I really don’t remember when I first came across an ice cream fork. But it wasn’t that long ago. Perhaps it was the Brunswick pattern that was included in the 1886 Meriden Brittania catalog.
I thought that the combination of spoon and fork ( a/k/a spork) would work well when eating cake and ice cream. I also noted that this was the only ice cream fork in that 1886 catalog. Most other pieces were available in multiple patterns but not the ice cream fork. But then my mind went on to other things (as it does… it has a mind of its own) and the ice cream fork was filed away in my subconscious memory for a while.
And then it surfaced again in my conscious mind…funny how that happens. I noticed that an ice cream fork just doesn’t come in one design. Back in the late 19th century and early 20th century many manufacturers made ice cream forks in a myriad of handle patterns. Not only were the handle patterns different, the design of the bowl and tines varied.
I thought that if I were to eat ice cream with a fork, I wouldn’t want a design with elaborate shaped, long tines which looked dangerous to me. I’d want short tines and a lot of bowl space to scoop up ice cream that had softened.
I started thinking that I would like to try one of these. I was making my own ice cream with some frequency. You might recall in an earlier post I mentioned the recipe that involved only two ingredients: a pint of heavy cream and a 14 oz. can of condensed milk. Whip the cream, then incorporate the milk and freeze. Voila, you have ice cream! Oh, you can add vanilla extract or other extracts. I’ve made various flavors like lemon, banana, chocolate, pumpkin spice, maple walnut and pistachio. They are all delicious and so very simple to make.
I started searching for antique ice cream forks, thinking that I could probably find a good selection of inexpensive varieties as who would be interested in ice cream forks? The market must be flooded with them. But to my surprise I found that they were very popular and were selling at a good price. Here I didn’t even know that there was such a thing as an ice cream fork until recently, while many others were not only aware of them, they were buying all the market had to offer! I wondered…were they actually eating ice cream with these forks?
So, the search began for a fork that would have short tines and a nice size bowl. I finally found some in an 1893 pattern by Wilbur H. Gaines and made by Rogers & Hamilton.
These forks measured 5 and 3/8ths inches in length which is about average. They looked larger in photos but the length of the handle and size and shape of the bowl and tines was perfect.
The tines made it easy to break through hard ice cream without any effort. How often have you chased a scoop of ice cream around a bowl because you couldn’t cut into it with a regular spoon? Not any more! The design was brilliant! I loved it! How did I live without it! And you could easily scoop up the melted ice cream as well. The smaller size bowl made you slow down in your ice cream consumption and really savor each and every mouthful.
In reading about the history of ice cream, I learned that Mrs. Alexander Hamilton served ice cream to George Washington in 1789 and Dolly Madison served ice cream in the White House in 1811. I wondered what utensil they were using to eat it with. The earliest patent I found for an ice cream fork was in the 1870s. Did Dolly serve her ice cream with a spoon or fork or something else?
Nancy Johnson obtained a patent for an ice cream freezer in 1843:
There have been many different variations of the ice cream freezer / maker over the decades between then and now. And here I am making it with only two ingredients and no fancy contraptions.
I obtained a good size lot of the “Majestic” ice cream spoons shown above and have some listed for sale at my Etsy shop: www.etsy.com/shop/queenofsienna