Wednesday, January 9, 2013

"Forks, Knives & Spoons" by Peri Wolfman and Charles Gold

Betcha can't guess what this book is about! Or maybe you can. I'd been wanting to learn more about old silverplate flatware and came across "Forks, Knives & Spoons" by Peri Wolfman and Charles Gold (Clarkson Potter, 1994). This book is a quick read and so very helpful. Now I already knew the Victorians were fond of having serving pieces for every food imaginable, but this book has opened my eyes to some pieces I wasn't even aware of. (Sardine forks, anyone?)

Wolfman shares her love of collecting old silverplate along with some utensil history that is just fun to read. She says the first utensil is thought to have been a spoon, and it was used for *stirring* hot foods, not for eating them. She also says that the knife was originally used to convey food to the mouth, sort of like a flat spoon. An old English rhyme referred to this eating-with-knives habit: "I eat my peas with honey, I've done it all my life; It makes the peas taste funny, But it keeps them on my knife."

And speaking of knives, I was quite interested to learn about tea knives, which Wolfman says "are for spreading jam on scones. The 19th-century ones look elegant with handles of ivory or mother-of-pearl; the newer ones are bright with colored Bakelite handles." Naturally, I did a quick eBay search and found quite a few sets of these charming tea knives! Charles Gold's photos in the book are luscious, and I was pleased to be able to see the great detail on so many of the elegant silverplate pieces. I was also interested in the topic of this book because I realized a while back I was informally collecting a particular silverplate utensil that's appropriate for teatime. It's not a teaspoon, infuser, strainer or sugar tongs, but can you guess what it is? I'll show you some of them tomorrow!


  1. Love the old English rhyme. I may borrow that sometime if that's ok. I'm going to add this book to my list for the cold winter nights. I love silverware and notice it everywhere. I have my mothers beautiful collection and treasure it. Thank you for sharing this. Love your blog. Deb

  2. What a great post! Never knew there were "tea knives." I just assumed spreaders were multi-purposed to include use with scones. Now I'll have to check out tea knives on E-bay. Maybe there's another collection of tea accoutrements on the horizon! ;-)
    Bet lemon forks are in your book too. I might just have to get that book!

  3. This sounds like a wonderful book!

    I have a few sets of jam spreaders that I use at tea parties, but don't have any in gold - have never found them b/c the gold is new, not antique.

    Hopefully one day I will find they made them and I can scarf 'em up.

    I own one lemon fork - it was my mother's. It goes in the lemon serving bowl - but few of my tea society lady friends take lemon in their tea, so I have begun to not even serve lemon unless someone new has been invited, just in case.

    Thanks for the suggested read, wonder if the library has it? I will have to go online to check.

    Have a wonderful day!!

  4. Sounds fascinating! I enjoyed Phyllis writing recently about lemon forks and now your are writing about tea knives. What next? I have no idea.

  5. The only utensil I can think of that can be mistaken for any of those would be an absinthe spoon, but I don't think it would be appropriate for tea. Very interested to find out what piece of flatware it is.

  6. What an interesting book. I've seen forks and spoons for sale on ebay that I never knew existed.

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