Confess it, you’d be lost without the fork. Sure, we can manage without a spoon or a knife, but a fork is THE multi-tasker at your table -- a tool with never-ending functions on your dining table. Yet, what do we know about the fork and its history? Behind the tines, the neck and the handle, there’s a story waiting to be told.
What the fork happened: It's history & origin
Toolmaking, cooking, and technology paved the way for the early appearances of knives and spoons early in our history, but the fork remained relatively unknown for thousands of years. In the Middle Ages, with the rise of the metal industry and new sophisticated tastes of the renaissance movement did fork manage to seek out its worldwide popularity and a prominent place on our dining tables.
According to 'eatingutensils', a popular kitchenware website, the first fork, commonly used in Europe, was a miniature version of the large fork. It only had two prongs, spaced far enough apart to carry meat while cutting it, but apparently it wasn’t used while eating.
The need for efficient preparation and serving of food paved the way for forks to appear in the cooking chambers of many ancient civilizations. Some known uses of forks come from the archaeological findings in ancient Egypt, China and Greece. Also, forks carved from wood and animal bones were often created to be used as professional cooking utensils and serving tools. With the arrival of Roman Empire and its metallurgy industry, forks began to be produced from bronze and silver. Its usage as a tool for preparing and serving food continued to be practised in eastern parts of the Roman Empire, which later became the Byzantine Empire.
From the 4th century B.C., fork started to be commonly seen on the tables of Byzantine high-class and by the 9th century, it travelled to Persia where it started being used in elite circles under the name "barjyn". This kind of expansion slowly enabled the fork to become common in Eastern Europe and the Middle East, finally becoming an integral part of eating utensils by the 10th century.
The modern word for fork comes from the Latin word "furca" which suggests "pitchfork". While eastern Europe and the Middle-East enjoyed the comfort and
usability of forks for a majority of the middle ages, the rest of central and western Europe still used hands as a primary means of eating. With an abundance of metal in circulation, higher circles of the population held tradition for each male to hold one or two small pointy knives to cut meat. A knife made picking and piercing the food and carrying it from plate to mouth easy. This tradition, however, was only practised by wealthy males (who were obliged to cut the food for nearby women at the table), and the majority of the poorer population continued to eat without the help of knives or forks (wooden or metal spoons).
In 11th century Italy, as history goes, a Byzantine princess married the leader of Venice, bringing a group of gold forks with her as a part of her dowry. The princess is typically identified as either Theodora Anna Doukaina or Maria Argyropoulina. No matter which of them brought forks to Venice, it was clear that forks were met with disapproval from the religious elite, despite the fact that the Bible indicated that the servants of Jewish priests used forks when handling ritual sacrifices.
Forks continued to have a negative stigma. They were used; commonly just for sticky foods that weren't convenient to eat with the fingers. All that changed within the 16th century when Catherine de Medici, wife of King Henry II, helped popularise forks in France, alongside all kinds of other Italian things, during the Renaissance.
The fork couldn't fully realize its prime spot alongside the spoon and therefore knives, until the mid-to-late-19th century after the economic Revolution, were used widely. There are 35 types of different forks and each of them has either two, three or four tines.
Forks with four tines are admired because the first two-tined forks caused various issues with diners who accidentally impaled themselves while using them. As a result, fork makers experimented with different styles, trying out forks with as many as six tines, before deciding on four. How the fork wasn't renamed the “fourk" now remains a mystery.
Forks are important for many reasons. First, we use them to eat. Second, we use them to chop food that's soft enough, significantly reducing the quantity of your time between cutting and eating itself. Third, they’re also used for beating eggs when making an omelette, which may be a fork-approved food within the sense that you simply don't need any additional tools so as to cook and then eat an omelette.
So, what the fork are you waiting for? Appreciate the forks in your kitchen now!