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

3.7 of 5 stars 3.70  ·  rating details  ·  3,709 ratings  ·  550 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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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
...more
Lois Bujold
Nov 18, 2013 Lois Bujold rated it 4 of 5 stars
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
...more
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 ...more
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 ...more
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.
AJ
Nov 27, 2012 AJ rated it 3 of 5 stars
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
...more
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
...more
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 ...more
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
...more
Chris Lake
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 millennia.

One other way she points out how technology has influenced out way of eating comes with the invention
...more
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
...more
Erin Anne
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
Karin
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
Melody
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,
...more
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 ...more
Janet Gardner
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
Craig Werner
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
David Dinaburg
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
Brian T
This is my kind of book! Then again, I don't know a bunch of people that have read full-length narratives regarding: Cod, Potatoes, Tomatoes, Coffee, Sugar, Salt, Spices and Mad Cow Disease.

This book is full of wonderful anecdotes about cooking appliances both old and new that seem both inspired and ludicrous, sometimes at the same time, depending on the perceptions of the user. Some people want every conceivable appliance. Some people believe in the old adage that "less is more". In truth, both
...more
Éowyn
I don't know about you, but I can't say I've ever spent much time considering the fork - it's just one of those things we have in everyday life. Of course, some cultures would think about forks much less, as they don't use them at all! Bee Wilson takes us on a tour of the history of domestic cookery and the implements used. There is a good deal of focus on the West, but also lots of information about the different Eastern cultures and how their different approach to eating has a visible impact!

T
...more
Ben
I enjoyed the random facts sprinkled throughout this book more than the text itself, which sometimes got a bit too philosophically British in a way that got tiresome. But some fun facts and quotations!

Yuca is the third-largest source of edible carbohydrate in the world.

Table manners are based upon the fear that the person next to you would pull the knife he kept personally in his dagger and try to cut you.

"It takes a civilization in an advanced state of politesse--or passive aggression--to devis
...more
Joshua
An interesting book, but not that well written. The author has some very annoying tendencies in her writing that just ended up grating on my nerves by the end.

For one, she latches on to something she doesn't like an harps on it far longer than she should. For example, the tendency in the United States for us to measure dry ingredients in cups instead of weight clearly annoyed her and she let us know it; She just needs to get over it, that a slight improvement in accuracy does not make up for th
...more
Heather
While I don't usually rate a book halfway through, this book will seriously have to screw up in the next hundred pages for me to give it any less than five stars. This is the most fun history book I've read since graduating, although the lack of footnotes stresses me out a little (I'm sure there are copious endnotes, since the author quotes quite a few sources). It's very readable. The book's organization is perfect for the subject: it divides cooking technologies into subsections (pots, knives, ...more
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
...more
Bunnyjadwiga
I've gotten so that when an English writer says something completely, documentably daft about the middle ages, I immediately think "He/she went to Cambridge." So far, unfortunately, I've been right. For instance, Peter Brears (in more than one book that Wilson CITES!) is very clear and persuasive that the reason so many men staffed professional pre-modern and medieval kitchens was because of the amount of specifically upper body strength needed to manhandle the huge spits, pots, etc. (There's a ...more
Aziff
Non-fiction is tricky. Write it the wrong way and you risk losing the interest of the reader - but write it well and you'll get them hooked right to the last word. And having finished B. Wilson's Consider the Fork, I am ecstatic to declare that it falls into the latter. B. Wilson guides us through the anthropology and history of the culinary tools we interact in our every day life. She dissects it down to its roots, builds it up with wonderful storytelling and hits it on notes that just leaves y ...more
Will
I enjoyed some of the information in this, but did find that the subject matter was so broad that it kind of had the same problems that a book written by a journalist summarizing a complicated subject has (rather than a book written by someone who actually knows a lot about that subject).

The whole bit about the tou (italics hers), referring to the Chinese cleaver, was a bit annoying, since tou is just the Cantonese pronunciation of 'dao'.

The super short chapters seemed like a way to work in mate
...more
Sue Heraper
“Consider the Fork” is a real treat! I love reading historical fiction, and even some true history if it is well-written. This is a well-written history of how we cook and eat.

Bee Wilson, who holds a PhD in history, is a food critic and former food columnist in England. She put her considerable research and writing skills to work in this witty tour of the evolution of cooking around the world.

This is the story of how we tamed fire and ice, wielded spoons and knives, developed systems of measur
...more
Deidre
Did you know there was once a breed of dog devoted only to turning spits for roasting meat? This is just one of the pieces of information in this fascinating look at how food preparation has evolved over the years. From ancient cooking pots, to elaborate Victorian table settings, to modern gadgetry, Bee Wilson, a food writer covers the whole range of the cooking experience through time. She takes on various cooking methods and tools, showing along the way the many ways we have changed and the su ...more
James
A delicious romp through the history of not just food but the implements involved. Forks, until pretty recently, were considered barbaric to have at a dinner table. And be glad you didn't live back in the days when it took 3 hours to beat the eggs for a large cake. They didn't have whisks, but they did have twigs and lots and lots and lots of servants. If you were rich. If you weren't then a great deal of your day was spend preparing food. And no, the best thing isn't sliced bread. It's granulat ...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.
More about Bee Wilson...
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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.” 3 likes
“The modern scientific method in which experiments form part of a structured system of hypothesis, experimentation, and analysis is as recent as the seventeenth century; the problem-solving technology of cooking goes back thousands of years.” 2 likes
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