Did you know…? About forks?

June 30, 2017

fork
While the knife and spoon have long been accepted as common eating utensils, the fork had a much harder time earning its place at the table. The fork’s similarity to the pitchfork, a sign of the devil, was the source of most resistance.

Imagine the astonishment then, in 1004, when Maria Argyropoulina, Greek niece of Byzantine Emperor Basil II, arrived in Venice for her marriage with a case of golden forks to use at the wedding feast. She was roundly condemned by the local clergy.

When she died of the plague two years later, Saint Peter Damian suggested that it was God’s punishment for her “forked” ways. The devil took her!

By the 1400s dining forks were appearing in Italian cookbooks, and shortly thereafter, another noble marriage influenced the public’s perception of the fork. Catherine de Medici arrived from Italy to marry the future French King Henry II, and with her she brought several dozen intricate silver forks. Wealthy French families eagerly adopted the new Italian influence. (Who knew the fork was once pop culture?)

Well into the early 1800s, forks were still considered a novelty by some, and the source of great confusion to others.

By the first World’s Fair in 1851, the fork had finally gained widespread Western acceptance as a popular eating utensil. It even had its own set of rules to help the confused or socially self conscious. Perhaps that was the point when the fork’s reputation as the ultimate symbol of etiquette issues was first forged.

So, the next time you sit down to a formal meal and feel a hint of panic at the sight of three forks, don’t sweat it! Your ancestors didn’t get it either, but in time, there’s hope for us all.

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Posted by Margaret in History of Etiquette and tagged .

 

2 Responses to Did you know…? About forks?

  1. Vinay Jain: December 13, 2010 at 3:46 pm

    That was short, simple and superb..!!I did not know this about forks..before reading this.!!
    Thanks..! 🙂

  2. Margaret: December 13, 2010 at 5:00 pm

    Thanks, Vinay! Interesting stuff — glad you enjoyed learning a little about forks!

    🙂

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