32 AM:

My wife is gentry. I can pass
As someone from the middle class,
At least, as counted by my nation.
(I married far above my station.)
For witness, there's her family joke:
"Those people are the sort of folk
Who have a set of fish-forks, hem!
And silver knives to go with them!"

Her grandmother was nobly born;
She had a house and croquet-lawn,
Whereon, when pushing eighty-three,
She cleaned the wickets up with me.
(Yes, Wooster's aunts, I quite concur,
Were tough. Not half so tough as her.)

But I digress. We stayed to dine.
Went in at eight. At half-past nine,
Dessert was served. Forks I can tell
Apart, and sometimes spoons as well,
But I'd run out! And oh, my God!
This silverware was very odd,
All polished to a blinding blaze.
A tower made of silver trays,
On balanced branches, like a tree's,
With nuts and sweets and savouries
And tongs, but foliate and strange,
And little forks, and then a range
Of scrapers, parers, drawshaves. (These,
It turned out, were for cutting cheese.)
But weirdest of them all, in spades:
An ornate pair of little blades
With silver handles made like vine.
Ice formed around my heart and spine.
"What can this be? My fancy fails.
Do English gentry cut their nails
To finish, when they eat their meals?"
My love observed my mute appeals,
And then, as if instructing apes,
She used it to excise some grapes.

Oh, the relief! Now that I knew,
I thought that I would try it, too,
To show them I was at my ease.
I called out, "Pass the scissors, please!"
And silence fell.

Depite that day,
My love espoused me anyway.
She says her kindred quite agrees
I've compensating qualities.
But I look down the well of years,
And wish I'd called the damn thing "shears".

#39 ::: Morfydd ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 05:33 AM:

You can take my asparagus tongs from my cold, dead hands. I don't actually use them for asparagus - I use them as normal kitchen tongs (and occasionally for retrieving scarves that have fallen behind my wardrobe).

I figure I already own them (picked up at an estate sale) and they're prettier than anything modern I could get that would perform the same function. I like even better that they're not silver or plate. I polished way too much silver as a child.

I do have two place settings in silverplate, but they're as far from Victorian as you can get: Edo by Robbe & Berking. However, they're purely for me, as every guest I've ever had has been horrified and confused by them. Their loss - the utensils are perfectly balanced and weighted and designed to make an art of eating.

#40 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 06:15 AM:

Dave Luckett @38:

Very well done indeed.

#41 ::: tykewriter ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 06:21 AM:

Tom @26: if N=H then W&H = Walker & Hall. It sounds to me like a serving spoon. The cutout is for liquid to run through. Delicate handle. Hmm. For removing small fruit from a bowl full of juice? Strawberries perhaps?

Dave Luckett: * Applause *

#42 ::: kid bitzer ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 06:21 AM:


top drawer, old bean!

the thing you have to realize about the victorian efflorescence of housewares is that their society faced a difficulty. they had eliminated all poverty, world-wide. childhood diseases were no longer even a memory. criminality was restricted to diversions at house-parties in the countryside. what were they to do with their energies and wealth?

the problem was especially pressing because they did not have the vital outlet of blog-commenting to engross their hours and give them a higher purpose.

#43 ::: kid bitzer ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 06:48 AM:

and on runcible spoons--

isn't the problem that edward lear coined the word in one of his nonsense poems, but left it entirely unclear how it differed from ordinary spoons? this then allowed anyone to make up their own design without fear of correction.

#44 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 08:02 AM:

This thread is very well-timed, as I'm in the 'how to eat' section of Miss Manners' Guide. I'm rather fond of her answer to the question of how to eat potato chips.

#45 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 08:34 AM:

I admire the diligence of RoguePoet, the correspondent linked to by Don Simpson in #24. RoguePoet googles so you don't have to.

In the July 9, 1962 issue, the editors of Life weighed in on the Runcible Confusion, also throwing in Lear's illustration of a duck using a ladle-like utensil.

#46 ::: Mark ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 08:37 AM:

Diatryma @ 44: Privately, followed by vigourous hand-washing and acts of penance? Or is that only for Pringles?

#47 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 08:42 AM:

Dave Luckett at #38 - awesome!

#48 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 08:56 AM:

chris y #34: That must be because of the conversation about phish knives.

#49 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 09:03 AM:

Dave Luckett #38

Applause! Applause! Excellent and très bon.
It's plain to see you're a man of the ton.

#50 ::: Ledasmom ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 09:25 AM:

#16: Possibly an olive spoon?
#26: I believe I read somewhere, can't remember where, that even wedding presents, if given before the actual wedding, would be monogrammed with the bride's maiden initials (maiden initials doesn't sound quite right, but I can't think what would). Presumably that would be so, if the wedding did not go through, she could still use the silver with the groom she did end up with.
My mother has a set of silver that includes salt spoons.

#51 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 09:27 AM:

I seem to recall reading somewhere (was it Art and Antiques or some similar journal of tchotchkes?) that another reason for the proliferation of silver tableware in the second half of the 19th century was the entrance into the market of huge amounts of silver from places like Nevada and Colorado. If you really want an eyeful of the most amazing items imaginable, see if you can find a copy of the 1989 Christie's captalog for the auction of Sam Wagstaff's collection. I seem to recall an inkwell made to resemble the head of an elephant, and a service piece of some sort that involved polar bears and ice floes.

Here's an oyster tureen from the Dallas Museum of Art's collection--I have no idea whether it came by way of Wagstaff's collection or not. The Dallas Art Museum also has a lot of the Jewel Stern collection--she specialized in 20th century silver. Part of what makes Victorian silver so astonishing (and, at times, asthoonishingly fearsome) is their design approach, which freely plundered all periods and all styles. Look here, and feel Cellini's eyebrows rise.

Oh, I seem to have found the polar bears. It's an ice dish, with its own appropriate-for-the-task spoon.

My mother has a silver olive spear. It's a double-tined fork, and the handle is a tiny piston, with a bar that slides down the tines and pushes the oilive off the spear and onto your plate. Very handy--better than a spoon, because you don't end up with a lot of brine on your plate, and better than a plain fork, as the piston-and-bar gizmo makes sure you can shed your prey without having to shake it off your fork, with the risk of losing it on the table cloth or under the table.

Oh, Dave Luckett, how we have missed you and your verse.

#52 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 09:44 AM:

Tom, I've seen the kind of twig handles you describe, though they were on modern spoons. It's possible that what you have there is a one-off fancy spoon design. One Sees a Lot of Those. Spoons that you're going to eat with need to have functional bowls and handles, but spoons for scooping up berries or bonbons or jam (or tomatoes) can get remarkably elaborate.

It seems to be a universal impulse among the spoon-using peoples, though perhaps a bit more universal in Scandinavia than elsewhere.

#53 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 09:54 AM:

Fidelio, the Dallas Museum of Art isn't cooperating with your links.

