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

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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. Since prehistory, humans have braved sharp knives, fire, and grindstones to transform raw ingredients into something delicious - or at least edible. Tools shap 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. 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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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. Since prehistory, humans have braved sharp knives, fire, and grindstones to transform raw ingredients into something delicious - or at least edible. Tools shap 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. 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.

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

  1. 5 out of 5

    karen

    i am making my way back into the land of reviewing.... i don't read a lot of nonfiction. but if i am really into the subject matter, i will take the plunge, and when it is narrative nonfiction, told with verve and humor, that makes it all the better. however, it turns out, i am more interested in food itself than in the utensils and machines that facilitate food preparation and storage. "Consider the fork is an exploration of the way the implements we use in the kitchen affect what we eat, how we i am making my way back into the land of reviewing.... i don't read a lot of nonfiction. but if i am really into the subject matter, i will take the plunge, and when it is narrative nonfiction, told with verve and humor, that makes it all the better. however, it turns out, i am more interested in food itself than in the utensils and machines that facilitate food preparation and storage. "Consider the fork is an exploration of the way the implements we use in the kitchen affect what we eat, how we eat, and what we feel about what we eat." and it's a great book for those of you inclined to explore these matters; there are definitely fascinating facts, and i have discovered a heretofore underdeveloped desire for a le crueset pan, yeah, i want this. overall, it was not quite what i was expecting. my fault entirely. but i learned a lot of interesting facts about the history of kitchen safety, and the development of cooling agents, a ton of antiquated kitchen gizmos, the evolution of the knife and its cultural associations, the dangers of the mandoline, the microwave phenomenon, and geyser cooking! it is about food fads, and tradition and the evolution of cooking, and what we lose in quality the more we rely on machines to give us the shortcuts. it isn't a plea to return to simpler times, though - it doesn't have that kind of emotional agenda; it is purely scholarly, with some personal stories in the mix. the best chapter is the one that talks about the food of the sixties and seventies, and the introduction of the cuisinart. i collect all those better homes and gardens cookbooks like and and because they crack me up with their food presentation. everything has unexpected (canned) fruit, there are always these glistening sauces and toothpicks and aspic and everything can be made in a wok or tortured beyond its intended shape. and this book talks about this a bit, with the craze for smooth textures and endless dips and the ease that homemakers now found preparing more "exotic" dishes at home. with the newer technologies, women had more time on their hands to experiment, and these experiments have really defined that era. do yourself a favor and check one of them out sometime. so many cans to be opened! and i do love thinking about "the first time." the first time people realized that an animal could be cooked over a fire. the first person who thought nutmeg might be edible. because, let's face it, this screams "poison" to me: and it is, a little bit, but it is also delicious, right? but this book really makes you pause and think about foods we take for granted, and to think about that "first time" feeling, which is pretty exciting. but it is also about the way we delude ourselves in the kitchen. Kitchen gadgets - especially the fancy expensive kind that are sold through the shopping channels - advertise themselves with the promise that they will change your life. Often, however, your life is changed in ways that you did not expect. You buy an electric mixer, which makes it incredibly quick and easy to make cakes. And so you feel that you ought to make cakes, whereas before you acquired the mixer, making cakes was so laborious that you were happy to buy them. In fact, therefore, the mixer has cost you time rather than saving it. There's also the side effect that in making room for the mixer, you have lost another few precious inches of counter space. Not to mention the hours you will spend washing the bowl and attachments and mopping the flour that splatters everywhere as it mixes. and it's true, all of it. my grandmother is a sucker for cutesy kitchen gadgets. she has... everything. and then she will give them to my dad, and he will dutifully take them and eventually, he will pass it off to me. i have a ton of things here i will never ever use: plastic pastry shapers for making turnovers, a corn on the cob butterer shaped like a piece of corn, a teeny tiny rolling pin for making teeny tiny tarts, butter warmers, a machine for making those blooming onion thingies... and it's not like i have a lotta space here. but i feel sticky getting rid of them, you know? but having said that, my father has also become a devotee of the king arthur flour company, http://www.kingarthurflour.com/, and his baguette pan is something i would never have him be without. so for every lapful of "wait, why do i have this??" there is something that actually works, and that i wouldn't want to give up like my ferocious microplane, which is pretty rad, but a bitch to clean, for sure. but it is not just about fancy-schmancy devices, it is also about the invention of the pot, the spoon, the colander. things that we take for granted, but are timeless and necessary. my only complaint is that the book lacks flow. the chapters don't really cohere into a unified story of food, the way i had hoped. the chapters stand alone, and each does have its nuggets of gold, but overall, it read like a series of essays. i liked the personal touches and anecdotes, and i think i would have liked to have seen more of those. for people who are interested in food, and cultural history and social anthropology, there is a lot here to chew on (heh.) but for me, it will always be about the food.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Lois Bujold

    Well, that was fun. Technology is defined properly here, in its broadest sense, from the discovery of fire and the first stone knives through some of the more arcane 21st Century gadgetry, with plenty of stops along the way. The practical cooking anecdotes unsurprisingly tend to the Anglo-centric; every once in a while I would be taken aback by the alien terminology or assumptions about everyday things, which is probably good for me. Very rich. This sort of social history throws into high relief Well, that was fun. Technology is defined properly here, in its broadest sense, from the discovery of fire and the first stone knives through some of the more arcane 21st Century gadgetry, with plenty of stops along the way. The practical cooking anecdotes unsurprisingly tend to the Anglo-centric; every once in a while I would be taken aback by the alien terminology or assumptions about everyday things, which is probably good for me. Very rich. This sort of social history throws into high relief just how much of human experience standard histories systematically leave out, to their, ultimately, intellectual impoverishment. I am reminded of the anecdote from, if I recall correctly, Elizabeth Wayland Barber's classic Women's Work: the first 20,000 years, about the early archeologists, intent on a search for gold and weapons and glory, tossing aside mysterious little clay objects that they failed to recognize as loom weights, even though similar weights were still in active use. The bibliography at the end looks downright dangerous. There were reasons there were 78 people ahead of me in the library queue for this one... Recommended.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Better Eggs

    When I started the book, I wasn't crazy about the author's anecdotes being added to what I had hoped was a fairly serious book on food, but from the angle of equipment and culture. I've got used to her style now and it is interesting. I've read about 100 pages and so far we've moved all the way from open cooking fires (most of the world's history) to gas stoves in the late 19th C.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Christina Dudley

