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Consider the Fork: A History of How We Cook and Eat
     

Consider the Fork: A History of How We Cook and Eat

3.6 7
by Bee Wilson
 

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Since prehistory, humans have braved sharp knives, fire, and grindstones to transform raw ingredients into something delicious—or at least edible. Tools shape what we eat, but they have also transformed how we consume, and how we think about, our food. In Consider the Fork, award-winning food writer Bee Wilson provides a wonderful and witty tour of the

Overview


Since prehistory, humans have braved sharp knives, fire, and grindstones to transform raw ingredients into something delicious—or at least edible. Tools shape what we eat, but they have also transformed how we consume, and how we think about, our food. In Consider the Fork, award-winning food writer Bee Wilson provides a wonderful and witty tour of the evolution of cooking around the world, revealing the hidden history of everyday objects we often take for granted. Technology in the kitchen does not just mean the Pacojets and sous-vide of the modernist kitchen, but also the humbler tools of everyday cooking and eating: a wooden spoon and a skillet, chopsticks and forks. Blending history, science, and anthropology, Wilson reveals how our culinary tools and tricks came to be, and how their influence has shaped modern food culture. The story of how we have tamed fire and ice and wielded whisks, spoons, and graters, all for the sake of putting food in our mouths, Consider the Fork is truly a book to savor.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Reading [Consider the Fork] is like having a long dinner table discussion with a fascinating friend.... Leisurely but lively...a pure joy to read.”
Los Angeles Times

“Delightful.... [An] ebulliently written and unobtrusively learned survey.”
Harper’s Magazine

“[A] sparkling...fascinating and entertaining book.”
The Sunday Times (London)

“One part science, one part history, and a generous dash of fun.”
Good Housekeeping

“Wilson’s insouciant scholarship and companionable voice convince you she would be great fun to spend time with in the kitchen.... [She is] a congenial kitchen oracle.”
New York Times Book Review

“Fluid yet engaging, just like a good conversation over a pan of sizzling vegetables.”
New Republic

“A delightfully informative history of cooking and eating.”
ELLE Magazine

“Wilson is a good tour guide.... [A] dizzying, entertaining ride.”
Wall Street Journal

“A book to savour.... You will never look at a kitchen knife in the same way again.”
The Independent (London)

The New York Times Book Review - Dawn Drzal
Bee Wilson's supple, sometimes playful style in Consider the Fork…cleverly disguises her erudition in fields from archaeology and anthropology to food science. Only when you find yourself rattling off statistics at the dinner table will you realize how much information you've effortlessly absorbed…Her fourth book (following histories of beekeeping, food scandals and the sandwich) proves she belongs in the company of Jane Grigson, one of the grandes dames of English food writing. Like Grigson's, Wilson's insouciant scholarship and companionable voice convince you she would be great fun to spend time with in the kitchen.
The Washington Post - Bonnie S. Benwick
…[an] ambitious, blenderized treatise. The path from Stone Age flints to sous-vide machines whirs so smoothly that I found myself re-reading passages just to trace how the author managed to work in a Victorian copper batterie de cuisine along the way.
Publishers Weekly
Some of humanity’s least sung but most vital gadgets are celebrated in this delicious history of cooking technology. Food historian Wilson (Swindled) surveys eons of cookware, from the Neolithic Age’s roasting spits and revolutionary clay pots—by enabling the preparation of mushy liquid foods, they kept toothless people from starving to death—to today’s programmable refrigerators and high-tech sous-vide cookers. She deftly presents a wealth of scientific lore on everything from the thermodynamics of boiling to the metallurgical properties of knives. But she is also alive to the social context—the medieval taste for highly refined and processed foods, she notes, relied on armies of exhausted kitchen maids whose constant grinding, sifting, and chopping made them the Cuisinarts of their day—and cultural resonances of cooking customs. (She contrasts the aggressive piercing and carving of food at Western knife-and-fork meals with the gentle gathering of bite-sized morsels by chopsticks at Chinese tables.) Wilson is erudite and whip-smart, but she always grounds her exploration of technological change in the perspective of the eternal harried cook—she’s been one—struggling to put a meal on the table. This is mouthwatering history: broad in scope, rich in detail, stuffed with savory food for thought. (Oct. 9)
Kirkus Reviews
From British food writer Wilson (Sandwich: A Global History, 2010, etc.), a savory survey of kitchen implements and their impact. We normally apply the word "technology" to military and industrial equipment, writes the author, but in fact developments in those fields often carry over to the kitchen. The inventor of stainless steel was trying to improve gun barrels, and the creator of the microwave oven was working on naval radar systems. In addition, innovations in cookware can have enormous social impact: Before food was cooked in a pot, people who lost their teeth and couldn't chew literally starved to death. In the lively prose of a seasoned journalist, Wilson blends personal reminiscences with well-researched history to illustrate how the changing nature of our equipment affects what we eat and how we cook. "Knife" explores the difference between Western eaters, who cut big pieces of cooked food at the table, and the Chinese wielders of a tou, who chop up food into equal-sized pieces to be quickly cooked, saving energy in a country with limited fuel. "Fire" traces the evolution from open hearths to enclosed stoves, which brought women into the professional kitchen after centuries when their billowing skirts posed too much of a fire hazard for them to serve as cooks. In "Grind," Wilson notes that the endless labor involved in producing smooth, highly refined food wasn't an issue in a world where middle-class and wealthy Europeans had lots of servants; Wilson praises the Cuisinart as a revolutionary device "for the transformation of cooking from pain to pleasure." Although she enjoys and vividly describes time-honored, painstaking methods of cooking, she also appreciates modern conveniences. Eating utensils, refrigeration and measurement (with a bemused look at Americans' affection for measuring by volume as opposed to the much more accurate method of weighing) are among the other topics Wilson addresses in a narrative whose light tone enlivens formidable scholarship. Rarely has a book with so much information been such an entertaining read.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780465056972
Publisher:
Basic Books
Publication date:
10/08/2013
Edition description:
First Trade Paper Edition
Pages:
352
Sales rank:
184,741
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher
"Wilson is erudite and whip-smart, but she always grounds her exploration of technological change in the perspective of the eternal harried cook—-she's been one—-struggling to put a meal on the table. This is mouthwatering history: broad in scope, rich in detail, stuffed with savory food for thought." —-Publishers Weekly Starred Review

