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13 Things 2009

13 Things 2008

Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology

Search Brown



Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology & the Ancient World
Brown University
Box 1837 / 60 George Street
Providence, RI 02912
Telephone: (401) 863-3188
Fax: (401) 863-9423
[email protected]

After three days of documenting my fork usage, I stopped cold turkey for three days. I expected to struggle. I expected to make a fool of myself often, to go hungry. As I mention on the Forkful page, the fork seems the essential eating utensil; how would I survive without it, or at least without embarrassing myself horribly? I had decided beforehand that, rather than avoiding certain foods because of my forklessness, I would eat whatever I pleased, either using my fingers or making do with other utensils.

Day 1 went off without a hitch. I used a spoon for breakfast and fingers for all other meals.

Day 2 was more difficult. As I was assembling a delicious Ratty lunch (a wrap whose bread was not of the highest quality), I remembered thinking to myself, 'I should get a fork in case...' before remembering that, alas, I did have this option. As I'd anticipated, my wrap fell apart, and I was stuck eating slightly sticky vegetables with my fingers. It was messy; it was inconvenient. This got me to thinking: so far, I had framed the fork as an object that serves to distance oneself from one's food (reading through Forkstory, it's striking that so many earlier Europeans saw the fork as an extravagancy). Yet surely they could see its usefulness, for who wants to get food all over one's fingers? Why would we make ourselves dirty if we could avoid it? Or was this my modern bias talking?

In fact, I avoided doing this experiment over a weekend for this very reason. Eating with one's fingers, making a 'mess' is embarrassing, and I wanted to avoid having to do that at a restaurant. In a dining hall, it's okay; in a restaurant, definitely not (again, this association of the fork with refinement and politesse). See the fork & food for further discussion on our relationship to our food and how utensils, especially the fork, act as a mediator (or a barrier!) between the two.

Day 3 Again, no problems - all finger foods.

My results were, initially, less than impressive, from the fork's perspective. So I'd gone three days without using a fork and had had only one issue. Hardly noteworthy. But, when I had been recording my fork usage (see Forkful), I noticed then, too, that I didn't use forks nearly as often as I thought I did. This is not as insignificant as it might first seem, though. As I mentioned above, I was comfortable eating with my fingers in the Ratty, but certainly wouldn't be comfortable doing so at a restaurant (but it depends on the restaurant). I would argue that, not only does our fork usage depend on the setting, but our fork usage can affect the setting. This is discussed briefly at table setting.

the fork & food
table setting
the fork