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Consider the Fork: A History of How We Cook and Eat Paperback – 24 Oct 2013

4.3 out of 5 stars 114 customer reviews

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Frequently Bought Together

  • Consider the Fork: A History of How We Cook and Eat
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  • First Bite: How We Learn to Eat
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Product details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (24 Oct. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141049081
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141049083
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.3 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (114 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 43,327 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

A cracking good read, as enjoyable as it is enlightening (Raymond Blanc, Chef-Patron 'Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons')

Wonderful ... Witty, scholarly, utterly absorbing and fired by infectious curiosity (Lucy Lethbridge Observer)

[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)

A graceful study (Steven Poole Guardian)

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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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Format: Kindle Edition
An interview with the author brought this book to my attention, and while I was sceptical that the subject could fill a book I decided to give it a go. I was right to be doubtful. This must be the most long-winded, insubstantial books I have read. There is little here that I haven't come across before, and any new information is extrapolated upon ad nauseum. The section on weights and measures, for instance, is interminable and repetitious. And when you finish you conclude that what was said could have been done in a quarter of the space. Really the fundamental problem is that this is a thin plot stretched to ridiculous lengths. At 200 pages it may have been bearable, but 400 is simply overkill. If the writing were stylish and witty this may have been excusable, but the dry, functional tone makes the journey seem even longer.
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By Thomas Pots TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 29 Dec. 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
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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