Bertha Fisk Botsford

Asparagus Tongs, Saratoga Chip Scoops, Bon Bon Servers! Why all the utensils?

In the early 1830s the popular dining style was service à la russe which originated with the Russian Prince Kourakin. This dining style called for multiple courses, which were presented to each guest by a servant.  There could be six or more courses served in an evening and the flatware was changed with each course. It was highly unusual to touch food with your hands; instead there were cucumber servers, strawberry forks, olive spoons, and lemonade spoons, among many other utensils. Service à la russe encouraged new flatware designs and created a demand for a variety of utensils to assist with the plethora of dishes.

To the modern eye, it is rather difficult to identify the use of each silver scoop, server, ladle and spoon. Is this a bon bon scoop or is it used for tomatoes? And it seems decadent to have a serving tool for potato chips! A recent acquisition to Glessner House Museum includes just that - two Saratoga Chip scoops. The first scoop is gold wash sterling silver in the Dauphin pattern, with flowers and vines and the initials BFB (for its owner Bertha Fisk Botsford of 2100 S. Calumet) engraved on the back. This scoop was made about 1899 (the year of Miss Botsford’s marriage to Dr. Robert H. Harvey) by William B. Durgin Co., of Concord, New Hampshire. The second silver server features a pierced scoop in the shape of a shell with sea inspired ornamentation. This Saratoga Chip scoop is from the Whiting Manufacturing Company, based out of the home of potato chips, New York! 

During the early 1850s potato chips were quite the delicacy. They were only served in restaurants or made at home. As the story goes, in 1853 in Saratoga Springs, NY, a customer at Moon’s Lake House restaurant preferred his potatoes to be sliced thin and sent his thickly cut potatoes back to the kitchen. Out of spite, the chef, George Crum, sent out paper thin potatoes which it turns out the customer enjoyed. Within a few years Crum opened his own restaurant where he was known for his famous potato chips. The next time you pop open a bag of Lay’s or Kettle Chips, just think how amazing it would be to pour them in a bowl and serve them to your guests with a sterling silver, sea inspired, Saratoga Chip scoop. Those Victorians really knew how to live!