A Conversation for Forks
Protective crosspieces and fish
Kes Started conversation Jul 5, 2000
Two thoughts on forks (not unrelated):
In defining the major components, don't forget the protective crosspiece - an optional but very useful fitment. The crosspiece (where fitted) resides between handle and tines, and protrudes orthogonal to the handle in order to prevent stuff migrating from tines to handle (and thence to the handler's hands). Crosspieces are most commonly seen on large two-tined carving forks, in which environment some have evolved rotating hinges so that the crosspiece can be folded away, or deployed when required. They are also seen on small multi-tined pickle forks, to assist those who want the pickle at the bottom of a full jar to retain clean fingers.
And so to fish ... (perhaps presciently sensing a coming article on knives).....
Prior to about 1830, fish forks had a small protective crosspiece, and also carried an indent on each side of the shaft - just above the tines. Up to this time, fish was eaten using the fork only, so the indents were needed to extract small fishbones from the edible stuff (using a stroking action). The indents are still sometimes seen on modern forks.
Enter Prince Albert, who introduced the Germanic concept of a fish knife - rounded, flat blade, with bone-removing indent near the shaft. To this day, families with "heirloom" cutlery that pre-dates the Prince will claim that it is "common" to eat fish using both fork AND knife (the real reason is, of course, that their pre-1830 cutlery set is devoid of fish-knives).
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