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This is really just a fun bit of household decoration trivia, but it will help you impress your friends and win at Jeopardy, so!
An epergne is simply an object used as a centerpiece on a dining table. Usually it has a slender base with a bowl or bowls coming off of it to display fruits, candies, or flowers. Traditionally made of silver they can be extremely ornate or more simple.
Epergnes first appeared in the early 1700s and in its early incarnations was really a way to serve expensive little delicacies to the whole table rather than plating them individually and risk them being wasted if the diner chose not to eat them. So people could serve themselves nuts and candies and such and the ones that weren’t taken from the epergne could be saved for later.
By the Victorian era, the style of dining had changed. In the earlier period, all of the food for the meal was set out on the table from the beginning. The Victorian’s changed to service a la russe where each course is brought in individually, so the role of the epergne changed to be a more decorative object than a real serving device.