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Consider the Fork: How Technology Transforms the Way We Cook and Eat

3.74  ·  Rating Details  ·  5,012 Ratings  ·  721 Reviews
Since prehistory, humans have braved sharp knives, fire, and grindstones to transform raw ingredients into something delicious—or at least edible. Tools shape what we eat, but they have also transformed how we consume, and how we think about, our food. Technology in the kitchen does not just mean the Pacojets and sous-vide of the modernist kitchen. It can also mean the hum ...more
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published October 2nd 2012 by Basic Books (first published January 1st 2012)
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Community Reviews

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Nov 16, 2012 karen rated it liked it

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
Lois Bujold
Nov 18, 2013 Lois Bujold rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in cooking. Or eating. Or the history of technology.
Recommended to Lois by: random internet review

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
Christina Dudley
Oct 21, 2012 Christina Dudley rated it really liked it
Shelves: urbanfarmjunkie
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 ...more
May 01, 2013 Sesana rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, nonfiction, food
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 ...more
Petra X
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.
Diane Barnes
Dec 04, 2015 Diane Barnes rated it liked it
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.
Jan 13, 2013 Jane rated it liked it
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.
May 05, 2013 Susan rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Apr 15, 2016 Alexandra rated it it was amazing
When I listened to the first episode of Gastropod, I immediately decided I needed to read Bee Wilson's Consider the Fork. And now I have, and I was not disappointed.

To start with the writing: Wilson writes beautifully. Her prose is clear, occasionally whimsical, sensible, and altogether a delight to read. It's not that often that I read 280 pages of history in just over a day, even when I'm on holidays. In fact at one point I tried to put it away because I was worried I would finish it too quic
Oct 11, 2015 Tracey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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

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
Apr 14, 2013 Amanda rated it really liked it
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
Nov 27, 2012 AJ rated it liked it
Recommends it for: historians and cooks
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
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
Dec 17, 2015 Jeanette rated it liked it
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
Jan 29, 2016 Chris rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 26, 2013 Megan rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Jan 22, 2013 Erin rated it liked it
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 ...more
Feb 11, 2013 Karin rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Consider the Fork is an entertaining and fascinating romp through the history of cooking, food and the utensils we use to prepare our meals. It might seem a rather dry topic - the history of everything from spoons and measuring cups to mirowaves and fridges, and every odd thing in between - but in fact Bee Wilson keeps her topic light and interesting, and I was consumed to the very end. I couldn't resist regaling others at dinner with the fascinating facts about forks and knives, and the differe ...more
Feb 26, 2013 Melody rated it it was ok
Shelves: alamw13
I got a review copy of this at ALA. I was really excited about it too. However, the book didn't live up to my expectations. It was particularly choppy, each chapter (one chapter per tool, basically) was a self-contained unit, and it didn't flow. I think I would have liked a chronological tale rather than a biography of each tool.

I found that it was repetitive. There was one chapter early on where the author told me the same thing 3 or 4 times, in nearly the exact same wording.

On the plus side,
Mar 09, 2013 Melanie rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Jan 11, 2016 Vicki rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This a fantastic book and, I think, a rare breed: a history of domestic cooking technology! A testament to it is that I couldn't stop reading interesting snippets about graters or ovens etc. out to Lee while he was trying to do other things ;)

I heard about this book on the Gastropod podcast, which is also highly recommended: its about food, with a healthy dollop of science and history.

These are the kinds of things I'm always on the lookout for - very interesting, not-too-dry, content on the sci
Janet Gardner
Mar 10, 2014 Janet Gardner rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
I’m a sucker for food writing, history, and socio-political stuff, so no surprise that I would love a book combining all three. Wilson looks at cooking technology in its broadest sense—from the discovery that fire could make previously inedible (or at least undesirable) things into something nourishing and even tasty, right through the latest trends in “molecular gastronomy” using liquid nitrogen injection, centrifuges, and ultrasound. The book is full of fun facts. (Did you know that many profe ...more
Rebecca H.
Jan 11, 2016 Rebecca H. rated it really liked it
A very interesting, well-written book full of good facts to pester others with.
Nicole G.
Apr 20, 2016 Nicole G. rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016, food-history
This was fantastic. To use a gastronomic verb, I SAVORED this book.

There is a podcast on food called Gastropod, which I recently discovered. On their inaugural episode, the hosts interviewed Bee Wilson about this book, and it sounded so fascinating that I snapped it up immediately.

Ms. Wilson takes you on a fun journey through the history of several objects that many of us take for granted - the fork, of course, but also the refrigerator, ovens, and so on. It's written in a very engaging style, a
Holly the Infinite Book Dragon
Still, not everything can be reduced to measurements. Many things that matter in the kitchen are beyond measuring: how much you enjoy the company of those you dine with; the satisfaction of using up the last crust of bread before it goes moldy; the way an Italian blood orange tastes in February; the pleasure of cold cucumber soup on a hot evening; the feeling of having a hearty appetite and the means to satisfy it.

This was okay. I am not a big fan of nonfiction mixed with memoir. I had less inte
Caroline Taggart
Aug 20, 2014 Caroline Taggart rated it it was amazing
It’s easy to be intimidated by a book whose bibliography and further reading occupy nearly 30 pages, but don’t be. Consider the Fork is an immensely readable, page-turning delight. With chapters titled ‘Pots and Pans’, ‘Knife, ‘Fire’, ‘Grind’ and the like it is a social history of cooking as explained or ordained by the utensils we use.

Consider the cultural difference between those who carry a dagger-like knife in order to carve their own meat at the table, and those whose eating utensils are c
Craig Werner
Jan 29, 2014 Craig Werner rated it really liked it
Shelves: food
Fun book, cram-jammed with off-the-wall facts about, as the subtitle promises, cooking and eating. Wilson has a chatty, oh-so-English, style that meshes nicely with the content. She's droll, a bit elitist without being condescending to time-tested vernacular technologies and skills, realistic about the relationship between class and cooking--it makes a difference to your menu choices if you don't have to beat the eggs yourself. Her basic point is that the way we eat and the tools we use evolve a ...more
Mar 24, 2013 Emily rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Joanna
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
David Dinaburg
Aug 22, 2013 David Dinaburg rated it it was amazing
In many ways, this is the fun version of Salt Sugar Fat; a light-hearted, enjoyable, and immensely informative series of historical vignettes not about what we cook but about with what we cook. Its brighter tone likely stems from it being a paean for all the ways food has been and continues to be created rather than a methodical progression of horror stories about all the trimethobenzamide you just unwittingly ate. It was the first time in a while that a book made me physically laugh out loud ra ...more
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Beatrice Dorothy "Bee" Wilson (born 7 March 1974, Oxford) is a British food writer and historian. Wilson is married to the political scientist David Runciman and lives in Cambridge. The daughter of A.N. Wilson and the Shakespearean scholar Katherine Duncan-Jones, her sister is Emily Wilson, a Classicist at the University of Pennsylvania.
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“Technology is not a form of robotics but something very human: the creation of tools and techniques that answer certain uses in our lives.” 5 likes
“Traditional histories of technology do not pay much attention to food. They tend to focus on hefty industrial and military developments: wheels and ships, gunpowder and telegraphs, airships and radio. When food is mentioned, it is usually in the context of agriculture—systems of tillage and irrigation—rather than the domestic work of the kitchen. But there is just as much invention in a nutcracker as in a bullet.” 4 likes
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