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A cruet, (pronounced [ˈkru.ɪt]), is a small flat-bottomed vessel with a narrow neck. Cruets often have an integral lip or spout, and may also have a handle. Unlike a small carafe, a cruet has a stopper or lid. Cruets are normally made from glass, ceramic, or stainless steel.
Cruets today typically serve a culinary function, holding liquid condiments such as olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Cruets also serve as decanters for lemon juice, garlic juice, and other fine gourmet oils. They are also used for the serving of the wine and water in a Catholic setting.
The English word cruet originates with the Old French crue, "earthen pot"Some speculate that the early use of cruets was ecclesiastical — there is for example Biblical use of a "cruse of oil," a jug or jar to hold liquid (I Kings 17:16). A few cruets dating from the Medieval ages still exist today. Its culinary use however was first introduced in the late 17th century. Cardinal Mazarin had a pair of salad cruets on his dining table at his home in France, one for olive oil and the other for vinegar. The use of oil and vinegar cruets rapidly spread throughout Italy, where oil and vinegar were already in frequent use. Oil and vinegar cruets are common on Italian tables to this day.
Cruets range from nominal decanters to the highly decorative cut crystal. Some cruets are unusual, and can either be intended to be ornamental or functional.
During some Christian religious ceremonies, cruets are used to keep wine and water for Eucharist. These cruets are usually made of glass, though sometimes they are made of precious metals such as gold or silver. Typically each cruet will also be paired with a phoedelia (commonly referred to as a 'stopper'), often shaped as a cross, which protects the contents. Cruets specifically intended for religious ceremonies come in pairs: one to contain water, often marked A for Aqua, and one to contain wine , V for Vinum. (These two liquids are mixed during the ceremony.)