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Spice dish

Spice plate or spice dish. A dish with a deep bouge (curved area between rim and well) and a convex raised area - boss - in the center.

"Remove the court-cupboard1, look to the plate. Good thou, save me a piece of marchpane…" 
Romeo and Juliet, 1.5, 6-8., William Shakespeare, 1597

A spice dish is a special bowl or dish intended for the dessert course of a meal at a banquet. Used primarily on occasions of great display, dessert dishes were usually elaborately decorated and if made of silver, often gilded.

The banquet was a separate and expensive component of the main meal and was characterized by spectacle, entertainment, and leisurely consumption.

The dessert course was a separate and extremely expensive component of a meal, usually comprising fruit and a variety of sugar-based and spiced sweetmeats, such as honey wafers and refined sugar from Cyprus or Madeira.

Spice plates were used to contain and present delicacies like sweetmeats, exotic spices, fruit, honey wafers and refined sugar to the guests. Guests would choose, or be given, sweetmeats or fruit from the main spice plate and then they would place these delicacies onto the plain side of their decorated trenchers (flat wooden or dry bread plates).

Sometimes spice plates came in sets of 6 or 12, like a sixteenth-century silver-gilt set held in the Victoria and Albert Museum. If elaborately decorated the spice plates could have been intended for decoration only, and staging a kind of visual propaganda at a banquet, and not actually used to serve on.

This shape that is also found in Delft earthenware is called boter bord or 'butter dish' in the Netherlands where besides a large knob of butter, this specific shape could also be used for milk-puddings, savarin cakes and similar baked products served with butter or syrup sauces.


1.) Sideboard used to store domestic utensils, table linens, wine, to display expensive silverware and to serve deserts on spice plates.

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