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

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3.83  ·  Rating details ·  7,975 ratings  ·  1,116 reviews
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
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Hardcover, 327 pages
Published October 9th 2012 by Basic Books
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Average rating 3.83  · 
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 ·  7,975 ratings  ·  1,116 reviews


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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
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Lois Bujold
Nov 18, 2013 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
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Petra-masx
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.
Julie
Apr 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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 ...more
Christina Dudley
Oct 04, 2012 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
Sesana
Oct 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: food, history, nonfiction
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
Tracey
Jun 09, 2014 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 j
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Diane Barnes
Nov 25, 2015 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.
Dr. Tobias Christian Fischer
Aug 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
Our cooking and eating habits have changed dramatically over the course of history. Special milestones were the use of knives, fire, pots and finally the invention of the refrigerator. Each of our kitchen utensils has its own fascinating history and the development of mankind (Blinkist, 2020).
Susan
Apr 29, 2013 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
Jane
Jan 05, 2013 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.
thefourthvine
Aug 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
A solid review of kitchen technology throught the ages, with some (thought not enough, in my opinion) fascinating facts and a lot things to google. I learned about the history of spoons! I learned about Frankfurt kitchen drawers! I developed great affection for a poisonous ice cream making machine from the 1800s!

Basically, this does what it says on the tin, and whether you like it or not will be entirely determined by whether you just sat up a little straighter and went, “The history of SPOONS?
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Vaishali
Jun 30, 2017 rated it it was ok
Far more conversational then factual, and not well-ordered.
Was able to glean these interesting facts:
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“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
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^

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
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Cynda
May 31, 2018 rated it liked it
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
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Charlene
Dec 06, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: history, innovation
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 ...more
Brie
Feb 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, history
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
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Megan
Dec 11, 2012 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
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Amanda
Apr 14, 2013 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
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AJ
Oct 03, 2012 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
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Julie
Jan 30, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: health, finished-2020
Well, that was a fun read! Perfect for my subway commuting book - nothing too deep or taxing to cause me to miss my train stop. I also learned lots of random fun facts, perfect for boring those around me! It's a win-win haha.

Some facts to ponder:

Rice cookers aren't good for long grain rices, only short grain. - I had no idea. Whoops.

The overbite is a recent aspect of human anatomy and probably results from the way we use our table knives. This has only been the normal alignment of the human jaw
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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 ...more
Olga Godim
Jan 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
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
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Rozarka
Jun 16, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, book-club
I honestly don't know how to rate this book. The topic was interesting and I learned many new things, but reading it was such a chore... I didn't like the structure (too chaotic for me) and all those little stories and anecdotes made the book three times longer than it could have been. Prepare to google a lot because the lack of pictures that would illustrate what was talked about was really noticeable.
Gillyz
Feb 08, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: curiosity, history
First of all, I am no expert at all, I just love reading and sometimes I pick random books to enrich my knowledge, which was the case for 'Consider the Fork'.

The book provided me with lots of interesting information that I will love to share in casual conversations.
However, I am compelled to dispute some of the information provided / omitted:

1- Are French and Chinese cuisines widely considered to be the two greatest in the world? As far as I know, Italy's cuisine is widely considered to be the
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Emily
Mar 24, 2013 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
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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
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Chris
Dec 04, 2012 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
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Tara Brabazon
Oct 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
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Andy
Jan 20, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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!
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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

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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.” 6 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.” 5 likes
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