Enlarge Image Credit: Michael Kraus
For centuries, the toothpick has been used for precisely what its name suggests, as well as for spearing morsels of food. But it was only in the late 1800s, with the rise of the club sandwich—whose tiers of chicken, tomato, bacon, and lettuce called for something besides mayonnaise to hold them together—that it was applied to sandwiches. Plain wooden toothpicks often went unnoticed—to the detriment of the unwary diner. "The frilled toothpick was probably invented to alert the eater that there was a toothpick holding the sandwich together," says Henry Petroski, author of The Toothpick: Technology and Culture (Alfred A. Knopf, 2007). So that colorful cellophane frill is functional, as well as pretty.