It’s been a long time since I posted on this blog. What can I tell you…nothing much has been going on. I am not fond of short days, long nights and bitter cold. There has been relatively little snow up until a few days ago when we had about a foot and then it froze solid. It’s still there and I don’t think it’s going anywhere soon. Ah, such fun!
Being pretty much a prisoner in my own house has allowed me to reread my various books on silverplate and I have actually learned some things. First and foremost, I’ve grown to appreciate the fact that there is only so much of it (silverplate) out there and it is getting progressively harder to find. Companies like International Silver, Gorham, Wallace and Towle have been acquired by large conglomerates that have limited their lines to a relatively few token patterns, and those are mostly sterling and stainless. So you search the web for your silverplate pattern and hope that Replacements, sellers on eBay, shops on Etsy or other vintage and antique sites have what you are looking for.
Finding classic, as well as elusive, patterns in relatively good condition is getting more difficult as their production has long ago ceased. And sometimes you find pieces in a pattern that you like, but the piece doesn’t lend itself to contemporary living. Take for example the crumb knife. In the photo above of various 1847 Rogers & Bros. “Dundee” pattern serving pieces, the crumb knife is the second from the right. Do you know anyone today who still uses a crumb knife? I don’t. I don’t even know anyone used a crumb knife decades ago. But think outside the box. What else could you do with this piece? How about an enchilada server?
I experimented with making enchiladas to see how the “fit” would be with the crumb knife. (Do you think being housebound has possibly affected my mind????)
I pretty much followed the recipe on the back of the Old El Paso green chile enchilada sauce, except that I added some chopped onion, minced garlic, freshly chopped jalepeno pepper (in addition to the canned chiles) and a couple of shakes of cayenne. It was good! Really warms you up on those long dark winter nights!
As you can see from the photo above, the crumb knife is the perfect enchilader server size. It would also work for manicotte and crepes, I would think.
I had the “what to do with the old crumb knife” question solved, so I continued to read more about silverplate. I came across the following page in the 1886 Meriden Britannia catalog:
I already knew that antique bar spoons were had to find because the relatively few being offered out there were called other things, like ice cream spoons, iced tea spoons, egg spoons, long handle spoons, twist handle spoons, etc. But what about those julep strainers, how rare were they? Rare. Try to find an antique (I’m talking 100 years or more) julep strainer. It’s not easy.
I was under the assumption that a julep strainer was a bar tool…used by the bartender in the making of a julep or smash or other recipes calling for mashed mint and/or fruit. But I was wrong. In his 1888 book, “The New and Improved Illustrated Bartender’s Guide”, Harry Johnson states that the drink should be served with the strainer in it. See the following illustration and recipe.
I could see that the strainer would be useful to hold back the mint leaves, fruit and crushed ice but I couldn’t quite grasp how the recipient of the drink could actually drink that drink with the strainer in it. Wouldn’t it be extremely awkward? So I experimented.
Once I placed my index finger on the edge of the glass where the handle meets the bowl and my thumb on the other side of the glass, I had a “eureka” moment. It was so natural and comfortable. The bowl of the strainer dipped down slightly into the glass and allowed plenty of room for a person to plant their lips on the edge of the glass and take a sip. And when you set the drink down and removed your hand, the strainer pretty much stayed in that same position. There was no need to fiddle or tinker with the strainer. What an amazing design! I have been unable to find a patent for this though.
The antique cut-out design strainers are hard to find but the ones without the cut-out are even harder to find. Companies like Meriden Britannia / 1847 Rogers Bros. made these strainers in the “Olive” pattern and possibly a few other patterns without a cut-out. These strainers were intended for home use, not commercial use as a bar tool. You could proudly serve your guests drinks with these elegant strainers and be proud! Yes sir!
The “Dundee” pattern serving pieces and all of these strainers are available at my Etsy shop: https://www.etsy.com/shop/queenofsienna
Is it spring yet?