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Consider the Fork
Cover of Consider the Fork
Consider the Fork
A History of How We Cook and Eat
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Award-winning food writer Bee Wilson's secret history of kitchens, showing how new technologies - from the fork to the microwave and beyond - have fundamentally shaped how and what we eat.Since...
Award-winning food writer Bee Wilson's secret history of kitchens, showing how new technologies - from the fork to the microwave and beyond - have fundamentally shaped how and what we eat.Since...
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  • Award-winning food writer Bee Wilson's secret history of kitchens, showing how new technologies - from the fork to the microwave and beyond - have fundamentally shaped how and what we eat.


    Since prehistory, humans have braved sharp knives, fire, and grindstones to transform raw ingredients into something delicious—or at least edible. But these tools have also transformed how we consume, and how we think about, our food. In Consider the Fork, award-winning food writer Bee Wilson takes readers on a wonderful and witty tour of the evolution of cooking around the world, revealing the hidden history of objects we often take for granted. Technology in the kitchen does not just mean the Pacojets and sous-vide machines of the modern kitchen, but also the humbler tools of everyday cooking and eating: a wooden spoon and a skillet, chopsticks and forks. Blending history, science, and personal anecdotes, Wilson reveals how our culinary tools and tricks came to be and how their influence has shaped food culture today. 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.

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 Telegraph’s 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.

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from July 2, 2012
    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.

  • Kirkus

    August 15, 2012
    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.

    COPYRIGHT(2012) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Booklist

    Starred review from October 1, 2012
    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. The knife evolved from primitive humans' need to reduce food to manageable portions. Thermometers helped make home ovens practical. Some of the first pleas for animal rights arose from the use of caged dogs to turn spits in front of kitchen hearths. Most societies weigh recipe ingredients, but Americans continue to measure ingredients by volume. Wilson traces this deviation back to the difficulty of lugging scales westward across the frontier. Wilson's book teems with other delightful insights, laying to rest such questions as what Chinese parents say to their children to persuade them to finish their food, since they can't employ the typical American admonition about children starving in China. (Answer: Don't disrespect the sweat of the hardworking rice farmer.)(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2012, American Library Association.)

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