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For a long time, European diners brought personal knives to the table. Eating with a strange utensil was as unthinkable as using another’s toothbrush.
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The specially made, decorated knife was housed in a sheath and worn on belt or girdle. It was kept honed, ready for slicing bread, spearing meat and defending one’s honor.
In 1637, Cardinal Richelieu was at a formal dinner when he saw a guest use the sharp tip of a double-edged knife to pick his teeth.
Appalled, the adviser to King Louis XIII ordered that all his own knives be ground down and rounded off -- creating the version still in use today. It became the rage, and in 1669 Louis XIV made it illegal for French cutlers to forge pointed dinner knives.
I spoke with Bee Wilson, author of “Consider the Fork: A History of How We Cook and Eat,” on the following topics:
2. Knife: Tooth Aide
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(Lewis Lapham is the founder of Lapham’s Quarterly and the former editor of Harper’s magazine. He hosts “The World in Time” interview series for Bloomberg News.)
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