When I’ve been in Asian restaurants (pre-pandemic, of course) and seen people using chopsticks with great dexterity…
I confess to more than a twinge of envy.
I have never managed to master chopsticks.
When I try to use them I’m as likely to get a chopstick in my nose as any food in my mouth.
I do just fine with a fork, but chopsticks…not so much.
Chopsticks have been around for a long time.
Forks…not so much.
Estimates place the use of chopsticks as eating utensils at around 5,000 years ago in China, and spreading to Japan, Vietnam and Korea by 500 AD.
Forks were in use for eating by the fourth century in the Eastern Roman Empire, but didn’t become common in Europe – specifically, Italy – until the 14th century.
And then a forking scandal ensued. “Shocking!” exclaimed some. “Unmanly,” sneered others. And the Catholic Church disapproved of forks, seeing it as “excessive delicacy.”
Most of Europe didn’t adopt the fork until the 1700s, which begs the question:
Without forks, how did medieval Europeans transfer the food from their plates – to their mouths?
Very sharp knives.
The process was simple: Poke, tear, stab or spear a piece of food from the plate with your knife, transfer the food to your mouth. Chew, swallow, repeat.
I probably would have sliced my nose trying to get the food in my mouth.
When you were a guest in someone’s home, you did a BYO – bring your own knife. Then, if you were attacked by a ne’er-do-well on your way home, you’d use the same knife to defend yourself.
As I said – sharp.
As I said – slice my nose.
So – in terms of table utensils, at least – I’m glad I don’t live in the Middle Ages.
I’ll stick to my trusty fork, yes, even in Chinese (or Japanese, Korean or Vietnamese) restaurants. I’ll be the one mumbling to the waitperson, “Can I have a fork, please?” while my fellow diners display their “Why did we invite her?” looks.
Better that, than a chopstick in my nose.
Today there are many types of forks – in one article I counted 35, including one for ice cream.
Then there’s perhaps the most famous fork of all, thanks to Yogi Berra, who famously said: