Crooky Prongs and Little Pickey

Illustration by Zachariah Durr. Buy this drawing on Etsy here.

I’ve been doing a little research on early American taverns, and early American tavern food.  While reading Taverns & Travelers: Inns of the Early Midwest (yes, this is what I like to do in my free time) I came across a passage that made me bust out laughing in the middle of the New York Public Library reading room.  The room is giant and silent, so it was embarrassing.  But worth it.  Read on.

“Featherstonhaugh found the most primitive table service at an Arkansas tavern, operated by a lady whom he called a ‘she-Caliban.’  The colored servant, Nisby, had set the table, attempting to make the best of a poor situation.  When landlady Caliban inspected the result she raised her voice in apparent indignation, demanding where poor Nisby had placed the ‘new forks.’

‘I ha-ant put not forks nowhar,’ said Nisby in seeming desperation, ‘I never seen no forks but them as what’s on the table; thar’s Stump Handle, Crooky Prongs, Horny, Big Pewter, and Little Pickey, and that’s jist what ther is, and I expec they are all thar to speak for themselves.’  It was apparent that the dialogue about the new forks was entirely for the benefit of the guests.

Stump handle ‘consisted of one prong of an old fork’ with one end ‘stuck into a stump piece of wood.’  Crooky Prongs ‘was curled over on each side,’ and more adapted to catching codfish than for eating purposes.  Horny was a sort of imitation of a fork’ made out of cow’s horn.  Big Pewter was merely ‘the handle of a spoon with the bowl broken off.’  Little Pickey looked ‘like a cobbler’s awl fastened in a thick piece of wood.”

And don’t forget, this illustration is available on the brand new Four Pounds Flour Etsy page!

3 thoughts on “Crooky Prongs and Little Pickey

  1. That is a fantastic quote (I have a soft spot in my heart for forks). Do you have a date for the quote?

  2. What don’t you get up to, Sarah! The quote is pure magic… implements were rare then but to give them such names… the servant should have been a writer!

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