Is it some pretentious remnant of the Victorian era, or is it something that helps make any fish dish easier to eat?
The fish knife is one of the most confusing pieces of flatware, and the answer to the question above is a little bit of both. But to understand why we have it and what it stands for, we first have to look at its history and its anatomy.
The History of the Fish Knife
Like many tabletop trends using silver, the fish knife began in the 1800s, predominantly in the Victorian era around 1850. Fine dining in this period often included a soup course, a fish course, and a meat course with each one utilizing different sets of specialized flatware.
Meals were also used as ways to impress guests and to show off a family's wealth. As such, cutlers were adept at creating new utensils that would help make the meal easier to eat, as well as impress diners. In this sense, the current pretense often associated with the fish knife is warranted, as it actually originated as a piece of luxury. But the fish knife is more than just a frivolous addition to the dinner table.
The Anatomy of the Fish Knife
Where the fish knife loses its pretense is in how it's actually used. A fish knife is similar to other table knives, but it has a wide, flat spatula blade and a sharp point. These features make it quite useful when eating a fish fillet, and even more useful when eating a whole fish.
The point can be used to initiate important cuts on a whole fish that will make removing the skin easier. The flat part of the fish knife blade is ideal for lifting the meat off the bones (or off the plate in the case of fillets), onto the fork, and eventually into the mouth. Because the fish knife blade is so wide, it's also great for lifting sauce onto a piece of fish or onto the fork.
Selecting a Fish Knife
So the answer is both. A fish knife does carry some pretense, but it also has a practical use. And like all flatware, there are important considerations a restaurant or foodservice operation should explore as it decides on choosing a fish knife for its service.
How is the knife created? What materials are used? How does it feel in your hand when dining? To make flatware selection easier, we've put together a brief guide that will help walk you through these considerations.
Learn more about silverware by reading the BauscherHepp Flatware Selection Tips, and discover what to look for in a fork, knife, or spoon.