WTF Fun Fact 12886 – Forks Used To Be Seen As Sacrilegious

Who knew a fork could be seen as offensive (unless you’re using it to poke someone)? But it turns out that while forks are ancient tools, using forks used to be seen as sacrilegious by the Church.

Ancient forks

Forks have been around for millennia, but they weren’t used as dining utensils until the Middle Ages. Then, only wealthy families owned such tools.

For much of human history, people have eaten with their fingers. Depending on the time period and part of the world you were in, it was appropriate to eat with all five fingers (spoons existed and were totally acceptable for soup lovers). Later on, it was seen as polite to eat with three fingers.

Touching your food was touching God’s creation (they didn’t have Twinkies back then, which are most decidedly not God’s creation). By using a technically unnecessary utensil, it was seen as blasphemous not to touch the food you were about to ingest.

Smithsonian Magazine (cited below) found old references to the inappropriateness of forks in the Middle Ages. For example:

“In 1004, the Greek niece of the Byzantine emperor used a golden fork at her wedding feast in Venice, where she married the doge’s son. At the time most Europeans still ate with their fingers and knives, so the Greek bride’s newfangled implement was seen as sinfully decadent by local clergy. ‘God in his wisdom has provided man with natural forks—his fingers,” one of the disdainful Venetians said. “Therefore it is an insult to him to substitute artificial metal forks for them when eating.’ When the bride died of the plague a few years later, Saint Peter Damian opined that it was God’s punishment for her hateful vanity.”


From blasphemous to ridiculous

Eventually, forks became less of a religious matter and simply socially unacceptable. Royalty and nobility – particularly in Italy – often had forks. but their use of the utensils was often used to mock them.

At this time, people were still using two-pronged forks. It would take at least a hundred more years for the third and fourth prongs to be added.

It wasn’t until the early 18th century that forks became acceptable and available in England (and a few decades after that in America).

As one 1887 book of manners noted, “The fork has now become the favorite and fashionable utensil for conveying food to the mouth. First it crowded out the knife, and now in its pride it has invaded the domain of the once powerful spoon. The spoon is now pretty well subdued also, and the fork, insolent and triumphant, has become a sumptuary tyrant. The true devotee of fashion does not dare to use a spoon except to stir his tea or to eat his soup with, and meekly eats his ice-cream with a fork and pretends to like it.”

Who knew forks had such a long and sordid history?!  WTF fun facts

Source: “A History of Western Eating Utensils, From the Scandalous Fork to the Incredible Spork” — Smithsonian Magazine

WTF Fun Fact 12747 – Flamingos Eat Upside Down

Because of the way their heads and beaks are built, flamingos eat upside down. Well, at least that’s how their heads are positioned.

Flamingo beaks scoop up water in the areas where they feed. Then, that water is processed through a structure called the lamellae, which acts as a filter. It ensures that water, sand, and other less tasty things are then expelled back into the water while the marine creatures (such as shrimp and brine flies) that flamingos eat are trapped inside. (Another fun fact: this food is also what makes flamingos pink!)

Flamingo anatomy

A flamingo’s tongue is designed to push the water back out through these filtration mechanisms.

According to the San Diego Zoo, “Greater and Chilean flamingos are larger and feed mostly on invertebrates such as brine flies, shrimps, and mollusks. They get these food items from the bottom mud by wading in shallow water. Sometimes they swim to get their food and sometimes by ‘upending’ (tail feathers in the air, head underwater) like ducks.”

It all happens quite fast, but if you take a look at how a flamingo is built, you’ll see that eating upside down is really the only way.

Of course, flamingos breathe air, which means that while they’re attempting to feed, they need to hold their breath – something they can do for up to a few minutes at a time. They need to poke their heads up every now and then to get more oxygen.

Flamingos eat upside down even on a zoo diet

According to the zoo, their flamingos get a special diet with all the nutrients they need. But even in these cases, they still use the same upside down stature to take in their food:

“At the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, the flamingos are fed a special pellet diet that is made for zoo flamingos. This food has all the nutrients the flamingos need and a pigment that helps keep them “in the pink.” To allow the flamingos to eat in their normal way (taking in water and then pumping it back out), a water source just for feeding is near their food so they can get a “beakful” of water and then food—just like they would in the wild.”

Flamingo mysteries

Flamingos are interesting creatures and there are still some habits we can’t explain – such as why they sometimes stand on one foot. No one has definitively explained that behavior yet. – WTF fun facts

Source: “Flamingo” – The San Diego Zoo