    An interesting history of all things cooking and kitchen, in the tradition of Bill Bryson's AT HOME. Wilson covers everything from taming fire to the adoption of table forks, with fascinating detours into topics like how the way we eat has affected orthodontia (we all have over-erupted incisors because we don't grab and tear meat with our front teeth anymore) and fear of new kitchen technologies (refrigeration raised eyebrows because then sellers could pass off old food as fresh). She discusses An interesting history of all things cooking and kitchen, in the tradition of Bill Bryson's AT HOME. Wilson covers everything from taming fire to the adoption of table forks, with fascinating detours into topics like how the way we eat has affected orthodontia (we all have over-erupted incisors because we don't grab and tear meat with our front teeth anymore) and fear of new kitchen technologies (refrigeration raised eyebrows because then sellers could pass off old food as fresh). She discusses food fashions and how technology determines food culture. Wilson investigates the claim that Victorians cooked all their vegetables to textureless mush and discovers that, given the pot size and cooking methods of the time, their boiled veggies weren't that different from what those of us who eat boiled veggies would deem acceptable. The accounts of inventors and cookbook authors are lively and informative. If you like this sort of read, you might also enjoy FANNIE'S LAST SUPPER: RE-CREATING ONE AMAZING MEAL FROM FANNIE FARMER'S 1896 COOKBOOK by Christopher Kimball.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Sesana

    I love food history, and I try to read a lot of it. This is the first book that I can remember reading that was mostly about the tools, the ways and means of cooking. And for me, it was fascinating. There's an awful lot covered here, but the progression from one item to the next does make sense. Wilson writes enthusiastically and conversationally about food, and I enjoyed her writing. It would have been greatly improved with some pictures, though. I'd like to see what she's talking about, not ju I love food history, and I try to read a lot of it. This is the first book that I can remember reading that was mostly about the tools, the ways and means of cooking. And for me, it was fascinating. There's an awful lot covered here, but the progression from one item to the next does make sense. Wilson writes enthusiastically and conversationally about food, and I enjoyed her writing. It would have been greatly improved with some pictures, though. I'd like to see what she's talking about, not just read it.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Tracey

    The overriding impression of this book is that it is very, very British. Not entirely because of the reader, Alison Larkin (who is very British), or because of too much of an Anglo-centric focus in the history it covers (maybe a bit, but not enough to take issue with) – but mostly because of… well, there's the casual and frequent mention of kebabs and the *ahem* wrong use of "chips" and so on, but mostly it's the almost patronizing tone taken about the United States. Everything was going along ju The overriding impression of this book is that it is very, very British. Not entirely because of the reader, Alison Larkin (who is very British), or because of too much of an Anglo-centric focus in the history it covers (maybe a bit, but not enough to take issue with) – but mostly because of… well, there's the casual and frequent mention of kebabs and the *ahem* wrong use of "chips" and so on, but mostly it's the almost patronizing tone taken about the United States. Everything was going along just fine – I was entertained and informed, always my favorite combination – till I hit the chapter on measurements. According to the author, the US is the only first-world country to inexplicably cling to the bizarre and impossibly inaccurate method of measurement standardized by Fanny Farmer, using cups and teaspoons and tablespoons. Everyone else in the civilized world, she says, measures by weight, which makes SO much more sense and is SO much more accurate. While I have seen British recipes using weights (and skipped over most of them, not willing to do the work to find the website to help me convert them), I never realized that we are the lone rebels in the cooking world, resolutely measuring a quarter-cup of this and half a teaspoon of that. Interesting. As much as our method seems odd to Bee Wilson, weighing everything seems to me like a huge pain in the butt. Seriously? The rest of the world weighs, say, a teaspoon of vanilla? How the heck does that work? And doesn't that dirty even more containers or utensils than our way? Doesn't it all take much longer, and where the heck do you stash a scale when you're not using it? I have no counter space as it is; the thought of going from cups-tossed-in-a-drawer to yet-another-appliance-on-the-counter gives me a headache. How big is the thing? Now, what she says does make sense; I never thought about how different one cupful of whatever can be from the next, depending on a person's method of measurement and the kitchen's humidity and the phases of the moon. The way she tells it, we must be a land of flat cakes and rock-hard cookies and all around complete disasters in the kitchen. But here's the thing. I've been baking since I was ten, and cooking since a few years after that, and - not to brag, just saying – I'd say 95% of everything I've made has come out just as I'd intended. I've had cheesecakes crack; I've had cookies spread more than I wanted; but every cake I've made has risen (not all as high as I'd like, but they all did rise), and so on. So, while it does make sense that my cupful may differ from yours, and mine today might differ from mine four years ago, and that baking requires exactitude in measuring … um. Sorry. My experience just doesn't bear it out. And you know what? It's not just me. I can't say I remember ever seeing a cooking show on the Food Network or PBS that featured a chef (or plain old cook) using a scale instead of measuring implements. Even the snobbier end of the spectrum, exemplified by Martha Stewart (no relation) and the Barefoot Contessa, use the same old cups and spoons – and so does America's Test Kitchen. If weighing was so very superior, I would expect Martha and Ina to insist upon it, and if ATK – whose primary concern is determining the best and most reliable way to do and make just about everything – doesn't … Then, Ms. Wilson (and Ms. Larkin), you can rid your voices of that tone of marveling condescension. In the end your method is different, not better. So there. (I feel constrained to add that one reason an individual baker using the cup-measurement system may achieve a level of consistency is experience. I know when a batter is a bit thin, and add more flour; if it's a bit too floury I know how to correct. There's a natural personal consistency that comes with using the same utensils and measuring devices all the time. And I know how to adjust flavor as I go along. I suppose that's the point of the whole scales-are-better-than-cups argument; my cookies probably aren't going to be the same as yours. I for one prefer it that way. Consistency is necessary for restaurant chains and trying to recreate Mom's scones or such, but otherwise? My cookies are my cookies, and yours are yours, and that's the way it should be.) Speaking of tones of voice, for the most part Alison Larkin is an excellent narrator. There's a sense of humor to the book, and Ms. Larkin plumbs those depths quite nicely. She has a very pleasant voice, and a very pleasant accent, except … The only objection I have is when she reads a quote from an American writer (seriously, these two do not seem to see Americans as worth much respect) she switches into a pseudo-American accent which sounds more like mockery than a genuine attempt at dialect. Anyway. Gripes aside, this is (as mentioned) an entertaining and informative exploration of how the preparation and consumption of food has evolved through the millennia. It's fascinating stuff, invaluable to a writer of period pieces, and just fun for those who, as I do, love to look more closely at everyday things. Well done.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Diane Barnes

