|Depiction of medieval peasants breaking bread|
Soups and broths were drunk from saucers and bowls. Within time, bread trenchers were replaced by wood, pewter and porcelains, depending on the household and family budget. Pinky fingers were extended while eating, and kept away from the greasy foods so that they could be used for dipping into expensive spices. Ginger, along with star anise originating from China, were popular additions to the European palate. Cinnamon from the Spice Islands and nutmeg from the Maluku Islands were coveted as well. This demand for spices was the key to Europe's expanding world trade.
|A late-18th century, two tined fork|
|After the tea... An 18th century Swiss painting of a tea service|
|1886 French five o'clock tea dresses, advertised in America's "Peterson's Magazine"|
As table manners evolved throughout Europe, and with more foods were being made available, larger and more extensive sets of silver were being created for the table. By the mid-1800s, silver electroplating made utensils affordable for the growing middle classes of Europe and America. Silver plated utensils and “sterling” dining implements were marketed as "heirlooms of the future" and as luxury items that every household now needed, so that they could be passed down through future generations. Soon, every food item had its own utensil.
|19th century caviar spoons and caviar spade|
By the mid 1800s, the Victorian Era host and hostesses were fond of highly specific and elaborately decorated flatware. Bread was served with a specially designed fork. There were numerous styles of ice-cream forks, corn scrapers, orange spoons, mango forks, and implements designed specifically for serving olives, peas, baked potatoes, berries and tinned fish, such as sardines and herring. Even crackers had their own scoop-like serving spoon. Pickled foods had ornately adorned forks, spears and tongs, along with pickle casters to hold them in.
|A setting for at least five courses, with a soup served first|
By the late 1900s, society in the presumed "civilized" world began to accept a more relaxed standard of manners, and continue to evolve. Though invitations still need to be responded to and appropriateness of one's dress is still a factor in how others view us, modern 21st century society seems a bit befuddled when it comes to etiquette and manners. Fortunately, books continue to be written on the subject, which encompasses not only the acceptable customs from before, but new etiquette for the leaps taken in technology over the last thirty to forty years.
Author Bernadette M. Petrotta is the Founder and Director of the Polite Society School of Etiquette in Washington State. She has been teaching etiquette for nearly 20 years and has written The Art of Social Graces and The Art and Proper Etiquette of Afternoon Tea. She is currently working on her third book and continues to teach and lecture on the art and pleasures of proper etiquette and tea.