Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A table setting for dessert, 18th century style

Wednesday, May 30, 2012
Loretta reports:

These photos are from my visit last year to the Victoria & Albert Museum .

According to the note accompanying this display of a fashionable family’s table setting for dessert, “The word ‘dessert’ comes from the French desservir meaning to ‘unserve’ or clear the table, as it was originally served after the main dishes had been removed.  It consisted of fresh fruits or a sumptuous display of ices, whipped creams and sugared fruits.”

Doing a little compare and contrast with table settings & pieces illustrated in Susan Watkins’s Jane Austen’s Town and Country Style, I came upon this interesting note about the knives:

“The knife-blades have broad, rounded ends, so that one could eat directly from the knife as well as from the fork. Fingers were used for eating more than is customary today, making finger bowls essential between courses.”

If you're in New England in the fall, you can sample an 18th C dinner, and receive a lesson in 18th C table manners, at Maxwell House, in Warren Rhode Island.

You'll find more about The School for Manners (one of the titles from which the rules listed on the Maxwell House site & Wikisource are excerpted) in one of my earlier posts.


Susan Bailey said...

So elegant!

Anonymous said...

The history of forks is more interesting than that of knives.

Hels said...

It may have been "unserved" but the sweets bowls and plates were very handsome. I love the porcelain.

Isobel Carr said...

I thought eating from your knife was considered coarse? Is that a Victorianism?

Anonymous said...

Great post. Mount Vernon displays a great dinning table in George and Martha's main dining room. They have hand blown glass blue colbalt "bowls' on the table at each place setting. They refer to them as "rinser's". Maybe you can get pics on line of it to show?

Anonymous said...

I've always been told that the tablecloth was removed between the last of the main courses and dessert, so dessert was served on a bare table.

nightsmusic said...

I just want the dinnerware. :o)

LorettaChase said...

Anonymous, Susan offered a history of the fork a while back:

Lauren said...

what is the name of that serving dish with the fruit?? impressive!

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