    This is a well-written, informative and humorous look at the history of cooking and food implements throughout history. Lots of interesting facts and tie ins (the mortar and pestle is the oldest food prep tool still in existence), how one thing led to another, customs and beliefs of other countries and cultures, and things that worked and things that didn't. The author enjoys cooking and has researched her subjects thoroughly, and she makes this book a very pleasurable read.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    I found this book truly enthralling and learned many backstories to the kitchen implements that are a part of my everyday existence. For example, have you ever stopped to consider how revolutionary the refrigerator is? It completely changed the way we shop, cook and eat. Indeed, the refrigerator has taken the place of the stove, as the focal point of the kitchen. Designers begin with the fridge as "the statement" of the kitchen and design around it. After all, we tend to look into the fridge whe I found this book truly enthralling and learned many backstories to the kitchen implements that are a part of my everyday existence. For example, have you ever stopped to consider how revolutionary the refrigerator is? It completely changed the way we shop, cook and eat. Indeed, the refrigerator has taken the place of the stove, as the focal point of the kitchen. Designers begin with the fridge as "the statement" of the kitchen and design around it. After all, we tend to look into the fridge when looking for inspiration on what to eat. Further, "we open the fridge door and stare into it long and hard as if it will hold the answers to life's great questions." One favorite quote is: "the best measure any cook has is personal judgment." Indeed, the part where the author talks of how we measure ingredients and how it can affect the outcome is fascinating. I had always wondered why Americans use cup measures when the rest of the world uses weighing scales. One of my favorite gifts from my new husband around 30 years ago was a freshly powder coated weighing scale with a set of shiny graduated brass weights, which I still have, although, sadly it has been superseded by a digital scale. Another favorite quote is: "kitchen cupboards are graveyards of passions that died," which resonated with me, as I have bought, or been gifted fancy gadgets, that I thought I couldn't do without, only to later relegate them to the basement shelves. Finally, the most poignant of quotes is: "to have a refrigerator heaving with fresh produce [...] is to participate in The American Dream, which at heart is a dream about plenty." Note: Alison Larkin did an excellent job as narrator.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    This was a joy to read. The author has a light-hearted voice and an arbitrary but unfailingly appropriate sense of organization. She surveys, not what humans eat, but the technology used to prepare food. Her main focus is on how it's done in the home, but she explains those old kitchens with warm hearth and the hanging pans as where the servants worked to produce the meals their betters ate. She segways into restaurant cooking now and then too, particularly as it influences the home cook. Her or This was a joy to read. The author has a light-hearted voice and an arbitrary but unfailingly appropriate sense of organization. She surveys, not what humans eat, but the technology used to prepare food. Her main focus is on how it's done in the home, but she explains those old kitchens with warm hearth and the hanging pans as where the servants worked to produce the meals their betters ate. She segways into restaurant cooking now and then too, particularly as it influences the home cook. Her organization is tool-oriented: spoons, forks, knives, pans, heat sources, freezing, not forgetting peelers and whisks and Cuisinarts, even Sous Vide machines and Aeropress espresso makers. On the way she touches on a wide variety of topics, mixing historical research, expert opinion and her own feelings on a wide variety of topics, all without ever losing the focus on food technology. I was entertained as well as informed. Nothing stuffy or academic here. She's British, by the way, and that informs her opinions but not too much. She's very knowledgeable about US food tools and habits too, and jumps around Europe with her examples, with France and then Italy coming next, though there are also sections on people who don't use spoons and forks—on chop sticks and on eating with one's fingers for example. She's quite good on the current rage for the perfect kitchen, with space and provision for every possible tool. She hates islands. She also points out that kitchens usually contain features and tools from a wide variety times, historically as well as within one's own life, which is part of her objection to the "kitchen renovation" concept. I think she thinks one should "collect" one's kitchen over the years. She's interesting on futuristic kitchens from the past too: a 1940s view designed to excite American women to put up with the last years of the war. And the Frankfurt kitchen designed by a woman not taken seriously because she was a communist, but which was actually very good. And the model kitchen of the Nixon-Khrushchev "kitchen debate". I highly recommend this one.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jane

    A cider owl? A turnspit dog? A water-powered egg whisk? This narrative of what we use to cook and eat takes you through some historical - and hilarious - culinary dead ends. A great book for the true foodie, and an interesting perspective on cultural history.

  11. 4 out of 5

    ^

    Bee Wilson has here produced a light (in style), interesting, challenging and thoughtful perspective on the history of cooking, through a consideration of the history of kitchen inventiveness of implements designed and used for specific cooking purposes and processes. Her text brims with imagination too; “the cook dances around with sieves and spoons, fluffing and packing and heaping and sifting, all to achieve less accuracy than a pair of scales could give you in seconds,” (p.164). Hmm. Well, y Bee Wilson has here produced a light (in style), interesting, challenging and thoughtful perspective on the history of cooking, through a consideration of the history of kitchen inventiveness of implements designed and used for specific cooking purposes and processes. Her text brims with imagination too; “the cook dances around with sieves and spoons, fluffing and packing and heaping and sifting, all to achieve less accuracy than a pair of scales could give you in seconds,” (p.164). Hmm. Well, yes, but for the particular dish being made, does the cook actually need accuracy? The US cup measure makes perfect sense if you’re in a covered wagon on the Oregon trail, and stands testament to the recipes of the ancestors, in the exactly same relationship that I’d never dream of converting a British Imperial lb & oz recipe to Continental Metric! To do so would be to pour scorn on the past. Besides, other than for baking, exactness is rarely necessary; disastrous errors of process (absent-mindedness?) may prove more likely. Ms Wilson incorporates very many nuggets of interest and good advice, such as measuring hot spots (dry heat) in an oven, and proceeding accordingly (p.189). She hands on a salutary lesson when commenting on the history of design of hand-powered egg-beaters (p.224). Function is more important than form; yet even today the goods for sale in specialist cook shops, department stores and supermarkets can look aesthetically pleasing whilst being functionally questionable. I was reminded of the time my beloved ancient electric hand-held twin-beater whisk needed replacement in a hurry. I couldn’t find a like for like replacement, so had to settle for one with three beaters, promoted by the chef Anthony Worrell-Thompson. Three beaters looked like a mechanical over-complication to me; and I didn’t like to think of a percentage of my money going to a ‘name’ who’d probably never so much as seen the machine. A few years later (and, sod’s law, just out of guarantee) the wretched beast did indeed get its timing in a knot & during operation destroyed the third beater. Fortunately I was wearing safety glasses at the time. Remarkably the beast now works perfectly well just on the remaining two beaters, all of which experience I feel supports Ms Wilson’s thesis! Avoid over-complication! It’s this knowledgeable assessment of kitchen technology which is so important, and which needs to become instinctive. Cherish the historical, but be realistic too. Use the most appropriate implement. Quite rightly Ms Wilson draws attention (p.240-241) to the impracticality of grating ginger (a wet root) on a nutmeg grater, or nutmeg (a hard spice) on a ginger grater. Therein lies Ms Wilson’s thesis; and it’s a jolly interesting one well executed too. My thoughts headed off in the direction of my metal 12-slice apple slicer (a charity (thrift) shop find), which works infinitely better than the 8-slice plastic models that are sold nowadays. With literally never a dull page, Ms Wilson encourages her reader to actively think about what they are doing and how they are doing it, when engaged in the act of cooking. Only those poor, blind people who subsist on nothing but supermarket ready-meals will be left unprovoked, unmoved, and uneducated by this book. p.s. This would be a very good book to give to any teenager / young person beginning a career in cooking.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Cynda Cat

