Since prehistoric times, human beings have worked not only for our own preservation, but also for our advancement. Some of these advancements include the creation of many new tools that have enabled us to lead easier and more productive lives. Among many of those fascinating tools are eating utensils that help us to better prepare, serve, and consume the food we eat. Although some societies still only use their hands when eating food, others have chosen to adopt and develop instruments to make eating more convenient and less messy.
Knives are most certainly the oldest eating utensil ever made. Although no one can know for certain, the first knives were likely made from sharp stones. As such, they have historically been used in all facets of food consumption, from killing the food, to delivering it to our mouths. Stone knives (either naturally sharp or sharpened with the help of more durable stones) remained in use for a very long period of time, and started to be advanced only about five thousand years ago with the addition of simple handles made from wood or animal skin. Up until the middle of the 17th century, they were typically incredibly sharp due to their use in killing one’s food. As such, the presence of knives at a table posed a constant threat. It wasn’t uncommon for people to accidentally puncture their mouths while trying to eat their food. Eventually, eating knives were made so that they were not sharp, nor did they have a pointed tip.
Spoons also represent one of the oldest eating tools that were made in earliest eras of human history. Since warm liquids cannot be easily consumed by using bare hands, our ancestors frequently used simple bowl-shaped designs that sometimes looked very much like a modern spoon. Most notably, sea shells were connected to small wooden sticks and chips of wood were slowly transformed into spoon-like shapes. Many ancient civilizations used their own specific designs. Ancient Greeks preferred sea shells, Romans wood, and ancient Egyptian Pharaohs used elaborate golden or silver spoons that were engraved with many artistic designs, animals and symbols. With the arrival of Middle Ages in Europe, wooden and metal spoons became commonplace and since then they have become an important part of modern food culture.
The beginnings of chopsticks are ancient, and date as far back as 5,000 years ago. Originally designed as a cooking utensil, they were ideal for stirring fires and plucking noodles out of boiling water. This was much more preferable to doing it by hand, for obvious reasons. The oldest chopsticks ever found were unearthed in China, and dated back to 1200 B.C.. The first instance of chopsticks as eating tools came during the Han Dynasty (400 A.D.), when China experienced a population boom that drained resources across the continent, including food and cooking fuel. After that, the use of chopsticks slowly spread beyond the borders of China and became primary means of consuming food in the surrounding countries of Korea, Vietnam, and Japan. Pre-cut pieces of food, and the tradition of fast cooking meant that Asian people had no need to cut the food on their plates, and chopsticks remain in use today as a main eating utensil. They are made from wood, bamboo, plastic, and in some cases from metal, bone and ivory.
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