Just How Many Forks Are There?

/, Sue's Corner/Just How Many Forks Are There?

I bet this is going to blow your mind but did you know there are over thirty types of forks in the world? If it came down to it, I would probably only be able to name four off the top of my head.

  • Cocktail
  • Dessert
  • Dinner
  • Salad

Given a little more time to think outside the box I’d add four more.

But over thirty, how can that be? And did you know there is even a fork  made especially for strawberries? As it turns out, there’s a lot of history surrounding the strawberry fork. Are you ready for this?

Watteau Strawberry Fork, Durgin Sterling Silver, 1891.

Watteau Strawberry Fork, Durgin Sterling Silver, 1891.

Prior to the 1800s, silver was a metal so precious that the only people with access to it were the very wealthy. It was primarily used to back the world’s currencies, used to create expensive jewelry and sometimes even to prevent the spoilage of food like milk and vinegar. Formal place settings weren’t for the masses until the 1750s. Prior to that, people often carried their eating utensils with them when they traveled!

Around the 19th century the price of silver dropped dramatically as countries like the United States moved from silver coins to paper notes. American companies began searching for new and creative ways to sell silver and thus the specialty silverware industry was born. Companies like William A. Rogers, Ltd., Elkington and Tiffany & Co. created decorative forks, spoons and knives; each with their own unique purpose. People with means purchased these ornate utensils to show off wealth and prestige. Think Downton Abbey.

The strawberry fork was made for “piercing a berry and dipping it into an accompanying dish of sugar, whipped cream, or sour cream” (Osterberg, Richard F. and Betty Smith, Silver Flatware Dictionary. New York: A.S. Barnes, 1981: 114). It typically had two or three prongs to pierce the strawberry and an intricately designed handle, often times with strawberry plants and blossoms carved into the silver face.

Into the 20th century, these sorts of specialty pieces grew out of fashion but still live on today in antique stores and family silverware collections passed down through inheritance. So keep your eye out for one, you never know when you might come across some early American strawberry history!