"Use the fork, Luke."
As concerns about public health and cleanliness have increased recently, we thought it would be important to remember one unsung hero of good hygiene and proper table manners:
In 1004 AD, the wealthy Greek princess Maria Argyropoulina arrived in Italy for her marriage to a Venetian nobleman followed by a procession of servants laden with golden gewgaws and silver showpieces. But what the people of Venice found most astonishing about this newcomer was that Maria ate her meals with a fork. At that time in Italy, as well as in the rest of Western Europe, all food was finger food, and eating utensils were unheard of. Despite the demands from her in-laws that she fork over her silverware, Maria persisted in her bizarre, Byzantine ways. During one meal, it is reported that some guests overheard her tell her young son, “Use the fork, Luke.”
Alas, unsympathetic chroniclers of the time tell us that fate launched a two-pronged attack against the princess for her decadence, as both her and her family would soon pass away from the plague. However, this wasn't cutlery's last stand. Following Maria's example, more cultured young women from Greece would arrive in Western Europe in the years to follow with forks in hand, and eventually the dining tables of the world became much cleaner places.
Of course, tines were different back then; but, unfortunately, even today there are some who still mock society's forward-thinking fork users: