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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

Hardback

By (author) Bee Wilson

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  • Publisher: BASIC BOOKS
  • Format: Hardback | 352 pages
  • Dimensions: 156mm x 235mm x 30mm | 571g
  • Publication date: 9 October 2012
  • Publication City/Country: New York
  • ISBN 10: 046502176X
  • ISBN 13: 9780465021765
  • Illustrations note: B&W illustrations throughout
  • Sales rank: 126,929

Product description

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.

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Author information

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. She has been named BBC Radio's Food Writer of the Year and is a three-time Guild of Food Writers' Food Journalist of the Year. 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. She holds a Ph.D. from Trinity College, Cambridge, and lives in Cambridge, England.

Review quote

New York Times Book Review "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." The New Yorker "Full of intriguing scholarship... Wilson remains engaging, and nowhere as deeply or as smoothly as in Consider the Fork, where the information she has to juggle is at once gastronomic, cultural, economic, and scientific... Everything in Bee Wilson's pithy book brings you back to the kitchen: her histories of weights and measures and pots and pans; her observations on the domestication of fire and ice...; her homey riffs on small, exasperating "technologies" like egg timers, cake molds, tongs, and toasters... Socially astute and funny." The Washington Post "[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." ELLE Magazine "[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." Alice Rawsthorn, NewYorkTimes.com "One of the delights of Consider the Fork is that [Wilson's] fascination with the history of food is balanced by the pleasure she takes in preparing dishes herself, watching others do so and, best of all, tasting the results. Ms. Wilson's design critiques of different utensils, from the humble wooden spoon to a snazzy sous-vide water bath, are all the more convincing for being made by a knowledgeable and passionate cook, who isn't afraid to admit to her failures, yet longs for delicious successes." Los Angeles Times "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." Good Housekeeping "One part science, one part history, and a generous dash of fun, Wilson's surprise-filled take on cooking implements makes one marvel at the dining rituals we all take for granted." New Republic "[A] wide-ranging historical road map of the influence of culture on cuisine... it is easy and delightful to get swept up in Wilson's zeal... It is fluid yet engaging, just like a good conversation over a pan of sizzling vegetables... Cooking is full of paradoxes. It is art and science, ancient and modern, fundamental and trivial, easy and difficult. Wilson presents these dissonances in their entirety, making no show of resolving them. In the end, her tone suggests that she writes about food for the same reason we read about it: sheer pleasure and lighthearted fascination. The big questions are just seasoning for the soup." The Guardian "What new intellectual vistas remain to be conquered by the food obsessive? ... The erudite and witty food writer Bee Wilson has spotted a gap in the market... [Her] argument is clear and persuasive." Parade "Wilson celebrates the unsung implements that have helped shape our diets through the centuries. After devouring this delightful mix of culinary science and history, you'll never take a whisk for granted again." Wall Street Journal "In the case of Bee Wilson's "Consider the Fork," the author is blessed with an assemblage of entertaining tidbits and particularly lucid prose... Wilson is a good tour guide... [A] dizzying, entertaining ride." Harper's Magazine "Bee Wilson's delightful Consider the Fork: A History of How We Cook and Eat does talk about the fork, but that's just one part of her ebulliently written and unobtrusively learned survey of the tools we have used to prepare, preserve, and consume our food." The Spectator (London) "Consider the Fork is a delightful compendium of the tools, techniques and cultures of cooking and eating. Be it a tong or a chopstick, a runcible spoon or a cleaver, Bee Wilson approaches it with loving curiosity and thoroughness... But as well as providing wry insights into the psychology of cooks down the ages, Consider the Fork is infused with a sense that every omelette, cup of coffee, meringue or tea cake is steeped in tradition and ancient knowledge, and that that is partly what makes cooking one of life's joys." The Daily Beast "A book to keep at your side as you cook. Consider the fork. It's a piercing, sharp weapon associated with the Devil. How did this unlikely tool become the West's most popular and indispensable utensil? Wilson serves up brisk histories of everything you use in the kitchen." Christian Science Monitor "Wilson is an award-winning British food writer who skillfully turns a potentially dull subject into one of wit and wisdom. Nor does she lose touch with the human element that has drawn so many into the world of cooking and the universal subject of food. After all, a knife is only as good as the cook who wields it... Wilson packs Consider the Fork with as many bits of cultural history trivia as an overstuffed utensil drawer." Barnes & Noble Review "If you are open to being entertained and instructed by the history of food, then Bee Wilson couldn't be happier to oblige. In Consider the Fork, she explores the ways in which kitchen tools and techniques affect what and how we eat, with the same owlish brio and dry humor that Jane Grigson brought to vegetables and charcuterie... [A] smart, regaling survey." New Statesman "Endlessly fascinating." Roanoke Times "Like a well-planned meal, Consider the Fork provides a variety of fare that will entertain and educate foodies of any variety... The result of [Wilson's] combination of sophisticated humor and scholarship is an enjoyable tale about the very essence of existence and civilization." New York Post "At the risk of trotting out a cliche, Brit writer Wilson's book truly is food for thought. (And fun to read, too)." Mail on Sunday "Substantial and entertaining... Bee Wilson belongs to a rare breed: the academic who can write. This book is dense with research, all of it rendered highly palatable... The history comes in delicious nuggets of the kind that one immediately wants to pass around in conversation." Observer (London) "Like all the best books on apparently simple everyday commodities, this is of course really a gripping story of millennia of human ingenuity. Over the centuries the need to eat has led us to develop an astonishing plethora of niche skills and equipment, has made of eating itself a highly sophisticated act of pleasure as well as survival... Witty, scholarly, utterly absorbing and fired by infectious curiosity, Consider the Fork wears its impressive research lightly." Daily Mail (London) "Wilson's tour of the kitchen explores all the essential elements of domestic cookery through the ages. She peers into the kitchen cupboards of the past to scrutinise the pots and pans our ancestors used to contain their food, and the knives with which they used to cut it... Wilson's book is diligently researched and she has a sharp eye for a vivid historical detail." The Sunday Times (London) "This [is a] sparkling... fascinating and entertaining book... In considering the fork, in short, [Wilson] forces us to reconsider ourselves." Shelf Awareness "Wilson's sprightly, knowledgeable voice skips nimbly through the narratives of pots and pans, knives, grinding implements and eating utensils, working up to the theme of the kitchen as a whole... Don't be surprised if you find yourself sitting up at night with Consider the Fork, unable to turn out the light until you find out how storing and shipping ice became viable. You will never again walk into your kitchen without thinking of the rich history represented by even the humble fork." Smithsonian Magazine "Bee Wilson's spirited history of kitchen implements ranges from the humble wooden spoon to the cutting-edge sous vide machine. A British food writer and historian, Wilson is learned and personal, wise and charming... There are complex investigations at work in Wilson's book; it's nominally about things in our cabinets and on our shelves, but it's really about family, labor, technology, sensation... From such ingredients an enchanting book is made." Richard Wrangham, author of Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human "A fast-paced and mind-opening investigation into the quirky stories behind our daily interactions with food." Paul Levy, editor of The Penguin Book of Food and Drink "I was so enthralled by Bee Wilson's new book that I found it hard to put down. As always she is a completely reliable guide to her subject, and this history of how we cook and eat is full of surprises--how human table manners have changed our bodies, and how technological changes can affect our personal tastes in food. Her authority is complete, her scholarship lightly worn, and her writing terrific." Publishers Weekly, Starred Review "Some of humanity's least sung but most vital gadgets are celebrated in this delicious history of cooking technology... 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." John Donohue, editor of Man with a Pan: Culinary Adventures of Fathers who Cook for their Families"Bee Wilson's surprising history of common kitchen tools makes for a roiling read that's certain to be enjoyed by anyone with any interest in cooking or eating." Marion Nestle, Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health, New York University, and author of What to Eat "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." Margaret Visser, author of Much Depends on Dinner "Mind meets kitchen: Bee Wilson sizes up every kitchen implement from the wooden spoon to the ergonomic Microplane, and gives us its history, including versions that led up to each object but did not survive for lack of fitness. Her climax is the kitchen, the room itself, the affluent modern version of which has never been 'so highly designed; so well equipped; so stylish; or so empty.' She conducts us on a sobering, entertaining, and instructive tour." Kirkus Reviews "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." Claudia Roden "This scholarly and witty book, packed full of fascinating information and thrilling insights, is as enlightening as it is a joy to read." Nigella Lawson "I love Bee Wilson's writing." Discover 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." Booklist, Starred Review "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