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
"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)
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.
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.
The narrator was engaging, even if the subject was a little dry. I would listen again to pick up details and facts I might have missed.
It reminded me of Bill Bryson's "At Home: A Short History of Private Life." It was full of interesting historical context for everyday items.
I thought it was interesting that the narrator subtly adopted an american, french, or austrailian accent when she was quoting people from those various countries.
It's a little too dense for that... too much information to digest all in one sitting.
I buy audiobooks for my wife to listen to on her daily commute to work. Typically I get praise for my selections. She is a foodie and has read academic works in different culinary areas. Despite repeated efforts to get through this book, she found the content too dry to finish thus breaking my streak of great selections. This book caters to a niche that is far too narrow for audiobook enthusiasts. In short, if your looking for something to listen to on a long drive or commute, better get a coffee before you get behind the wheel.
There is no central character
Her sidebars and infelctions to better illustrate passages
Nothing extreme that required medical treatment. It's a good hisotrical book for gastronomes
I was surprised by what a powerful interest in this subject the narrator Alison Larkin was able to create. I had never thought I would be so interested in forks or other ways we eat before! Alison Larkin brought a clarity and engaging tone to this information that made me want to hear every word!
I believe I would like to hear this book again, and will certainly suggest that my friends listen to it. It is a rare example of sharing facts in a way that the talented narrator makes you eager to hear.
I think my favorite part of the story was discussing breakfast, and how all the different ways of preparing coffee had changed over the years. Once again, Alison Larkin delivered this information in a way that gave it wit and life and made me smile as I learned.
Alison Larkin brings a tone of excitement to even the smallest facts so that I found myself eagerly listening for more. She also brings a voice that is both melodic and clear, and she is able to strike a variety of notes that keeps one interested in the writing.
Most of all Alison Larkin seems to be enjoying the book and the information she shares so that I as a listener was also caught up in her enthusiasm for the subject.
There were several places that I laughed out loud. I never cried, but was almost always smiling at the wit with which the narrator read.
To me, this information packed book was enhanced by having a narrator in Alison Larkin who could bring it alive in a most enjoyable way.
A charming book that tells the history of what we eat through the tools we use to prepare it. The book is written with great charm and good humor and the narration is just right.
History is most often told through politics and commerce. This is history of a different sort, told through the kitchen.
Entertaining survey of devices used for eating and food prep from ancient times to the more recent activities described as "science as cooking." Alison Larkin's friendly British accent make the book easily digestible.
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