Brief History Of The Fork
While knives and spoons have such a venerable record that they cannot be attributed to any one place or time of origin, the introduction of the fork can be more definitely traced. The design of the fork is very ancient. Large forks are referred to as having been found in the remains of early civilization, but they were used as weapons and not for eating. The fork as a weapon is well-known to everyone because of its association with such mythological characters such as Triton and Neptune and, of course, the Devil.
The fork is also known to have been used as early as 600 A.D. in connection with viands, but it was regarded for a long time only as a useful utensil for serving them. At least that is true of forks made of metal. It seems logical to suppose that man used a one or two-pronged fork in the form of a stick to hold food over a fire. One natually wonders that the fork did not become a common utensil all through the ages.
However, we find the fork missing from the table as an implement for general use until the early 16th Century, when it suddenly appeared in Italy among a few of the members of the nobility and upper classes. It had been used for some time before that, in rare instances, for the eating of special dishes and delicacies, such as preserved pears.
Italy is given credit for the introduction of the fork by many, but it is believed that certain authorities are more nearly correct when they say that potentates who came to Italy from the center of the Byzantine Empire had the honor of showing the Italians how to use this useful article. No satisfactory records can be found of the duration or prevalence of use of the fork there, but we know that the Italians were getting many ideas from the Byzantine Empire around that time.
The fork was not taken up immediately by the common people because its use was regarded as effeminate. Forks with one, two, three and four tines (prongs) were among the very early models but the two-tined forks were perhaps more common.
A few decades after the upper classes began putting forks into general use, the other people in Italy adopted them also. It was about the same time that the use of table knives became very common, although they had found their way to the table before that. Common people in other countries accepted the fork more slowly. It was not until the 17th Century that the fork began to be used in England. The clergy even protested it as a sacrilege, in that it provided a substitute for the God-given fingers. However, the usefulness of the fork won it a permanent place at the table against all protest. It was along the lines of the natural progress for England to eventually borrow the fork from Italy, for Italy was the center of culture and refinement.
Some of the very first forks made for general use were really works of art. They were identical with modern forks, except for the fact that they had only two tines or prongs. There is not much development in design to relate. The only outstanding features are the inclusion of the fork in a set of utensils carried in a scabbard. Also a combination of a fork with a folding spoon inside.
There were some spoons made with fixed handles having a fork at the end of the handle. People who could not afford silver used forks, knives and spoons of pewter.
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