Do You Eat Your Ice Cream with a Fork?

Joined
Nov 26, 2016
Location
central NC
%26_Company%2C_Iris_service%2C_silver%2C_1903-1917.jpg

(Wikimedia Commons)
Knowing which fork to use at a fancy dinner has long been a challenge for many diners, but using a spoon to eat ice cream has always been pretty easy. Or has it? Diners in the mid-19th century insisted on using peculiar forks to enjoy this treat.

The ice cream fork was a product of the cutlery overkill during the Victorian era. It seems table-setting became a competitive art form for the Victorians so the requisite utensils were soon accompanied by numerous odd utensils like aspic spoons, snail forks, bonbon scoops, and, of course, ice cream forks. This utensil seems especially odd since people initially associated the common fork with the devil’s pitchfork. We can thank the Italians’ love of pasta and the table-setting boom in the 19th century for making the fork acceptable.

Today ice cream forks aren’t often seen, but proper etiquette still calls for them, especially when eating ice cream sundaes. It all depends on how the ice cream is served. If it’s placed in a bowl, it’s proper to use a spoon to scoop it up. If it’s presented on a plate, you should get out that ice cream fork.

It's rare to find ice cream forks in kitchen shops these days, but these relics are still available on the internet.
 

major bill

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Forum Host
Joined
Aug 25, 2012
I have never eaten ice cream with a fork that I know of. I wonder is the fork dripped? I have ate ice cream with chopsticks. Hint do not get ice cream with chocolate topping because chopsticks and chocolate do not work, especially if you are wearing a light colored shirt.
 

KianGaf

First Sergeant
Joined
May 29, 2019
Location
Dublin, Ireland
Never heard of a ice cream fork now that is a new one. Isn’t the whole set cutlery thing old hat these days. I’ve eaten at a few Michelin star restaurants and they didn’t even have it. Although they had an annoying habit of scraping the crumbs from your table with some sort of blunt blade. Is a whole cutlery set up still a thing these days , for a example a cold fork for salads etc.
 

major bill

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Forum Host
Joined
Aug 25, 2012
I once did a two hour class at a military school that instructed us on how to eat with cutlery. So we were instructed in the use of cutlery for American casual, European casual, and European informal.
 

KianGaf

First Sergeant
Joined
May 29, 2019
Location
Dublin, Ireland
I once did a two hour class at a military school that instructed us on how to eat with cutlery. So we were instructed in the use of cutlery for American casual, European casual, and European informal.

Maybe it is for super formal functions like state visits. I’d say at a White House function for instance it is part of the etiquette to emphasise the importance of the occasion.
 

John Winn

Major
Joined
Mar 13, 2014
Location
State of Jefferson
This is the first time I've heard of an ice cream fork (and I'm no spring chicken). Frankly, all of that eating formality does not appeal (or formality in general). I think the general trend is away from formality. Silverware services, for instance, are not commonly used these days and one can generally only sell silver pieces for the metal value as they don't sell. I suppose at high levels of business or politics there's still use of such things.

For the price of one ice cream fork I bet I could buy a lot more ice cream.
 
Joined
Nov 26, 2016
Location
central NC
@KianGaf , the "formal" place settings I encounter these days are really just the "informal" place settings taken to the next level. It's the glassware, dishes and utensils for the foods and beverages to be served with additional courses - nothing over the top. It used to be that the folks setting the table at a Michelin star restaurant would wear white gloves to handle the dinnerware. I can't recall the last time I saw that.

I still practice the art of placing my cutlery so that servers know when I'm finished eating. The knife and fork go either straight up and down in the center of the plate with the handles resting on the rim, or pointing between 10 and 4 o’clock.

Table crumbers date way back. You might enjoy reading about Ray Machine Incorporated. They bought the patent for the table crumber in the late 1950s from John Henry Miller, the owner of Miller Brothers Restaurant in Baltimore. That was the place to be seen dining in Baltimore in the early 20th century.
 

