Apparently, even though I dined with Lords, Ladies and an odd Baroness or two when I lived in the UK, it escaped me that using fish knives and forks is just not done. The House of Beauty and Culture is trying to make me see the error of my ways, but I am not to be shifted and neither is Aesthete's Lament.
Apparently this is rather well-known, as evidenced by this give and take in the Telegraph earlier this month. I thought this comment was hysterical: I have gone so far as to accept subsequent invitations from a couple who actually provided me with an object called a "fish knife" with which to cut up some salmon. I hope I am not boasting too much when I report that I think I successfully concealed my shock and bewilderment from my hosts.
While poking around antique and junque stores, I would find the random French Ivory-handled knife and snap it up. I loved the way the old handles looked and the way they felt in my hand. French Ivory is a synthetic ivory, similar to Bakelite. Most of the pieces I found were marked EPSN, which is electro-plated silvered nickle.
Once I moved to the UK, I found sets of this lovely cutlery everywhere, sometimes for as little as 50p a piece. Some of the sets were in their original boxes and were quite elaborately chased, like the top picture, and others were quite plain, like the pieces on the plaid blanket. I generally bought what I could find and sold it at a handsome profit on ebay.
When I got ready to move back, I realized that I still had about 40 pieces and just shipped it home. I use it as my everyday silver (that noise you hear is House freaking out!). It's quite simple and elegant... but apparently, it's also quite Non-U, as my mother and House say. Oh well!