Friday, May 25, 2012

The Disappearing Fork

Green fork next to red spoon and knife
Did you ever notice this?

Let's say you buy a supply of plastic spoons, forks, and knives, 100 each, to have for impromptu picnics or special events around your house. Over time, when you want to use them you'll find that there are lots of knives and spoons, but no forks.

The same thing happens in shared kitchens, such as the one at my office. We started out with a dozen or two sets of flatware. But over a few years, all of the forks disappeared. These are metal forks, not plastic ones. There are also some boxes of plastic utensils stashed around the kitchen, but they're all knives, plus a few spoons.

One of my coworkers bought some more metal forks at a yard sale a year or so ago to add to our supply, but those have now dwindled to just a couple.

What happens to the forks? It's one of life's mysteries, along with the disappearing sock phenomenon.

But the thing I just realized about this, which amuses me most, is that the fork is a relatively recent addition to our eating toolbox. Knives, of course, go back to prehistory. Spoons started out as shells, as indicated etymologically in several languages. But forks used by individuals for eating didn't exist until about 1,500 years ago. They weren't common in Europe until the 1700s or until the 1800s in North America (source, yes, it's the Wikipedia).

Yet clearly, in the age of convenience foods and baked goods, at least, the fork is the tool we need by far the most.

According to an essay by Dennis Sherman on the Society for Creative Anachronism site,
At one time, [the] practice [of using forks] was primarily that of courtesans, prompting the Church to ban the fork as an immoral influence...

….The early forks were small, with short straight tines, and therefore probably used only for spearing and holding food, rather than scooping. The curve with which we are familiar in the modern fork was introduced in France in the seventeenth century…
So, hail the lowly fork. Nothing can replace you, especially not a spork.

1 comment:

Ms Sparrow said...

I have no problem with forks, but what the heck happens to my Tupperware and Rubbermaid containers? I swear somebody sneaks into the house and steals all my plastic containers--except Cool Whip bowls that is. I have piles of lids for which the bowl is not to be found. This has been going on for years now!