Nutmeg to-go

Canister-shaped nutmeg grinders.

How I’d love to find a dusty old 19th century pocket nutmeg grinder in some antique shop.

After silverware was introduced in England’s taverns and inns in the 17th century, these precious—and deadly—items were quickly removed again. The cost was too dear; either the utensils were stolen or they could be used for violence. A 1695 edict banned English establishments from offering any silverware to their diners, except spoons. So, wealthy travelers, who couldn’t bear the idea of eating from wooden utensils, carried their own knives, forks, and spoons, as well as salt and pepper canisters—and personal nutmeg grinders, according to a great book, The English Silver Pocket Nutmeg Grater. The thimble-sized implements, which made a popular Christmas gift, came shaped like acorns, hearts, or tiny barrels, each containing a nutmeg inside.

Of course, the high cost of nutmeg, imported from Indonesia, meant that the pocket grinders weren’t popular until the late 18th century,  but by the early 19th century they were de rigeur with the upper crust and the middle class alike. What better way to transport your own personal supply of Myristica fragrans?

Heart-shaped grinders