KianGaf

First Sergeant
Joined
May 29, 2019
Location
Dublin, Ireland
This is the first time I've heard of an ice cream fork (and I'm no spring chicken). Frankly, all of that eating formality does not appeal (or formality in general). I think the general trend is away from formality. Silverware services, for instance, are not commonly used these days and one can generally only sell silver pieces for the metal value as they don't sell. I suppose at high levels of business or politics there's still use of such things.

For the price of one ice cream fork I bet I could buy a lot more ice cream.

I’d tend to agree about formality. I’d only dabble in fine dining around Christmas time for a special occasion. I find it a bit stuffy and feel I don’t belong with the Hoi polloi. I’m happy in a regular steak house and a few beers. As they say though variety is the spice of life , it’s good to mix it up occasionally.
 

KianGaf

First Sergeant
Joined
May 29, 2019
Location
Dublin, Ireland
I still practice the art of placing my cutlery so that servers know when I'm finished eating. The knife and fork go either straight up and down in the center of the plate with the handles resting on the rim, or pointing between 10 and 4 o’clock
I’m in the habit of doing that myself. There are some servers that’s tune into and others that are oblivious. I like them old school gestures. It reminds me of when I trained as a chef for a short time as a kid , when a hot pot or pan was placed on a stove you would put flour on the handle as a warning to your peers, so they wouldn’t pick it up with their raw hand and get burnt.
 

Trooper "D"

Private
Joined
May 20, 2018
View attachment 404629
(Wikimedia Commons)
Knowing which fork to use at a fancy dinner has long been a challenge for many diners, but using a spoon to eat ice cream has always been pretty easy. Or has it? Diners in the mid-19th century insisted on using peculiar forks to enjoy this treat.

The ice cream fork was a product of the cutlery overkill during the Victorian era. It seems table-setting became a competitive art form for the Victorians so the requisite utensils were soon accompanied by numerous odd utensils like aspic spoons, snail forks, bonbon scoops, and, of course, ice cream forks. This utensil seems especially odd since people initially associated the common fork with the devil’s pitchfork. We can thank the Italians’ love of pasta and the table-setting boom in the 19th century for making the fork acceptable.

Today ice cream forks aren’t often seen, but proper etiquette still calls for them, especially when eating ice cream sundaes. It all depends on how the ice cream is served. If it’s placed in a bowl, it’s proper to use a spoon to scoop it up. If it’s presented on a plate, you should get out that ice cream fork.

It's rare to find ice cream forks in kitchen shops these days, but these relics are still available on the internet.
Forkin' A right. The first spork.
 

R. Porter

Private
Joined
Oct 6, 2020
When my sister and I were kids, she used to eat ice cream with chopsticks. It's important that the ice cream have some structural integrity so that you can collect it between the sticks. Otherwise, or if it has a sauce on it, that task becomes impossible. Years later, when I had kids of my own, and we ate at Mexican restaurants, they would order fried ice cream and each would get a fork. Fried ice cream has a fried batter on the outside so these forks would be used to cut through the batter and ice cream and which was then stabbed to get it to your mouth. However, it's most important role was to stab the the others who were also trying eat fried ice cream.
 

Wisteria

Cadet
Joined
Jun 17, 2021
When I was about 14, I must have read somewhere that people used to eat ice cream with forks, so I tried it. It was not a problem as long as I ate a small serving before it had a chance to soften up very much. When I read about penny-lick glasses, my mid 20th century brain was thoroughly revolted. Yeccch, somebody licking ice cream from a glass cup that the vendor only rinsed out in a bucket of water, over and over again.
 

Fairfield

Sergeant Major
Member of the Month
Joined
Dec 5, 2019
I've seen those spoon-forks; they were among the silver brought over from Norway. Perhaps a different culture with a different use? I was told that they were used for the "sloppy" deserts like puddings.
 

Fairfield

Sergeant Major
Member of the Month
Joined
Dec 5, 2019
I love formal dining and am sorry to see people abandon fine china and silver flatware. There is something about a perfectly set table with special food that communicates love to me.
I agree! The dining room table. at the Victorian home where I docent, is set formally. High school kids are fascinated by it--especially the crystal barbells (knife rests).
 
Top