Definitions

sucket fork

Fork

[fawrk]

As a piece of cutlery or kitchenware, a fork is a tool consisting of a handle with several narrow tines (usually two, three or four) on one end. The fork, as an eating utensil, was a feature primarily of the West, whereas in East Asia chopsticks were more prevalent. Today, however, forks are increasingly available throughout East Asia as well.

The utensil (usually metal) is used to lift food to the mouth or to hold food in place while cooking or cutting it. Food can be lifted either by spearing it on the tines, or by collecting it on top of the tines, and holding it atop the tines horizontally. To allow for this spoon-like use, the tines are often curved slightly upward.

History

The word fork is derived from the Latin furca, meaning "pitchfork". Although the Greeks used the fork as an apparent serving utensil, and it is also mentioned in the Hebrew Bible, in the Book of I Samuel 2:13 ("The custom of the priests with the people was that when any man offered sacrifice, the priest’s servant came, while the flesh was boiling, with a fork of three teeth in his hand..."), it was not commonly used in Western Europe until the 10th century.

Forks had been used in ancient China long before chopsticks, and bone forks had been found in the burial site of Qijia culture, as well as later Chinese dynasties' tombs.

Before the fork was introduced, Westerners were reliant on the spoon and knife as the only eating utensils. Thus, people would largely eat food with their hands, calling for a common spoon when required. Members of the aristocracy would sometimes be accustomed to manners considered more proper and hold two knives at meals and use them both to cut and transfer food to the mouth, using the spoon for soups and broth.

The earliest forks usually had only two tines, but those with numerous tines caught on quickly. The tines on these implements were straight, meaning the fork could only be used for spearing food and not for scooping it. The fork allowed meat to be easily held in place while being cut. The fork also allowed one to spike a piece of meat and shake off any undesired excess of sauce or liquid before consuming it. First introduced to Western Europe in the 10th century by Theophanu, Byzantine wife of Emperor Otto II, the table fork had, by the 11th century, made its way to Italy. In Italy, it became quite popular by the 14th century, being commonly used for eating by merchant and upper classes by 1600. It was proper for a guest to arrive with his own fork and spoon enclosed in a box called a cadena; this usage was introduced to the French court with Catherine de' Medici's entourage. Long after the personal table fork had become commonplace in France, at the supper celebrating the marriage of the duc de Chartres to Louis XIV's natural daughter in 1692, the seating was described in the court memoirs of Saint-Simon:"King James having his Queen on his right hand and the King on his left, and each with their cadenas." In Perrault's contemporaneous fairy tale of La Belle au bois dormant (1697), each of the fairies invited for the christening is presented with a splendid "Fork Holder"

The fork's arrival in northern Europe was more difficult. Its use was first described in English by Thomas Coryat in a volume of writings on his Italian travels (1611), but for many years it was viewed as an unmanly Italian affectation. Some writers of the Roman Catholic Church expressly disapproved of its use, seeing it as "excessive delicacy": "God in his wisdom has provided man with natural forks — his fingers. Therefore it is an insult to Him to substitute artificial metallic forks for them when eating. It was not until the 18th century that the fork became commonly used in Great Britain. It was around this time that the curved fork used today was developed in Germany. The standard four-tine design became current in the early nineteenth century.

The 20th century also saw the emergence of the "spork", a utensil that is half fork and half spoon. With this new "fork-spoon", only one piece of cutlery is needed when eating (so long as no knife is required). The back of the spork is shaped like a spoon and can scoop food while the front has shortened tines like a fork, allowing spearing of food, making it convenient and easy to use. It has found popularity in fast food and military settings.

Types of forks

  • Beef fork

A fork used for picking up very thin slices of meat. This fork is shaped like a regular fork, but it is slightly bigger and the tines are curved outward. The curves are used for piercing the thin sliced beef.

  • Berry fork
  • Carving fork

A two-pronged fork used to hold meat steady while it is being carved. They are often sold with carving knives or slicers as part of a carving set.

  • Cheese fork
  • Chip fork

A two-pronged disposable fork, usually made out of sterile wood (though increasingly of plastic), specifically designed for the eating of chips, used predominantly in the United Kingdom, and to a lesser extent all over the world.

  • Cold meat fork
  • Crab fork

A short, sharp and narrow three-pronged or two-pronged fork designed to easily extract meat when consuming cooked crab.

  • Dessert fork (or Pudding fork in Great Britain)

Any of several different special types of forks designed to eat desserts, such as a pastry fork. They usually have only three tines and are smaller than standard dinner forks.

  • Dinner fork
  • Fish fork
  • Fondue fork

A narrow fork, usually having two tines, long shaft and an insulating handle, typically of wood, for dipping bread into a pot containing sauce

A utensil combining characteristics of a knife and a fork

  • Meat fork
  • Olive fork
  • Oyster fork
  • Pastry fork
  • Pickle fork

A long handled fork used for extracting pickles from a jar

A utensil combining characteristics of a spoon and a fork

  • Tea fork
  • Toasting fork

A fork, usually having two tines, very long metal shaft and sometimes an insulating handle, for toasting food over coals or an open flame

See also

References

  • A history of the evolution of fork design can be found in: Henry Petroski, The Evolution of Useful things (1992); ISBN 0-679-74039-2

External links

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