To help serve your Easter feast this year in appropriate style, our silver specialists have searched our fantastic collection of silverplate and sterling silver to find carving sets (many with stainless steel blades for durability and ease of maintenance) in exquisite patterns from Oneida, Gorham, International, and others! There are a variety of different 2-piece or 3-piece sets from which to choose, in sizes small and large, in popular patterns like Strasbourg, Buttercup, King Edward, and Melrose – to name just a few.
Since ancient times, the cutting and distribution of meat has been at the center of great feasts. In the great banquet halls of medieval castles, the knife was the most common utensil – many guests would arrive with their own. The carving station was a prized station in the household, presided over by a skilled worker who exhibited civility and good breeding, as well as (one would imagine) a certain degree of showmanship. Carving at the time was an elaborate process, governed by a variety of rules, special knives, and instruction on how to carve each different meat. An entire book dedicated to the art of carving, “Boke of Keruynge,” was published in 1508 by Wynkyn de Worde, and a 1581 text by Vincenzo Cervio, a famed Italian carver of the time, explained how to carve meats as they were held by the fork in midair, in an elaborate tableside show. By the 1700s and 1800s, carving was considered an important skill, one passed down from fathers to sons.
As meals became more informal during the nineteenth century, the importance placed on the art of carving began to wane. It became an acceptable practice to carve while sitting down, and the duties of carving shifted from the “head” of the household to others. By the mid-nineteenth century, as the practice of “service a la francaise” (where every item of a particular service was brought to the table at once) was replaced with “service a la russe” (in which food items were precut and plated before coming to the table), the responsibility of carving passed from the host to the kitchen staff. Still, the head of the house was expected to employ a certain degree of carving aptitude at informal gatherings. A 1908 text on etiquette states: “At a formal dinner, all carving will have been done outside of the dining room. At an informal, or family dinner, where the food is placed upon the table, the host is expected to attend to the carving, the acquisition of which art is most desirable by every gentleman. The carving knife should be well sharpened in advance. The carver naturally becomes the helper, and he should indicate for whom he destines the first plate, having previously asked what cut is preferred.”
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