    3.5 Stars Suggestion to the Reader: Watch "The History of the Home" narrated/hosted by Lucy Worsley. I watched it on YouTube. Having watched the series I could visualize the house with an opening in the roof to allow cooking and fire smoke to escape the house. The images were adequate. The sources extensive. Good Social History. If Bee Willson were to edit and put out another edition at some future date, I would like to see some images of the houses from the inside, perhaps some website links at t 3.5 Stars Suggestion to the Reader: Watch "The History of the Home" narrated/hosted by Lucy Worsley. I watched it on YouTube. Having watched the series I could visualize the house with an opening in the roof to allow cooking and fire smoke to escape the house. The images were adequate. The sources extensive. Good Social History. If Bee Willson were to edit and put out another edition at some future date, I would like to see some images of the houses from the inside, perhaps some website links at the bottom of pages where appropriate so people could see more. The writer writes on a topic that is foreign to modern readers. So why 3 1/2 stars. A great starting place for those interested in various fields of study: culinary, kitchen, etiquette, technology. So definitely a worthwhile read for many. As an everyday cook for many years, enjoyed remembering some tools my older family members used regularly in the 2pth century and continue to use irregularly into the 21st century and beyond.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Charlene

    I was so excited to read this book. Sadly, the delivery of the material didn't live up to the subject matter. There is little I love more than the growth of civilization and a discussion of how innovation facilitated that growth. Wilson reached far back to when our ancestors cooked over fire and then proceeded forward to show how we changed tools and the environments in which we cook. Makes you glad to be alive now, when you can just whip up a gourmet meal using the oven and stove in your modern I was so excited to read this book. Sadly, the delivery of the material didn't live up to the subject matter. There is little I love more than the growth of civilization and a discussion of how innovation facilitated that growth. Wilson reached far back to when our ancestors cooked over fire and then proceeded forward to show how we changed tools and the environments in which we cook. Makes you glad to be alive now, when you can just whip up a gourmet meal using the oven and stove in your modern kitchen, with relatively little effort. The problem with the book is that all this wonderful information could have been presented in a much more magical way-- a way that highlighted how awe inspiring the journey from stones over a hot fire to pans on a flat cooktop really is.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Brie

    I really enjoyed this book, as a history nut and a lover of sociology. This book is both – a history of cooking methods and instruments, and how these cooking instruments have changed how we cook and what we now cook and eat. Something I never thought of until now – we eat what we do because of inventions that allow us to keep these foods (fridges, freezers, methods of preserving, and the tools to cook certain things). I was at brunch with a friend and suddenly had this burning desire to know whe I really enjoyed this book, as a history nut and a lover of sociology. This book is both – a history of cooking methods and instruments, and how these cooking instruments have changed how we cook and what we now cook and eat. Something I never thought of until now – we eat what we do because of inventions that allow us to keep these foods (fridges, freezers, methods of preserving, and the tools to cook certain things). I was at brunch with a friend and suddenly had this burning desire to know where the hell forks came from, why do they look like that, when did we start using them? My friend bought me this book and I was ecstatic. The answer is in this book, along with other histories and facts you've never thought of. The book's chapters cover individual cooking methods: 1. Pots and Pans - examines the history of using pots for cooking and innovations made in cooking pots. This leads to the invention of boiling food, and the science behind conductive heat cooking (food on a pan) 2. Knife - from stone to metal, knives have been one of the oldest tools for hacking at meat. Knives have also shaped our social norms regarding knives and human anatomy. 3. Fire - Since the domestication of fire, it has been the primary way we cook food. It transformed food from hard and raw to cooked and more easily edible. The chapter examines how fire-cooked food impacts the lives of humans. 4. Measure - tracks the evolution of measuring devices, most common being the cup. It looks at how people have measured food and time using relative methods, like "the size of a walnut" or timing cooking by singing or praying, to our modern methods of precise measurements on cups and spoons, etc. 5. Grind - examines methods for how we have ground and beaten food, mortars and pestles being one of the oldest methods. It also looks at how a thing like a whisk evolved from a clutch of twigs to the balloon-shaped wire or plastic whisk we have now, and subsequently how the quest for other types of beaters (eggbeaters) have come about. 6. Eat - examines the oldest and most universal eating utensil, the spoon. The spoon exists in every culture on Earth, but the utensil divide is shown in the separation of fork and chopsticks. This is a very interesting chapter, in terms of the (East vs West) sociology. 7. Ice - the methods for food preservation have evolved from salt storing to fridges and freezers. This chapter is a more modern history of fridges, and how they have pervaded modern culture as the ultimate kitchen necessity and accessory. 8. Kitchen - the evolution of kitchens themselves as an architectural space. From one room cottages of medieval times, to specialized rooms in our houses, kitchens, and in particular kitchen design as a hobby or process, have become the room we most agonize over but also feel primal senses of home and happiness. This book is not about the evolution of food, but HOW we cook it and eat it. I hadn't realized before that the only reason we can eat the foods we eat today is because of evolution in cooking methods that allows us to keep food longer, to prepare it in ways unthought of hundreds of years ago. It is written very accessibly, with humor and an appreciation for cooking. It is largely Western-based (America and Britain) with generous inclusions of the Far East, but it does include other cultures where appropriate. Overall a very enjoyable read.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    What a pleasant, light, enjoyable book! It is quite short, so rather than a deep look into the history of cooking, it gives small overviews of a number of implements and methods of cooking that were/are common across different cultures, often being developed separately, with some compare contrast between uses, and an interesting look on how functionally, many of these have changed over time. I do wish that the book had gone a little more into African cooking, and cooking is utterly frozen-cold are What a pleasant, light, enjoyable book! It is quite short, so rather than a deep look into the history of cooking, it gives small overviews of a number of implements and methods of cooking that were/are common across different cultures, often being developed separately, with some compare contrast between uses, and an interesting look on how functionally, many of these have changed over time. I do wish that the book had gone a little more into African cooking, and cooking is utterly frozen-cold areas, but again, this is a short book. A few parts had very repetitive phrases, possibly a result of addressing the same kitchen set ups multiple times through different items-- that was actually kind of a flaw, it was hard sometimes to see how whole styles of cookery evolved when they were presented piece by piece, and some styles represented only by one piece. The book focused mainly on French, Chinese, English, and 20th century American cooking, though there were dips here and there to the side, just not as many as I would like-- but again, that's a function of the book's length. I would have happily read an expanded work by the same author, though-- her style is light, quick, and easy to read without being patronizing.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Vaishali

