The Victorian era saw the popularization of the sterling silver tea service in response to Queen Victoria’s establishment of ‘the afternoon tea’ as a daily ritual, and elaborate multi-course meals became the norm for the upper class. These lavish gatherings and an obsessive concern that no foods ever be touched by hand spawned massive flatware sets in which nearly every entrée, side dish and condiment had its own utensil. The unusual serving pieces that resulted, though sometimes difficult to identify, are often quite desirable with collectors.
Our flatware set is much more modern and fantastic but we are always looking for consignments of high quality, antique serving pieces.
Here we describe for you some of the more strange looking serving pieces you might encounter in a Victorian flatware set.
Cake breaker – This server resembles a large comb with many long tines. It was designed to cut cleanly through a delicate angel food cake.
Lemon fork – A small fork with three splayed tines sharp enough to pierce the lemon rind, this server usually accompanied a seafood course or tea service.
Bon bon scoop – With the manufacture of chocolate on the rise in the late 1800s, bon bons became increasingly popular. In the days before refrigeration and preservatives, these decorative servers allowed a rather messy item to be served neatly.
Tomato server - Often the most ornate piece in a flatware service, this elegantly pierced server was used to lift individual tomato slices while allowing excess juice to drain. The large flat serving surface was perfect for showcasing elaborate engraving and pierced work.
Toast serving fork – Even the idea picking up a roll by hand was considered distasteful to the wealthy of the Victorian era, so this server was invented for stabbing a piece of bread and lifting it onto one’s plate.
Saratoga chips server – Potato chips were supposedly invented when a diner at a Saratoga Springs restaurant refused his order of French fries as too thick and soggy. The offended chef retaliated by slicing the complaining customer’s potatoes extremely thin and frying them to a crisp. Although intended as a rebuff, the resulting item was so popular it became the restaurant’s signature dish and inspired this server.
Ice cream slicer – Prior to the invention of the now ubiquitous ice cream scooper, ice cream was served by slicing with this large flat knife.
Piccalilli spoon – This small pierced scoop was designed to serve a popular tomato relish.
You can find pictures of these and many other unusual serving pieces using this piece type guide.