Almost all medieval feast foods were conveyed to the mouth by elaborate, and often elegant, finger choreography…However, both pinky fingers were extended, never touching food or gravy or sauce, reserved as spice fingers. Dipped into the salt, sweet basil, cinnamoned sugar, or ground mustard seed, then raised to the tongue, the spice fingers displayed a feaster’s digital finesse while adding another sensual pleasure: touch of food’s texture.
Some modern polite extensions of pinky fingers, serving no physical purpose, are cultural remembrances of medieval spice fingers. In fact, a medieval clerical encouragement for use of the fork was to eliminate the pleasure of touch. The fork was generally ignored until the late 16th century as a superfluous and foppish metallic intrusion between sensual food and willing mouth.
-Historian Madeleine Pelner Cosman
image: The Marriage Feast At Cana, traditionally attributed to Hieronymus Bosch