Category Archives: aspic server

Ice Cream is Better than Aspic

The previous owner of this unusual sickle shaped item called it a “bookmark”.  It is just over 10 inches long, has a hollow handle and is relatively heavy.  How could someone possibly think it is a bookmark?  But what is it?

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The curved blade is beautifully etched on one side.

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And has a small amount of etching on the reverse.

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There is a mark, possibly two marks, on the handle. wp-1465124497031.jpg

Although difficult to see, the mark shown above is a French mark called a “Minerve”. It depicts a woman’s head and has a “1” at the top right side of the head.  This indicates it is 950 parts of 1000 silver…sterling silver.

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On the opposite side is what appears to be another mark, possibly a maker’s mark, but I have been unable to identify it.

Searching “sickle knife”, “sickle blade” and other sickle related phrases, I found results for aspic knives on the internet.  Some well known American sites were calling this an aspic knife or slice.

The thought of aspic left a bad taste in my mouth.  Aspic…a savory jelly studded with meat, fish, vegetables or whatever.  It made me think back to the jellied pigs’ feet my mother sometimes made when I was a young girl.  I couldn’t even stay in the house when she was making the stuff; the smell nauseated me never mind the horror of seeing pigs’ feet in a pot.  After cooking, the pieces of meat and broth were put into bowls and placed in the glassed in back porch over night.  This was only done in the cold months and the broth would jell around the meat.  What was even more disgusting is that it was eaten the next morning!  The pigs’ feet had been boiled with cloves of garlic and the aroma in the kitchen the next morning was revolting. Time to disappear for a while.

I wondered how these sickle shaped utensils could be used to cut through aspic.  The blade was not serrated.  How could it cut through pieces of meat?  And how would you hold it to slice?  It just didn’t make sense to me.

I knew from experience that although an item might be identified as something by certain people, even by so-called experts, it did not necessarily mean that it was correct.  And if something is identified as a certain thing, other people jump on board, do no other research of their own, and take for granted it is what others are saying it is.

What I was looking for was an advertisement, article or catalog page from the time showing that it is an aspic server.  But what I found instead is that it is an “ice cream slice” or, as the French would call it, “serpette a glace”.  The illustration below from an 1898 publication shows a “service a glace” (“glace” translates to “ice cream”).1898 La Coutellerie Depuis l'Origine Jusqu'à Nos Jours pg676

This sickle shaped slicer was usually sold in a set with a server. 1904 Deutsche Goldschmiede-Zeitung Vol.7 pg100 & ca1915 German catalog

Both illustrations above came from German publications from the early 1900s.  They call this sickle knife an “eissichel”.  “Eis” in German is “ice cream”.  “Eis…sichel”…”ice cream sickle”.  I believe the tip of the blade is placed on the plate on the far side of the ice cream and pulled toward you to slice.

This is evidence (word and illustration) from the time that this is an ice cream slice.  If anyone reading this has written evidence that the “aspic knife” is actually an “aspic knife”, I’d be delighted to see it and will add it to this post.

This ice cream slice is available for sale here at my Etsy shop:

https://www.etsy.com/listing/398805449/serpette-a-glace-french-950-minerve