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Consider the Fork: A History of Invention in the Kitchen Hardcover – 25 Oct 2012

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Particular Books; 1st Edition edition (25 Oct. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846143403
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846143403
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 3.7 x 22 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (103 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 210,173 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


I love Bee Wilson's writing (Nigella Lawson)

Bee Wilson's Consider the Fork, though a work of considerable scholarship, is also a cracking good read, as enjoyable as it is enlightening (Raymond Blanc, Chef-Patron 'Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons')

This scholarly and witty book, packed full of fascinating information and thrilling insights, is as enlightening as it is a joy to read (Claudia Roden, author of 'The Food of Spain')

Mind meets kitchen: Bee Wilson sizes up every kitchen implement from the wooden spoon to the ergonomic Microplane, and gives us its history, including versions that led up to each object but did not survive for lack of fitness. Her climax is the kitchen, the room itself, the affluent modern version of which has never been so highly designed; so well equipped; so stylish; or so empty. She conducts us on a sobering, entertaining, and instructive tour (Margaret Visser, leading food historian)

I was so enthralled by Bee Wilson's new book that I found it hard to put down. As always she is a completely reliable guide to her subject, and this history of how we cook and eat is full of surprises - how human table manners have changed our bodies, and how technological changes can affect our personal tastes in food. Her authority is complete, her scholarship lightly worn and her writing terrific (Paul Levy, co-author of 'The Official Foodie Handbook', and editor of 'The Penguin Book of Food and Drink')

A fast-paced and mind-opening investigation into the quirky stories behind our daily interactions with food (Richard Wrangham, author of 'Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human')

[A] delightfully informative history of cooking and eating from the prehistoric discovery of fire to twenty-first-century high-tech, low-temp soud-vide-style cookery (ELLE magazine)

In her wonderful new book, food writer Bee Wilson unpacks the paraphernalia of the average kitchen ... Witty, scholarly, utterly absorbing and fired by infectious curiosity, Consider the Fork wears its impressive research lightly; Wilson has given us a long view on everyday life - the early experiments of our primitive ancestors cast a long and complex shadow over the meals we eat. (Lucy Lethbridge Observer)

Substantial and entertaining ... Bee Wilson belongs to a rare breed: the academic who can write. This book is dense with research, all of it rendered highly palatable ... A keen cook, Wilson has no trouble sorting the culinary fads from the game-changers. (Jemima Lewis Mail on Sunday)

Bee Wilson has a knack for curating fact. Before you can get tired of reading about spitjacks in the Fire chapter, the subject matter hops into a page or two on tandoor ovens, then you find out about thermodynamics, cast-iron ranges and the blaze that set off the Great Fire of London. Throughout the book there are well-judged measures of historical information, alongside anecdotes and a touch of science. Oh, and anthropology ... a fascinating insight. (Gaby Soutar The Scotsman)

A delightful compendium of the tools, techniques and cultures of cooking and eating. Be it a tong or a chopstick, a runcible spoon or a cleaver, Bee Wilson approaches it with loving curiosity and thoroughness.... But as well as providing wry insights into the psychology of cooks down the ages, Consider the Fork is infused with a sense that every omelette, cup of coffee, meringue or tea cake is steeped in tradition and ancient knowledge, and that that is partly what makes cooking one of life's joys. (Molly Guinness Spectator)

Wilson's tour of the kitchen explores all the essential elements of domestic cookery through the ages ... the book is diligently researched and she has a sharp eye for a vivid historical detail ... perceptive. (Jane Shilling Daily Mail)

What new intellectual vistas remain to be conquered by the food obsessive? . . . The erudite and witty food writer Bee Wilson has spotted a gap in the market. . . . [Her] argument is clear and persuasive ... a graceful study. (Steven Poole Guardian)

Wilson is at her sparkling best when unearthing curious histories about the role these inventions played in the evolution of man. She serves up her impressive research in easy-to-digest nuggets, making the chronicle of even the dullest kitchen aid a palatable treat. (Metro)

A sparkling history ... Fascinating and entertaining ... In considering the fork, in short, she forces us to reconsider ourselves. (James McConnachie Sunday Times)

This broad survey makes palatable thousands of years of theory and experience. (Melissa Katsoulis Sunday Telegraph)