#54 ::: Phiala ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 10:07 AM:

I have a lovely silver tea service: teapot, sugarbowl, cream pitcher. It belonged to my mother-in-law. The teapot was rarely used, but those were the usual sugar and cream utensils, always on the table. I'd admired it to her many times - it really is a pretty set. But one day I commented on the cute little horned demon faces peering through the silver foliage. She'd apparently never noticed them, and on the next trip the entire set had been packed up for me to take away.

#55 ::: paul ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 10:12 AM:

Isn't the disdain over fish knives and forks (my grandfather's sets had'em) in part about the anxiety of being land-rich and cash-poor? If they'd been invented at a time when the people with full sterling service still had the scratch, there would simply be bespoke additions. Instead, plate.

#56 ::: kid bitzer ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 10:23 AM:


"... the conspicuous consumption of the modern era is so disposable.These things, whatever their function, were meant to be kept, and admired. "

yeah, this is right, making some allowances.

i remember in one of dumas' historical romances (vingt ans apres?), there is a prominent minister of finance who runs short on cash. he sends all of his family's silver out to be pawned or held as collateral, and the excuse that he gives is that he is having it all refashioned to keep it up to date.

it's clear that melting down the family silver to have it crafted in an up-to-date style is an accepted move in the high society of the time. it is the polite cover for the disgraceful fact underneath, i.e. that he's out of cash.

and i think it makes sense in several other ways, too.

to begin with, antiquity was not always that keen on antiques. if it's 1700, and your silver was made in 1600, then it is out of date and tawdry. it is not gloriously old and precious; it's just old. the tines are bent. the blades are getting dull. you want to get with the times. you want louis quatorze stuff--everybody's doing it.

i think it also reflects the fact that the family's wealth was more a matter of the weight of the silver than of the craftsmanship. as fidelio says in #51, we have a lot more precious metal sloshing around us than they did back then. ("we"= victorians and us; "they" = pre-1800). to us, the really precious thing about a louis quatorze pickle fork is the craftsmanship; the value of the silver is negligible in comparison. to them, the relative values were very different.

so, yeah, you didn't dispose of your silver lightly: that was tangible wealth. but you might have had it refashioned to keep up to date.

#57 ::: Andrew M ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 10:32 AM:

abi@33: While the controversy about fish knives which you describe certainly took place, I think Evelyn Waugh in his contribution to the U debate expressed the view that it was largely manufactured, and in fact some unquestionably aristocratic families had had fish knives for a long time.

#58 ::: kid bitzer ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 10:40 AM:


debates about class largely manufactured? that's outrageous, sir.
they are attempts to discern the clear ordinances of nature, whose eternal precepts are obscured only by the cant and clamor of the unwashed masses.

#59 ::: kid bitzer ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 10:41 AM:

sorry; did i say "clamor"? i didn't mean "clamor". i meant "clamour".

#60 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 10:42 AM:

I went off to Replacements and found that the 'dinner forks' in granny's set are actually grill forks (viandes); the real dinner forks in that pattern have shorter handles and much longer tines, and to me they look very strange.
Replacements has photos or drawings for a lot of pieces, and if you really need one or two of something, it's a place to start.

#61 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 10:49 AM:

Teresa #53--O! Naughty Dallas Museum of Art! If anyone has the time, and wants to be amazed (in whatever sense of the word is fitting), here is the main webpage--go to VIEW, and click on SEARCH COLLECTIONS, and try "silver ice bowl", "silver oyster tureen", and "silver nautilus centerpiece". The Los Angeles County Museum of Art has a similar ice bowl (try searching "silver ice bowl tongs") but with tongs instead of a pointy spoon.

Also, if you really want to see how far they could go in (mis)appropriating design elements in the Victorian era, go to the Met's website, and search for "Viking punchbowl".

#62 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 10:59 AM:

Certainly the Dallas Art Museum shows a lot of older fish utensils--where old=18th century. A lot of the U/non-U controversy is rooted not in having these things, but in what they're called, IIRC the original article and the resulting fuss over it correctly.

#63 ::: Theophylact ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 12:18 PM:

Certainly I first saw a runcible spoon mentioned in Lear's The Owl and the Pussycat.

Anthony Boucher's wonderful murder mystery Rocket to the Morgue features, as well as lightly disguised science fiction writers of the age (including Boucher himself) a victim implausibly and probably pseudonymously named William Runcible.

#64 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 12:54 PM:

Henry Petroski, in The Evolution of Useful Things talks a lot about how victorian silverware came to be.


#65 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 01:31 PM:

Although from a slightly earlier era, I think an admirable contraption is the toasted cheese warmer described, from time to time, in the Aubrey-Maturin books. It is a continual source of annoyance to me that toast loses a significant amount of its heat during the journey from kitchen to table. I think perhaps that may be due to the fractal nature of the deceptively large surface area of toast.

#66 ::: tykewriter ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 01:38 PM:

kid bitzer @59: how very non-U of you.

#67 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 01:54 PM:

Ah, I was wrong about the pickle fork. It's actually an olive fork -- three tines on one end, a filigree spoon on the other, about 27cm long.

Probably the big spoon was used to pull things out of a large container (punch-bowl size, from its size). It's still pretty cool. Thanks for the pointer, tykewriter! It's definitely a serving spoon of some sort from the size.

The wedding is definitely a terminus point for using maiden-name initials, in those days, but whether it's an open-set terminus or closed is an interesting question, Ledasmom. Thanks for bringing that up. I can see it being used as a subtle way of disapproving or approving of the marriage. And given that my grandfather was ten years younger than my grandmother, perhaps the disapproval was intended! "Here, let's engrave it with just her initials so if she comes to her senses she can still get some use out of it...."

#68 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 01:56 PM:

The whole value of silver thing throws me a bit, having seen both sides of the Bunker-Hunt-initiated screw-up of silver prices. My parents started out with the standard service-for-six from my father's parents, purchased new (my grandmother picked the pattern-- it isn't what my mom would have picked, that's for sure). The only reason why we have silver, by contrast, is that there was a spare set floating around in my wife's family (from Great Aunt Annie Lee, who never married). The only pieces ever added to it were some of the grandmother's old plate, which came from my parents. We also have a random and conspicuously mismatched set of serving pieces, some of which came from my wife's family and some of which came as wedding presents; however being plate they are things that we could ever, at some point in our lives, considered buying. We really cannot afford to buy so much as a teaspoon. By contrast, we have china for twelve (or more-- I think we may have sixteen dinner plates). Prices aren't what they once were but it would be possible to replace a plate without breaking the bank. I see that a similar Noritake pattern to what we have now runs about the same, for four places, as a single place setting of our silver.

#69 ::: Ken ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 01:57 PM:

...and I draw your attention to the Mitchell & Webb radio sketch "the most ornate object in the world".

#70 ::: kid bitzer ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 01:59 PM:


...but o. u. kid!

#71 ::: Doug K ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 02:07 PM:

now I desperately want a silver-plated hedgehog toothpick holder.. dammit. I also love that Jugendstil teakettle.

