EATING   UTENSILS – Dr Dawn Gould

The culture of using eating utensils is an interesting one. Perhaps not one to which we give much attention to as to how knives, spoons and forks eventually reached our tables.

Food is a basic activity with human fingers being the oldest natural eating tool whereas a knife, when used for eating purposes, has to be considered the oldest made utensil. Going back a very long way in time sharpened stones were probably the earliest materials used for knives until the bronze age when metal became the next material mainly for personal defense or war purposes.  The later use of iron attracted the attention of the wealthy class who then began ordering knives with lavishly designed patterns on the handles.

Early spoons made of bones, shells, stone or wood were accepted as a useful eating item. In time spoons were made in different sizes to be used for different foods:  soup, sweet dishes and later the smaller teaspoon.  However,when the fork made its appearance it was not met with great interest. Still by the 17century it became obvious that the fork was a useful article – it could hold food steady while the knife did the cutting, making it easier to transfer food from plate to mouth. Over time forks continued to change – some were produced with two tines in England and others with four tines were preferred in Germany.

In China and across Asia chopsticks were popular and are still in use.

Nothing ever stays the same and in the 1920’s the usage of stainless steel produced items that were easy to make and to maintain while in the late 20th century plastic made an impact  with its easy throw away appearance.

In effect eating utensils followed the changing movement of the human beings lifestyle.