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Sun Dec 9, 2012, 12:12 PM

Religious opposition to the table fork

Back in Biblical times people ate with their fingers, typically from a shared pot. Jesus states during his Last Passover Supper that he thinks one of the Twelve disciples has betrayed him to the Romans. He only says it’s someone dipping into the pot with him, which they were all doing. In retrospect, Judas is identified and blamed.

Still today in the Arab world people eat with their fingers and share food from a common pot. This is why Arabs are so much more scrupulous than Westerners about washing their hands before they eat. It’s also why they have the convention a clean (right) hand for writing, shaking hands and eating, and the left hand for, you know, wiping. Which also increases the punishment of having a hand cut off for theft. Then what? Would you want to have someone share a meal with you, if they’ve only got one hand – for everything?

So the medieval invention of the small fork for use at the table would seem like a good idea. (Industrial-size ones for cooking had been used by the Romans and others for centuries.) But you know what religious people are like when someone wants to introduce any sort of change – “It’s not sanctioned by Scripture! It’s the work of the Devil!”

Here’s an excerpt from an interesting article,“The Uncommon Origins of the Common Fork“:

Forks for dining only started to appear in the noble courts of the Middle East and the Byzantine Empire in about the 7th century and became common among wealthy families of the regions by the 10th century. Elsewhere, including Europe, where the favored implements were the knife and the hand, the fork was conspicuously absent.

Imagine the astonishment then when in 1004 Maria Argyropoulina, Greek niece of Byzantine Emperor Basil II, showed up in Venice for her marriage to Giovanni, son of the Pietro Orseolo II, the Doge of Venice, with a case of golden forks—and then proceeded to use them at the wedding feast. They weren’t exactly a hit. She was roundly condemned by the local clergy for her decadence, with one going so far as to say, “God in His wisdom has provided man with natural forks—his fingers. Therefore it is an insult to Him to substitute artificial metal forks for them when eating.”

When Argyropoulina died of the plague two years later, Saint Peter Damian, with ill-concealed satisfaction, suggested that it was God’s punishment for her lavish ways. “Nor did she deign to touch her food with her fingers, but would command her eunuchs to cut it up into small pieces, which she would impale on a certain golden instrument with two prongs and thus carry to her mouth. . . . this woman’s vanity was hateful to Almighty God; and so, unmistakably, did He take his revenge. For He raised over her the sword of His divine justice, so that her whole body did putrefy and all her limbs began to wither.”


And still today Christian fundamentalists think that gay marriage is causing hurricanes in the US, and Muslim fundamentalists think that women’s clothing is causing earthquakes in Iran, and it’s all caused by the Devil. And do you ever see the Devil with a hurricane or an earthquake? No! (But you see him with a fork…)

http://robinhl.com/2012/12/02/religious-opposition-to-the-table-fork/

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Arrow 35 replies Author Time Post
Reply Religious opposition to the table fork (Original post)
cleanhippie Dec 2012 OP
Beartracks Dec 2012 #1
Squinch Dec 2012 #2
Liberalagogo Dec 2012 #3
cleanhippie Dec 2012 #18
ElboRuum Dec 2012 #4
elleng Dec 2012 #5
shenmue Dec 2012 #6
xxqqqzme Dec 2012 #7
Warpy Dec 2012 #13
Odin2005 Dec 2012 #33
thucythucy Dec 2012 #8
rug Dec 2012 #9
ButterflyBlood Dec 2012 #10
struggle4progress Dec 2012 #11
trotsky Dec 2012 #14
struggle4progress Dec 2012 #17
trotsky Dec 2012 #23
struggle4progress Dec 2012 #25
trotsky Dec 2012 #26
cleanhippie Dec 2012 #19
struggle4progress Dec 2012 #21
cleanhippie Dec 2012 #28
struggle4progress Dec 2012 #29
cleanhippie Dec 2012 #30
struggle4progress Dec 2012 #31
cleanhippie Dec 2012 #35
struggle4progress Dec 2012 #12
trotsky Dec 2012 #15
struggle4progress Dec 2012 #16
struggle4progress Dec 2012 #20
trotsky Dec 2012 #22
struggle4progress Dec 2012 #24
trotsky Dec 2012 #27
Odin2005 Dec 2012 #32
struggle4progress Dec 2012 #34

Response to cleanhippie (Original post)

Sun Dec 9, 2012, 02:19 PM

1. Very interesting. Reminds me of a recent link at DU....

... to a store regarding the insistence of Bryan Fischer (of the American Family Association) that not using oil is an insult to God:

http://www.democraticunderground.com/1014322273

Oh those fundies....

===========

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Response to cleanhippie (Original post)

Sun Dec 9, 2012, 02:21 PM

2. Saint Peter Damian sounds like a nasty little prig, doesn't he? On the bright side, he died of a

bad fever that lasted a week (ha ha) and was never actually cannonized. So in the end he was really just a pain in the ass with a cutlery problem.

