Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Story Of Knives And Forks...!

Believe it or not, the silverware as we know it today is fairly new on the scene.

This might be something we don't give a lot of thought to, but the history of how these utensils became a common fixture on most tables is fascinating! Here's an article I thought you might enjoy from History.com.

Of Knives and Forks
By Stephanie Butler

Chances are you only really think about eating utensils when you forget to pack them in your picnic basket. How can you possibly dole out the potato salad or slice into that wedge of Brie without the proper accessories? Back in the day, this wasn’t a problem: for centuries, people only ate with their hands. Even in the early American colonies, forks were regarded with great suspicion, and knives were few and far between, shared at the dinner table and treasured as heirlooms. So how did these classic cutlery items make their way into your silverware drawer?

When humans first began cooking their food hundreds of thousands of years ago, sharpened stones and sticks helped them break down and consume their newly hot meals. Shells and hollowed animal horns were also commonly used, leading to the early development of the spoon. But spoon technology seems to have hit an impasse in prehistoric times, and the knife became the primary eating tool. In fact, it’s possible to trace human mechanical evolution through this humble instrument, made first with stone, later with bronze and finally with iron around 1000 B.C.

In medieval Europe, knives were often elaborately carved and decorated with bone or ivory handles. Hosts couldn’t be expected to furnish such a costly piece of equipment for large groups of people, so guests had to show up with their own knives in tow. (Given that large squares of stale bread known as trenchers served as plates until the 1600s, this “BYOK” policy probably didn’t seem so uncouth.) Early table knives had sharp, pointed ends that were used to spear food and bring it to the mouth. In an era when nobles and commoners alike guzzled copious amounts of fresh ale, this practice surely led to some punctured palates. Finally, in 1637, Cardinal Richelieu of France had his knife tips ground down to blunt circles, and our modern dinner knives were born.

Forks, meanwhile, had been around since ancient Greece, but they weren’t a regular feature at Western tables until the 1500s. The Byzantine princess Theodora Anna Doukaina, who married the Venetian doge in 1075, is credited with introducing the implement to Italy. Heartily disliked at court for her decadent, pampered lifestyle, she also brought the napkin and finger bowl to her adopted land. When she died in 1083, it was said that her entire body wasted away due to excessive delicacy.

When Catherine de’ Medici wed Henri II in 1533, she brought along a set of eating forks from her native Florence. Members of the French court scoffed at what they considered a typically Italian affectation and continued to plow through their meals with hands and knives. The tool finally gained respect in 1633 when Charles I of England magnanimously declared, “It is Decent to use a Fork,” thereby ensuring clean hands and unburnt fingers for generations of future eaters.

Ya know, there are certain foods that just call out to be eaten by using the hands and fingers! Hot dogs, hamburgers, donuts are just a few that come to mind, but I'm sure there are many more! Still, it's nice to know why most table settings have a knife and fork available, even if we don't use them.

Coffee out on the patio this morning. Notice the absence of any silverware?

11 comments:

Chickenmom said...

Interesting. Never really thought about them before. I'll bring jelly donuts - they sure don't need silverware!

Rob said...

That was a really good post! I wonder if they only ate with the right hand....

texasann said...

Bubba -
And then there's the "spork" - even so, better than cutting your tongue with a knife tip, I would think. Although roasted marshmallows and hot dogs still taste pretty good when eaten off the cooking stick, huh? Been a while since I tried that - maybe time to introduce Henry to those delicacies...
Big hugs -

linda m said...

I love this story about the evolution of silverware. Ever notice how infants always use their hands to eat just about anything? Somethings just taste better when eaten without silverware. I'll bring a Kringle to go with the coffee and jelly donuts- no silverware needed to eat it either.

JO said...

Another history lesson learned here today.

So many goodies coming to the patio this morning, how will I ever hold back and watch my not so girlish figure.

Furry Bottoms said...

Im wondering also that back then they didn't invent potato salad or brie yet so they didn't have a need for those fancy silverware yet. It was mostly about pulling apart a chunk of animal and bread and dipping it in some kind of grease or broth.

Life expectancy was also MUCH lower...

SciFi Chick said...

I'd have never know this (heck I never even thought about it before) had I not come for the coffee and jelly donuts! I suppose I'll need to bring my own sea shell for the sugar in my coffee.
Thanks again for an interesting read.
Anyone need a refill while I'm up?

HermitJim said...

Hey Phyllis...
A lot of us never consider where stuff we use everyday comes from. Strange, isn't it?

I do love those jelly donuts!

Thanks for coming over today!



Hey Rob...
I'm certainly glad that you enjoyed it!

About eating with only the right hand, that I don't know.

Thanks for coming over today!



Hey Sis...
I keep some of those "sporks" in my BOB and in my backpack! Never know when you might need one!

Can't wait to hear about your trip out west. Bet you have a lot of pictures to show!

Thanks for coming over today!



Hey Linda M...
It doesn't take the little ones long to get the hand to mouth thing down pat!

Heck, now I have the urge to roast some wieners over a camp fire!

Thanks for coming by this morning!



Hey Jo...
I wouldn't worry about your girlish figure! I'll keep an eye on it for ya!

Thanks, sweetie, for dropping by today!



Hey Furry Bottoms...
I'm sure glad you could join us for coffee around the patio this morning! Don't be a stranger!

I reckon that if you are hungry enough, any thing handy will work to get the food to the mouth!

Thanks so much for coming over today. I hope you'll be a regular!



Hey Sci...
Good to see you again!

Yep, better start saving all those shells for serving the sugar!

Glad you found the post interesting this morning! Always a pleasure to have you visit!

Dizzy-Dick said...

You mean that we don't have special donut forks? Why, we must be heathens!! (grin)

HermitJim said...

Hey Dizzy...
Maybe we should invent one. Might make a fun time in doing the research and development!

Thanks for coming over this morning!

Mamahen said...

Interesting post as always .....hope I'm not too late for a donut....with or without a fork ;))