See also: Eating Utensils; Spoons; Knives
Spain and Italy were the first countries to adopt the fork as a utensil to be used at the table to eat with rather than just a serving utensil. This was in the 16th century. It would be a hundred years before the French decided to use the fork at table.
It is against the law to eat chicken with a fork in Gainesville, Georgia, the 'Chicken Capital of the World.'
In the 11th century the Christian Church was opposed to the use of forks. So much so, that when a Byzantine princess who used a 2 tined gold fork died from the plague, her death was called "a just punishment from God."
In the U.S. forks did not become popular until the 19th century, when the Rockefellers, Morgans and Carnegies popularized them.
Jenniver Drapkin, Smithsonian (5/2006)
I was once told that the notched tine in the salad fork was to pierce a cherry tomato so that it did not explode when you put it in your mouth. is this correct?
ANSWER: In the late 19th century, refrigerated railroad cars made salad vegetables more abundant, and available for most of the year. The salad fork originally featured curved claw-shaped tines and was known as a 'lettuce fork.' To provide leverage when cutting thick veins of lettuce or broad vegetables served in salad, the salad fork is made with an extrawide left tine that is sometimes grooved. This is the 'notched tine' that you refer to in your email. It was not developed to prevent cherry tomatoes from exploding.
(For additional strength, the second and third tines of the salad fork are also occasionally connected by a rod.)
(Some facts are from 'The Art of the Table')
Why is it traditional to make fork marks on Peanut Butter Cookies?
ANSWER: Most recipes for peanut butter cookies call the the dough to be mixed with a fork, and made into balls that are then flattened with the fork.
My guess is that the practice just evolved from the nature of the dough, and that the easiest way to make the cookies was to roll the dough into balls and flatten the balls with the fork, leaving fork marks. The criss-cross would follow because it is a little creative and artistic.
Also, consider that peanut allergies are fairly common, and the distinctive markings make peanut butter cookies easily identifiable, giving further reason for the tradition to be continued.