Donald Knuth wrote a Runcible compiler, for Revised Unified New Compiler with IT Basic Language Extended.

I have some scraps of silver from my grandparents but nothing so beautifully elaborated as those bits. My favorite bit is a silver inkwell tray with a crystal inkwell, it sits on my desk right next to the monitor..

#72 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 02:12 PM:

My flatware set is not silver; it's stainless steel, and the forks are quite spork-like, to the extent that regular forks perturbed me because I couldn't scoop well with them. Alas, the pattern (called, as I recently discovered, "Odin") is no longer produced, and replacing the missing coffee spoon would cost quite a bit if I could even find one.

My mom has three or four more place-settings that she has promised I can have when she gets tired of them.

Meanwhile I will never have the china I was in love with; it was insanely expensive and given how long ago that was I doubt it's even produced any more.

#73 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 02:24 PM:

Having now gone and looked up Walker and Hall, tykewriter, I'm quite sure it isn't them -- their hallmarks are relief marks, and this is incused individual letters. The problem, of course, is that the letters are small -- less than 1mm high. The final letter, looked at through a more powerful glass than I had to hand last night, may well be a K. More likely to be American than British, would be my guess (though they met in Italy studying art). It doesn't look like the Wolf & Knell symbol at all, though they'd be an obvious choice. It looks more like the marks for Ward and Bartholomew than Wood and Hughes, but I'm cursed if I can make the second letter look more like a B than an X. And Ward and Bartholomew is way too early (1804-09); Wood and Hughes is at least active until 1899. (Ah, the joys of research, where anyone can appear an instant expert who has moderate google-fu.)

#74 ::: Janice in GA ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 02:33 PM:

"Fish slice" will always bring to mind P. G. Wodehouse. That's a very good thing.

And today I add epergne to my vocabulary. Many thanks.

#75 ::: kid bitzer ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 02:35 PM:


look closer at that second character. are you sure it's not a muted post horn?

we await silver tasseled epergnes.

#76 ::: Alison Scott ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 02:35 PM:

Earl @65: One of the particular features of our home life (together with our egg poacher etc.) is that we have a nice four slot electric toaster that lives within easy arm's length of our dinner table. I commend this approach.

SeanH @35: Have you never had the sort of grapes that can't be detached by hand? So you try to remove a section with a little twist, and it doesn't work, so you try a bit harder, and suddenly individual grapes are skittering all over the table?

#77 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 02:37 PM:

When we were newly married, we had the usual random sets of stainless flatware from charity shops. First it was a random set as part of the rented furnished flat, then it was our very own random set in our first purchased flat.

Then my in-laws moved into a village with three antique shops, all full of oddments of silver plate tablewear, usually in one of three common patterns. And I conceived a desire to own a set.

So I picked a design and haunted those shops, and the ones in Edinburgh, for a year or so. I'd buy a bundle of forks here and a set of tablespoons there, then sort and match and get the best of my purchases. I ended up with service for eight, much of it somewhat distressed, for less than the price of two new forks.

Of course, when we got the dishwasher, it became a silly thing to have; I Freecycled the whole set and got stainless steel from Ikea. It's more sensible, and I'd had my fun.

#78 ::: Lin Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 03:38 PM:

I love the steampunk tea kettle. Want!

#79 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 03:51 PM:

For several years, I had a large number of airline forks, spoons, and knives. Small, sturdy, oddly proportioned utensils that were just plane butt-ugly, and I'm not the sort to be picky. I think my mother gave them to me. Eventually I donated them to Goodwill.

#80 ::: James ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 03:55 PM:

There is a Heyer novel (The Quiet Gentleman) which is set a few years after Waterloo at most and in which an epergne plays a small role in the plot, which pushes them back to a Georgian period at least.

#81 ::: K.C. Shaw ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 03:57 PM:

My grandmother was an antique dealer, and as a little girl I remember being charmed and fascinated by the cut-glass salt sets she occasionally bought to resell. I fully intended to buy my own set when I could afford it--a full set, with a master salt and the individual salts (that I still call baby salts) and tiny salt spoons to go with them. Now that I'm grown and fully able to afford a set, though, I find myself not nearly as keen to own one. I do eat ice cream almost exclusively with a fluted sugar spoon, though. I suppose that's better than nothing.

Morfydd @39: I too spent many hours polishing silver when I was small. Sterling for me these days (since I don't have grandchildren to draft into service).

#82 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 04:01 PM:

KC Shaw @81:
a master salt and the individual salts (that I still call baby salts) and tiny salt spoons to go with them.

Oooh, that's right, individual salt cellars! That was how the upper classes dosed their over-active sons with potassium bromide, like a kind of early-days Ritalin.

#83 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 04:06 PM:

Chris Sullins #29:
Oh, nice catch.

I am also reminded of the ginormous (large enough to bathe in) Victorian punch bowl in the Crown jewels section of the Tower of London which we visited recently. And it wasn't even the strangest, most ornate, elaborate, ostentatious item we saw. Guess, you can't get more U than the Queen.

#84 ::: kid bitzer ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 04:31 PM:


"I had a large number of airline forks, spoons, and knives...that were just plane butt-ugly"

i'm sorry; puns are not allowed on this thread.

#85 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 04:57 PM:

Does stainless steel retain the flavor of fish to the same extent that silver does?

My "dinner table" is a portable Table-Mate II tray, so placing my toaster on it is not a practical option. I may be able to improve the configuration, though.

#86 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 05:00 PM:

Mark at 46, this is Miss Manners we're talking about. From her Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior, current version:

Dear Miss Manners,
What is the proper way to eat potato chips?

Gentle Reader,
With a knife and fork. A fruit knife and an oyster fork, to be specific. For pity's sake, what is this world coming to? Miss Manners doesn't mind explaining the finer points of gracious living, but feels that anyone who doesn't have the sense to pick up a potato chip and stuff it into his mouth probably should not be running around loose on the streets.

I really, really like Miss Manners.

#87 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 05:11 PM:

Earl Cooley III @85--
one of the charms of stainless is that it's a lot less reactive than silver (plate or sterling), and so not only does it not pick up flavors from things, it doesn't get damaged by things like eggs and salt, which will react badly with silver in an eyeblink. I have a platter that still has the shadows of devilled eggs in its surface, from the enthusiast who didn't realize these either needed to be on glass or ceramic, or else have something between them and the silver, whether it was lettus leaves of a paper doiley. In fact, it's the reactive tendencies of silver that led to people serving food on doilies*, whether to protect the food or the silver, or both.

*between the food and the silver. Serving things just on a doily, without a more stable substrate, gets messy fast. Miss Manners probably would have something apt to say about this.

#88 ::: Heather Rose Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 06:20 PM:

This thread has popped up at a coincidentally relevant time for me. Just a week ago I took delivery[1] on the family silverware[2] and have been contemplating to what extent my obsessive-compulsive completist tendencies would drive me to hunt down additional pieces for the set. I'd be perfectly willing to design dinner parties around specific and peculiar utensils just for the fun of it.