About the Author

Bee Wilson writes a weekly food column, 'The Kitchen Thinker' in The Sunday Telegraph, for which she has three times been named the Guild of Food Writers Food Journalist of the Year. Her previous books include The Hive: The Story of the Honeybee and Us and Swindled!. Before she became a food writer, she was a Research Fellow in History at St John's College, Cambridge. She has also been a semi-finalist on Masterchef. Her favourite kitchen implement is currently the potato ricer.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Ms Doyle on 19 Oct. 2012
Format: Hardcover
Consider the Fork, more than being culturally, historically, and anthropologically fascinating, is utterly readable. Each chapter is stitched with a slender thread of autobiography that gives the narrative a structure, which is both satisfying and intimate. Beautifully illustrated with ink and wash drawings, there's a real appreciation of craft here, both of the sentence, and the image. It provokes the belief that the writer, Bee Wilson, and illustrator, Annabel Lee, have a deep respect for cooking as a craft, exploring it through those overlooked objects, that make our kitchens. I loved it, and will never look at a knife the same way again.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Lady Fancifull TOP 500 REVIEWER on 30 Oct. 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is an utter joy. Like many, I suspect I have been a competent user of the day to day tools in my kitchen, without ever thinking about the relationship between those tools and the very food that I eat, or the way I eat them.

In this wonderful unpicking of the humblest kitchen tools, pots and pans, eating implements, knives, the source of heat itself, Wilson throws open our long history, weaving in biology, sociology, politics, technology, and the very way society organises itself. And much more.

This is everyday social history of the highest order. Not only does she make some extraordinary, but, when you think about it, obvious connections, but her very conversational STYLE is engaging. I'm a bit of a lightweight really, and however interesting the subject matter I can't stay engaged by an author who is not gifted and skilful as a writer. And how Bee Wilson is.

For a couple of snippets - I had never considered that it was the leap from cooking food by direct heat - carcase over the fire - to the indirect cooking of something in liquid, that is: the need for a container so that the liquid can be heated by the fire and it is the heated water which heats the food - that opened the way to allow people who had lost their teeth through some trauma, to survive. Cooking vegetables and grains in water enables them to be turned into a mush which needs no chewing - and produces chemical changes. Some vegetables which contain chemistry which is toxic, could never be eaten until cooking vessels came into being - hard tubers can become soft when boiled, whereas cooked over a fire or within a fire are likely to be charred on the outside, and raw on the inside.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By S. J. Williams TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 3 Feb. 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This book is a delight, a pleasant change for a kitchen-focused book from the endless compendia of recipes which too often seem little more than eye-candy. Bee Wilson has produced a serious, but not dull or humourless history of the development of the tools we use, or used to use, to prepare and consume our food.

Each chapter focuses on a particular feature of the culinary process, such as pots and pans, fire, the knife, and is then followed by a brief essay on a specific implement as an example of technological development. So 'Pots and Pans' leads to 'The Rice Cooker' and 'Knife' to 'Mezzaluna'. (The electric rice cooker has swept into most kitchens in Japan, Thailand and many other countries in a relatively brief time, transforming the time-consuming preparation and cooking of sticky rice. It is clearly not, so to speak, a mere flash in the pan.)

Along the way Wilson draws on anthropology, physics, geography and many other disciplines in charting not merely when technological changes occurred but also why and how such developments could be related to cultural practices, diet and so on. Earth cooking and stone boiling, for example, were sometimes retained as cooking processes long after the same culture had embraced clay pots in other areas of use, simply because the staples of that culture's diet did not create a significant need for small items of food to be separately conserved. Similarly, the shapes of spoons used in different locations would reflect the nature of that region's diet. (Obvious, one might say, but I imagine most of us have never attempted to follow through such thinking.)

The cooking practices of pre-history are fascinatingly explored as well as developments from Roman times to the present day.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Ripple TOP 500 REVIEWER on 15 Jan. 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Bee Wilson's "Consider the Fork" is an enthusiastic social anthropological consideration of kitchen equipment. The extensive bibliography and further reading chapters belie the depth of Wilson's research which is on an academic scale, and yet her bubbly, chatting writing style is as far from dry academia as you can get. It's hard not to draw comparisons with her approach and that of Bill Bryson in his broadly similar approach to the house in his "At Home" book. If you are a fan of that style, then you may well enjoy this. But while her clear passion and enthusiasm for the subject make it hard to be too critical, it wasn't quite as fascinating and compelling as I was hoping.

There are a few reasons for this. Firstly, it appears that at some stage in production there has been an argument about the structure - be that in Wilson's own mind or between writer and publisher. It's presented in eight chapters (Pots and Pans; Knife; Fire; Measure; Grind; Eat; Ice; Kitchen) each with a brief two page consideration of a particular utensil (Rice Cooker; Mezzaluna; Toaster; Egg Timer; Nutmeg Grater; Tongs; Moulds; Coffee). To me, this looks like a compromise between treating it as a full scale chapter approach and a more fragmented consideration of many items which might have made it more of a "dip into" book rather than a cover to cover read. The problems for me start in that there are signs of each in the text and therefore Wilson tends towards a lot of repetition if you read it cover to cover, which with the final structure, you almost have to do. It might have worked better divided into more bite sized chunks.
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