Consider the Fork: How Technology Transforms the Way We Cook and Eat by Bee Wilson (Weekend Cooking)

Consider the Fork: How Technology Transforms the Way We Cook and EatConsider the Fork: How Technology Transforms the Way We Cook and Eat by Bee Wilson
Published by Basic Books

From the publisher:

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 humbler tools of everyday cooking and eating: a wooden spoon and a skillet, chopsticks and forks.

In Consider the Fork, award-winning food writer Bee Wilson provides a wonderful and witty tour of the evolution of cooking around the world, revealing the hidden history of everyday objects we often take for granted. Knives—perhaps our most important gastronomic tool—predate the discovery of fire, whereas the fork endured centuries of ridicule before gaining widespread acceptance; pots and pans have been around for millennia, while plates are a relatively recent invention. Many once-new technologies have become essential elements of any well-stocked kitchen—mortars and pestles, serrated knives, stainless steel pots, refrigerators. Others have proved only passing fancies, or were supplanted by better technologies; one would be hard pressed now to find a water-powered egg whisk, a magnet-operated spit roaster, a cider owl, or a turnspit dog. Although many tools have disappeared from the modern kitchen, they have left us with traditions, tastes, and even physical characteristics that we would never have possessed otherwise.

Blending history, science, and anthropology, Wilson reveals how our culinary tools and tricks came to be, and how their influence has shaped modern food culture. The story of how we have tamed fire and ice and wielded whisks, spoons, and graters, all for the sake of putting food in our mouths, Consider the Fork is truly a book to savor.

I almost never participate in Weekend Cooking, hosted by Beth Fish Reads every Saturday, but I almost always wish I did. I figured the fact that I read a foodie book recently is as good a reason as any to join this week!

I’m not sure why exactly I got this one from Audible – I think it was a daily deal or deeply discounted or something – because it’s not really something I’d pick up on my own. I like food, and I like food books, and I like history, which is probably what made me think I’d enjoy this one, and I did enjoy it, but it’s pretty different from the typical nonfiction I read.

First, let me say that Consider the Fork is impeccably well-researched. To say there’s a ton of food history here is a huge understatement – Wilson traces food technology from the days before the invention of the knife up to the present, details how different cultures have used different technology in different and unique ways, and makes what could be quite a dull subject incredibly interesting. I learned a lot, and I think if you’re a bigger foodie and more accomplished chef them myself (which is probably most people), you will get even more out of the book than I did.

The audio was well done, too. Alison Larkin narrates and she has a sweet voice with an English accent that makes for a very pleasant listening experience. Whenever I spent time listening to the book, I very much enjoyed her narration.

The only issue I had with Consider the Fork is that I just wasn’t hugely compelled to pick it up almost ever. When I listened to it, I enjoyed the experience and came away with some nugget of new knowledge, but I never felt that feeling of being excited to pick it up again – does that make sense? I’m wondering if I personally would have benefited more from reading this one in print? I’m not sure, to be honest. It also could be that I’m just not super excited about and interested in food history/technology.

Either way, I can still recommend Consider the Fork for foodies and those who love learning about cooking history and technology. Wilson did an incredible job with her research on this one, and even though I can recognize this might not have been the best book for my personal tastes, it is clear that those with interest in this subject will find a lot to enjoy within the book.

14 thoughts on “Consider the Fork: How Technology Transforms the Way We Cook and Eat by Bee Wilson (Weekend Cooking)”

  1. This does sound interesting! I hear you about books you don’t feel compelled to keep picking up. A lot of nonfiction can be like that for me, and I end up reading less nonfiction than I’d like to, so I’ve started doing a thing where I keep my nonfiction reads on my bedside table and read them a chapter at a time before I fall asleep. It’s been working great — I’m just about finished with a huge (but wonderful!) history of Congo, and then I’m on to a book about GHOSTS.

  2. I get exactly what you mean about not dying to pick it up. I do have to wonder if it’s a book that would be better in print. I have a feeling I’d like it.

  3. I, too, understand what you mean. It seems like a tidbit book and one I would likely read as a chapter at a time or something. I will say that when the cider owl and turnspit dog came up, I thought of that Ron Popeil guy (you know, the one with spray on hair?) who sold the Veg-O-Matic and Food Dehydrator and a bunch of other stuff. And I also thought of those appliances that many had and have that are good for one or two uses and then pushed way back under the cabinets. LOL

  4. Wow. Sounds like my kind of book. And like others have said, I understand what you mean. Some books are better in print than audio. This sounds like the kind of book that would be fun to read in bits and chunks — and I’m definitely adding this to my wish list (but in print).

    1. Yes, I think you would really like this one!! Next time I read a book like this I’m taking everyone’s advice and just doing a chapter or so at a time.

  5. Perhaps an instance of where there was just too much of the research thrown into the book? Sometimes it feels like authors think they need to tell us everything they learned. Which is great if you’re deeply interested in a subject but makes it much less enjoyable for those of us looking to learn something, but not everything.

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