I mean, would you serve the guests the nuts?
The dialogue in “The Thin Man” is fast. The banter between Nick and Nora is priceless. And some of the quotes from this movie are gems. This is one of them. All of the suspects (with the accent on the second syllable according the Nick and Nora) have been invited to a formal dinner and they are seated at the table. The son of the missing “thin man” just said that he saw his father last night as he gazed into his crystal ball. And Nora says “Waiter, would you serve the nuts?” And Nick gives her this look…well, you see it in the photo above. And she corrects herself and says “I mean, will you serve the guests the nuts?”. At that point in the movie, the first course had just been served, so I didn’t think they would actually be serving nuts then…it was just the perfect time to insert that hilarious line.
I’ve been fixated on the “eating of the nut” (for lack of a better description) lately. It all started with silverplate nut picks from the late 1800’s. They are, for the most part, under 5 inches in length. Many of the popular flatware patterns of the day were made in the form of nut picks. I just couldn’t help it, I fell in love with these diminutive, beautiful utensils.
I didn’t think that many people today are using these silverplate nut picks to actually pick a nut. What a shame to have them sit unused in a drawer. What else could you do with them? My answer was to use them as cocktail picks. They worked wonderfully as an olive pick in a martini glass. I know this for certain, as I’ve tested them out myself!
Recently, I’ve discovered the nut spoon or nut scoop. It wasn’t until I realized that many of these nut spoons are even smaller than the nut pick that I really became interested (I could have used that “fixated” word here again but didn’t want my tendancy toward redundancy to creep in).
The 1846 Anchor Rogers “Gem” pattern spoon shown above is 4 and 3/8ths inches in length; the bowl is about 1 and 7/8this inches wide. In addition to being an adorable little spoon or scoop, it has that elusive 1846 Anchor Rogers mark which I’ve written about in another post in this blog.
The Wilcox Silver Plate spoon is the same size as the 1846 Anchor Rogers spoon. And the pattern is remarkably similar. Actually the design at the top of the handle is exactly the same. And I have seen the “Gem” pattern with the Wilcox mark as well… I need to do a little more detective work here.
The bowl design of this Wilcox spoon was patented in 1890 by Gilbert Crowell Jr. (patent number 19802). In his patent description, Mr. Crowell liked the shape of the bowl to a guitar.
So then I started to wonder about how and when these tiny little spoons were used. The nut pick was obvious. You’d crack open a nut and use the pick to remove the meat from the shell. But these little spoons must have been used for shelled nuts. And it appeared that, while the nut picks were manufactured and popular in the 1870s and 1880s (or maybe even earlier), these spoons didn’t show on the scene until the 1890s and were used for decades after (maybe even still in use today).
You really can’t find that much on the internet about the history of the eating of the nut. I’ve learned that, during the Victorian era (perhaps earlier as well as later) nuts in the shell were served along with fruit and bon bons after dinner and were sometimes displayed elaborately on the dining table in an epergne (pronounced “A’ pern with the accent on the first syllable similar to “apron”). And the nut pick would be used on these occasions.
I’ve also learned that fruit, nuts and bon bons were sometimes served during high tea during the Victorian era. Nut bowls (for nuts in the shell) were manufactured with nut cracks or nutcrackers hanging off the side of the bowl.
It appears that for nuts in the shell, there was a nut bowl and the utensils used would be a master nut spoon, nut crack and nut pick. You would use the master nut spoon to place nuts on your individual nut dish. I’ve seen sets of a master nut bowl and individual nut dishes offered in sets. Once the meat is removed from the shell it must be the moment the little spoon comes into action [play]. Now you might sprinkle the bits here and there on this or that at your whimsy. Is there a nut shell waste bowl?
I’ve read that in times past it was popular to place shelled and salted and/or spiced nuts on the table during dinner. The crunchy nut texture was a welcome addition to the meal.
After all this research, I’m still not sure exactly when you would use that little 4 and 3/8ths inch nut spoon. I certainly could see it used in a relatively small sized nut bowl filled with mixed nuts during a cocktail party. Instead of guests sticking their fingers in the bowl, popping a few nuts in their mouths, and then sticking those same fingers back in the old nut bowl (gross!!!!), the proper and healthy way would be to scoop some of those nuts into your own little dish along side your cheese and crackers.
I’ve also seen these nut spoons / nut scoops alternatively used for bon bons. So confusing!
If there are any nut etiquette experts out there reading this, please, please feel free to comment.
The nut picks and nut spoons shown at the beginning of this post are available at my Etsy shop here:
Am I nuts or what?