For thousands of years and even now in certain cutlures, the natural eating instruments were the fingers. Forks were adopted much later than the spoon and the knife. In fact, in comparison they are newcomers.
First Appearance of the Furca
There are signs of similar object in China, Egypt, and during Roman times. The silver or bronze ‘furca”, from Latin “pitch fork” were used mostly for cooking and its used depended on tradition and social classes. are found all over Europe in museums. The first official recorded use of a fork dates to 400 AD in Constantinople.
The Byzantine Fork and the Papal Ban
As the centuries went Roman traditions were kept by the surviving Eastern Roman Empire. By the year 700s forks were still used but mostly for cooking. Forks as an eating tool made it to Italy in the 1004 through marriage. In 1075 the Venetian doge married a byzantine princess named Theodora who travelled to Venice with a large dowry containing, among other things, golden forks. The Catholic church when they saw this “horrible” tool forbade its use as it was an affront to God. God had given us fingers to eat, not using them was considered a sin. “God in his wisdom has provided man with natural forks—his fingers. Therefore it is an insult to him to substitute artificial metal forks for them when eating”. As a consequence, forks were not be seen again for another 300 years in Europe but by the 1400s they start to appear again in Italian households.
Italy, France, England and Wide Adoption
Even in England the fork did not have much success as it was considered too feminine of an object and an “unmanly Italian affectation”. They did however pick up in distribution during the 15th and 16th century. Catherine de Medici upon marrying the French King Henry II brought with her some forks, the French court did not really accept its use for another 200 years. The French found them awkward and dangerous. Who knows who wants to stab you during dinner! It was really a newly found desire for cleanliness in Italy during the renaissance that made this almost unused tool a more common utensils. Also inn England it started being accepted and in 1633 Charles I declared “It is decent to use a fork!”, thus opening the door to wide adoption.
References to know more:
A Short History of the Fork – The Art of the Table (foodreference.com)
Of Knives and Forks – HISTORY
Fork – Wikipedia
Origins of the Common Fork | Leite’s Culinaria