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Consider the Fork: A History of How We Cook and Eat | [Bee Wilson]

Consider the Fork: A History of How We Cook and Eat

Since prehistory, humans have braved the business ends of knives, scrapers, and mashers, all in the name of creating something delicious - or at least edible. In Consider the Fork, award-winning food writer and historian Bee Wilson traces the ancient lineage of our modern culinary tools, revealing the startling history of objects we often take for granted. Charting the evolution of technologies from the knife and fork to the gas range and the sous-vide cooker, Wilson offers unprecedented insights.
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Publisher's Summary

Since prehistory, humans have braved the business ends of knives, scrapers, and mashers, all in the name of creating something delicious - or at least edible. In Consider the Fork, award-winning food writer and historian Bee Wilson traces the ancient lineage of our modern culinary tools, revealing the startling history of objects we often take for granted. Charting the evolution of technologies from the knife and fork to the gas range and the sous-vide cooker, Wilson offers unprecedented insights into how we've prepared and consumed food over the centuries - and how those basic acts have changed our societies, our diets, and our very selves.

©2012 Bee Wilson (P)2012 Tantor

What the Critics Say

"Wilson is erudite and whip-smart, but she always grounds her exploration of technological change in the perspective of the eternal harried cook - she's been one - struggling to put a meal on the table. This is mouthwatering history: broad in scope, rich in detail, stuffed with savory food for thought." (Publishers Weekly)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

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  •  
    Catherine TALLAHASSEE, FL, United States 03-31-14
    Catherine TALLAHASSEE, FL, United States 03-31-14 Member Since 2013
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    "Intriguing history of everyday utensils"

    This was a well-researched and well-presented book about the history of everyday utensils like the fork as well as appliances, kitchen designs, and almost anything pertaining to the preparation of food. Bee Wilson did an excellent job of presenting the material with interesting side notes about cultural changes that were created because of a change in the use of utensils or food preparation.

    Anyone with an interest in anthropology will find this an invaluable resource. Wilson details the usage of utensils not only in terms of their actual intended use but also in terms of their symbolism to society. She explores the choice of chopsticks over the fork, various spoon designs, how an entire society developed an overbite because of their choice of eating utensil, how advertisements for kitchen design were used to encourage women in the United States during war years, why it was considered bad form or a sign of wealth and taste to use one utensil over another, how the KitchenAid stand mixer and the Cuisinart food processor forever changed the way we cook, and why the state of Georgia in the United States is a leading manufacturer of disposable chopsticks for China.

    The narrator, Alison Larken, has a beautiful reading voice and rendered an exceptional performance.

    For anyone looking for an action-packed thriller, this is not the book for you. For anyone interested in anthropology, technological advancements in kitchenware, or why you prefer to use chopsticks over a fork or a fork over chopsticks, grab this book. You will never see your fork, spoon, knife, or chopsticks the same, again.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    G. House Sr. Sherborn, MA, United States 07-10-13
    G. House Sr. Sherborn, MA, United States 07-10-13 Member Since 2012

    I am an avid listener. I listen between 75-100 hours per month on my iPhone: 60% fiction to 40% non-fiction.

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    "Great information if you play Trivail Pursuit"

    I have read a significant number of books of this ilk. I generally like the book. You lean about the history of this and that -- one of them being the fork. Although this book is packed with interesting information. There is nothing earth moving or should I should say cow moving. If you want to lean many numerous factoids, this is the book for you. For me it was just ok.

    7 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sean BELVEDERE TIBURON, CA, United States 10-24-12
    Sean BELVEDERE TIBURON, CA, United States 10-24-12 Member Since 2009
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    "You'll see your kitchen in a new light"

    The book is a collection of historical sketches about various cooking implements. Although neither exhaustive nor comprehensive it manages to entertain and inform.

    There are many books on food history, but this is the first I've found on the history of pots, appliances and flatware. However, the author bites off a little more than she can chew and the writing becomes uneven and erratic. There are simply too many ingredients to do justice to all aspects of cookery.

    You will not learn any recipes from the book, but you will never look at your kitchen the same way again. I learned many fascinating facts (like the fact that Europeans have only had an overbite for about 200 years) and new appreciation for medieval recipes like "beat the eggs enough to tire one or two people." She draws interesting conclusions about how our cultural beliefs shaped the instruments we use to prepare and eat our food. She even makes a convincing argument about how the fundamental differences in Eastern and Western culture play out at the dining table.

    The reader delivers a solid performance in her British accent but she affects American, Southern and French accents for quotes. They are probably artistically authentic but they do not sit well in the ear.

    Overall, I enjoyed the book but it has problems with organization and pacing.