[1] My father is using the occasion of his post-widowering[3] move to shed another layer of possessions.

[2] That is, the tableware dating from my parents' wedding. As opposed to the tableware from my grandparents that I received some time back. As opposed to the silver tea service from my great-great-grandparents that I received even earlier. Why am I not being sucked up to by more of my cousins who might be in line for inheriting this stuff?

[3] Is that a word?

#89 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 06:24 PM:

Huh. I would've expected Miss Manners to specify "one at a time, and over something that catches the crumbs."

And but so anyway, Mark @ #46, potato chips were formerly known as Saratoga chips and featured in bills of fare written for the fish-knife set, if not for their social superiors. Mass production probably drove their status downward, since making them at home requires skill and equipment.

#90 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 06:44 PM:

Skill? Possibly. Equipment? Not much. You slice the spuds with a slaw cutter and fry them in oil on top of the stove. Do it while your cod is cooking in the oven for fish and chips. If you want the chips crispy (which I did, once or twice), you put them in fridge-temperature water for an hour, changing the water if needed.

But that's not why I'm here.

I thought this was the perfect time to share my photos from the Victoria & Albert Museum's collection of silver. From the replica of the world's largest punch bowl or whatever it was to the drawers of what my friend Mike called "Victorian drug paraphernalia," I snapped and snapped on our 2003 trip. The pictures are on my flickr page, and apparently have been for some time.

Many of the items were freestanding, but my favorites were in the flat drawers, neatly laid out for my enjoyment when I got home and looked at the photos, no longer bound to the attention span of a child not yet two years old.

#91 ::: SeanH ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 07:15 PM:

Alison Scott @76: never to my social detriment, at least. Nor to the extent that it felt appropriate to commission specialty metalware - even when I lived in Sheffield.

#92 ::: Melissa Mead ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 08:00 PM:

Re: #89 It looks like they've been revived:

#93 ::: sara_k ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 09:29 PM:

Oooh, my Mom has grape scissors. Very pretty and we used them often. Our set also had grapefruit spoons and mother of pearl handled kids knives that were horribly sharp. She once had the set appraised and the appraiser was horrified that some pieces had childish toothmarks on the. We used good china and silver every day, every meal. (sigh) Whatever happened to gracious living?

#94 ::: vian ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 09:58 PM:

On the subject of which: the 18th century epergne in the NGV. All the epergnes in heaven have a pineapple on top, I am sure.

The enlarged version gives a hint of the cutwork on the baskets, but it's a thing you really have to see in person to believe.

#95 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 10:57 PM:

I'm sure my mom's formidable china cupboard has some of these things, my great-aunt Dana was a worldly woman who left her all her fine accoutrements... only my cousins and aunt had at them before they got to us. So we have incomplete silver services for tea/coffee, etc. BUT they couldn't figure out the different forks, etc. so there are all kinds of ornate serving pieces hidden in those drawers/silverware boxes.

Still don't use most of them, but mom has some of the more useful things in a drawer in her kitchen that holds real silverware and serving pieces.

#96 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 11:03 PM:

Phiala, #54, I have a lovely bowl from Sue Mason of the Green Man (I'm not sure she's still connected to that site, but I know how to reach her, if someone wants to). My cleaning lady is Catholic and always hides it under another bowl on the exhibit shelf. All I can figure is it scares her. But she hasn't stopped wanting to clean.

#97 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 11:26 PM:

Because Teresa piqued my interest at 13 by mentioning something I know absolutely nothing about, what are the rules for oyster forks, and why do they need rules?

#98 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2010, 12:02 AM:

My mother was very pleased to find silver salt spoons in Mexico. From then on we used them at Thanksgiving with her grandmother's crystal salt cellars.

I never had the heart to mention that they were cocaine spoons.

--Cally, who doesn't actually know whether she knew it or not.

#99 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2010, 01:57 AM:

Alison Scott @ 76: One of the particular features of our home life (together with our egg poacher etc.) is that we have a nice four slot electric toaster that lives within easy arm's length of our dinner table. I commend this approach.

My father liked his toast just so, and had no confidence in a toaster popping it up automatically, so wanted the toaster right at his side while he sipped his coffee and waited for mom to finish cooking his eggs. So he wired an outlet into our sturdy kitchen table, and put the toaster on it. His excuse was that if he plugged it into the wall, one of his 5 rowdy children would trip over the cord, but he really just liked to install outlets.

On the subject of proper use of utensils: Like Miss Manners (whom I adore), Sister Mary Austin let us eat our potato chips with our hands, but we had to peel and eat an orange with a knife and fork. A sharp fruit knife, of course.

#100 ::: clew ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2010, 02:32 AM:

One of the Silver Kings not only had a complete silver service made in the late 19th c., repousse and pierced and what-not, but bought the molds from the silversmiths.

#101 ::: Ledasmom ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2010, 08:03 AM:

My grandfather had a nice little collection of souvenir silver spoons of the states, which we used at Thanksgiving. I always had the one with Theodore Roosevelt and his horse on the handle, and the rear view of Theodore Roosevelt and his horse on the back of the handle.
We have a couple of pieces that I assume were part of a set at one time; they have what appear to be fairy-tale illustrations on them. One is a small spoon and the other is a small "pusher", shaped rather like a hoe. They're for the use of very small children who are learning how to get food onto their utensils.
Also, teeny little silver salt shakers. Cute little fellows, but pretty much begging to be lost.

#102 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2010, 08:47 AM:

The younger generation has started using these things again.

My son, on moving to his own flat, bought antique silver tableware to add to the remaining bits of family silverware I never used anyway. So I no longer have silver fishslices, but he does -- almost exactly like the one pictured. (I kept the quiche slice, which is silver but modern.) And when I see those epergnes and so on, what I think is that he would like them.

I expect this isn't a personal eccentricity but the start of a trend, and young people everywhere will soon be snipping grapes with their shears and laughing at us for *not* having Victorian silver.

He doesn't own a toast ruiner, though. I don't think they'll ever make a comeback.

#103 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2010, 08:58 AM:

Alton Brown has effectively demonstrated that toast racks are best used for making sure your bread for French toast/pain perdu is just the right level of dryness to soak up the eggs and milk at sub-light speeds.

They still have no place on the table, although they do make good letter racks.

#104 ::: AlyxL ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2010, 09:31 AM:

I once worked at Buckingham Palace, and one of my jobs was to dust (very carefully) a huge and truly horrible epergne that featured portrait models of all Queen Victoria and Prince Albert's numerous and varied pet dogs. Next to the terrier was a silver cage containing two carefully-detailed rats. Just what you want to have facing you at a state dinner.

There are some fearful Victorian examples in the V&A, including this one . Palm trees seem to have been a popular motif. I couldn’t find an illustration of my favourite one, which features an entire oasis of palms and several camels.

