Techniques

We’re Fascinated By These Really Weird Forks

Forking awesome silverware from the heyday of custom cutlery

By Allie Wist


Published on September 23, 2016

Forks come in all shapes and sizes, and some of them are really strange. Welcome to the Menagerie of Weird Forks.

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.

Each tool, of course, came with its own intimidating potential for misuse; the thought that a host's service may include a piece of flatware unknown to the guest was a source of much anxiety indeed. It was perhaps more important how you ate than what you served. But there's something quaint and almost delightful about the dedication of a fork entirely to one specific task. A sort of whimsical distaste for practicality in favor of glorifying each motion involved in serving and consuming dinner.

I've selected my favorites of such pieces, most of which inspire both a disgust for excess and a love for indulgence in design.

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