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

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

Bee Wilson

Language: English

Pages: 352

ISBN: 0465056970

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


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.

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Gastronomica, edited by Darra Goldstein. I also owe a debt to Ivan Day and Peter Brears, two remarkable food historians whose work, often through the Leeds History of Food Symposium, has been unusual for its emphasis on the techniques and equipment of historic cookery. Among the general books I have found most useful on cooking technology, seen in context as one aspect of domestic life in Britain, I strongly recommend Caroline Davidson’s superb A Woman’s Work Is Never Done: A History of

Housework in the British Isles, 1650-1950 (Chatto & Windus 1982) and Christina Hardyment’s From Mangle to Microwave: The Mechanisation of Household Work (Polity 1990); the latter covers the modern period up to 1990. For the American side of the same story, told from a feminist point of view, More Work for Mother (Basic Books 1983) by Ruth Schwartz Cowan is thought-provoking. All three of these are brilliant works of social history, as much as histories of gadgetry. There are countless fine

flavors we find most seductive: the golden crust on a French fry, a dark spoonful of maple syrup. A frying pan is a good thing to have around. The Romans also had beautifully made metal colanders and bronze chafing dishes, flattish metal patinae, vast cauldrons of brass and bronze, pastry molds in varying ornate shapes, fish kettles, frying pans with special pouring lips to dispense the sauce and handles that folded up. Much of what has remained looks disconcertingly modern. The range of

full-time job, whether for a servant or a wife. As late as 1912, a housewife married to a policeman listed her daily duties relating to the range: 1. Remove fender and fire-irons. 2. Rake out all the ashes and cinders; first throw in some damp tea-leaves to keep down the dust. 3. Sift the cinders. 4. Clean the flues. 5. Remove all grease from the stove with newspaper. 6. Polish the steels with bathbrick and paraffin. 7. Blacklead the iron parts and polish. 8. Wash the

working in a grand Renaissance kitchen. Without electricity to take the labor away, it was hard to beat whites enough to become a frothy, stable foam—which only happens when the egg’s protein molecules have partly unfolded under contact with air, reforming as an air-filled lattice: stiff peaks. Wire balloon whisks—of the kind we still use today, usually made from stainless steel—were not common until the late eighteenth century. It is possible that individual households in Europe made their own

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