Going back to Lighthill's comment at the start of this thread, Rosetti was very fond of his wombat, and wrote this touching poem about it:

Oh, how the family affections combat
Within my breast! Each hour throws a bomb at
My burning soul – neither from owl or from bat
Can peace be gained, until I clasp my wombat.

Very hard work finding a rhyme for "wombat"...

#105 ::: Jon Baker ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2010, 11:08 AM:

My grandmother had grape scissors, so now my parents do. I think I also remember the asparagus tongs in a drawer, not that anyone ever used them, or really, knew what they were for.

One of my grandmother's sets had grapefruit spoons (spoons with pointy end), I think the dairy (breakfeast) one. My parents use my grandparents' silver-plate for Passover now.

My mother also prizes her Dionne-quintuplet spoons, of which I think she still has 3. Her grandmother got them by sending in boxtops. The silverplate has long since worn off.

#106 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2010, 11:48 AM:

re 28: The first actual piece of woodworking I ever did was toast tongs. Wood, of course: one could no doubt make an elegant set with hickory and teak.

re 71: What I wants is a Swarovski crystal hedgehog. With silver toothpicks, of course-- or better still, stainless with rhodium tips.

re 77: Somewhere in my house there is an unopened stainless service for eight. When I moved into an apartment I went to Woodies and found that they had nice store brand cutlery, and I bought two on the chance that some day I might like to have a big party. It never happened and in the move to the house, with my wife's stuff folded in, it was never seen again.

#108 ::: G. Jules ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2010, 12:47 PM:

Grapefruit spoons are far superior to regular spoons for their intended purpose. And I have and use an iced tea spoon (long spoon designed for stirring iced tea, or in my case making up fresh-squeezed limeade-by-the-glass).

#109 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2010, 12:55 PM:

AlyxL @104: <boggle> Only on Making Light...

#110 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2010, 01:13 PM:

G. Jules, #108: Indeed, both grapefruit spoons and iced-tea spoons are readily available from any place that sells flatware. We have a couple of the former, and at least a dozen of the latter (though they don't all match).

#111 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2010, 01:24 PM:

Iced-tea spoons are very good for getting to the bottom of jam-jars. My family always calls them 'jelly spoons', because that's the main thing we use them for. I own only one, bought for precisely that purpose.

My mother's grapefruit spoons have jagged edges as well as pointed ends.

#112 ::: Lexica ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2010, 02:22 PM:

As far as toast racks go, an English friend of mine once explained to me, "It depends on what's more important to you. If you care more about keeping your toast warm and don't mind if it gets soggy, put it straight onto a plate. If you care more about keeping your toast crisp and don't mind if it gets cold, use a toast rack."

Since I don't like soggy toast, and since I eat slowly enough that my toast gets cold anyway, a toast rack works fine for me. (Actually, I just jury-rig something, like putting a sushi-rolling mat on top of a shallow saucer, then setting the toast on that. The space created by the sushi mat and the saucer allow the steam to disperse, my toast stays unsoggy, and it's all good. I keep meaning to get out some sterling wire and my torch and put together an actual, dedicated thing, but haven't gotten around to it yet.)

#114 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2010, 05:17 PM:

My # 113 above should have read hyphen leftanglebracket rightsquarebracket because that's a stylized way to draw a muted horn.

However it doesn't work because some restricted character muted it.

I went on to say that tiny spoons for salt are also a Norwegian thing.

#115 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2010, 05:20 PM:

Erik Nelson @114:

What, like this?


To get that you have to type -&lt;] because < is the start of an html tag.

#116 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2010, 05:57 PM:

Iced-tea spoons (as opposed to iced teaspoons) are a standard item in this household -- we cycle through a batch of them. They have many uses. I too grew up with a grapefruit spoon (a personal silver one, with my initials engraved on it) and recognize just how useful they are if one likes grapefruit. I don't, particularly (and have no idea where that spoon is now -- it wasn't in the old family silver [Gorham] that I ended up with, which indeed was used for everyday eating).

#117 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2010, 06:14 PM:

I dunno. Ten paces from kitchen toaster to portable TV tray = cold toast; I'd rather not have my breakfast standing up in the kitchen. Maybe I should get a crème brulée torch to use for reheating. I usually have a cup of coffee in me before advancing from Cheerios to toast, so I might not burn the place down as a result.

#118 ::: Ambar ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2010, 08:02 PM:

I only recently acquired a cabinet large enough for grandmother's crystal, and began (with some trepidation) to unpack the box that had been packed in Georgia [on the occasion of my mother's move out of state] and had been sitting in my kitchen for over a year.

The body count was 3 broken of 23. This gave me the occasion to write and find out about the pattern, so no harm done.

Somewhere along the line I fell in love with Gorham's Etruscan pattern, so I have a collection of sterling that only sees light during the holidays.

Mom's having fun collecting the Noritake with the pheasant in the pattern, so I don't expect that to show up on my doorstep for a while.

#119 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2010, 08:04 PM:

C. Wingate, #106, My set, which I still have and use, came from Woodies. My folks had sterling silverware, but my evil stepmother has it, of course.

My set came with iced tea spoons, which I rarely use since I don't use sugar. I have separate grapefuit spoons, but I can't have grapefruit anymore. :::sigh:::

#120 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2010, 08:13 PM:

Re: wombats in epergnes

Several of us here in Denver had a conversation on this subject shortly before this thread. I had learned of an epergne as a rather spindly, delicate, ornate thing of multiples levels of shell-shaped dishes with a larger scoopy flattened bowl capable of holding a couple dozen strawberries, or something equivalent. Wombats are fairly substantial mammals, and far better suited to snoozing in one of Queen Victoria's punchbowls. Do we dare think Rosetti was playing with humerous overstatement? I believe in his beloved wombat, as he and others did portraits of it. I couldn't find any of it curled up in an epergne.

#121 ::: Melissa Mead ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2010, 09:42 PM:

I prefer iced-tea spoons. My husband and I almost never use the regular ones.

#122 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2010, 10:47 PM:

I grew up using iced tea spoons as the ultimate implement for making and consuming chocolate milk. We didn't use them for iced tea because we drank that unsweetened. As a result, none of the iced tea spoons I used as a child are functional any more, because I chewed and dented all the straw parts. I had no idea they were unusual, because they were there in the daily silverware drawer with everything else.

#123 ::: Chryss ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2010, 11:30 PM:

I brought a silver tray and silver and glass warming dishes to our marriage. My Bronx-born husband can't get enough of 'em, so much so that I've suckered him into polishing them. (Actually he looks pretty hot with rolled up shirtsleeves polishing silver. Perchance I should send him off to butler school. Ahem.)

ANYWAY, I could have sworn at one point I read about ice cream forks as part of a super-formal service. Has anyone seen this? Or am I hallucinating tableware again?

#124 ::: Chryss ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2010, 11:36 PM:

Just went back and re-read and saw Don's comment linking ice cream forks to runcible spoons at #22. Wups!