    4 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tim United States 06-30-14
    Tim United States 06-30-14 Member Since 2010

    My reviews are always pending.

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    "Kitchen Anthropology"

    When I was reading "Consider the Fork", I truly thought that Bill Bryson was the author, but I needed to look back to the cover that Bee Wilson wrote this book about the kitchen and the tools that we use to eat and cook. This is one of my favorite informational books that I've read all year because not only she explains the utensils that we use to feed ourselves, but Wilson also went into the culture where it came from. It was like a kitchen anthropology and how the room revolved overtime. I wished that there was more audiobooks from Bee Wilson because I found her information to be really interesting and not overwhelming at all. This is not a cook book, but it's more like an encyclopedia on the most popular room in any homes.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robert O Barron Beulah, ND 06-22-14
    Robert O Barron Beulah, ND 06-22-14 Member Since 2013
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    "Better than advertised"
    Would you consider the audio edition of Consider the Fork to be better than the print version?

    I purchased this book half heartedly thinking that it might be interesting. What I found was really excellent. In fact I went and purchased the paper version as well (purest) so that I can reference some of the things Ms. Wilson discusses for further study. This book is presented in such a way that the information is not just dry facts thrown at you in an organized or semi-organized way, the content is well thought out and presented in such a way as to keep the, listener in this case, interested in what is going on. Usually I will blip off during a story as I am doing other things at the time, sometimes a lot of other things, during this book I rarely did and never for very long. I found it particularly interesting how we have and have not "evolved" in the kitchen.
    I recommend this book to anyone interested in food and how we got to where we are.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Ivan was particularly interesting and I will be looking him up when I get the chance.


    Which character – as performed by Alison Larkin – was your favorite?

    n/a


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    Yes, it really kept my interest throughout.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Cathi Miami, Florida, United States 03-20-14
    Cathi Miami, Florida, United States 03-20-14 Member Since 2011
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    "Must read for anyone who enjoys cooking!"

    This book really blew my expectations. I love her comfortable style of writing and her witty comments. As I listened to the different chapters, I felt this incredible connection to her as a fellow lover of food. Really worthwhile, my only complaint would be that it did not come with attached pictures of the described contraptions.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robert Mann-Thompson Washington, DC USA 12-28-13
    Robert Mann-Thompson Washington, DC USA 12-28-13 Member Since 2005
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    "Clearly on of the best"
    What made the experience of listening to Consider the Fork the most enjoyable?

    The reader was clearly, engaging and the tempo was very good. The writing was amazingly thought provoking.


    What other book might you compare Consider the Fork to and why?

    I've been looking for other books as I've never read anything quite so engaging. It reminded me a bit of the James Burke show "Connections"


    Which scene was your favorite?

    By far the chapter on Pots and Pans were quite interesting, and the one on refrigeration.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    JoAnn Boston, MA, United States 12-15-13
    JoAnn Boston, MA, United States 12-15-13 Member Since 2013
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    "VERY interesting, albeit a bit dry"

    This was a great retrospective on food and cooking; however, I might have preferred it in the written form. Spending 2 hours a day in a car, 60 straight minutes on "forks" can make you a bit crazy. The narrator had an AMAZING British accent and I loved hearing her speak... even if it was only about forks! :)

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    11-10-13
    11-10-13 Member Since 2013
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    "well researched history of cooking from open fires"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    yes. It explains a lot of cooking history, the reasons behind the do's & don't


    What does Alison Larkin bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    the humour


    Any additional comments?

    I never thought about the history of cooking. I took a lot of the modern stuff for granted, as i expect many people do.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Pierre Gauthier Montréal 10-21-12
    Pierre Gauthier Montréal 10-21-12 Listener Since 2010
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    "Uncooked!"
    Any additional comments?

    Clearly, a considerable amount of research has been made before producing this work. It does include a wide array of historical facts and anecdotes on a fascinating topic that is rarely covered elsewhere in such detail.

    Sadly, insufficient efforts were given on actually organizing and writing the book. Though sections are devoted to specific topics such as forks, blenders and coffee makers, there is little structure in the material presented. Chronologically and geographically, the reader is constantly shifted from one point to another. One might think that a series of notes were simply attached with word processing software.

    The situation is worsened by the numerous self-centered references to the author’s favourite breakfast, to the cup given by her husband featuring the portraits of the US presidents, to her mother, to her children, etc.

    In the audio book version, the narrator quite fittingly has a rather maternal voice. The occasional imitations of foreign accents are however poorly rendered and outright annoying.

    Overall, this work can hardly be recommended except perhaps (in written format) as a source of information on specific aspects of the cooking universe.

    4 of 10 people found this review helpful
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