A contested legend

The early Renaissance period was a time of cultural bloom for Italy and so it is perhaps no surprise that it would fall to a Florentino to introduce the fork to France. However, while there is little doubt that the French nobility were greatly influenced by their Italian neighbors, there is little evidence to show Caterina was personally responsible for introducing this culinary novelty.

Some historians suggest that the French started using the fork decades earlier, after Charles VIII’s invasion of the Italian peninsula in the 1490s, and that Caterina was more likely to have promoted its acceptance in France, rather than introduce it.

Then, last year, the controversy took an unusual turn when a deputy minister of Poland claimed that it was in fact the Polish who “taught the French how to use a fork”.

What is somewhat less controversial is its origin on the European continent. With its roots either in Persia or Byzantium, the instrument is thought to have spread across the Mediterranean to the Italian trading states, before its gradual and begrudging adoption in Northern Europe.

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