When Was the Fork Invented?
The earliest forks weren’t forks like we know them today, though. They were mainly two-pronged tools used to cook meats and serve foods. When it came to eating food, people still mainly used their fingers instead of forks like we have today. That changed slowly over time. Archeologists have found evidence of table forks being used in both ancient Egypt and China.
The fork’s path to becoming a mainstay at the dinner table was not an easy one. Historians believe it made its way into Europe via Venice, Italy in the 11th century. As the story goes, a Byzantine princess married the leader of Venice, bringing a set of gold forks with her as part of her dowry.
The common people of Venice, and especially the religious leaders of the day, did not appreciate the princess, thinking her to be haughty and pretentious. Her forks were supposedly seen as an affront to God, who gave us perfectly-good fingers to eat with.
The princess is usually identified as either Theodora Anna Doukaina or Maria Argyropoulina. Regardless of which princess had the audacity to bring forks to Venice, it was clear that the forks were met with disapproval from the religious elite, despite the fact that the Bible indicated that the servants of Jewish priests used forks when handling ritual sacrifices.
Forks continued to have a negative stigma attached to them. When they were used, it was usually only for sticky foods that weren’t convenient to eat with the fingers. All that changed in the 16th century when Catherine de Medici, wife of King Henry II, helped to popularize the fork in France, along with all sorts of other Italian things, during the Renaissance.
The fork would not fully realize its prime spot alongside the spoon and the knife until the mid-to late-19th century after the Industrial Revolution was in full swing. At that time, common people could finally afford full sets of utensils that included knives, spoons, and — yes! — forks!