With me, the answer to 'do you need it' is always yes - if the item in question is silver and I don't have it. That's not to say I always buy whatever it is . . . but, I still think I need it! I love collecting silver because it's beautiful and a joy to use. And, unlike a cashmere sweater or expensive shoes, sterling items improve with each use. Try wearing that new sweater every day for two months and see how it holds up!
The pastry fork is a basic place-setting piece. You may know it as the salad fork or dessert fork - so already we can see how useful it is, three things in one (even better than the plastic spork which is only two things and is easily snapped in half if used for ice cream . . . but, that's another post). There's another great thing about the pastry fork - it's often the prettiest piece in the regular place setting. The fork shown above is a great example. It's a pattern by Frank Whiting called 'Marquis'. The pattern was designed in 1889 - isn't that amazing? See the shape of the lower tine? It's wider to facilitate cutting. Most American silver patterns use the same fork for salad and pastry and consequently the 'cutting' tine may not be as wide as this one.
In the pattern above, which is Reed & Barton's Marlborough, both outside tines have the same shape. Isn't it lovely? The nice thing about collecting pastry forks is that they're inexpensive - you can often find sterling ones for less than $10. While silverplated pieces are even cheaper, I feel it's worth spending a bit more for sterling as it will last forever whereas the silver often wears off the tines of a plated fork and then it leaves an unpleasant metallic taste - after all, we're buying these to use! (Needless to say, eBay is a great source - the pieces above were purchased there and later resold there. If you look in the 'unknown' category under Antiques/Sterling, you'll find great deals - your best bet may be to simply search for 'fork'.)
And if you plan to create a special dessert for Valentine's Day, check out the yummy ideas from Martha Stewart. Of course - your pastry forks will be perfect with any of these!