Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Victorian Fork Fashion and Etiquette

Eating olives with proper etiquette was a particular form of art—it was rumored that one imposter nobleman in France in the 1800s was recognized as a fraud by the way he ate his olives. The accused barbarian dared to eat his olives with a regular fork, instead of locating a proper olive fork—one which was designed with tiny, appropriately-sized tines.

Forks come in all shapes and sizes. Specialized designs for flatware exploded in number during the Victorian Era. In a panic to keep up with the latest serveware, aspiring couples accumulated a ridiculous number of pieces of cutlery. It was all a reflection of the culture at the time, which equated abstruse formal dining rules and etiquette with civilized society.

This was especially the case in America, where status wasn't as set in stone as in Europe. In the younger nation, social standing for the upwardly mobile was far more dependent on displays of wealth and class through, among other things, hosting and attending formal dinner parties. As formal dining evolved, so did the demand for increasingly nuanced (and perhaps absurd) silverware, resulting in giant horizontal tongs for asparagus, tiny yard-rake-like implements for spearing whole sardines, and a hybrid knife-fork for convenience in slicing and eating pie.
A late-Victorian variation on original pie forks.
The pie fork, unlike some other Victorian cutlery, can be praised for its usefulness. The left side of the fork features a thick, sharp-edged tine for slicing into pie or tarts, but blunt ends for using the fork to eat the pie as you would a normal fork. – Saveur Magazine, 2016

Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J. Graber, is the Site Moderator and Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia