French Silverware speaks of the importance that the French put on food and meal- time. The French have a fork, knife, spoon for every food under the Eiffel Tower. They also have one for every sauce, and believe me they love their sauces. To which my thighs cry "Amen!".
Since we are a Franco-American family some of my silverware is from the States. The innocent pair come to the table, an American fruit knife (1920s) and a dessert fork (1940s.)
Unlike dinner knives and forks, the fruit knife has a sharp blade with a point on the end for stabbing fruit after it has been cut. The dessert fork has a fancy prong. The tip is curled-in to aid with slicing into a cake bite.
The fruit knife and dessert fork are much smaller than the dinnerware knife and fork.
The French place the silverware upside down on the family table, well that is in comparison to the American style of setting a table. The monograms on French silver are on the backside. Note the photo of the service above (1880): The fork's front side is bare, and the back side is fancy.
Though at restaurants the French place the silverware right side up.
I have noticed over the years that the younger generation is loosening up on this tradition. It might be because they are not buying silverware, and ordinary silverware is not more decorative on one side or the other.
The French have two sizes of spoons for coffee. A tiny one for espresso and a larger one for cafe au lait. The larger spoon can be used for tea, hot chocolate, eating cereal and yogurt (... ) that tiny espresso spoon has a singular role, certainly it feels smug adorning those cute little expresso cups.
(Photo: Spode tea and coffee cups. Hand painted 1920s)
The table fork goes on the left side of the plate. The table knife goes on the right, with its blade facing towards the plate. The table soup spoon (which looks like a serving spoon) goes by the table knife. The dessert spoon and cheese knife go on top of the plate.
The first time I came to France and had a meal at French Husband's parents home I went as stiff as the silverware in front of me. I sat the entire lunch (five hours) imitating my Belle-Pere, (Father-in-Law). Whatever fork, knife or spoon he picked up I followed suit. I don't remember a thing I ate, but I thank God for French Husband's Father's impeccable manners.
Another view of a French table setting line up. As you can see I have mix and match silverware. It makes collecting easier. Find a pretty fork at the flea market, inexpensive since it is on its own. Buy it polish it... Instant success! It adds to the collection and shakes up the snobby line up.
And by the way the French eat Pizza with a fork and knife. Trés Elegant.
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