Is this a finger bowl? It is about 2 inches in diameter and 2 inches high. It was in my mother’s china cabinet for as long as I can remember, and then after my parents passed I brought it out to my house. My memory is that my mother called it a finger bowl.
The reason that I’m asking is because I decided to do a post on finger bowls, and I pulled out this old “finger bowl” illustrate the post. I then looked at Ebay to try to find similar bowls to determine its approximate age. I was shocked to discover that most finger bowls on Ebay were about 4 1/2 or 5 inches in diameter – and suddenly realized that the small glass bowl that I have may not be a finger bowl.
Let me step back a bit further, and share what I originally planned to post. I found information on finger bowls in two home economics textbooks that were a hundred years old. The first book contained a drawing of finger bowls and said:
If fruit needs to be pared or cut at the table a silver knife should be provided, and finger bowls should be used. It is well to use paper napkins instead of linen when fresh fruits are prepared at the table, for fruit juice stains are sometimes difficult to remove.
Household Arts for Home and School (Vol. II) (1920) by Anna M. Cooley and Wilhelmina H. Spohr
Hmm. . . I can’t tell for sure, but the finger bowl in the drawing looks larger than mine.
The second hundred-year-old home economics textbook said:
Use of Finger Bowls
Finger bowls are used after the fruit course of breakfast, and at the end of a luncheon or dinner. They should be placed on plates with a doily between the plate and the finger bowl.
For breakfast, the finger bowls and plates may be brought in first. The finger bowl and doily should be removed to the left so that the same plates may be used for the fruit course.
For formal luncheon or dinner, finger bowls on doilies and plates are brought in, one at a time, when removing the main dish of the dessert. The finger bowls and doilies are then set aside and the plate used for bonbons and nuts, which are passed on a tray. Or, if desired, the finger bowls may be brought after the bonbons. In this case the finger bowl and plate are exchanged for the plate of the dessert course. An informal way is to pass finger bowls on plates and doilies before the dessert course. Then the finger bowl and doily are set aside as at breakfast and the dessert served on the same plate.
School and Home Cooking (1920) by Carlotta C. Greer
Some days I guess that I’m just destined to have more questions than answers. I still don’t know whether I own a finger bowl – and I’m now wondering whether people actually ended meals with two desserts a hundred years ago – a “main” dessert and a secondary dessert (bonbons, nuts).