Fork Lifting, A History of the Fork

Ganoskin: In an article originally published in "Metalsmith Magazine," Fall 2000, the history of the use and development of the fork is examined. A fork's purpose is to spear and pick up food. In the fork's case, form does not always follow function because the shape of a fork has been influenced by a culture's view of manners, beauty and morality.

The author indicates that forks have been found in ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Roman temples and homes, indicating both a ritual and eating use. The Middle East has used the fork for eating since the 7th Century. And, yes, it was due to a Byzantine princess that the fork was taken out of the kitchen in Western Europe and brought to the table. She married the Doge Orseo II, of Venice, in the early 11th Century. The princess refused to eat her food with her fingers, insisting on using the fork. This shocked the Venetians and caused the church to declare it the devil's tool. It looked too much like Satin's pitchfork for pious folk. Forks would be associated with depravity for centuries because of this.

The article continues with antecdotes explaning the history and uses of the folk until present time. The research for this article was supported by a grant from the Canada Council for the Arts.