    Far more conversational then factual, and not well-ordered. Was able to glean these interesting facts: --------------------- “If you are German… it is possible that you have a see-saw balance with a cup for ingredients at one end and a counter-weight at the other… identical to a metal steelyard balance found at Pompeii dated 79 A.D.” “A classic staple of the American kitchen, poundcake : 1 pound sugar, 1 pound butter, 1 pound flour, 1 pound or 10 eggs…” “... Asian communities in Britain... buy their Far more conversational then factual, and not well-ordered. Was able to glean these interesting facts: --------------------- “If you are German… it is possible that you have a see-saw balance with a cup for ingredients at one end and a counter-weight at the other… identical to a metal steelyard balance found at Pompeii dated 79 A.D.” “A classic staple of the American kitchen, poundcake : 1 pound sugar, 1 pound butter, 1 pound flour, 1 pound or 10 eggs…” “... Asian communities in Britain... buy their Basmati in 20-kilo sacks from the cash-and-carry, and cook it with effortless confidence, using a thumb to measure the correct quantity of water overtime, just like their mothers and grandmothers…” “A dash equals 1/8 tsp… a pinch equals 1/16 tsp… a smidgeon equals 1/32 tsp… a drop equals 1/77 tsp… Clearly there is a market out there for people who will not rest easy until they can measure…” “There is a world outside of measuring in the kitchen. Part of the scientific method is accepting that not everything is within the domain of science.” “Our taste for smoked things belongs to earlier times when preserving meats by smoking them could mean the difference between being able to eat things year-round and eating them just once a year.” “Portions of meat were layered in a wooden cask smothered in salt. This was an expensive process; as of the late 13th century it took 2 pennies worth of salt to cure 5 pennies worth of meat, so only good-quality meat was salted.” “Medieval salty butter was far saltier than our salted butter… According to a record of 1305, one pound of salt was needed for 10 pounds of butter. That is, the butter was 10% salt… cooks needed to go to great lengths to wash much of the salt out again before it was used.” “In the 14th century, herring merchants… developed techniques for salting the herring on board ship… The Dutch in particular proves masters of this, which may be how they achieved their dominance of the European market. Dutch herring gutters could produce upto 2000 fish an hour at sea…” “The monotony of a diet in which the only fish you ate was preserved may be gauged by the number of jokes… a red herring, which was a particularly pungent cured fish - double hard-smoked as well as salted - remains in our language as something comically deceptive or out of place.” “In Biblical times and before, juicy fruits and vegetables were buried in hot sand or spread out on trays or rooftops to become desiccated in the sun’s rays.” “The art of candying was rife with alchemical superstition and secrets. Each fruit had its own imperatives. According to a medieval book, walnuts should be preserved on June 24, St. John’s day.” “Medieval gingerbread molds, hand-carved from wood, might depict hearts and does, wild boars and and saints.” “Napolean offered 12,000 francs to anyone who could come up with the best new way of preserving food.” “The first custom-made can-opener was designed by Robert Yates, a maker of surgical instruments and cutlery in 1855.” “In 1833, a surprising consignment arrived in Calcutta, then the center of the British Empire in India… 40 tons of pure crystalline ice… all the way from Boston… a journey of 16,000 miles… a sign of how America was turning ice into profit.” “As an abundant natural resource, ice is ancient. There were ice harvests in China before the first millenium B.C. Snow was sold in Athens beginning in the 5th century B.C.” “Many estates in Italy had their own ice houses, such as the one in Boboli Gardens, Florence. These were pits or vaults… in which unevenly hacked slabs of winter ice could be kept cold for the summer… ready for cooling drinks or making lavish ice creams…” “The rich get their ice in the summer, but the poor get their ice in the winter” - Laura Ingall Wilder “By 1915, a hundred million tons of butter in America were in cold storage.” “The basic device to lower the temperature of adding salt to ice to lower its temperature was discovered around 300 A.D. in India.” “At first, Birdseye used the method to freeze fish, establishing the General Seafood Corporation in 1925, the idea being that it would become the General Motors or General Electric of frozen food. In 1929 he sold his company and patents for $22 million to Goldman Sachs…” “In 1959, sales of frozen peas overtook sales of fresh peas in the pod in Britain for the first time. The strange thing was that British shoppers eagerly purchased frozen foods despite the fact that they had nowhere to store them… As late as 1970 the number of households with access to a freezer of any kind stood at just 3.5%.” .

