The history of the fork, curiosities and typologies

Sitting at the table for breakfast, lunch or dinner we do it every day as something natural, just like using the spoon , knife and fork , but do we ever notice these utensils?

The knife comes from afar, from so far that it could be traced back to those tools that the oldest humans already developed in caves to be able to cut from food to wood. The spoon, meanwhile, has been with us since approximately 3,000 BC. But what about the fork? The fork, although we see him as an equal to his table companions, is actually a young man who has just arrived .

Because although we certainly find utensils of similar shapes in antiquity, starting with the Bronze Age, classical Greece or the Roman Empire, with functions of center or carving, the fork as such, the one that accompanies us when it comes to eating to prod or hold food doesn’t come until much later.

It is believed that in the eighth and ninth centuries the wealthiest classes had sporadically used utensils of a certain similarity, but the most widespread story about their origins places it in Constantinople, in the so-called century of the crusades, the eleventh century . Until then, putting food in the mouth was synonymous with taking it with the hands, but the Byzantine princess Teodora Ana Ducaina, daughter of the Emperor Constantino X Ducas, refused to touch the food with her hands and had a contraption made that would allow her to do so without let your fingers come into contact with the food.

An original fork was then invented, a utensil equipped with a pair of prongs that was called a skewer and was made of gold. The delicate princess was happy with that tool that allowed her to feed herself without having to get dirty, but the invention did not receive the approval of Byzantine society and was even described as “diabolical” by the Benedictine cardinal Saint Peter Damian .

A few years later, thanks to the marriage of Teodora with the Doge of Venice at that time, Domenico Selvo, the tool arrived in Europe, but the fame of excessively refined that His Highness had and the rupture that meant to stop using the hands they did not become popular among his contemporaries in the old continent.

It would take a few more centuries until in the 16th century, at the hands of Catherine de Medici after her union with King Henry II of France, the fork began its true expansion . He was still considered too refined, but those closest to the crown gave him a chance.

Two centuries later, in the seventeenth century, the instrument that completely banished the custom of handling food with the hands took another step, beginning its normalization in France and timidly in the Iberian Peninsula, and being in complete common use in Italy, a place from the jump to the British Isles by the hand of the traveler Thomas Coyt. “Many Americans use a skewer to avoid touching food, to eat spaghetti, meat … It is not refined to eat with your hands, because they say that not all people have clean hands ,” he came to collect in one of his diaries, although the English were not convinced by an invention that a priori they saw as not very virile.

But it would not be until the eighteenth century that almost all Europe made a hole in the table to place the fork next to the spoon and the knife, just the time when the curved fork that we use today would be developed in Germany. . Although, yes, the four prongs would take another century to arrive.

Spain also adopted it at that time, although there were references to carvers in the fourteenth century, an instrument that was given the same function called a drill, also at the same time, and the occasional use of forks practically like the current ones by of the monarchs Carlos V and Felipe III. There is no doubt that the fork, therefore, is a newcomer .

Fork types

And once the story is known, let’s get to know the forks a little more. We have said that they originally had two quills, then they increased one and later, relatively recently, they reached the four common ones that they have today. But in that case we are talking about the table fork, the most standard and versatile, the one that all cutlery includes, but as with spoons and knives, there are more types and we are going to discover them .

  • Fish fork : Less curved than the table one, significantly wider and designed as its name suggests to eat fish, this fork is more than a classic for any banquet.
  • Meat fork : With the classic shape of a table fork, slightly larger and with the teeth slightly curved outwards, it is used when consuming meat thanks to the better handling of the food provided by its size and design.
  • Carving fork : Extremely similar to some old forks, with an identical shape to the classic carving forks but adapted to its use with one hand, this carving with two long tines, a wide central space and a small handle is used to carve large pieces of meat in a more comfortable way.
  • Salad fork : Wide-scooped and with tiny tines, it might look like a serrated spoon on the end. It is used as an auxiliary to the salad spoon when serving this preparation.
  • Oyster fork : Much stronger than most forks, this utensil generally has three teeth, it is usually shorter than those for table, fish or meat and is used to taste oysters with total comfort.
  • Snail fork : With a size smaller than that of a traditional fork, it has two long and specially curved teeth to be able to extract this mollusk so appreciated in traditional cuisine from its shell.
  • Fondue fork : With a length that can reach almost a foot, this fork generally with a handle covered in some plastic material is used to dip pieces of bread comfortably in the pot where a fondue is made .
  • Dessert fork : Like the table fork , but smaller and usually made with one less pick, it has no edge on its teeth and is located next to the glasses, parallel to the edge of the table. It serves, as its name suggests, to eat desserts such as cakes or pastries. 

And in addition to all of them, others are currently used such as asparagus, barbecue, cocktail, ice cream or toasting, with inventions such as the spork , which combines a fork and spoon in the same instrument, or the spaghetti fork, which rotates on itself thanks to a central axis.

Due to variety and uses, despite having reached the table a few hundred years ago, it will not remain 

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