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Weird History: Sacrilegious Forks

Forks are a practical utensil that helps us to eat all kinds of different foods. So, naturally, people used to think forks were the work of the devil.

Now, let's get into some religious history. According to Smithsonian Magazine, the fork has "a checkered past"—which, let's be honest, is a great way to describe the controversies of the fork.

The fork isn't as old as other cutlery, and we all know how well humanity embraces the new or different. The fork dates back to Ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome. During this time, the fork wasn't even used for eating. It function as a cooking tool. Meats were often turned or carved using the fork.

During the 7th century nobles from the Middle East and the Byzantine Empire began to bring forks into the dining space. But Europe wasn't so quick to catch on.

Criticism of the fork by the Roman Catholic Church can be traced to 1004, when Emperor Basil II's niece, Maria Argyropoulina married Giovanni Orseolo, son of the Doge of Venice, Pietro Orseolo II. Maria was Greek and brought a set of golden forks to the marriage. Unfortunately, the Venetians were not fans. “God in his wisdom has provided man with natural forks—his fingers" declared one clergyman. "Therefore it is an insult to him to substitute artificial metal forks for them when eating.”

When Maria died abruptly, the clergy blamed her extravagance—and those forks. Tasting Table notes that Peter Damian, the monk credited with linking her use of "a certain golden instrument with two prongs" with a "vanity [that] was hateful to Almighty God" later got sainted by the church.

The fork didn't really become mainstream in Europe until the 1800s and even then it was mostly used by the wealthy who could afford solid gold and silver cutlery. It wasn't until the 1840s that silver-plated forks made the utensil more commercially accessible for the public. Since forks were no longer a mark of distinction, manufacturers began designing fancy specialty forks for the rich to covet instead. Go figure.

[Image Credit: photo by Gordon McDowell via Wikimedia Commons]

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