If you live in Europe or America, you may pick up the fork every day without thinking about it.
Using it may be as natural as breathing.
Knives and spoons are ancient.
But we only eat with forks for a few centuries.
The fork is a latecomer.
The knife is the offspring of the sharp hand axe-the oldest tool of mankind.
The earliest spoons probably came from any local object used to scoop liquids: the word
spoon in Latin and Greek comes from a snail shell, and the Anglo-Saxon word spon means chip.
The shape of the fork is much longer than the cutlery.
In ancient Greece, Poseidon wielded a trident, while mortals used large fork tools to remove
food from a boiling pot.
But the fork has no place on the Greek table, where people use spoons, knifes and hands.
Sporadically, the fork made inroads.
In the eighth or ninth century, some Persian nobility may have used a forklike tool.
In the 11th century, the Byzantine Empire began to use forks.
Although Damian’s condemnation is extremely harsh (this is also a man who described
the first grammarist as the devil), people are generally skeptical and even completely hostile.
In the historical overview of tableware in Feeding Desire (the catalogue of tableware
exhibition in 2005), Sarah Coffin speculates that the image problem of the fork may be
related to its similarity to the devil's pitchfork (its name is derived from this word).
In the Middle Ages, most people ate a kind of stale bread called trenchers.
This kind of bread can hold cooked meat and vegetables and can be delivered directly
to the mouth; knives and spoons can handle anything else that their hands cannot handle.
Fox traveled from Byzantium to Italy and arrived in France with Catherine de Medici.
Catherine de Medici traveled from Italy to France in 1533 to marry Henry II.
In the 16th century, French political culture was torn apart by sectarian violence.
As the mother of two kings, Catherine used large public festivals to showcase the power
of the monarchy.
Food is part of this wonder strategy.
In the 1560s, Catherine’s diet and a variety of foods such as artichokes and ice cream
were showcased when she traveled the country for more than a year.
She won the support of the people and formulated a plan to force members of rival
factions to be forced to Eat together at her dining table.
At this time, most forks were two-pronged, either hefty enough to hold down a cut
of meat (similar to the carving fork we think of today) or very delicate, and they are
mainly used to eat sweets at the end.
Forks were used occasionally, but not every day.
Montaigne, writing in the 1570s in a passage about the force of habit, mentions forks
but says he rarely uses them.
And they were still associated with sinister behavior.
In Henry III's time, people with forks would be wealthy, and most of them would carry
a set of utensils with them; there are many examples of forks and knives in suitcases,
which can be hung on the shoulders or waist.
It was not until the late 1600s and early 1700s that people began to buy multiple sets
of silverware for their homes, and these tableware had just begun to be equipped with
rooms dedicated to dining.
It was also at this time that forks with three and four tines were manufactured.
Even if the fork has made progress, it has not been universally accepted.
As Ferdinand Braudel pointed out in The Structure of Everyday Life, around the beginning
of the 18th century, Louis XIV prohibited his children from eating with forks that their
mentors encouraged them to use.
But by the middle of this century, the use of forks has become normal enough that those
who use forks incorrectly will be condemned.
By the beginning of the 19th century, the fork was firmly established on the French table
and beyond, and the table had become a center of social life not just for the aristocracy,
but for the newly established bourgeoisie.
In 1825, a judge named Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin published The Physiology of
Taste: Or Mediations on Transcendental Gastronomy, and in it he paints a portrait of a world
increasingly preoccupied with the culture of dining.
In addition to penning aphorisms including “a dinner without cheese is like a beautiful
woman with only one eye,” he distinguished between eating to satisfy a need and eating
as a social activity: “The pleasure of eating is one we share with animals; it depends solely
on hunger and what is needed to satisfy it.
The pleasures of the table are known only to the human race; they depend on careful
preparations for the serving of the meal, on the choice of place, and on the thoughtful
assembling of guests.”
For the contemporary eater, Brillat-Savarin's words might come to mind when looking
at some flatware patterns from the late 18th or early 19th centuries.
Most utensils before the 18th century were made of silver—the metal that reacts the least
with food—but silver is rare.
The invention of silver-plating techniques, accompanied by the vigorous expansion of
the consumer market, resulted in scores of forks for eaters of all classes and in scores of
different fork types: oyster forks, lobster forks, salad forks, terrapin forks, berry forks,
lettuce forks, sardine forks, pickle forks, fish forks, and pastry forks—just to name a few.
Once the fork became a daily staple, it was pushed as a fashion service like many other
household items in the 20th century.
In the early 20th century, designers such as Henry van der Velde, Charles Mackintosh
and Josef Hoffman designed forks, windows, chairs and lights for their buildings in order
to make Gesamtkunstwerk (a work of overall art).
There were tight-fitting Italian forks in the 1930s, colorful bakelite forks in the 1940s,
architect-designed forks with three tines in the 1950s and five tines in the 1970s, neon plastic
forks in the 1980s, postmodern forks in the 1990s , And in the 2000s, sci-fi forks and quirky forks.
Even artists like Alexander Calder have joined the trend.
So, maybe it would be interesting to think about the future of utensils.