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Consider the Fork: A History of How We Cook and Eatby Bee Wilson
Synopses & Reviews
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. 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.
"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." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Consider the Fork is a terrific delve into the history and modern use of kitchen tools so familiar that we take them for granted and never give them a thought. Bee Wilson places kitchen gadgets in their rich cultural context. I, for one, will never think about spoons, measuring cups, eggbeaters, or chopsticks in the same way again." Marion Nestle, Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health, New York University, and author of What to Eat
"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....Rarely has a book with so much information been such an entertaining read." Kirkus Reviews
"[A] delightfully informative history of cooking and eating from the prehistoric discovery of fire to twenty-first-century high-tech, low-temp soud-vide-style cookery." Elle Magazine
"In this culinary history, food journalist Bee Wilson shifts the focus from the foods people ate to the technology behind their preparation, tracing how humble kitchen implements such as forks, whisks, pots, and stoves shaped our diets, our societies, and our bodies. In Wilson's hands, even hot water becomes interesting." Discover Magazine
"Bee Wilson's supple, sometimes playful style in Consider the Fork, a history of the tools and techniques humans have invented to feed themselves, cleverly disguises her erudition in fields from archaeology and anthropology to food science....Wilson's insouciant scholarship and companionable voice convince you she would be great fun to spend time with in the kitchen....[Wilson is a] congenial kitchen oracle." New York Times Book Review
"Wilson is a British food writer not nearly well enough known in this country, who writes beautifully and has the academic chops to deliver what she promises....Reading the book is like having a long dinner table discussion with a fascinating friend. At one moment, she's reflecting on the development of cast-iron cookware, then she's relating the history of the Le Creuset company and the public's changing tastes in color and then she's reminiscing about her mother-in-law's favorite blue pots....The pace is leisurely but lively....It's hard to imagine even the non-geek being tempted to skim sections. Just because Wilson takes her subject seriously doesn't mean Consider the Fork isn't a pure joy to read." Los Angeles Times
"At every turn, Wilson's history of the technology of cooking and eating upends another unexamined tradition, revealing that utensils and practices now taken for granted in kitchen and at table have long and remarkable histories.... Wilson's book teems with...other delightful insights." Booklist, Starred Review
About the Author
Bee Wilson is a food writer, historian, and author of three previous books, including Swindled: The Dark History of Food Fraud, from Poisoned Candy to Counterfeit Coffee, which was named a BBC 4 Book of the Week. Wilson served as the food columnist for the New Statesman for five years, and currently writes a weekly food column for The Sunday Telegraphs Stella magazine. She was named BBC Radio's Food Writer of the year in 2002, and was a Guild of Food Writers Food Journalist of the Year in 2004, 2008, and 2009. Wilson's writing has also appeared in The Sunday Times, The Times Literary Supplement, The New Yorker, and The London Review of Books. Wilson earned her PhD from Trinity College, Cambridge and also attended the University of Pennsylvania on a Thouron Award fellowship.
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