#125 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2010, 04:10 AM:

I don't know about ice cream forks, but I've always been enamored of the ice cream shovels here in Germany (and maybe elsewhere in Europe). They're the size of coffee spoons.

#126 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2010, 05:23 AM:

Whereabouts do coffee spoons fit in the size continuum between cocaine spoons and a LeTourneau L-2350 rubber-tired front-end wheel loader?

#127 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2010, 06:37 AM:

re 125: Whereas the ice cream spade is the wholesale size to the ice cream shovel's retail, as it where. (also comes in industrial)

re 118: Our china pattern is so 1980s it's named after a hotel chain. But at least it isn't Cabot.

re 120: I invariably think of glassware (heading off in a nouveau/Chihuly direction) (and BTW, I think the breakfast warmer is Nouveau, not Deco) because the book I learned of the idea (if not actually learning the technique) of glassblowing began with a section on ornamental glass in which epergnes figured prominently. (I wanted to make the gas diffusion pump, so I could make the particle accelerator from the Amateur Scientist.)

#128 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2010, 06:37 AM:

Earl, how strong do you want your coffee?

#129 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2010, 10:18 AM:

Aren't the iced tea spoons that consist of a bowl at the end of a straw related to muddlers, which are used for crushing mint in a julep?

#130 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2010, 10:31 AM:

Carol, I think they're like the silver/silver-plated straws you seem with mint juleo tumbers sometimes, but those aren't muddlers. A muddler, at least as I hve known them, is more like a pestle.

#131 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2010, 10:42 AM:

re 129-130: There are, however, julep cups, which appear to serve these days mostly as small fancy flower holders or as souvenirs of Churchill Downs.

#132 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2010, 10:43 AM:

Earl, I think a coffee spoon is similar to a tea spoon, except that it's used for cofee. Unless we're talking about demitasse spoons, which are smaller than teaspoons, both in bowl and handle length, and have bigger bowls than I suspect a coke spoon should have, unless your nostrils are quite wide.

#133 ::: philsuth ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2010, 11:28 AM:

Coffee spoons may have hidden talents (particularly the silver ones). Didn't J. Alfred Prufrock utilize them in an early version of Doctor Hugo Pinero's apparatus?

#134 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2010, 11:30 AM:

fidelio re: muddlers

One shaped like a pestle makes a lot more sense. I don't run with a julep crowd, much less one into accessorizing, and suspect I was trying to make sense of a recipe or two written by people even less clued in.

It's nice to clear up old mysteries, particularly the trivial ones that nag disproportionately. I'm still muddled about the wombat in the epergne.

#135 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2010, 12:00 PM:

Is there a specific name for those metal straws used for drinking yerba mate, with the filter built into the straw? It seems like there ought to be, but my research fu in Spanish (and perhaps in general) is too weak to pull up details.

#136 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2010, 12:23 PM:

fidelio #130:

I recently had occasion to see a muddler in a store. The end of it looked rather like a meat tenderizer or a morningstar.

When I was a kid, we had the iced tea spoons with the attached straws--in semi-transparent plastic, each a different color. Eeewww, in retrospective horror.

#137 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2010, 12:38 PM:

Fidelio@87: When I lived at home, we ate eggs (usually boiled) with silver utensils pretty much every morning, and nothing exciting happened to the silver. Of course it wasn't left sitting around, it was washed immediately (not polished, but washed). In fact, because both silver sets were used regularly, they almost never got polished.

My understanding is that silver shouldn't go in the dishwasher, though, which has lead me to not especially pursue either of the flatware sets (family silver from England, and my parents' wedding present silver) that are in my reach.

#138 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2010, 12:45 PM:

in re toast ruiners -- I do agree that the issue seems to be which particular character of toast one values. To me that key character is heat, in particular the ability to properly melt the butter.

I've never encountered toast I considered "soggy", other than when I occasionally put enough butter on it when it was hot enough to melt the butter :-) . So I don't, in my own life, feel any tension between my goals. Toast can be properly hot, and not in any other way deficient, at the same time for me.

#139 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2010, 12:51 PM:

Muddlers are described in my reference books as shaped sort of like baseball bats. A pestle is quite a reasonable approximation too.

I use them for Mojitos, and they're used for juleps (I don't make juleps). Something like one is useful for making a Caipirinha as well (smushing lime slices or eighths, rather than just bruising leaves).

The handle end of a wooden spoon is a decent field-expedient.

#140 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2010, 01:02 PM:

I don't think any of the iced tea spoons I've encountered had attached straws--they mostly just have had bowls slightly smaller than a teaspoon, and really long handles.

My mother's silverplate flatwear was obtained in large part with coupons from Betty Crocker patterns. It's an Oneida pattern, IIRC. Anyone else remember those little bits of cardboard?

I admit to having few julep-makers in my ambit*, but the very few times I've seen them made, the leaves required crushing with something more than a mere straw. It's possible to do it with the tip or back of a spoon, as far as I can tell--certainly those couple of juleps were not noticebably less minty than those two or three where the mint was mashed with special equipment.

*What can I say? Prohibition, Baptists, post-Prohibition dry counties, and Methodists who didn't have any convenient Episcopalians around to encourage them to lighten up. My kinfolks, they are a sober lot.

#141 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2010, 01:15 PM:

Rikibeth, #122 et al: Is there something I'm missing about iced-tea spoons? AFAIK, they're just like regular teaspoons but with a longer handle and slightly smaller bowl; "straw parts" isn't parsing at all.

Oh, wait -- are you talking about something like the plastic spoon/straw things you get at A&W when you order a root-beer float? I've never seen those in anything but the plastic version.

ddb, #138: Seconded. Unless by "soggy" people are meaning "it doesn't crunch when you bite into it," but that's a characteristic of any toast once it's been spread with something.

BTW, am I the only one here who likes toast with peanut butter?

#142 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2010, 01:30 PM:

Lee #141: Unless by "soggy" people are meaning "it doesn't crunch when you bite into it," but that's a characteristic of any toast once it's been spread with something.

Not entirely. Cold toast (medium) which is then spread with room-temperature butter is not soggy. The bread's dry enough, and the toast crisp enough, that when the butter goes on top, it doesn't sink in, and can't trap the steam, which has already escaped, leaving the bread itself still crunchy.

My particular dog in this hunt is probably closer to a bichon frise or something: my usual breakfast is cinnamon toast, made in the toaster oven, without the cinnamon.

#143 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2010, 01:35 PM:

Lee@141: Toast with butter and peanut butter. Real peanut butter, though; not that horrid supermarket stuff with hydrogenated peanut oil and sugar all through it.

Must be consumed with milk, and we don't keep milk around for anything regularly, so I don't get this very often any more.

#144 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2010, 01:37 PM:

ddb (137): My mother puts her silver in the dishwasher with no ill effects. Although she washes the knives by hand because she's afraid the handles would come loose/off in the dishwasher.

#145 ::: Nathaniel ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2010, 01:47 PM:

The novelty-rap hit of 2010: "I'm at the epergne! I'm at the candelabrum! I'm at the combination epergne and candelabrum!"

(Original novelty-rap hit of 2009 available here.)

#146 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2010, 01:48 PM:

Mary@144: knife handles, most older styles, seem not to be dishwasher safe. Heck, some of the ones my parents had eventually came apart even with nothing but hand washing.

So maybe what I was told about dishwashers and silver was wrong then? I'll look around a bit more. I heard the silica bits would erode silver.

#147 ::: Lexica ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2010, 01:52 PM:

As far as muddlers go, the PUG! is considered by many professionals to be the best muddler available. (I haven't yet gotten my hands on one, so can't provide a personal review.)

#148 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2010, 02:04 PM:

Lee, there's a sort of spoon-and-straw combo that shows up every now and then--the spoon handle is in fact a straw. Some of these are all-metal, and not a metal and plastic combo. They may not have been intended as iced tea spoons at all, but meant for ice-cream sodas, where having a straw and a spoon together would be useful, even if hard to clean. A google search for "silver soda straw" turns up quite a few--and some similar pieces that are called iced tea spoons. Now, while there's no good reason not to use them for iced tea, I can see plenty more good reasons to use them for ice cream sodas and floats--and if you have them for those, why not use them for iced tea as well, instead of getting another set of long-handled spoons for the iced tea?

Excuse me, I have a strong urge now to go and find out how an ice cream soda/float made with raspberry sherbet and ginger beer would be. Or maybe Stevens' key lime soda and lime sherbet...

#149 ::: PJ Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2010, 02:11 PM:

Oh, yeah.
We got my parents a new set of stainless-steel flatware that way, for one of their anniversaries. It's not bad stuff - I think it's essentially their 'Chateau' pattern, which is still available.

#150 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2010, 02:32 PM:

Earl, fidelio, sorry for the confusion re: coffee spoons. So much for trying to be clearer! I meant that the ice cream shovels are about the size of small spoons used to stir hot beverages or eat things like pudding, about 5" long. (The 'teaspoons' from my US cutlery service are 6" long.)

fidelio @132, I didn't mean demitasse spoons, which are even smaller.

#151 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2010, 02:53 PM:

#135 Fade Manley

Traditional yerbe mate metal straw with filter on bottom, is called a bombilla in Spanish and bomb in Portuguese.

Love, C.

#152 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2010, 02:55 PM:

Carol: Perhaps it was a very large epergne or a very small wombat?

bombilla: Hm. Do I hear another pastiche coming on?

#153 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2010, 03:09 PM:

Are the coffee spoons we're talking about actually coffee scoops? That is, meant to transfer ground coffee in precisely measured amounts from recepticle to contraption? When I think of a coffee-related spoon, I think of a device relegated to the lesser, yet still important, task of stirring coffee: more substantial than a swizzle stick, yet more delicate than a serving spoon, about like a short-handled iced-tea spoon. What I'm not certain about is how similar such a spoon would be to a mundane short-handled teaspoon, or if a coffee spoon is just another name for demitasse spoon.

Lee #141: BTW, am I the only one here who likes toast with peanut butter?

I rationalize this combination as peanut butter substituting for a breakfast meat; I will not tolerate tofu or textured vegetable protein in the crutial role of breakfast meat; in addition, peanut butter mixes rather well with maple surple in this situation.

#154 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2010, 03:20 PM:

Constance, thank you! When I hear "bombilla" I still think "light bulb" (or "water balloon"), but rare is the language that does not have many words that do several duties.

#155 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2010, 03:29 PM:

Earl, we're talking stirring, not measuring here. So, yes a smaller relative of a teaspoon for table use, or a shorter-handled version on an iced tea spoon. But demitasse spoons are smaller yet, even as the cups are smaller.

Why? you may ask. Why, sir, because you can sell more silver that way. Except that since demistasse cups really are pretty small, so it makes sense to have a smaller spoon for them.

Technically, I suppose, if you're really selling the stuff, you have dessert spoons, tea spoons, coffee spoons, and iced tea spoons, as well as soup spoons and grapefruit spoons. You might even have ice cream spoons, which would differ from dessert spoons somehow, please don't ask me how, unless they are like those little spade things linked to earlier. More spoons = more profit.

#156 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2010, 03:36 PM:

When I read "bombilla" I think of Tom Bombazine (?) in Bored of the Rings, spouting bad poetry, and now chewing up some mint (and spewing out little bits on the plosives) and trying to stuff a wombat into a Princess Grace punchbowl (much daintier than Queen Victoria's). I'm imagining wombats thinking themselves in peril will curl up as tightly as possible, which will help. But not much.

Coffee spoons: for stirring the cream and/or sugar lumps in. Shorter than most spoons so it wouldn't fall off the saucer. Coffee cups are bigger than tea cups. No idea why coffee spoons and tea spoons are different lengths.

#157 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2010, 03:44 PM:

Carol Kimball @156:
No idea why coffee spoons and tea spoons are different lengths.

Because only one of them is suitable for measuring out lives. Teaspoons are too big for human lifespans; tablespoons even more so.

#158 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2010, 03:47 PM:

Maybe teaspoons are meant to be the general-purpose spoon here, and so have longer handles, for more leverage when dealing with desserts and grapefruit and larger than usual strawberries.

#159 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2010, 03:56 PM:

Earl @ 153

French recipe books seems to translate teaspoon as 'cuilliere a cafe' (or something similar with more accents)

#160 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2010, 04:01 PM:

Lee #141: As it happens, I'm currently eating a PBJ made with toasted (homemade) bread.

#161 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2010, 04:57 PM:

ddb, #143: Butter or peanut butter, but not both! (Also, butter or fruit spread, but not both.) We buy the slightly-more-expensive peanut butter that has an ingredients list reading "peanuts, salt", or occasionally make our own -- my partner has an antique grain mill which will also produce nut butter very nicely. As for milk... he drinks it, I don't; the taste of milk makes me gag.

fidelio, #148: Key lime or mandarin orange soda with chocolate ice cream makes a killer float. Well, at least if you're like me and enjoy fruit-flavored truffle fillings.

#162 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2010, 05:03 PM:

It is a minor source of annoyance to me that, as a unit of liquid measure, the coffee cup (as immortalized in the design of modern drip coffee makers) is smaller than a standard eight ounce cup. I think, perhaps, that this is a result of the Europeans having lost the Crusades.

#163 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2010, 05:20 PM:

#154 Fade Manley

That's supposed to be "bomba" in Portuguese. Slip of the keyboard.

Also the modern commercially available straws are typically made of nickel silver, called Alpaca.

In Arabic it's called a masassa.

I drank a lot of Yerba Mate when I lived in New Mexico and my first year or so in NYC. I drank neither tea nor coffee then, so that would explain why.

Love, C.

#164 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2010, 05:30 PM:

#157 abi

Because only one of them is suitable for measuring out lives. Teaspoons are too big for human lifespans; tablespoons even more so.

