(Venetian cutlery of the 16th century)
Here is an interesting little piece written by the Elizabethan traveller Thomas Coryat of the use of the fork in 1590s Italy…..
“Here I will mention a thing…that is not used in any other country that I saw in my travels, neither doe I thinke that any other nation of Christendome doth use it, but only Italy. The Italian and also most strangers that are commorant in Italy, doe always at their meales use a little forke when they cut their meat. For while with their knife which they hold in one hand they cut the meate out of the dish, they fasten their forke which they hold in their other hand upon the same dish, so that whatsoever he be that sitting in the company of any others at meate, should unadvisedly touch the dish of meate with his fingers from which all the table doe cut, he will give occasion of offence unto the company, as having transgressed the lawes of good manners, in so much that for his error he shall at the least be brow-beaten, if not reprehended in wordes. This form of feeding I understand is generally used in all places in Italy…The reason of this their curiosity is, because the Italian cannot by any means indure to have his dish touched with fingers, seeing all mens fingers are not alike cleane. Hereupon I thought my selfe good to imitate the fashion by this forked cutting of meate, not only while I was in Italy, but also in Germany, and oftentimes in England since I came home…”