Feastware, Medieval, Medieval Knives, Medieval Utensils -

Medieval Utensils – Knives, Spoons, and Forks

 Feasting Utensils

A knife was the wallet of the Medieval Age. Pretty much everyone carried one, irrespective of gender or age. It was an extension of the person, used to cut rope and meat and do other tasks. For instance, if you were invited to a meal, the host would not bring out sparkling cutlery. You had to have your knife on you, especially to dig into the meat. Also, the knife came in handy to ward off animals and robbers. You can say knives were not “domesticated” for meal-time use until the Bourbon Dynasty in France, when the sharper versions were replaced by blunter, wider ones. (A wise move we’d say – putting a sharp knife in your mouth when under the influence of fine Tavern ale is, well, not smart?).

Knife aficionados may take umbrage but the spoons can lay claim to be the oldest utensil in history. Of course, to begin with there was no upscale silver or gold spoon. Seashells and scalloped stones worked just fine. Archaeological evidence shows spoon with handles to have existed in Egypt as early as 1000 BC. However, most of these were decorative in nature and made of material such as ivory, flint, and slate. Wooden spoons were used for eating purposes. During the time of the Greek and Roman empires, silver and bronze spoons were common among the rich, a trend that continued into the medieval period. The first documented evidence of spoons in England was the 13th century when, as in Egypt, they were more ceremonial than of kitchen use.

The fork is the last addition to the cutlery family. There is evidence of the use of forks in Ancient Egypt and Ancient China. One of the earliest recorded evidence of forks in medieval Europe was in Venice, if one is to believe the 11th-century story of the wedding of a Byzantine princess, Maria Argyropoulina to Giovanni, son of Venice’s magistrate. The princess offered gold forks as part of her dowry. The religious Venetians were highly affronted; after all, a fork is redundant when God has already provided the human anatomy with natural forks, fingers! (Blasphemous? Well, the princess did die of plague a few years later.) It was not until the 17th century that the fork was accepted in the kitchen table, mostly to hold down roast when cutting it; fingers still did the job for eating. It was only during the Industrialization period that superstition gave way to practicality and lower and middle classes began to regularly use forks.

 


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