Monday, August 28, 2023

History of Eating Utensils by Donna Schlachter with Giveaway

From the beginning of time, after humans learned to heat their food to make it more palatable, the need for tools to prepare and serve the food became obvious. After all, dismembering a wildebeest required a sharp instrument, as did turning over a hunk of meat on a hot stone in a fire pit.

Originally, people used whatever they had at hand. A piece of flint for what we now know as a knife. A sharp stick as a fork. A carved rock to grind grain or hold liquid. A shell or a chip of wood might be a spoon. Interestingly, the material used depended on where you lived. The ancient Greek and Latin word for spoon was cochlea, or shell, while the Anglo-Saxon word was spon, meaning a chip of wood.

Eventually, uniformity in the tools needed created craftspeople who sharpened flint and tied them to handles made from bones or antlers, or who carved indentations in rocks to use as a pestle or bowl. Various people groups perfected the forming and firing of clay pots to cook in, to hold ingredients, and to eat off of. Spoons were easy to carve from wood, and were used not only in cooking but also as a transport device to get the food from the banana leaf to the lips.

Next came the use of softer metals, such as copper and bronze, allowed for casting of utensils such as knives, forks, spoons, ladles, and more. Pots and pans were also made of these more malleable materials, and storage of foods was made easier. Eating utensils such as forks and spoons hadn’t become popular. Instead, the two-tined fork was used primarily in cooking.

Around the eighth century BC, the Romans—those masters of invention and ingenuity, expanded available kitchen and cooking tools to include meat hooks to hang meat to smoke, or to fish it out of a pot; meat mincers, to grind the meat into a form that was more easily cooked and served to tenderize what might otherwise be a tough cut of meat; spatulas for turning food over more easily in the pan; colanders to strain out water or other unwanted fluids; and ladles for serving soups, broths, and stews.

In the Middle Ages (500 AD – 1500 AD), slotted spoons became popular, as did frying pans, pepper mills, tongs and even a waffle iron. Weighing scales, roasting forks, rolling pins, and cheese graters became essential tools in modern—at least, according to medieval definition—kitchens. During this time, wealthy families, no doubt wanting to show off their wealth, used a smaller version of the cooking fork for eating. Also around this time, these same families used spoons made of precious metals. In particular, around the 1300s, pewter became popular, making spoons affordable. Forks made an appearance after a wedding in 1004, in which the bride used a golden fork at her wedding feast. Given that most people used their fingers and knives at this point, you can imagine the stir it caused. However, local clergy considered she was trying to upstage God, who had provided us with natural forks—our fingers—and when she died a few years later of the plague, asserted her death was God’s punishment.

In modern times, beginning in the 1600s, with wealth and education expanding across Europe and now into the Americas, and with increased use of servants, more specialized tools, such as apple corers, cork screws, and, within two hundred years, can openers, appeared. By this time in history, knives were also popular, both for cooking and eating. However, in 1669, King Louis XIV of France, disgusted that diners regularly used the tips of their knives to clean their teeth (other versions of this story say it was to decrease violence at table), decreed that any knife brought to the table must have a rounded tip. In 1608, an English traveler published an account of the fork in Europe. Forks were quickly adopted in England, but the Americas were slower to catch on to the practice. By the early 1700s, in Europe, four-tined forks proved easier for scooping food for quicker consumption of meals, leaving more time for other activities.

In the United States, beginning in the 1800s, labor saving devices became common in every household. Potato peelers, jelly molds, and salad spinner proliferated, long before anybody ever dreamed of Tupperware. By this time, forks were well established in the United States.

Copper utensils, which reacted with acidic foods, declined, and other metals came into common usage, such as tinned or enamel iron, and, eventually, steel, tin, and aluminum.

In my upcoming release, Cooking Up Trouble, set in 1834, most of the emphasis is on utensils used in baking. At this time in history, the standardized measuring system hasn’t been established (that doesn't happen until the late 1890s with the Fanny Farmer Cookbook), so everybody’s version of a pinch, a measure, a cup, and other common forms of measuring ingredients was different. Recipes were often shared, with varying results. My heroine spends a lot of time not only testing the measure of ingredients, but in figuring out what the two missing ingredients in her grandmother’s walnut cake might be. You can check out the book that’s releases September 12th, but is available for pre-order, here:

Leave a comment to enter a random drawing for an ebook copy of Cooking Up Trouble once it releases.

About Cooking Up Trouble:
A shameful marriage proposal to settle a debt, and a secret calling to do women’s work land Holly and Adam as opponents in a baking contest in Chicago, 1834. Can they overcome their headstrong desire to fix their own problems, or will they submit to God’s call on their lives?

About Donna:

A hybrid author, Donna writes squeaky clean historical and contemporary suspense. She has been published more than 60 times in books; is a member of several writers groups; facilitates a critique group; teaches writing classes; ghostwrites; edits; and judges in writing contests. She loves history and research, traveling extensively for both, and is an avid oil painter. She is taking all the information she’s learned along the way about the writing and publishing process, and is coaching writers at any stage of their manuscript. Learn more at Check out her coaching group on FB: Stay connected so you learn about new releases, preorders, and presales, as well as check out featured authors, book reviews, and a little corner of peace. Plus: Receive 2 free ebooks simply for signing up for our free newsletter!



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  1. Thank you for posting today. It's strange to imagine that the concept of a fork was controversial!! And I thought the judgement on that poor bride with the gold fork was pretty harsh...

  2. thank you your post today and for the interesting information. this book sounds wonderful. quilting dash lady at comcast dot net