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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/859

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THE HISTORY OF THE FORK.

court of Byzantium and thence extended to the West. Some hundreds of years had still to pass before it could be domiciliated in Europe, for this Byzantine doge's wife lived in the eleventh century, while the fashion of eating with forks did not become general till the seventeenth century.

It was the duty of the waiters to deposit the meats with large, broad carving-knives upon the plate, from which the guest took it and broke it up with his fingers, and with them conveyed it to his mouth. The nails were also sometimes called into requisition, if we may credit the verses which read—

"Ongle, riche et précieux;
Ongle qui tranche, quand tu veux;
Ongle qui en lieu de forcettes
À la belle sert de pincettes."

[Nail, rich and precious;
Nail, that cuts when you will;
Nail, which, in place of forks,
For the fair dame plays at tongs.]

Meat, when not cut with the carving-knife, was taken up in the fingers. It was the rule with respect to other viands for which the hand had to be put into the dish, to take them always from the same side, so that each guest might have his particular spot to pick from. A polite man should pick meat neatly with three fingers, and should take care in conveying it to his mouth not to touch his nose with it ("Ne touche pas ton nez ci main nue, dont la viande est tenue"). Erasmus, of Rotterdam, who was versed in good manners, said in 1539: "Take what is offered you in three fingers, or present your plate to receive it. There are people who can hardly wait till they have sat down before putting their hand into the dish; one must receive on his plate whatever he can not take out with his fingers." Monsignor della Casa, Bishop of Benevento, wrote in 1544 a kind of manual of etiquette entitled "Galatea," which was published in a French translation by Jean de Tournayin 1598. Among other things it directs: "One ought not to wash his hands before everybody, but in his room, not in society. Nevertheless, when one is sitting at table, he should wash his hands in the presence of the others, even if it is not necessary, so that those with whom he puts his hand into the dish may know that it is clean. A well-bred man," continues this author, "will avoid greasing his fingers, lest he soil the table-cloth, which would be disagreeable to those who witnessed it. It is also not proper to wipe the fingers with the bread which one is about to eat." The practice of some persons, of eating only with gloved hands, does not seem strange in the light of these facts.

As has already been remarked, the change from fingers to forks began to be made at about the end of the sixteenth and the begin-