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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars fascinating and utterly readable
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...
Published 23 months ago by Ms Doyle

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Loads of information but not presented in the best way
Try as I might it is impossible not to compare this book to Bill Brysons At Home. I read At Home recently and loved every word - he seems to know at every point that your attention may be wandering and brings you back again straight away. Unfortunately this book doesn't do that. There are lots of interesting facts but it is presented in quite a dry way. Persevere and...
Published 15 months ago by Janie U


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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars fascinating and utterly readable, 19 Oct 2012
This review is from: Consider the Fork: A History of Invention in the Kitchen (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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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My favourite kind of history book - thoughtful, unusual, quirky and provocative, 30 Oct 2012
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This review is from: Consider the Fork: A History of Invention in the Kitchen (Hardcover)
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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. This great culinary leap forward also opens the way to obesity as an unwanted side effect - starches and sugars become easily available and we have to expend little energy to get at them - an apple eaten raw has the same number of calories as the same apple stewed - but the body uses more energy to obtain the energy from the raw apple.

I grew up with stainless steel cutlery as the norm (steel alloy with chromium) - so had no idea that the earlier incarnation of steel cutlery (carbon steel) would corrode and react with the acid in foods to produce a nasty tainted taste on foods. Hence the reason why the French still think salad leaves should be hand torn, not cut (a residue from days when knives plus vinaigrette caused that acid reaction) and why the well-off would have silver fish knives - silver plus a squeeze of lemon juice on fish, fine, carbon steel plus lemon juice - eeeukk to the taste buds.

And, finally, I could go on and on plucking out delectable titbits of info to wave at you, pronged on my stainless steel fork - what WE think of as `roasting' as in `roast beef' is in fact baking, as in `baked beef'. The root of the word roast has the same origin as rotate, and comes from the spit roasting of food stuffs over an open fire/flame, the meat rotated for even cooking and a collecting vessel below to catch the juices. A completely different (and by all accounts) highly superior flavour and texture compared to oven baked meat

I better stop here, and waste no more of your time, but encourage you to get this lovely book and its charming line drawings, and delightfully spear some snippets for yourself, on a very old, point- ended table knife!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars From forks and cookers and lots more, 3 Jan 2014
By 
Dr. Paul Ell (NI, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Consider the Fork: A History of Invention in the Kitchen (Hardcover)
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While I'm interested in the technology behind coffee machines - and as a result have hob-top coffee makers to bean to cup machines - other technological developments in the kitchen have largely passed me by. I'm not sure that anyone has published a book on advances in technology used in the kitchen, and am certain no one has published something as comprehensive as this work. Well, there's not too much on coffee but over its 500 pages it covers just abut everything. The writing style is a little dry and the book would benefit from some use of colour in either line drawings or photographs rather than the relatively few pencil drawings it contains. As a result I'm dropping a star for this.

I'm not sure of the audience for the book. Technophiles are probably not going to be very interested in kitchen developments and the majority of cooks will have only limited interest in the technology behind the techniques and equipment they use. That said I think the book will fir the latter category best.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very useful, 29 Dec 2013
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Thomas Pots "T Pots" (England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Consider the Fork: A History of Invention in the Kitchen (Hardcover)
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Here's a novelty in food writing: a book about the kitchen itself. Wilson takes us on a tour of the kitchen, utensil by utensil, pot by pot, giving the history each, and examining the relative merits of the designs and materials that have emerged over time. The complex history of the kitchen and cooking, and their closeness to table manners, social niceties, hygiene and so on, make for very interesting reading.

What is an aluminium pot good or not good for? When and why would you use a wooden spoon or a metal spoon? What's the point of the point on a knife, or the squared-off bit near the hilt? The author certainly lifts the lid on many aspects of the kitchen that are taken for granted, but the real interest lies in the usefulness of this knowledge to producing better food. The humble cooking pot, for example, has a lengthy history, but its development points the way to choosing the right pot for particular ingredients or a given recipe. Surprisingly, the titular fork doesn't merit its own chapter, though it does get a few pages to itself, and plenty of mentions elsewhere.

