Reviews — From the January 2013 issue

The Tines They Are A-changin’

A history of table technology

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Discussed in this essay:

Consider the Fork: A History of How We Cook and Eat, by Bee Wilson. Basic Books. 352 pages. $26.99. basicbooks.com.

The fork is worth considering. It’s considered a billion times a day as a tool for delivering food to face. Some of that considering flows from practical uncertainties about how to use the thing. If you’re British or European, you grip the fork in your left hand, index finger on the back and convex surface upwards. You then secure a piece of meat on the tines as you cut with the knife held in your right hand. You can stabilize the cut-up meat with some smooshed vegetables at the distal end, and, finally, tines pointing down, use the left hand to convey the whole package to the mouth. If you’re American, you do things differently. The securing-and-cutting business is much the same, but you then perform a zigzag maneuver, putting the knife down and shifting the fork to your right hand. If there’s just meat on the end, the usual practice is to bring it to the mouth convex surface up, but if there are veggies involved, it’s common to use the concave surface to scoop them, spoon style. (Peas are a problem and the cause of much anxiety, and the only certainty is that they’re a fork affair. You don’t line them up on your knife or spear them one by one on the tip, though the temptation to do so comes from the fact that the fork isn’t well suited to dealing with peas.)

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  • RobNYNY1957

    That’s “less than one hundred years old.” You’re being Strunk & White hypercorrective.

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