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.
CONSIDER THE FORK
But for almost everything else, the politest way to eat was still with a fork. Among the English upper classes of the mid-twentieth century, the "fork luncheon" and the "fork dinner" were buffet meals at which the knife was dispensed with altogether. The fork was polite because it was less overtly violent than a knife, less babyish and messy than a spoon. Forks were advised for everything from fish to mashed potatoes, from green beans to cream cake. Special forks were devised for ice cream and salads, for sardines and terrapins. The basic rule of Western table manners in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries was: if in doubt, use a fork. "Spoons are sometimes used with firm puddings," noted a cookbook of 1887, "but forks are the better style."
Yet we have short memories when it comes to manners. It was not so long ago that eating anything from a fork had seemed absurd. As a kitchen tool, the fork is ancient. Roasting forkslong spikes for prodding ...
It is not just foodies who will love
Consider the Fork
, which is a fun and breezy read. At the very least, it will make you look at your pots and pans in a new light. And maybe even tempt you to give that bright-red Cuisinart on your countertop a whirl to create yet another memorable meal. (Reviewed by Poornima Apte).
Full Review (1195 words).
While Consider the Fork is filled with delicious nuggets about the history of kitchen implements, some geeky gourmands are looking back to the future and revolutionizing the idea of exactly what we consider a kitchen tool.
Molecular gastronomy, the precision cooking that uses emulsification, gellification and other techniques to create tasty and stunningly beautiful dishes, is cutting-edge and is now beginning to take off among cooks who want to create tasty dishes that also have an entertainment factor. Imagine making chocolate spaghetti, mint caviar or balsamic vinegar pearls. Trendy restaurants now create "foam" made of beets or mushrooms and use them as art on created dishes. A kitchen tool to make these, Molecule-R, is already ...
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