  17. 4 out of 5

    AJ

    I admit that I never once thought of how people would communicate recipes and times prior to clocks or little timers. In case you are wondering, old school recipes have times listed by prayers. (3 Hail marys and then stir in the onions!). This book is chocked full of these little nuggets of information and I enjoyed reading all of it. But here are a few fair warnings: there are little to no footnotes - more of a collection of blog anecdotal essays. Most of the proof the writer uses comes in the I admit that I never once thought of how people would communicate recipes and times prior to clocks or little timers. In case you are wondering, old school recipes have times listed by prayers. (3 Hail marys and then stir in the onions!). This book is chocked full of these little nuggets of information and I enjoyed reading all of it. But here are a few fair warnings: there are little to no footnotes - more of a collection of blog anecdotal essays. Most of the proof the writer uses comes in the form of "this one friend says it so there you have it!" Luckily I liked the writers opinions but to say this was a researched historical narrative is a bit of a stretch. Second this book just breezes on the surface of a few really great ideas below the top layer. There is so much exploration to be done here - are we prisoners to tradition at the expense of taste? Does the hearth and the concept of it drive us to inefficient techniques to cook? But she never goes there, just grazes, as if just testing the sauce with the tip of her spoon but not willing to serve it with a whole plate of pasta to us. And finally my last small quip is the organization of the book. It goes by technology, not by chronology and imho it was a mistake. Instead of learning about cooking techniques that blend together and help drive different food cultures it jumps around by tool and that creates a lot of missed opportunities to understand how the ideas and fusion create the current world of cooking that we live in. TLDR: Good book - read if you like food, but take it as a face value documentation, not a thought provoking exploration.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Shiloah

    This is an exceptional book on the history of gadgets, technology, and food. Every chapter was filled with information and I was constantly learning new things. I believe the term is “mind blown!” I loved Bee Wilson’s humor. She brought up many practical points that were big paradigm shifts for me. I’m definitely going to re-read again. My favorite chapter was on the knives. I needed that wisdom. I listened to the audio read by Alison Larkin. Between both the author and the narrator, the British This is an exceptional book on the history of gadgets, technology, and food. Every chapter was filled with information and I was constantly learning new things. I believe the term is “mind blown!” I loved Bee Wilson’s humor. She brought up many practical points that were big paradigm shifts for me. I’m definitely going to re-read again. My favorite chapter was on the knives. I needed that wisdom. I listened to the audio read by Alison Larkin. Between both the author and the narrator, the British language was absolutely delightful. Music to my ears. I must read more of Ms. Wilson’s books.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Olga Godim

    This review was originally published at StoryCircleBookReviews: http://www.storycirclebookreviews.org... This is a fascinating book, taking us on a journey around the globe and across millennia. The author explores the history of domestic kitchen, its appliances and utensils, some of which have persisted for centuries while others are long forgotten. According to Wilson, kitchen utensils are part of our culture. How we cook and eat often determines who and what we are, at least to a degree. Writt This review was originally published at StoryCircleBookReviews: http://www.storycirclebookreviews.org... This is a fascinating book, taking us on a journey around the globe and across millennia. The author explores the history of domestic kitchen, its appliances and utensils, some of which have persisted for centuries while others are long forgotten. According to Wilson, kitchen utensils are part of our culture. How we cook and eat often determines who and what we are, at least to a degree. Written in a clear, precise language, with abundant examples, the book draws from the author’s profound knowledge of the field of food, empathized by her exhaustive research. Her passion for cooking also leaks to the pages, making this nonfiction volume wonderfully captivating. The book is divided into chapters, each highlighting one aspect of food preparation: from its ancient beginning through technical and social innovations to the kitchens of today. The first chapter is dedicated to the kitchen pot. No kitchen today exists without pots and pans. The pot is so essential to our kitchens, we often take it for granted, but in the beginning, the clay pot was one of the greatest inventions of humanity. The author insists that the emergence of pottery marked the first industrial revolution. Before the pot, people who couldn’t chew stringy meat roasted over a fire starved. When the first clay cooking vessels appeared about 6000 to 3000 BC, soft mushy food – soup or porridge – became available, thus allowing older people, people with no teeth, to survive. Besides extending our life expectancy, the pot also marked a switch from nomadic to settled life and from gathering-hunting to agriculture. A revolution indeed! From pots, the author leads us to the other mandatory items in any kitchen – knives and fire. Both have been used in cooking for centuries, in one incarnation or another, despite their inherent damage potentials. Reading about the mankind’s quests to harness the kitchen fire – from an open hearth to an electric range – or about the society’s swinging attitude towards knives was almost as engrossing as a thriller. The author’s food-wise erudition sparkles, as she not only provided us with serious historical overviews and gastronomical mysteries but also shares come amusing tidbits of information. For example, is it possible that our perfect overbite, which the dentists insist upon, is not the natural teeth position but instead the result of a knife’s work in a kitchen? Anthropological studies Wilson mentions suggest that it is so. If we still tore meat from bones with our teeth, as our ancestors did, our teeth would meet edge to edge, and the overbite wouldn’t have developed. It’s not an evolutionary mutation but a habitual feature of the human face, like calluses. Surprisingly, the funniest section of the book involves a rather dry topic – measurements. We all measure ingredients when we cook, Wilson says, but only Americans traditionally measure in cups. How much is a cup anyway? There are bigger cups and smaller cups. Clever Europeans avoid such confusion by measuring weight. Does it really matter? After all, our grannies didn’t always have kitchen scales; they measured in handfuls or, the terror of terrors for a young cook: ‘as much as it takes.’ But their cakes were always good. Gleaning her facts from historical tractates and memoirs, housewives’ magazines and culinary mores, Wilson’s created an engaging story about our food and people who prepare it. Food staples and obsolete cooking methods, the molecular physics of cooking and the social changes inspired by new technologies, cooks’ traditional mistrust of innovations and the eating etiquette – they all found their way into her book. The only fault I found with this book is its lack of photographs. I wouldn’t mind seeing some of the outdated kitchen gadgets Wilson talks about or the new ones. The few pencil sketches sprinkled among the pages don’t make a good substitution. Otherwise, almost perfect and highly recommended.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Megan

