A Brief History of ...
The Knife / Knives: The knife is the oldest known implement, used as a cutting tool at the dawn of Mankind. The knife as an eating utensil didn't develop until the Middle Ages. At that time, peasants would carry a knife with them at all times, having the knife do double duty as both an eating tool and a weapon. Noblemen would carry two knives, one for each purpose. It was common for a whetstone to be placed just outside the entrance of a great hall so that guests could sharpen their knives before a feast. From this we get the expression "to whet the appetite." During the meal, knife blades were used for cutting and the tips of the knives were used to spear meat and used in the manner we use forks today. Blades were used to pick up smaller items that weren't feasible to be eaten with the hands, such as peas. So in its early days, the knife took on the role of knife, fork, and spoon all at once.
It wasn't until the 16th century in Italy that the true dinner knife emerged, one that's use was strictly for eating. Even then, only the wealthy could afford to supply their guests with them. Louis XIV was the first king to provide each guest with a knife, fork and spoon. By the 18th century it had become fashionable for wealthy people to have sets of matched flatware. http://www.sterlingflatwarefashions.com/Utensils/ForksHist.html
The Butter Knife: The use of a specialized butter knife helped to prevent individuals from plunging their own used knives into the main butter source. Shaping butter cylinders into curls, lead to the introduction of the butter pick. Butter picks were specially made to retrieve one curl at a time, without breaking or dropping the delicate serving. This practice can still be found on tables in restaurants and homes, bringing a touch of exquisiteness to any meal. http://beverlybremersilver.wordpress.com/2009/10/07/what-is-the-history-of-the-silver-butter-dish-and-how-is-it-used/
The Salt Spoon: A salt spoon is a miniature utensil used with an open salt cellar for individual service. It is an historical and nostalgic item from a time before table salt was free-flowing, as it is today. The spoon itself ranges from 2 to 3 inches (5 to 7.5 cm) long and has a circular bowl measuring approximately 0.5 to 0.75 inches (1.25 to 2 cm). Salt spoons can be found in a wide range of materials including glass, Sterling silver, silverplate, plastic, wood, ivory, bone and shell.
Salt absorbs moisture from its surroundings, and had a tendency to clump together into one large lump. The head of the household usually presided over the distribution of salt at the dining table. This lump of salt was placed into a small dish, called by various names - open salt, salt cellar, table salt. Today we also refer to these as Master salts. Salt was then broken up with a knife handle or other utensil and placed into smaller, individual salt cellars, often matching the larger one in design. Since it was such a precious seasoning, only small portions were given to each person at the table. The food was either dipped into the small individual salt cellars or was scooped out with the small salt spoons and sprinkled over the food.
In the early 1930's, a process was developed which literally coats each grain of salt and keeps it from sticking together. Due to these changes in the processing of salt for consumer use, the open salt cellar and its accompanying salt spoon have become largely obsolete, having been replaced by the everyday salt shakers. They are, however, a highly collectable item and are still used today as a bit of nostalgia on many dining tables.
Meat Carving Sets: Holiday meals, with their roasted bird carcasses and looming rib roasts, are in many ways the last vestige of animal sacrifice in contemporary American life. It is little surprise then, that carving sets, too, carry heavy ritual baggage. Most often acquired as heirlooms or wedding gifts, carving sets are among the least-used tools in the house—hauled out two or three times a year for special holidays. But like Baccarat crystal and decorative gilded pine cones, carving sets are part of the theater of a big meal—props that, from time to time, inject a little spectacle into our workaday lives.