Ever wonder how your common utensils came to be? That was the question that was brought up by my brother over lunch today . Since I sometimes write about the history of food, why had I never written about the history of utensils, he had wondered. Where did forks, knives spoons and even that modern invention , the spork come from.
The spoon is the earliest invention. It's name drives from the Anglo Saxon spon meaning chip or splinter. It gives you an idea that the earliest ones were taken from tree bark and somehow fashioned into scoops. The Romans had two kinds of spoons, one a cochleare for eggs and shell fish, the other,a ligula for soups and sweets. Forks were a bit trickier to sell to the public. People were using their fingers just fine and thought that any imitation of body was an insult to the Creator. After all we had been made in His Image. Despite the fact that the clergy deemed forks scandalous , they prevailed and were often seen at the end of dinner knives. The spork , the marriage of fork and spoon, came in 1909 in a supply catalog.It wasn't until KFC used it in their meals in the 1970's when it really gained popularity.
Luckily knives were seen as blessings, used for both killing one's dinner and cutting it up into pieces. It was Louis XIV that decreed that all sharp knives be outlawed from the dinner table and the birth of the butter knife came into being. The American colonists loved this idea and quickly incorporated it into their table ware. Of course with the birth of the steak house , sharp knives were seen at tables once more.
So that's where our basic utensils came from. To be honest you never really think of them as being nothing more than a utensil as opposed to being an object of history. Now it's fascinating to know who used the earlier versions of them and where.