    Consider the Fork sells itself as a history of cooking, how we have developed as humans and our tools along with our diets. When Wilson sticks to that topic it's very interesting. However, it seems a lot of the time she can't help but go off on tangents that are pretty irrelevant and mostly composed of her own opinion. The book is pretty Western-focused, but the times she writes about the development of other cultures Wilson is respectful. However that completely changes when discussing her fell Consider the Fork sells itself as a history of cooking, how we have developed as humans and our tools along with our diets. When Wilson sticks to that topic it's very interesting. However, it seems a lot of the time she can't help but go off on tangents that are pretty irrelevant and mostly composed of her own opinion. The book is pretty Western-focused, but the times she writes about the development of other cultures Wilson is respectful. However that completely changes when discussing her fellow westerners. I'm allergic to foodies, and since this is a library book I considered putting this down during the introduction when she kept going on about drinking free trade/organic coffee and her free range chickens*. I'm not against those things, but that's not exactly what this book is about. But I continued because of the subject matter. The chapter on Measuring is side tracked by this rant about how Americans don't use the metric system, and the measure things in *gasp* cups! With cup-like tools!+ *gasp* She says that's ok, "at least by some people's standards." This is not the only snide comment in the book, it's filled with "or not" and similar things. Apparently everyone else in the world uses their hands or digital (but not the author, she uses museum type pieces with little weights!) scales to measure flour and things. I'll grant you treating wet and dry cups the same is iffy. And I'm used to people moaning about our not using the metric system. I don't care about that. But I wonder if the people of Liberia and Myanmar are sick of being treated like cave-dwelling barbarians. She also thinks it's a terrible crime to measure things accurately (obviously since she uses ancient scale technology) because it "leaves no room to improvise, which is half the joy of cooking." Pfft. All the joy of cooking is in the eating. Yeah, so that's a justified personal opinion, but by this time in the book I was just too irritated to not bring it up. Wilson complains throughout the book that cooking isn't a science and she finally gets around to molecular gastronomy. You know. Science. About cooking. She puts on this Fox News act, pretending to be providing balanced information but continuing to use derogatory terms towards those using modern techniques. She compares them to children who always have to ask why and asks the reader if "we wish to cook like a grandmother or a mad scientist?" Really. Because you either cook like your grandmother or a mentally ill person. Who measures things. Honestly, I kind of started doubting Wilson's knowledge early on when she wrote, "Chefs always say that the safest knife is the sharpest one (which is true until you actually have an accident)." Um, no, that is true. You put more pressure on a blunt knife, therefore you end up chopping off a finger. Frankly, I'm going to trust the chefs here. *Everytime she mentions chicken related products she makes sure we know that they're from free range birds as though that means anything. I don't know about Britain, but in the US you only need to keep the cage door open for an hour a day to legally call them free range. +She makes it sound like nobody else uses measuring cups in any capacity - so I checked amazon.ca and amazon.co.uk - they sell them! What's up with Wilson?

  21. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    This has been described as a microhistory about kitchen tools, but I think that's severely underselling it. While the chapters do coalesce around technologies like refrigeration or mechanical grinding, this is also a series of essays on domestic traditions surrounding food (who cooks it, for whom, at what time of day...?) and an exploration of style (what kinds of foods were seen as desirable and how did people make them?). For example, one of the best chapters has to do with food texture, descr This has been described as a microhistory about kitchen tools, but I think that's severely underselling it. While the chapters do coalesce around technologies like refrigeration or mechanical grinding, this is also a series of essays on domestic traditions surrounding food (who cooks it, for whom, at what time of day...?) and an exploration of style (what kinds of foods were seen as desirable and how did people make them?). For example, one of the best chapters has to do with food texture, describing how highly processed, smooth, or refined foods were seen as most luxurious and tasty from the Renaissance up to the early twentieth century. Then, with the invention of various machines that could puree, grind, or mix the heck out of anything you wanted, more "natural," less refined foods became more desirable, because those were the foods that were seen as having been made by hand. (That those foods are also probably more nutritious is not something this author concerns herself with, which is refreshing.) Wilson has clearly done a lot of research and her ability to make connections is erudite, but she also writes in a very companionable voice, with glints of humor and an appreciation for the intangibles--the special mug that you drink your tea out of, for example, or the ancestral tug of fire that causes "amateur cooks [to] whip out their barbeques at the first hint of sun." She's someone I'd certainly enjoy having dinner with, and it would be a good one, too, since this book makes me want to do things like make my own mayonnaise or ice cream.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    If you want a scholarly, in-depth examination of the history of cooking methods and utensils, there are probably other books out there better than this one. But if all you want is a readable briefing on the subject, this book will do the trick. The author uses a mixture of historical evidence and personal anecdotes to show us how our eating utensils came to be and how they have evolved over time. Some of the information she presents is fascinating, such as the fact that how we cut our food may a If you want a scholarly, in-depth examination of the history of cooking methods and utensils, there are probably other books out there better than this one. But if all you want is a readable briefing on the subject, this book will do the trick. The author uses a mixture of historical evidence and personal anecdotes to show us how our eating utensils came to be and how they have evolved over time. Some of the information she presents is fascinating, such as the fact that how we cut our food may actually have affected our bodies and led to the modern overbite. However, she tends to skim over the surface of most of the subjects she brings up. (I was hoping she would examine the whole topic of how and when the American or “zig-zag” method of eating developed. She does mention it, but only very briefly and without any details.) I did like how she presents everything from the perspective of the ordinary domestic cook who is just trying to put something edible on the table, even though she is obviously a gourmet chef herself. This book gave me an intriguing glimpse into the evolution of our eating tools, but left me wanting more. Note: the Nook version of this book has a lot of errors such as missing or strange punctuation and even some garbled sentences. Luckily, you can still decipher what is meant from the context.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    Fantastic and interesting book. Wilson does a great job demonstrating how the cooking technology we use emerged and how it has effected the food that we think of eating. Think of the fork, which we in the West now consider indispensable for consuming a meal. Yet, it has only been in common use since the 1700's or so. The spoon on the other hand, is almost universal in all cultures for millennium. One other way she points out how technology has influenced out way of eating comes with the inventio Fantastic and interesting book. Wilson does a great job demonstrating how the cooking technology we use emerged and how it has effected the food that we think of eating. Think of the fork, which we in the West now consider indispensable for consuming a meal. Yet, it has only been in common use since the 1700's or so. The spoon on the other hand, is almost universal in all cultures for millennium. One other way she points out how technology has influenced out way of eating comes with the invention of the blender and the food processor. Before these inventions the upper classes prized food that was blended and smooth. This was because in the past, to say, make a creamy tomato soup would have required several servants quit a bit of time to pound, mash, and strain the soup until you got the creamy texture that we can do in a blender in ten seconds with the push of a button. This was a very interesting book. I would recommend it to any food, cook, or anyone interested in how we prepare our food and why we do it in the way that we do. I will never look at a wooden spoon the same again.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Tara Brabazon

