For so many Southerners, memories of sun-ripened tomato juices dripping freely down our chins kindle summertime nostalgia. Sliced and sandwiched on white bread or sprinkled with salt and pepper, we’ve long savored the humble pleasure of eating this plump fruit straight from the vine—an indulgence that would have appalled our Victorian ancestors, whose affinity for table etiquette spurred the production of specialized silverware like the tomato server.
Like many silver pieces that debuted in 19th-century America, they were designed for a single purpose with etiquette and finery in mind. Juices and seeds drain through the piercings onto a service tray before slices are ferried to dinner plates. Today, collectors appreciate tomato servers for their versatility and artistry, bringing them to tables both refined and relaxed.