Material and Medium: silver, ebony
Department: Decorative Art
Accession Number: Virtual2004.739-740
This elegant pair of salad servers was made by George Adams of London in 1873. The back of the bowl of each utensil is stamped with the maker's mark, 'G A'.
The curved hafts are made from ebony and are octagonal in profile. Ebony is a tropical wood native to India and the West Indies. It is renowned for its dark colour and durability. The spoon and fork are made from silver and have a decorative beaded ferrule and end cap. Both silver and imported ebony are expensive, luxury materials. This means that the servers would be aimed at a wealthy consumer market.
During the 1800s, the style of dining changed from à la Française (where all dishes were put out on the table at once), to à la Russe, where the table was laid with complete settings and no food was put onto the table and waiting staff served the guests. A large amount of additional eating and serving implements were necessary, so this style of dining took time to filter down to the middle classes. Table manners became very complex and changed frequently during this time. Opinions on the correct implement to use for particular types of food were being constantly readdressed.
Silver or EPNS was frequently used for making fruit knives and spoons, as the acid in certain fruits would react with steel and spoil the taste of the food. This is also true of fish eaters and servers, as fish was frequently seasoned with lemon juice. These salad servers would also benefit from being made from silver, as salads were often dressed with vinegar or lemon during the 1800s. Mrs Beeton even advises using a silver knife to chop and prepare salad ingredients.
In 1861 Mrs Beeton suggested that leaves such as cabbage, chervil, sorrel, lettuce, mint, basil and coriander should be used in salads. Salad dressings included mayonnaise, vinegar flavoured with celery seeds or cucumber and salad oil (olive oil). Salads were eaten with many dishes including hot and cold fish, lobster, roast joints of meat, game, cold cuts of meat and dumplings. Salad and buttered biscuits often formed part of a cheese course eaten towards the end of a formal meal.
These objects form part of the Bill Brown Collection. Supported by The Art Fund, Heritage Lottery Fund and the Friends of Sheffield Galleries & Museums Trust.