Meet the Author


Bee Wilson is a food writer, historian, and author of three books, including Swindled: The Dark History of Food Fraud, from Poisoned Candy to Counterfeit Coffee. Wilson served as the food columnist for the New Statesman for five years, and currently writes a weekly food column for The Sunday Telegraph’s Stella magazine. Wilson lives in Cambridge, England.

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Consider the Fork: A History of How We Cook and Eat 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you want a scholarly, in-depth examination of the history of cooking methods and utensils, there are probably other books out there better than this one. But if all you want is a readable briefing on the subject, this book will do the trick. The author uses a mixture of historical evidence and personal anecdotes to show us how our eating utensils came to be and how they have evolved over time. Some of the information she presents is fascinating, such as the fact that how we cut our food may actually have affected our bodies and led to the modern overbite. However, she tends to skim over the surface of most of the subjects she brings up. (I was hoping she would examine the whole topic of how and when the American or “zig-zag” method of eating developed. She does mention it, but only very briefly and without any details.) I did like how she presents everything from the perspective of the ordinary domestic cook who is just trying to put something edible on the table, even though she is obviously a gourmet chef herself. This book gave me an intriguing glimpse into the evolution of our eating tools, but left me wanting more. Note: the Nook version of this book has a lot of errors such as missing or strange punctuation and even some garbled sentences. Luckily, you can still decipher what is meant from the context.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
An enchanting read
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
DStan58DS More than 1 year ago
Enjoy food and food history? Enjoy looking at societal changes and foodways? Read this. If you're not a history buff, and are more interested in the food, skip to the food stuff. You'll still get the best parts of the book.
CalliopeMF More than 1 year ago
As a history of cooking and eating, Consider the Fork is a delight throughout. Bee Wilson wittily covers all kinds of arcane stuff about human culinary adventures through history--starting with why we learned to roast our meat way back when. Lots of fascinating details from anthropology, archeology, history, ethnology, and sociology about how and why we cook. And wonderful details about fads in cooking and kitchen equipment. (Are YOU still using your Cuisinart? How about your Romertopf?) She even points out the virtues of such commonplace tools as the whisk and the teaspoon. This book is a winner for anyone who likes to eat, likes to cook, or likes to accumulate kitchen equipment. This Christmas I'm giving a copy to each of my friends in those categories, for their delectation.
Logic2 More than 1 year ago
This story piqued my interest in the minute aspects of everyday activities in the kitchen. I'll never take my cooking "chores" for granted after reading Bee Wilson's marvelous research into cooking technology.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago