What culture is primarily responsible for the organization of silverware around dining plates? Has this custom been around a very long time or developed during the Middleages?
Forks were not in common usage here in the US until around 1850, or so. The wealthy sometimes had forks, but they were looked upon as somewhat of a novelty item, and the common people thought they were a fancy-schmancy way of eating. The average person made do with a spoon and knife to spear chunks of meat.
Once forks became common, the wealthy then started adding more forks to their place setting, perhaps to differentiate themselves from the “commoners” who made do with one fork for all of the dishes.
Hie thee to a library and find “The Rituals of Dinner” by Margaret Visser. More than you ever wanted to know about things related to the table, and a fun read despite that.
Interesting page on the history of silverware, and the Industrial Revolution-era advent of table settings in common use, here.
Now, there’s a phrase I never expected to read.