Why Did It Take So Long for the Fork to Become Popular?

In medieval Europe, forks were considered immoral, as they were associated with the Devil’s pitchfork.
In medieval Europe, forks were considered immoral, as they were associated with the Devil’s pitchfork.

Every day, possibly three times or more, you sit at a table with something that was once considered the work of the Devil. That supposedly satanic item is the fork, the simple four-tined utensil that now seems harmful only to the food on your plate. In the Middle Ages, however, the fork was shunned as an unholy instrument because it resembled the Devil's pitchfork. In fact, the word "fork" comes from the Latin word furca, which means pitchfork.

For hundreds of years, everyone from Alexander the Great to Queen Elizabeth I dined either with their hands, or maybe a knife and spoon. The fork, originally a two-pronged utensil, eventually made inroads here and there, such as among lovers of candied fruits in Italy. In fact, in the 15th century, Italy became one of the first nations to accept the fork as a common dining utensil.

The rest of Europe slowly followed, as did the addition of more tines to the fork. By the 18th century, the fork was common throughout Europe, but it took the American Revolution to eventually bring the fork to common use the United States.

Fun fork facts:

  • Archaeologists have uncovered fork-like items made from bone that date to 2,400 BC.

  • Sucket forks are utensils with a spoon on one end and a two- or three-pronged fork on the other.

  • Gainesville, Georgia, has an ordinance against eating fried chicken with a fork.

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    • In medieval Europe, forks were considered immoral, as they were associated with the Devil’s pitchfork.
      In medieval Europe, forks were considered immoral, as they were associated with the Devil’s pitchfork.