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How Cutlery Came to Be: History of Flatware in a Nutshell

HOW CUTLERY CAME TO BE: HISTORY OF FLATWARE IN A NUTSHELL

Cutlery is such an everyday fixture in our lives that it can be easy to overlook the design and workmanship which has developed from thousands of years of culinary evolution. From eating with our hands to where we are today, choosing from a range of expertly designed and created ranges, carefully thought through to bring you the very best dining experience possible, we think its fair to say that cutlery has certainly come a long, long way through human history. But why do we put such emphasis and effort into finding those perfect eating utensils? It goes far beyond perfunctory needs.

THE EVOLUTION OF EATING

Through boundless research and discoveries of our ancestors, it is clear to historians that the first tools humans used for eating are ones that will still carry with us today: our hands.

In many cultures around the world, such as those in India, Africa and the Middle-East eating with your hands is still a part of everyday practice and there is something to be said for it. Not only is the act of scooping with fingers and thumb a natural instinct, but there are those who believe there to be some health benefit to it. There are the basics of getting a good dose of ‘finger flora’ into your mouth with each bite and also an Ayurvedic element, which ties in with ancient scriptures that reveal every finger is an extension of the five elements and that eating should be a sensory experience stimulate through fingertips.

We’re all for a bit of finger-food, but with the way that culinary skill has progressed this simply is not something that is always convenient or the most enjoyable way to experience a meal. However, we are totally on board with the Ayurvedic logic behind sensory dining, which is why it is so important that the cutlery you do use is a joy to hold.

Knives & Spoons

When cutlery did come about, it was knives and spoons that appeared long before forks. Primitive blades used as tools and weapons have been found dating back to the Paleolithic times, so this wasn’t a new idea, but using them to eat with: that was something more revolutionary. By 1000BC, iron knives had made an appearance and were being used as an instrument for eating, albeit with a less than pleasant effect on the flavour!

Spoons carved from wood, shells or bone (the word spoon actually comes from the Anglo-Saxon meaning for ‘a chip of wood’) entered onto the scene shortly after knives as food began to develop and different consistencies called for new measures. By Roman times, the design had branched into metals such as bronze, pewter and even silver, with consideration for the aesthetics being taken into account as they never had been before.

Finally Forks!

The form of a fork was nothing new, having been used ceremonially and in cooking since Ancient Egypt, but they didn’t become a fixture at dining tables across Europe until 1533 when Catherine De Medici, wife of Henry II, brought them back to France from a trip to Italy and sparked a whole new trend. However, design flaws such as two prongs instead of the now standard three or four, made these new-fangled utensils an inconvenience to use. It was in Germany in the early 1700s that forks took a leap forward in design by adding the extra tines that we are so familiar with today.

By the 1800s, almost every Western home had the full set of forks, knives and spoons gracing the dinner table, although in varying quality and design as they still are now and with many specialised cutlery pieces beginning to make an appearance too, such as our very own pastry forks, fish forks and teaspoons.


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