Cyprus Hospitality served on a fork
Travelling is about relaxing, enjoying life, getting to know new countries, meeting different people and learning about new cultures. In Cyprus, quite commonly, you might also make new friends. Follow the Heartland of Legends route and mingle with the locals and you might get invited to a Cypriot home. The hospitality of the locals is warm and welcoming. You will be offered something to eat and drink and it is essential that you accept these treats so that you do not offend your host. The simplest treats might be a Cyprus coffee and a local sweet (a preserved fruit in syrup). The coffee will be presented in an elegant small cup with its matching plate accompanied with a glass of water. The sweet will be usually placed on a small transparent glass plate with a silver two-pronged fork (protsoua).
The silver, two-pronged forks (protsoues) are usually true masterpieces of Cypriot silversmithing. The fork, although quite important in our everyday life, is a “late-comer” on the tables of Europe. It seems that it was introduced to the European court by two Byzantine princesses: Empress Theophano who, in 972 A.D. married Otto the second Emperor of Saxony and Theodora Anna Dukaina who in 1075 A.D. married the Doge of Venice Domenico Selvo. The Byzantine elite introduced it to Persia as well, but it wasn’t until the 18th and 19th centuries that it was really incorporated into the households worldwide. The reason is that because of its shape, European societies considered it to be a devil’s apparatus since it reminded them of Satan’s pitchfork.
Nevertheless, it became an important household item, which inspired silversmiths to unfold their decorative talents. No Cypriot lady can imagine not having at least a six-piece set of silver two-pronged forks to use when welcoming her guests with a traditional sweet. They come in a variety of designs and silversmiths often use filigree (trifourenia), a pattern created from thin silver wire, to decorate them. The silver two-pronged fork sets sometimes come with a matching stand. The stands often have the shape of a thickly woven silver basket with incisions for the forks to hang from. Usually these baskets carry 12 forks and you can’t but marvel their stunning craftsmanship. They were an integral part of a young girl’s dowry that she brought into her new household. They elevated the richness of the dowry. Today, it is a lavish household item to treat special guests. So, if you are welcomed in a Cypriot home with a sweet served on a filigree two-pronged fork then you should feel special.