Spoons and knives date further back, the use of forks is said to date back to the 1100th century…
My dinner guests expect a fork for their maincourse, they expect a fork for their salad and it better be the right size. My customers they want a fork for their cake and that is what our restaurant provides.
FORK, SPOON & KNIFE
On first sight I was sure these three eating utensils had been inseparable as a trio since the day when they had been invented. My logic was that people needed a knife to cut their food into portions. Don’t we all want bite-size pieces? To cook over a fire, to handle hot potatoes and other vegetables and to pin food on a plate while cutting the same one always needed a fork. Oh yes, spoons were necessary to hold and carry liquids to the mouth.
But than I found out that only the knives and the spoons date back to the beginning of civilization. The dinner fork was only introduced to the table setting in Europe in the seventeenth century and it was two pronged. Before this, forks were solely used as cooking tools and by the servants who filleted and carved meat in the kitchen or in front of the diners.
The fork is said to have been used as an aid in eating in Byzantium much earlier. Forks as eating tools were introduced in Greece by 1100 AD and from there the use of these eating utensils traveled to Italy, France and finally Great Britain around 1500. It was not till the late 1500s under Queen Elizabeth I, that a few well-to-do people carried a case fitted with a small pointed metal knife, a round spoon and a two-pronged fork. Back then the diner provided his own eating utensils. Each set was handcrafted, each piece was a one of a kind expensive utensil.
It all changed drastically in the early 1800s when the Industrial Revolution produced stamped silverware. This process was much easier and quicker than the hand hammering of each particular piece of flatware. Soon the market was flooded with mass produced eating utensils, various patterns became available. In the early 1900s a set of flatware was said to belong into every bride’s hope chest. Today we are used to seeing many types of forks and spoons and knifes, made in huge quantities from a wide variety of materials including plastic, stainless steel and exotic alloys.
Now, realizing that there had been no machine pressed forks available two thousand and more years ago, I wonder how the upper-class of intelligent civilizations like the Mayas or Incas and the Pharaohs in Egypt ate their daily dinner without dinner forks.
And how did the Romans carry food to their mouths? Or were they all handfed by their servants? I do not know the answer. On the other hand I have to acknowledge the fact that still today millions of people do not use forks as eating utensil on their dinner table. In wide parts of Africa or the Arab countries spoon and knife proof to be sufficient. In the Asian countries chopsticks are the preferred eating tools. And closer to home looking at much of the American fast food; Hamburgers, hot dogs, tacos and you name it, with them too more or less clean hands will do just fine. So why did whoever it was, introduce the fork to the dinner table and why in the seventeenth century?
It is a mystery to me. And once more do I realize how little control I have over the existing rules; nevertheless where I work, here in California, dinner guests expect a fork for their maincourse, they expect a fork for their salad and it better be the right size. My customers they want a fork for their cake and that is what our restaurant provides. It is my job to make sure the silver is properly polished and laid out on the table according to standards set.