We don’t often think about them until they are not there, we put them into our mouths every day, yet not many of us would know ‘from whence they came’. I am talking about our eating habits or to be more precise, the tools we use when we are eating.
The traditional knife/fork/spoon that we use today, all originated as kitchen utensils before being re-shaped and moved from BOH to FOH, all were present in the upper echelons of society (Kings & Nobleman) long before filtering down to us common folk.
The first remnant of spoons (as we know them) date back to around 1000 BC, these were ornate, made out of ivory or slate, and believed have been used for ritualistic purposes. Aside from knives spoons are believed to be the first utensils used by humans, which makes sense. They mimic the shape of a cupped hand, hold liquid & solids and are the logical answer to “I love scooping this food up, but hate using the hand that I wipe myself with to do it.”
You would have thought the knife would have been the obvious choice to have a starting spot at the table but it was actually 2nd out of the kitchen, behind the spoon, simply because we were still eating with our hands at the table and all knife work was done in the kitchen. The adaptation of the ‘kitchen knife’ to table knife was one of the trendiest movements of the times ( as close to ‘going viral’ as you could imagine at the time), from noble house to gin palace in the blink of an eye. And once we all had it, we couldn’t live without.
Believe it or not the Fork was the last utensil to reach the table. Around the 11th century (In the Western World, at least) it was viewed with fear & hostility due to its associations with the Devil and his pitchfork (the word itself comes from the Latin word “furcus,” meaning pitchfork),so the dark side of the fork took longer to banish than the devil himself. Fast-forward 400 odd years and Catherine de Medici is credited with introducing the ‘table fork’ as a utensil to the tables of Europe, bought with her from Byzantine (Turkey) on her way to Italy & France where she was to marry Henry & become Queen of France. My how things have moved on, even Wikipedia can now name 35 different types of Fork…..
No surprise that the humble Chopstick originated in the kitchen (dating back to 1500 BC), both as a stirrer for the pot & for stoking the fires. The first instance of chopsticks as eating tools came during the Han Dynasty (400 AD), when China experienced a population boom that drained resources across the continent, including food and cooking fuel. This meant eating smaller portions of everything was a harsh necessity. These tinier servings of food proved ideal for the precise, deliberate grasp of the chopstick, especially since knives were rendered obsolete by the bite-sized servings.