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Knives and Spoons

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by Stuart Peachey
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Historical rabbit holes, for those who are inclined.

These slender booklets from Historical Management Associates are the work of an organization dedicated to historical re-enactment in the UK. They are written with a stickler’s attention to historical precision and a conviction that nothing is too arcane to investigate. Some of the books are simple transcriptions of period manuscripts; others represent significant original research, as in Cattle Farming and Grazing Management, which is 52 pages long but cites 36 sources, many of them published in the 17th century.

The Food and Cookery in Elizabethan and Early Stuart England series presents a systematic survey of existing records of ingredients and equipment employed in the period. In addition to concise explanations of how such items might have been used and how they might have been significantly different from what is implied by current terminology, they include citations from various period and later records to demonstrate the geographic and class distribution of everything from hops to decorative tankards.

From the introduction to Knives & Spoons:

“Knives and spoons can be eating equipment or kitchen equipment, the latter usually being much larger and tougher varieties…

“Knife blades were made of iron which is very poor at survival, even organic handles tend to survive better than blades. The evidence is therefore largely written and pictorial.

“Spoons are often made of more resilient metals such as pewter and silver which are overrepresented not only in surviving items but also in the written record because metal spoons were far more valuable than wooden spoons. Surprisingly despite this it is clear than not only pewter is spread across the whole of society but even some labourers own silver spoons.”

Staplebound pamphlet. Sketches and black-and-white photographs.

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