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To the Left of the Napkin: A Coming of Age Story

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Next time you’re setting the table, consider the history of the cutlery to the left of the napkin. (For those of you who need a table-setting refresher, we’re talking about the fork.) Slate’s article about its tumultuous history will make you feel silly for ever thinking that a fork was just a fork.

Unlike spoons and knives, forks were a latecomer to the table; they didn’t have a permanent place next to the plate until the late 18th century. There are a few reasons for this. Anti-forkism, and an “unsettling effeminate aura” (forks were seen as dainty utensils reserved for the frilliest of after-dinner confections) are among a few. To add to that, the pronged utensils underwent a bit of an image crisis upon first introduction, bearing such a close resemblance to the devil’s pitchfork. For a while there, forks couldn’t be used without an association of sinister behavior for the user.

But forks surpassed, they overcame. It’s the ultimate coming of age tale, in cutlery. They persevered. And at least as far as dinner is concerned, we’re pretty thankful they did. 

The Rise of the Fork from Slate