    I wish I wrote this book. It is not a history of food. It is a history of the technologies we use to cook and eat food. It is remarkable. The writing is expansive and pithy, rigorous and playful. The topics vary from knives to graters, fire to forks. The introduction should be required reading in every 'Introduction to technology' course on the planet. Bee Wilson does something very important - and very difficult - in this book. She reads expansive histories of masculinity, class, colonialism and I wish I wrote this book. It is not a history of food. It is a history of the technologies we use to cook and eat food. It is remarkable. The writing is expansive and pithy, rigorous and playful. The topics vary from knives to graters, fire to forks. The introduction should be required reading in every 'Introduction to technology' course on the planet. Bee Wilson does something very important - and very difficult - in this book. She reads expansive histories of masculinity, class, colonialism and war through a seemingly banal kitchen object. I will never see a spork in the same way. My favourite books are those that enable us to reflect on daily life, to unpick our assumptions and think rather than simply live. Bee Wilson lets us see the technology - and the thinking - in the tools with which we eat and cook. Recommended. It is terrific.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Andy

    This is just a long stream of trivia, but it's all pretty interesting if you are into food or cooking or the history of everyday objects. I found the chapters on roasting and egg-beating particularly informative. The author's writing is lively and concise. In contrast to Bill Bryson's book "At home," "Consider the Fork" does not fall into the trap of belaboring the biographies of boring Brits. Hooray for editing!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Andie

    This is a fun social history of how the preparation of food has evolved over the ages. It's full of interesting little factoids like in in the age of open hearths, most chefs worked in their underwear, or even in the nude due to the heat and the possibility of clothing catching on fire. The United States is the only place to use measuring cups to measure dry ingredients. Every place else measures by weight. And speaking of weight, the US along with Liberia and Myanmar, are the only countries sti This is a fun social history of how the preparation of food has evolved over the ages. It's full of interesting little factoids like in in the age of open hearths, most chefs worked in their underwear, or even in the nude due to the heat and the possibility of clothing catching on fire. The United States is the only place to use measuring cups to measure dry ingredients. Every place else measures by weight. And speaking of weight, the US along with Liberia and Myanmar, are the only countries still not using the metric system. This book gave me a better understanding of the whys of how we cook.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Julia

    This is a fascinating book! There is a 40 page chapter on pots and pans, and the array of pans available to a house full of servants in Victorian England, that one can still see if one takes a tour of the country house, as the author did. The chapter on measurement in cooking is interesting. And how we do it wrong in the US, in part because of Fannie Farmer, who wrote we should use the same cup measurements for both wet and dry ingredients. “Grind” the chapter on meat grinders, egg beaters, that This is a fascinating book! There is a 40 page chapter on pots and pans, and the array of pans available to a house full of servants in Victorian England, that one can still see if one takes a tour of the country house, as the author did. The chapter on measurement in cooking is interesting. And how we do it wrong in the US, in part because of Fannie Farmer, who wrote we should use the same cup measurements for both wet and dry ingredients. “Grind” the chapter on meat grinders, egg beaters, that becomes recently, food processors and how that revolutionized cooking, because the engineer who first developed it liked quennelle, a French “puree of raw fish, veal or chicken formed into ovals or cylinders and poached.” I’m quoting Julia Child on page 166, but I’m not making what sounds to me like French gefilte fish. I borrowed this from interlibrary loan. I read this for Messy Housekeeper’s Book Club discussion of it on 11/15/16. (No, I hadn't finished the book before we talked about it. So what?) I made an antipasto platter, featuring yummy local cheeses and local kohlrabi.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jeanette

    This holds some fun and educational information about the process of cooking and preparing food. There are chapters on measure, grind, heat source etc. It made me think about how much preparing food has changed and how our kitchens now hold immense technology. Some of it supposed simple tech, but profound too in a sense- as form is function. The chapter on roasting, baking in ovens was especially good. I've often thought about how cooking meat over an open fire source is so much different than m This holds some fun and educational information about the process of cooking and preparing food. There are chapters on measure, grind, heat source etc. It made me think about how much preparing food has changed and how our kitchens now hold immense technology. Some of it supposed simple tech, but profound too in a sense- as form is function. The chapter on roasting, baking in ovens was especially good. I've often thought about how cooking meat over an open fire source is so much different than most closed oven results. There are certain tools she thought essential that I don't. And I prepare food for more than just a few nearly every single day. Like tongs, for instance. Lots of gadgets for only one single use too. And I don't think I own her essential- a wooden spoon. Too porous.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Erin

    When I originally started this book, I was very excited to learn about the history of cooking utensils and the evolution of the kitchen. And while the subject matter was very fascinating, I found the writing style to be very choppy. The author would jump back and forth through different historical periods and different cultures. I was also annoyed by the author's continual personal input of her beliefs, or giving the readers information about her family and what she cooks her kids. This book wou When I originally started this book, I was very excited to learn about the history of cooking utensils and the evolution of the kitchen. And while the subject matter was very fascinating, I found the writing style to be very choppy. The author would jump back and forth through different historical periods and different cultures. I was also annoyed by the author's continual personal input of her beliefs, or giving the readers information about her family and what she cooks her kids. This book would have been much better if she had simply stuck to the historical evidence. But I still recommend this book to anyone interested in this subject matter.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Melanie

    Very nerdy book (I liked!) discussing the history of different food technologies, from actual cooking (fire/stoves/ovens/microwaves) to knives and measuring (temp, quantity, and time... cook times used to be measured in prayers, for example) and gadgetry and eating itself. I want to suss out a Marshall ice cream maker as described in the chapter about ice and refrigeration, assuming some enterprising person doesn't resurrect it first (in which case I would BUY one, because five minute ice cream Very nerdy book (I liked!) discussing the history of different food technologies, from actual cooking (fire/stoves/ovens/microwaves) to knives and measuring (temp, quantity, and time... cook times used to be measured in prayers, for example) and gadgetry and eating itself. I want to suss out a Marshall ice cream maker as described in the chapter about ice and refrigeration, assuming some enterprising person doesn't resurrect it first (in which case I would BUY one, because five minute ice cream sounds wonderful).

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