Original medieval trenchers consisted of nothing more than a thick slice of bread, from cutting down the loaf's length, to serve as a type of platter or plate from which to eat. By the 14th century, the bread trenchers were replaced with wood in the form of a circular, square or rectangular plate, typically constructed quickly and roughly.
Some of the first wooden trenchers, also called dough bowls were nothing more than thin slabs of square pieces of wood. A typical one had a round cavity cut out for food, with a smaller round cavity on the upper right to hold a cup. Sometimes, these trenchers were made so that the user could turn it over and use the other side for a second helping or course of food. Nowadays, people use wooden trenchers more as decor pieces, for holding fruit on a table or as a catchall on a sideboard. Some people prize wooden trenchers for antique collections. Larger versions of these are also used as sinks in rustic homes.
In the centuries that followed, as craftspeople gained more skills, wooden trenchers were replaced with platters made from pewter, earthenware, stoneware and porcelain. In later years, the wooden platters held the meat for carving. Many modern tableware settings include a similar platter for serving a chicken, turkey or other large main dinner entree.
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