Food is an important factor in human existence. We need it to live, it’s as simple as that, and the remains of food and kitchens can tell us a great deal about the people in the past. And that’s what Consider the Fork goes into.
Everything on this earth eats, and so humans have done it ever since they existed as well. And their eating habits teaches us a lot about humans of past times, as archaeologists often find the remains of meals in the discarded trash that remains for many more centuries than many people would guess. Consider the Fork tries to explain the history of human interaction with food in a comprehensible way by comparing historic tools with modern ones, and placing the historic ones into our modern kitchen. And to be really honest, it all sounds delicious!
Tools are probably of the same importance to kitchens as food was, however most sources talk only about food and never about tools when they look into the art of cooking. Food is a way for people to stay alive, and the introduction of plant material shows agriculture and therefore a sedentary lifestyle. The end. I know this very well myself, half of the essays and papers I had to read during my masters went like this.
But there is more to cooking, a side that tells just as much about a settlement as whether or not they lived of farming or hunting/gathering. By looking into the tools and the way they developed you can better understand the people who were behind them. Did they cook in pots? Did they use very specific tools because there was only one kind of root to eat? And if so, what does that say about their way of live and the environment? Bee Wilson shows through historic record and tools what great importance the study of tools has, and she does it in very understandable English. Which can’t be said of every history book.
Consider the Fork is a great historical book with a great amount of research behind it, that has to be said. But it also has a flaw.
When you see Consider the Fork, it reminds you a bit of an older cookbook. It has a very simple cover, made up in several shades of brown, and the coarse paper feels almost cozy in your hands. But it isn’t a cookbook, not at all actually. There is an extensive bibliography at the end and even recommendations to read further into specific topics, but nothing on the recipes Wilson mentions resulting in never enough detail to reproduce them. And this is a pity because many of them sound utterly delicious and there is no doubt that a more modern version can be easily made. And this is kind of a bummer, deminishing the book to the corner of historians and really artisan cooks instead of inviting it into the homes of all foodlovers.
Consider the Fork
Bee Wilson is the food writer and historian who writes as the ‘Kitchen Thinker’ in the Sunday Telegraph, and is the author of Swindled!. Her charming and original new book, Consider the Fork, explores how the implements we use in the kitchen have shaped the way we cook and live. This is the story of how we have tamed fire and ice, wielded whisks, spoons, graters, mashers, pestles and mortars, all in the name of feeding ourselves. Bee Wilson takes us on an enchanting culinary journey through the incredible creations, inventions and obsessions that have shaped how and what we cook. From huge Tudor open fires to sous-vide machines, the birth of the fork to Roman gadgets, Consider the Fork is the previously unsung history of our kitchens.
Bee Wilson. Consider the Fork / Penguin / 9780141049083