Dining Etiquette, ForksWhy Do We Have So Many Forks?

Do you remember the etiquette scene from the classic, romantic movie “Pretty Woman?” Basically, Julia Roberts gets a crash course in fine dining etiquette before going out to dinner with Richard Gere. She is trying to learn which forks go with which dishes. It certainly can be a little confusing at times.

Did you know that people didn’t actually use forks right away? The fork actually dates back to ancient Egypt, Rome and Greece, but they were used more for carving tools rather than actual dining.  In the 16th century, Italy became one of the first countries to adopt forks as eating utensils along with Spain. France was next, but it took them another century. In 1669, King Louis XIV was the first person to offer guests a place setting of knives, forks, and spoons. By the late nineteenth century, factories were making utensils in large quantities at affordable prices. Each utensil came with its own little instruction manual. It is important to know that each fork was created and designed for a reason. Salad and appetizer forks are smaller to control the small food items, while the entrée fork is more substantial to help maneuver meats. There are actually more than 35 different types of forks. Each fork has seven different parts which include the points, slots, tines, roots, back, neck and the handle.  But how do you know what they are all used for while dining?

Which Forks Go With Which Course?

Forks, knives and spoons are placed in the order of use; from the outside in.  Forks go to the left of the plate, and knives and spoons go to the right. However, the oyster fork is the only fork placed to the right of the setting if it will be used.

The first fork you may be using is the salad fork. It will be the furthest fork out on the left side of the plate.  The salad fork is a four-pronged fork. If the salad is served after the main course, this fork will be placed closer to the left side of the plate.

The next fork will be the fish fork. This fork can have three or four tines. The left tine will be slightly larger than the others, with a notch for removing bones.

Then there is the meat or dinner fork. This fork is usually the largest fork on the table. It has four prongs of equal length and it is used for the main course.

Escargot, Dining EttiquetteThe dessert fork is a smaller fork, usually smaller than the salad fork. The dessert fork can have three or four tines. The left tine will be larger than the other tines. This is done so you can use it to cut through your pastry using the fork. This fork is usually placed above the plate.

A very important fork, especially here in New Orleans, is the Oyster fork. This type of fork is also called a seafood or cocktail fork. It is a very narrow fork with three tines which is placed on the right side of the plate. It is used for handling shellfish.

Julia Roberts managed the dinner just fine after her crash course; however, she did have a minor  mishap with the escargot tongs. The escargot appetizer in the movie came in the shell. If you decide to order escargot at Desi Vega’s Seafood and Prime Steaks, don’t worry, ours are served without the shell.

In the end, use the best utensil for the job; knowing it could very well be your own fingers.