The Merry Trio: Knife, Fork, & Spoon at Mama's Treasures Have you ever wondered about the travels of the knife, fork, and spoon through time? These ordinary table utensils offer up a fascinating history of riches, scandal, and ridicule.
News-Antique.com - Sep 27,2009 - The knife, fork, and spoon have a diverse history since arriving at the ordinary dinner table. Here are a few facts I discovered about this merry trio:
Naturally occurring sharp pieces of stone are observed to be helpful in scraping and cutting foods. When enough sharp flints are not available naturally, people begin to fashion their own cutting edges by chipping stone into the proper shape. Coastal peoples have access to an abundance of shells. A stick fastened to the shell allowed for a longer reach, or protection from steam, if a liquid were hot. The hollow horns of sheep and goats also function as vessels for liquid. Thus began the development of the spoon.
Saxon England -- 5th cent. C.E. (common era)
The scramasax, a sharp-pointed knife made of bronze or iron, with a wooden or shell handle, acts as weapon, eating utensil, and all-purpose tool for its owner, who is never without it. Food can be cut with the sharp edge (sometimes using a piece of bread to hold the piece in place) and conveyed to the mouth on the tip of the knife. The word "spoon" comes from the Anglo-Saxon spon, which means a splinter or chip of wood. Indeed, by this time, spoons are carved from wood, as well as many other materials (among them bone, shell, stone).
Most people eat with their hands off of slices of four-day old bread known as "trenchers." Only the wealthy use utensils -- and not so much because they are perceived to be necessary, as because they are impressive. Often these are highly decorative spoons made of rare stones and metals, but the utensil that is most commonly depicted at the dinner table is the knife. Among the nobility, male diners bring their personal knives to eat with and are expected to cut food for the women when necessary. In a practice leading up to the introduction of the fork, two knives are sometimes used, one to cut and the other to hold the meat still.
The Venetian Doge, Domenico Selvo, marries a Greek princess who brings to his court the practice of eating with forks. This is regarded as a scandalous and heretical affectation, and when she dies shortly thereafter it is perceived as a just divine punishment.
1364 to 1380
The reign of Charles V of France. Forks are listed in his inventory of plate, but it is specified that they are only to be used when eating foods that might otherwise stain the fingers.
Catherine de Médicis of Italy brings forks when she marries Henry II of France.
According to a French manners book, different customs have evolved in different European countries. For eating soup, Germans are known for using spoons, Italians are known for using forks (presumably the fork assists in eating solid ingredients and the remaining liquid is drunk out of the bowl as it was in the Middle Ages). The Germans and Italians provide a