It was a long road to modern flatware. Though something similar to modern flatware developed in the Middle East by the 11th century, it took generations for modern utensils to become popular in the West.
The knife is one of the oldest and most widely used human creations. Early man used sharpened stones and bone to cut food, making this and other variations of the knife amongst man’s first tools. Even these primitive knives were decorated with feathers, jewels, and carved designs.
The word “spoon” developed from the Anglo-Saxon spon, means a splinter or chip of wood. As you may have already guessed, early spoons were carved from wood, bone, shell, stone and other materials. Spoons have been discovered in ancient Egypt, India, and both Greek and Roman cultures. Greek and Romans made spoons of bronze and silver with pointed stems that were mainly used for eating soups.
In Europe during the Middle Ages many meals were served on slices of stale bread known as “trenchers.” Only the wealthy used utensils, which was more for status more than practicality.
Spoons were highly decorated and used to show the status of a house, but the knife was far more common. Before the fork came into use in Europe, two knives were sometimes used to eat — one to hold the food and the other to cut.
Only very wealthy households provided knives for guests. It was much more common for people to carry their own cutlery with them. Even inns were not equipped with tableware, expecting the traveler to provide their own.