Saturday, October 8, 2016

Consider the Fork Review

Consider the Fork by Bee Wilson

(from the book jacket)
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 food.  Technology in the kitchen does not just mean the Pacojets and sous-vide of the modernist kitchen.  It can also mean the humbler tools of everyday cooking and eating: a wooden spoon and a skillet, chopsticks and forks.

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.  Knives – perhaps our most important gastronomic tool – predate the discovery of fire, whereas the fork endured centuries of ridicule before gaining widespread acceptance; pots and pans have been around for millennia, while plates are a relatively recent invention.  Many once-new technologies have become essential elements of any well-stocked kitchen – mortars and pestles, serrated knives, stainless steel pots, refrigerators.  Others have proved only passing fancies, or were supplanted by better technologies; one would be hard pressed now to find a water-powered egg whisk, a magnet-operated spit roaster, a cider owl, or a turnspit dog.  Although many tools have disappeared from the modern kitchen, they have left us with traditions, tastes, and even physical characteristics that we would never have possessed otherwise.

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.

I like to read books about food, cooking and culinary science but this one is different from the others I’ve read.  This one focuses on the tools used to cook and eat the food.  Each chapter deals with a different technology; knife, grind, measure, eat, etc.  It’s interesting to see how the way food is cooked and eaten changes the culture of a people, and in some cases the people themselves.  It talks about how location made a difference in how people cooked and ate.  It goes into how as the cooking methods changed so did the diet of the people using it.  It shows why some things have endured the test of time while others have been lost to history.  There is science, history and anthropology all here.  I like all those things, and when you add the food angle it pushes this book over the top for me.  So I really enjoyed reading this one.  Wilson has an easy writing style that makes it a quick, engaging read.  You learn a lot without it feeling like you are reading a text book because there is a good balance between explanation and story.  And that makes this good for everyone regardless of previous knowledge.  It is a very approachable book for anyone who ever wondered how the fork came about or when knives lost the sharp edge and became butter knives.  There are a lot of questions answered that I hadn’t even thought to ask.  And it is a new look at a lot of things we find in our kitchen that we take for granted.

Weekend Cooking is sponsored by Beth Fish Reads. Be sure to check out the other posts here.


Vicki said...

I would love this book! I'm a sponge for interesting facts. Especially if it's about food or kitchen products.

jama said...

Sounds interesting. Will look for it at the library. :)

Mae Travels said...

I agree with you that it's an unusual and very readable book and that Wilson is a very approachable author. When I reviewed it a couple of years ago, I concluded: "I particularly liked Wilson's awareness in the book of the differences among various social classes when it came to cooking and kitchen equipment. She quotes a great comment from Laura Ingalls Wilder -- 'The rich get their ice in the summer, but the poor get theirs in the winter.'" -- my review is here:

Carole said...

Fun read. Have a great week. Cheers from Carole's Chatter

Beth F said...

Sounds like a great book -- I love this kind of information too. I'll have to see if my library has it.

(Diane) bookchickdi said...

This does sound like an informative, interesting book.