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Response to cleanhippie (Original post)

Sun Dec 9, 2012, 02:31 PM

3. Fundamentalists

are all pretty forked up.

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Response to Liberalagogo (Reply #3)

Tue Dec 11, 2012, 01:08 PM

18. DUzy!

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Response to cleanhippie (Original post)

Sun Dec 9, 2012, 02:46 PM

4. Oh, FFS.

"God in His wisdom has provided man with natural forks—his fingers. Therefore it is an insult to Him to substitute artificial metal forks for them when eating."

Actually, fingers more or less work like chopsticks (grasping) than forks (spearing). I, for one, have never been able to spear that last wilted bit of Caesar salad with a finger, even though in the interest of full disclosure, I've not really tried in earnest, preferring to grasp should that Caesar be so delicious I couldn't let a single piece of lettuce remain.

For those worried about a descent into idiocracy, may I present for your relief and piece of mind, the 11th Century, where the force of stupid was particularly strong. Message to take away? We survived it once, we will probably do so again.

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Response to cleanhippie (Original post)

Sun Dec 9, 2012, 02:57 PM

5. And there are those who suggest NOT using oil as fuel also offends God!

Oh My, DON'T use wind or sun, just OIL!!!

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Response to cleanhippie (Original post)

Sun Dec 9, 2012, 03:04 PM

6. Now I'm hungry

Is it dinnertime yet?

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Response to cleanhippie (Original post)

Sun Dec 9, 2012, 03:10 PM

7. I lost the use of my

left hand as a result of a head injury. It takes practice, but I wash my right hand w/ my right hand quite successfully. There are more difficult tasks - tying a shoe, pulling on socks, hooking a bra in back (I cannot do that at all). Physical therapy is quite amazing

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Response to xxqqqzme (Reply #7)

Tue Dec 11, 2012, 02:43 AM

13. I was amazed at what one handed people could do

after a few weeks of rehab at the VA.

However, I agree about brassieres, they're easy to unhook with one hand but hooking them in back takes two. Front hooks are a little easier but snaps or zippers are best.

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Response to xxqqqzme (Reply #7)

Tue Dec 11, 2012, 10:28 PM

33. You would get along well with a friend of mine!

She only has full use of one limb, her left arm, because of a brain injury caused by being shaken as a toddler. She has actually complained to me about the bra thing!

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Response to cleanhippie (Original post)

Sun Dec 9, 2012, 04:04 PM

8. There's a great scene in the film "Becket"

where Becket talks about purchasing a set of forks as "the latest thing" from France. Becket says, "They're to keep your fingers from getting dirty."

Henry: "But then the fork gets dirty."

Becket: "But it's washable."

Henry: "So are your fingers. I don't see the point."

Peter O'Toole as King Henry is amazing.

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Response to cleanhippie (Original post)

Sun Dec 9, 2012, 05:01 PM

9. "I once saw a forklift lift a crate of forks.

It was way to literal for me."

- Mitch Hedberg

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Response to cleanhippie (Original post)

Sun Dec 9, 2012, 05:14 PM

10. Reminds me of the Catholic Church's opposition to birth control

The logic is kind of the same.

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Response to cleanhippie (Original post)

Sun Dec 9, 2012, 05:40 PM

11. An earlier version of this BS was debunked four years ago back on DU2

struggle4progress
Sun Jul-13-08 07:42 PM
3. The story of the Venetian Doge's wife is ... suspect:
Wikipedia, for example, relates:
Teodora Anna Dukaina Selvo .... was married to Domenico Selvo in Constantinople (1075) .... Her Byzantine extravagance included the use of a fork ... There is an account of her lavish manners written by Peter Damian, the Cardinal Bishop of Ostia, entitled "Of the Venetian Doge's wife, whose body, after her excessive delicacy, entirely rotted away"
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teodora_Anna_Dukaina_Selvo

But:
... The problems with all this are (1) Domenico Selvo, then Doge of Florence, married Teodora Doukaina (AKA Ducas) in 1075, (2) Saint Peter Damian, Cardinal Bishop of Ostia, died in 1072, and (3) the quotes do not appear to be attributable to any 11th Century source. I have also been unable to locate any Biblical prohibition against forks or locate any Medieval reference to a prohibition against forks ...
http://66.102.9.104/search?q=cache:fK2xVGnmjwEJ:www.florilegium.org/files/FOOD-UTENSILS/forks-msg.rtf+%22Peter+Damian%22+Teodora&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=14&gl=us

Damian's death date seems clear enough:
Peter Damian, Saint
Doctor of the Church, Cardinal-Bishop of Ostia, b. at Ravenna 'five years after the death of the Emperor Otto III,' 1007; d. at Faenza, Feb. 21, 1072 ...

http://oce.catholic.com/index.php?title=Peter_Damian%2C_Saint

http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=show_mesg&forum=214&topic_id=178610&mesg_id=178678


See the effin problem with the earlier version? Peter Damian is somewhat oddly claimed to be condemning something three years after his death. There's a symmetric problem with your new version:

... in 1004 Maria Argyropoulina ... showed up in Venice for her marriage to Giovanni ... When Argyropoulina died of the plague two years later, Saint Peter Damian ... suggested that it was God’s punishment for her lavish ways ...


One suspects Peter Damian (d. 1072) must have been rather young in 1006, but how young? Well, young enough not to have yet emerged emerged from his mother's womb, and possibly even young enough to have been a mere twinkle in his daddy's eyes, considering that Peter was not actually born until 1007:

St. Peter Damian
Doctor of the Church, Cardinal-Bishop of Ostia, b. at Ravenna "five years after the death of the Emperor Otto III," 1007; d. at Faenza, 21 Feb., 1072 ... http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11764a.htm

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Response to struggle4progress (Reply #11)

Tue Dec 11, 2012, 12:13 PM

14. "Some writers of the Roman Catholic Church expressly disapproved of its use...

"... seeing it as 'excessive delicacy.'"

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fork#History

With citations. While your nitpicking about specific dates in an era where just about everything has a "ca." in front of it is so laughably predcitable, I have to wonder why this bothers you so darn much to obsess over it as you do.

Early Christians had funny ideas about things. Cleanliness was a particularly odd issue for them. The fork bothered some, too. What's the big freaking deal? Does it weaken your faith to accept that?

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Response to trotsky (Reply #14)

Tue Dec 11, 2012, 01:07 PM

17. Let us follow the first Wikipedia citation (currently footnote 14) back to its source-link:

A History of the Table Fork
Dennis Sherman/Master Robyyan n'Tor d'Elandris
... A Byzantine princess introduced the table fork to Europe in the eleventh century. The story varies slightly depending on the source, but the essence is that a nobleman, probably Domenico Selvo (or Silvio), heir to the Doge of Venice, married a princess from Byzantium. This Byzantine princess brought a case of two- tined table forks to Venice as part of her luggage ... The princess apparently died before very long, of some wasting disease, prompting Peter Damian, Cardinal Bishop of Ostia to write,
"Of the Venetian Doge's wife, whose body, after her excessive delicacy, entirely rotted away" ...

http://www.maybe.org/~rodmur/sca/fork.html


Hmmm! does that look familiar? The wife of Domenico Selvo, Theodora Anna Doukaina Selvo, was married in 1075 and died in 1083. Methinks we have already been there and done that! for, if this be the most probable version of the tale, then the tale is most probably untrue, requiring some posthumous opinions from Peter Damian, dead in 1072. Perhaps then we can agree that the actual history probably does NOT involve Domenico Selvo. For the benefit of wafflers, the link does admit "the story varies slightly depending on the source" -- indeed, we have here in the OP just such a variant of it! That variant, however, suffers the unfortunate flaw that it is still probably untrue, requiring some prenatal opinions from the as yet unborn Peter Damian

So on closer examination, the story remains

A Byzantine princess (though we are not sure exactly which Byzantine princess) who had died before Peter's birth or who had first come to the West after Peter's death, so shocked Peter, either before he was born or after he had died, that he denounced her in very strong language after she die. We have no actual evidence from the time of Peter to confirm this

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Response to struggle4progress (Reply #17)

Tue Dec 11, 2012, 01:31 PM

23. I repeat, why does this bother you so much?

Early Christians had funny ideas about things. Cleanliness was a particularly odd issue for them. The fork bothered some, too. What's the big freaking deal? Does it weaken your faith to accept that?

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Response to trotsky (Reply #23)

Tue Dec 11, 2012, 01:58 PM

25. Or, y'know, you yourself might try, through internet sleuthing, to provide a more credible version

of this tale, not requiring Peter to speak up from his mother's womb or from his own tomb, to denounce events that shocked him before he was born or after he died, in which case we might all learn and profit from what you write

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Response to struggle4progress (Reply #25)

Tue Dec 11, 2012, 02:26 PM

26. I understand now.

Thanks for clarifying why this upsets you!

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Response to struggle4progress (Reply #11)

Tue Dec 11, 2012, 01:12 PM

19. Debunked? Are you saying this is fabricated, just a story, or a myth?

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Response to cleanhippie (Reply #19)

Tue Dec 11, 2012, 01:21 PM

21. Peter Damian (b. 1007) could not have been sufficiently shocked, by woman's wedding in 1004, to have

bitterly denounced her upon her unfortunate death in 1006

Similarly, Peter Damian (d. 1072) could not have been sufficiently shocked, by woman's wedding in 1075, to have bitterly denounced her upon her unfortunate death in 1083

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Response to struggle4progress (Reply #21)

Tue Dec 11, 2012, 03:30 PM

28. Are you saying this is fabricated or a myth?

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Response to cleanhippie (Reply #28)

Tue Dec 11, 2012, 05:30 PM

29. YMMV

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Response to struggle4progress (Reply #29)

Tue Dec 11, 2012, 05:38 PM

30. It's your statement. Just trying to clarify what you said.

Are you saying that this is just a myth? A yes or no will suffice.

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Response to cleanhippie (Reply #30)

Tue Dec 11, 2012, 06:06 PM

31. OK. What I mean is that when this story first appeared on DU2 four years ago,

I pointed out that it seemed to involve the idea that Peter Damian had, a few years before being born, become so outraged at a woman's alleged extravagance that when she died he felt it appropriate to denounce her, even though he was still not yet born; and that your version of the story seems to involve the idea that Peter Damian had, a few years after dying, become so outraged at a woman's alleged extravagance that when she died he felt it appropriate to denounce her, even though he was still dead

I trust that clarifies matters

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Response to struggle4progress (Reply #31)

Tue Dec 11, 2012, 10:44 PM

35. What does thathave to do with forks and religion?

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Response to cleanhippie (Original post)

Mon Dec 10, 2012, 11:00 PM

12. Lot number: 1487. A collection English medieval knives and English medieval forks, with horn, metal

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Response to struggle4progress (Reply #12)

Tue Dec 11, 2012, 12:18 PM

15. The 15th century came a little bit after the 11th century.

A few hundred years, I think. Just an FYI.

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Response to trotsky (Reply #15)


Response to trotsky (Reply #15)

Tue Dec 11, 2012, 01:18 PM

20. Following the link in the OP back, leads to this webpage:

http://leitesculinaria.com/1157/writings-the-uncommon-origins-of-the-common-fork.html

The claims in the text excerpted in the OP originate at that webpage. That webpage claims:

... While forks were becoming more common on the continent, it took a brave English traveler to bring them across the channel. Thomas Coryate traveled extensively throughout France, Italy, Switzerland and Germany in 1608 and published an account of his journey after his return to England ...


So according to the cited source of the "facts" in the OP, the fork was unknown in England before the early 17th century. Note that the 17th century came a little bit after the 15th century. Unless Coryate traveled in time as well as in space, we now have another problem with the source of the claims. In fact, the problem is worse than this: forks were actually known in the Anglo-Saxon era, under the Anglo-Saxon name awel

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Response to struggle4progress (Reply #20)

Tue Dec 11, 2012, 01:23 PM

22. So you're calling Thomas Coryate a liar?

My, you truly are a man who knows all! You even know more about life centuries ago than people who actually lived then!

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Response to trotsky (Reply #22)

Tue Dec 11, 2012, 01:32 PM

24. Here:

... his friends called him Furcifer ...
http://leitesculinaria.com/1157/writings-the-uncommon-origins-of-the-common-fork.html

furcifer <genitive furciferī>; m, second declension
yoke-bearer (a term of abuse, usually of slaves)
rascal, scoundrel, rogue
http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/furcifer

... Coryat (sometimes also spelled "Coryate" or "Coriat") conceived of the 1,975-mile (3,175 km) voyage to Venice and back in order to write the subsequent travelogue dedicated to Henry, Prince of Wales, at whose court he was regarded as somewhat of a buffoon and jester ... A custom of Renaissance humanists was to contribute commendatory verses that would preface the works of their friends. In the case of this book, a playful inversion of this habit led to a poetic collection that firstly refused to take the author seriously; and then took on a life of its own. Prince Henry as Coryat's patron controlled the situation; and willy-nilly Coryat had to accept the publication with his book of some crudely or ingeniously false panegyrics. Coryat, therefore, was jokingly mocked by a panel of contemporary wits and poets of his acquaintance. At the behest of the teenage prince, a series of verses was commissioned, of which 55 were finally included for publication ...
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coryat's_Crudities

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Response to struggle4progress (Reply #24)

Tue Dec 11, 2012, 02:30 PM

27. Of course what Coryat noted was not that the fork was unknown to the English...

but the manner in which the Italians used it to eat was "not used in any other country that I saw in my travels."

The whole point of this thread was not Christian opposition to the fork as an instrument in itself, but as an eating utensil. Of course someone who is SOOOOOO attentive to detail couldn't have missed that, right? Because that would make all your rants here look pretty darn foolish!

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Response to cleanhippie (Original post)

Tue Dec 11, 2012, 10:25 PM

32. Reminds me of how the Amish reject buttons on clothing.

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Response to Odin2005 (Reply #32)

Tue Dec 11, 2012, 10:34 PM

34. Since when do the Amish not use buttons?

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