Here’s the Scoop!

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Scooping the marrow out of meat bones isn’t a common trend, at least in 21st century home cooking, but it was certainly considered a very tasty part of dining in the past. Marrow was often spread on toast or eaten directly from the bone, or often added to soups for flavor. But how does one eat the bone marrow at the table? As rules for table etiquette developed in the mid-17th century, forks appeared so that people wouldn’t be handling their food so much. But the fork wasn’t useful for extracting the marrow from bones, so the marrow spoon was developed to scoop out this delicacy.  Initially this was a rounded spoon on one end and a narrow sort of trench-like spoon on the other. Eventually the marrow spoon was reduced to the narrow scoop that could include a crest on the handle such as the ones here at the Hammond-Harwood House. These spoons were massed produced in the 17th century and became an important utensil in a silver set.

A French etiquette book printed in 1648 prescribed the required manners at table in order for people to stop handling, sucking, gnawing, or slurping on the bones. Francis Hawkins’ translation is pretty direct:

     Suck no bones, at least in such wise that one may heare it: Take them not with two hands, but with one solelly, and properly. Gnaw them not, nor teare the flesh from the bones with thy teeth, as dogs doe: but make use of thy knife, holding them with one hand, or rather with two fingers,.. Knock no bones upon thy bread, or trencher, to get out the marrow of them, but get out the marrow with a knife. To speake better,… that it is not fit to handle bones, and much lesse to mouth them.1

We have a set of six early mid-18th century bone marrow spoons that are included in our knife box in the dining room. Come see our collection—and in the event you are invited to dinner with a course of prepared marrow bones, you have the full scoop.

1Youths behaviour,: or, Decency in conversation amongst men. Composed in French by grave persons for the use and benefit of their youth. Now newly turned into English by Francis Hawkins. Translated by Francis Hawkins, 1628-1681. London: W. Wilson for W. Lee, 1646, Chapter 7.;view=fulltext

Marrow spoon, 1733-34, silver, James Wilkes. Hammond-Harwood House. Gift of Mrs. Clifford Hendrix, 1963. S45.1

Lucinda Dukes Edinberg

Curator, Hammond-Harwood House


Posted on Sep 13, 2023 in , , by Hammond-Harwood House



Hammond-Harwood House

The mission of the Hammond-Harwood House Association is to preserve and to interpret the architecturally significant Hammond-Harwood House Museum and its collection of fine and decorative arts, and to explore the diverse social history associated with its occupants, both free and enslaved, for the purposes of education and appreciation.
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