The book has a few line-drawings but lacks good quality illustrations and photographs. Describing pot shapes is fine, but a few photographs would help the text. It is a very useful book though; well worth a read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Loads of information but not presented in the best way, 29 May 2013
By 
Janie U (Kings Cliffe, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Consider the Fork: A History of Invention in the Kitchen (Hardcover)
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Try as I might it is impossible not to compare this book to Bill Brysons At Home. I read At Home recently and loved every word - he seems to know at every point that your attention may be wandering and brings you back again straight away. Unfortunately this book doesn't do that. There are lots of interesting facts but it is presented in quite a dry way. Persevere and there are gems in here but they are too few.
At the end of each chapter, the author focuses on one particular kitchen item which relates to the that chapter. I enjoyed this structure and it was a good way to close the chapter.
If you are specifically interested in kitchen history then this will be enjoyed but if you are looking for some general interest reading then I would suggest that this would not grab you.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absorbing and readable, 3 Feb 2013
By 
S. J. Williams "stevejw2" (Leeds, West Yorkshire United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Consider the Fork: A History of Invention in the Kitchen (Hardcover)
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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. Of course the modern kitchen is the site of all sorts of cultural tics way beyond practicality or need: the obsession with gadgetry, style etc. Though these elements are referenced, the heart of the book is about function rather than observing the barometer of kitchen fetishism. At the end of it, for me, the wooden spoon is the pinnacle of design, matching material, practicality and elegance in perfect harmony. how ironic that it should be a symbol of failure!

Others have complained that this is a less-than-gripping read with a thin sprinkling of insights: perhaps I am easily pleased, but I found the book very engaging and full of 'gosh, that's interesting' moments. It is well-written and witty. It also makes one look at the process of cooking and the tools we use in the kitchen with fresh eyes.

Recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Enthusiastic but lacks "aha" enough moments, 15 Jan 2013
By 
Ripple (uk) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Consider the Fork: A History of Invention in the Kitchen (Hardcover)
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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.

A less strong criticism, but one you might want to be aware of, is that there is a tendency for Wilson's own personal experiences in the kitchen to come over in the manner of that Nigella Lawson on TV style of an idealised, middle class life that few of us really get to enjoy. Wilson, we are told, uses a tape measure to make her biscotti. Maybe I'm just envious of this lifestyle but it's a long way from mine.

A bigger problem is that while there are some interesting nuggets in here (I never knew dogs were used to turn spits for example), compared with Bryson's "At Home" which had a "ohh, I never knew that" every few pages, here the "oh really?" moments are few and far between, especially if you have watched more than a couple of episodes of any of the TV antiques shows that regularly unearth historic kitchenalia.

Her approach is admirably broad - throughout history and global - although in general she is stronger on modern technology. However, this also leads to some strange omissions. She goes into raptures (correctly in my view) about the Oxo vegetable peeler and yet has no mention of the technically clever chopping blocks that fold over to present a kind of chute which seems to me very much in the same vein to give one example.

Overall, it's an enthusiastic and well meaning approach but the end result is a little on the dry side for my taste.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating read, 21 Aug 2014
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If you're interested in food and the world around food then you'll enjoy this book. It was a fascinating read which I read over three evenings. The book is well set out and leads nicely from one subject on to the next. Includes lots of things you know but also lots of things you don't. I now want to go on one of Ivan Day's courses to really understand the history of what ends up on our tables, knives and forks included.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A perfect gift for 'foodie' know-it-alls!, 1 July 2014
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H. Holland (Hampshire, UK) - See all my reviews
A gift for my 'foodie' dad for Father's Day. He loved it and having read it cover to cover is now re-reading his favourite chapters and is boring all of us with his new 'did you know' knowledge! A perfect buy for those with an interest in food history.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Grand, 28 April 2014
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Well written, interesting and well researched.

Grand read and some surprising information. She has a chatty informative style and her passion for her subject shines through.
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Consider the Fork: A History of Invention in the Kitchen
Consider the Fork: A History of Invention in the Kitchen by Bee Wilson (Hardcover - 25 Oct 2012)
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