At the peak of the antique silver fish service’s use, there were more than 200 distinct eating utensils used at the dining table. Etiquette was an essential part of life, and this involved having different utensils and serveware for a vast variety of different foods and drinks.
Early to mid-19th century Britain was a period of thriving industry and wealth. This enabled the middle classes the money and time to use dining as a way to impress and display their wealth. The idea of separate courses arrived in the 1850s, leading to the demand for an assortment of utensils which would distinguish the serving and eating of various food types.
History of Fish Knives and Forks
For manufacturers of cutlery (cutlers), this was a highly successful time, as they were able to produce several hundred eating utensils in various design styles which could even incorporate additional materials to the handles to make them more aesthetically appealing. In the case of fish servers, knife blades were frequently embellished with piscatorial-related engraved decoration.
In the Victorian era, fish servers and cutlery sets also made fabulous gifts. It was common place for brides to request fish services as gifts to add to their silver flatware collection as a dining table could be set with twenty-two or more different pieces at each place setting, each having a unique purpose for the banquet; the term banquet is relevant, as it was quite common for these meals to last eight hours.
What is a Fish Knife and Fork?
This small table knife is specifically designed to facilitate the eating of fish. The knife blade has a curved sharp edge, perfect for sliding between the skin and flesh of the fish. The broad blade is a useful feature as it assists in lifting the fish to the fork, whilst keeping flakes in one piece. The blade terminates in a relatively sharp point which is useful to lift small bones away from the flesh.
The wide surface may also be used to scrape up, or spread any sauce served with the fish.
As with the fish knife, the fish fork is used with fish dishes. The standard fish fork is smaller than a table fork at approximately 7 ¼ to 7 ¾ inches long. Fish forks (and knives) often have an incurve shaped form (pictured); this feature was likely simply to differentiate it from all the other forks that could be present on the table, as there were frequently many.
Like traditional dining table settings, the fish knife and fork are placed in order of use. Therefore, if fish is being served as an appetiser, the fish knife is laid to the right of the dinner knife and fish fork to the left of the dinner fork.
Placement of Fish Knives and Forks on the Dining Table
If fish is being served as a main course, fish cutlery should be placed nearest to the plate (fish knife to the right of the dinner plate and fish fork laid to the left of the plate). When it comes to the fish fork, it may be placed with either the fork tines upward in the American style, or downward for the continental style (pictured below).
If fish is being served as a main course fish cutlery should be placed nearest the plate (fish knife to the right of the dinner plate and fish fork laid to the left of the plate). When it comes to the fish fork it may be place with either the fork tines upward in the American style or downward for the continental style (pictured below).
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