St. Supéry Life

Once Upon a Time

I grew up in a town where as a child we played among the ruins of a castle built in the year 1100. I believe this is where my interest in history started…

This month I would like to share with you some historical facts on the main utensils we use today on our tables.

The Fork:
Kitchen forks trace their origins back to the time of the Greeks. These forks were fairly large with two tines that aided in the carving and serving of meat.

By the 7th Century, royal courts of the Middle East began to use forks at the table for dining. In the 11th Century a Byzantine wife of a Doge of Venice brought forks to Italy, but it was not until the 16th century that forks were widely adopted in Italy.

In 1533, forks were brought from Italy to France when Catherine de Medicis married the future King of France Henry II

The Knife:
Because hosts did not provide cutlery for their guests during the middle ages in Europe, most people carried their own knives, These knives were narrow and their sharply pointed ends were used to spear food and then raise into one’s mouth. Once forks began to gain popular acceptance, pointed knives were no longer needed at the table. The story goes that the Cardinal de Richelieu in 1669, irritated by the gentlemen picking their teeth at the table with their knives, had his cutler ground down all the knives.

Interestingly, this birth of blunt-tipped knives in Europe had a lasting effect on American dining etiquette. At the beginning of the 18th Century, very few forks were being imported to America. However, knives were being imported and their tips became progressively blunter. Because Americans had very few forks and no longer had sharp-tipped knives, they had to use spoons in lieu of forks. They would use the spoon to steady food as they cut, and then switch the spoon to the opposite hand in order to scoop up food to eat. This distinctly American style of eating continued even after forks became common place in The United States.

The spoon:
The Greek and Latin words for spoon are derived from cochlea, meaning a spiral- shaped snail shell. This suggests that shells were commonly used as spoons in Southern Europe. The Anglo-Saxon word spoon means a chip or splinter of wood, material widely use to make the spoons in Northern Europe.

By the 1st Century, the Romans designed two types of spoons:

A Ligula, used for soups and soft foods. It had a pointed oval bowl and a handle ending in a decorative design.

A Cochleare, used for eating shellfish and eggs. It was small with a round bowl and a pointed, slender handle.

During the middle Ages, spoons were generally made out of wood or horn and were supplied by dinner hosts. Royalty often had spoons made of gold, wealthy families had silver spoons. Around the 14th Century, spoons made out of tinned iron, brass, pewter and other metals became common.