Ooh, elegant!

#165 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2010, 07:07 PM:

Carol at 156: When I read "bombilla" I think of Tom Bombazine (?) in Bored of the Rings, spouting bad poetry

From memory it goes like this:

Tim, Tim Benzedrine
Hash boo valvolene
Clean, clean, clean for Gene
Tim, Tim Benzedrine

#166 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2010, 08:26 PM:

Tim, Tim Benzedrine
Hash, boo, Valvoline
Clean, clean, Clean for Gene.
First, Second, Neutral, Park,
Hie you hence, you leafy narc!

#167 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2010, 09:08 PM:

When I was living in a trailer in Estes Park (actually a rather nice doublewide), my breakfast typically consisted of peanut butter on toast, along with some thin orange juice (my roommate and I made it that way on purpose) and some French Market coffee, which I think was largely chicory.

Peanut butter on toast is a nice quick way to get some nutrition down, and I like the way it melts together. I can't eat much peanut butter now, because it has a lot of fat in it and I get enough of that and not enough exercise. Not like when I was in Estes Park, riding my bike up hill and down to get anywhere.

#168 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2010, 12:10 AM:

regarding the keeping of sterling. For jewelry, sterling likes the kinds of cleaning you skin does. Soap, water, scrubbing lightly, etc.

The worst thing for jewelry is putting it in a drawer and not wearing it, your skin oils help keep it from getting corroded. (unless you are a person with the body chemistry that does that kind of thing, I know a couple of people).
For silverware, store it carefully unless you use it every day (there was a period where my mom did that and we never had to polish THAT silver, she dishwashed it, etc.)

If something really gross gets on it, a bit of toothpaste and a soft brush will usually fix it.

I've been occasionally employed by a Ren Faire silversmith for the better part of 25 years. Sterling is remarkably durable and useful.

#169 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2010, 12:39 AM:

Paula Helm Murray @168, is there a good reason either to or not to polish long-tarnished (50 years min, I'd estimate) 19th C silverware? It looks about the color of an eggplant.

#170 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2010, 12:48 AM:

Earl Cooley III @ 153: I never thought to put a little maple syrup on the peanut butter toast -- must try that! I use the basic kind of PB, with an ingredients list of "peanuts, salt", so it isn't pre-sweetened. I often put a little honey on it. This thread reminds me that when I was a kid, we'd add a little molasses to our peanut buttered toast. Hmm, wonder if there's any of that in the cabinet?

Carol Kimball @ 156: Are you sure that coffee cups are larger than teacups? I recall Miss Manners saying that coffee cups are smaller than teacups. At the time, I assumed she meant that coffee should be served in a demitasse, but I may have misunderstood her. Prior to this thread, I'd never heard of a coffee spoon, other than a tiny spoon for a demitasse cup. I pulled out my copy of Miss Manners' Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior, and she makes no mention of coffee spoons. She mentions the teaspoon, soup spoon, and demitasse spoon.

Now I'm going to have some nice PB on toast, and read this week's Judith Martin column in the Washington Post. Good times!

#171 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2010, 01:39 AM:

As we follow on with the second chorus of "Heaven Will Protect the Working Girl" -- "You may tempt the upper classes with your villainous demi-tasses/Heaven will protect the working girl!"

Now there's a song that calls for an alternative version using a slightly different definition of "working girl"...

#172 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2010, 03:34 AM:

janetl -- Miss Manners is probably referring to a standard US service. I can't speak for everywhere in Europe, but a place setting here would include a knife, dinner fork, salad/cake fork, soup spoon, and coffee spoon.

With regard to peanut butter, I recommend it for pancakes, with or without a smidgen of syrup or jam.

#173 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2010, 03:34 AM:

My "I cannot live without books" coffee cup holds twelve fluid ounces of that most essential of elixirs.

#174 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2010, 05:34 AM:

Toast with peanut butter and a sliced banana. (Sliced lengthwise; the little crosswise circles tend to fall off.) Preferably with a glass of milk.

#175 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2010, 08:32 AM:

My mother dishwashes her sterling, but stops the cycle immediately after the rinse so she can dry it by hand. Something to do with high heat and water droplets. (I like her pattern just fine, but what I'm really salivating over is the chest my father built for it.)

#176 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2010, 10:44 AM:

#170 ::: janetl ...Are you sure that coffee cups are larger than teacups?

My grandmother and my great aunts (seven veiled-hat, lace-gloved ladies) definitely thought so, but sheer determination and Family Tradition doesn't necessarily mean infallibility.

This site seems to think so. Scroll past the plates to the cups.

"Extra Tea of Coffee Cup" - think that's a typo, should be "Extra Tea OR Coffee Cup" has the coffee cup a tad larger.

#177 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2010, 11:22 AM:

...and besides which, if you totally dessicate the toast, you have that much less thermal mass to retain the heat. Hmph.

#178 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2010, 02:50 PM:

Jason Berry, New Orleans writer, has been a pioneer in these sexual abuse scandals as covered up by the Roman Church.

He's got a two part report in The National Catholic Reporter on how the late Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado, notorious pedophile, and a man who fathered several children by different women, bought silence from the Vatican.

The charismatic Mexican, who founded the Legion of Christ in 1941, sent streams of money to Roman curia officials with a calculated end, according to many sources interviewed by NCR: Maciel was buying support for his group and defense for himself, should his astounding secret life become known.

The second of the parts, "How Fr. Maciel built his empire" is here.

#179 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2010, 02:52 PM:

O *((&^%^$ -- I posted the above in the WRONG TOPIC.

Damn and dang and like that.

I'm so sorry.

Love, C.

#180 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2010, 06:25 PM:

I have a mug with the Cinerama logo. I also have a wife that's a professional illustrator. This means that I never had a chance to use the mug before it was filled with pens, paintbrushes, and mechanical pencils. At least I was broke enough not to be able to afford the embroidered Cinerama jacket or that might have ended up being used to haul the art kibble around...

#181 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2010, 10:50 AM:

Coming to this thread late, I'm kind of surprised y'all got through that conversation about Rosetti's wombat without anybody mentioning the theory that it inspired Lewis Carroll's dormouse.

Tom Whitmore @ #171:

Clearly a relative of "Heaven Will Protect an Honest Girl", which also has tableware come into it:

And if some old bloated blase roue swell
Says 'I'll kiss you, we're alone in this hotel;'
Breathe a prayer he shall not do it
And then biff him with the cruet,
Then Heaven will protect an honest gel!

#182 ::: P. Kight ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2010, 08:02 PM:

I am charmed out of all reason by the mere existence of a Silverplate Condiment Twirler. Turns out it's a fairly utilitarian stand for cruets or other sort of dispensers for, well, condiments; one can find modern versions in places like IHOP and Denny's. But the name alone makes me want to bid on it, never mind the fact that it needs a good polishing.

#183 ::: IreneD ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2011, 01:48 AM:

Watch, I'm making spam vanish!

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