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Consider the Fork: A History of How We Cook and Eat Hardcover – Oct 2 2012

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Consider the Fork: A History of How We Cook and Eat + A History of Food
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (Oct. 2 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 046502176X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465021765
  • Product Dimensions: 15.6 x 3 x 23.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 544 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #105,940 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


New York Times Book Review
“Bee Wilson’s supple, sometimes playful style in Consider the Fork, a history of the tools and techniques humans have invented to feed themselves, cleverly disguises her erudition in fields from archaeology and anthropology to food science…. Wilson’s insouciant scholarship and companionable voice convince you she would be great fun to spend time with in the kitchen.... [Wilson is a] congenial kitchen oracle.”

The New Yorker
"Full of intriguing scholarship… Wilson remains engaging, and nowhere as deeply or as smoothly as in Consider the Fork, where the information she has to juggle is at once gastronomic, cultural, economic, and scientific…. Everything in Bee Wilson’s pithy book brings you back to the kitchen: her histories of weights and measures and pots and pans; her observations on the domestication of fire and ice…; her homey riffs on small, exasperating “technologies” like egg timers, cake molds, tongs, and toasters…. Socially astute and funny.”

The Washington Post
"[An] ambitious, blenderized treatise. The path from Stone Age flints to sous-vide machines whirs so smoothly that I found myself re-reading passages just to trace how the author managed to work in a Victorian copper batterie de cuisine along the way."

ELLE Magazine
“[A] delightfully informative history of cooking and eating from the prehistoric discovery of fire to twenty-first-century high-tech, low-temp soud-vide-style cookery.”

Alice Rawsthorn,
“One of the delights of Consider the Fork is that [Wilson’s] fascination with the history of food is balanced by the pleasure she takes in preparing dishes herself, watching others do so and, best of all, tasting the results. Ms. Wilson’s design critiques of different utensils, from the humble wooden spoon to a snazzy sous-vide water bath, are all the more convincing for being made by a knowledgeable and passionate cook, who isn’t afraid to admit to her failures, yet longs for delicious successes.”

Los Angeles Times
“Wilson is a British food writer not nearly well enough known in this country, who writes beautifully and has the academic chops to deliver what she promises. . . . Reading the book is like having a long dinner table discussion with a fascinating friend. At one moment, she’s reflecting on the development of cast-iron cookware, then she’s relating the history of the Le Creuset company and the public’s changing tastes in color and then she’s reminiscing about her mother-in-law’s favorite blue pots. . . . The pace is leisurely but lively. . . . It’s hard to imagine even the non-geek being tempted to skim sections. Just because Wilson takes her subject seriously doesn’t mean Consider the Fork isn’t a pure joy to read.”

Good Housekeeping
“One part science, one part history, and a generous dash of fun, Wilson’s surprise-filled take on cooking implements makes one marvel at the dining rituals we all take for granted.”

New Republic
“[A] wide-ranging historical road map of the influence of culture on cuisine… it is easy and delightful to get swept up in Wilson’s zeal.... It is fluid yet engaging, just like a good conversation over a pan of sizzling vegetables.... Cooking is full of paradoxes. It is art and science, ancient and modern, fundamental and trivial, easy and difficult. Wilson presents these dissonances in their entirety, making no show of resolving them. In the end, her tone suggests that she writes about food for the same reason we read about it: sheer pleasure and lighthearted fascination. The big questions are just seasoning for the soup.”

The Guardian
“What new intellectual vistas remain to be conquered by the food obsessive? . . . The erudite and witty food writer Bee Wilson has spotted a gap in the market. . . . [Her] argument is clear and persuasive.”

“Wilson celebrates the unsung implements that have helped shape our diets through the centuries. After devouring this delightful mix of culinary science and history, you'll never take a whisk for granted again.”

Wall Street Journal
“In the case of Bee Wilson’s “Consider the Fork,” the author is blessed with an assemblage of entertaining tidbits and particularly lucid prose.... Wilson is a good tour guide.... [A] dizzying, entertaining ride.”

Harper’s Magazine
“Bee Wilson’s delightful Consider the Fork: A History of How We Cook and Eat does talk about the fork, but that’s just one part of her ebulliently written and unobtrusively learned survey of the tools we have used to prepare, preserve, and consume our food.”

The Spectator (London)
Consider the Fork is a delightful compendium of the tools, techniques and cultures of cooking and eating. Be it a tong or a chopstick, a runcible spoon or a cleaver, Bee Wilson approaches it with loving curiosity and thoroughness…. But as well as providing wry insights into the psychology of cooks down the ages, Consider the Fork is infused with a sense that every omelette, cup of coffee, meringue or tea cake is steeped in tradition and ancient knowledge, and that that is partly what makes cooking one of life’s joys.”

The Daily Beast
“A book to keep at your side as you cook. Consider the fork. It’s a piercing, sharp weapon associated with the Devil. How did this unlikely tool become the West’s most popular and indispensable utensil? Wilson serves up brisk histories of everything you use in the kitchen.”

Christian Science Monitor
“Wilson is an award-winning British food writer who skillfully turns a potentially dull subject into one of wit and wisdom. Nor does she lose touch with the human element that has drawn so many into the world of cooking and the universal subject of food. After all, a knife is only as good as the cook who wields it…. Wilson packs Consider the Fork with as many bits of cultural history trivia as an overstuffed utensil drawer.”

Barnes & Noble Review
“If you are open to being entertained and instructed by the history of food, then Bee Wilson couldn’t be happier to oblige. In Consider the Fork, she explores the ways in which kitchen tools and techniques affect what and how we eat, with the same owlish brio and dry humor that Jane Grigson brought to vegetables and charcuterie…. [A] smart, regaling survey.”

New Statesman
"Endlessly fascinating."

Roanoke Times
“Like a well-planned meal, Consider the Fork provides a variety of fare that will entertain and educate foodies of any variety…. The result of [Wilson’s] combination of sophisticated humor and scholarship is an enjoyable tale about the very essence of existence and civilization.”

New York Post
“At the risk of trotting out a cliché, Brit writer Wilson's book truly is food for thought. (And fun to read, too).”

Mail on Sunday
“Substantial and entertaining…. Bee Wilson belongs to a rare breed: the academic who can write. This book is dense with research, all of it rendered highly palatable…. The history comes in delicious nuggets of the kind that one immediately wants to pass around in conversation.”

Observer (London)
“Like all the best books on apparently simple everyday commodities, this is of course really a gripping story of millennia of human ingenuity. Over the centuries the need to eat has led us to develop an astonishing plethora of niche skills and equipment, has made of eating itself a highly sophisticated act of pleasure as well as survival. . . . Witty, scholarly, utterly absorbing and fired by infectious curiosity, Consider the Fork wears its impressive research lightly.”

Daily Mail (London)
“Wilson’s tour of the kitchen explores all the essential elements of domestic cookery through the ages. She peers into the kitchen cupboards of the past to scrutinise the pots and pans our ancestors used to contain their food, and the knives with which they used to cut it…. Wilson’s book is diligently researched and she has a sharp eye for a vivid historical detail.”

The Sunday Times (London)
“This [is a] sparkling… fascinating and entertaining book…. In considering the fork, in short, [Wilson] forces us to reconsider ourselves.”

Shelf Awareness
“Wilson’s sprightly, knowledgeable voice skips nimbly through the narratives of pots and pans, knives, grinding implements and eating utensils, working up to the theme of the kitchen as a whole. . . . Don’t be surprised if you find yourself sitting up at night with Consider the Fork, unable to turn out the light until you find out how storing and shipping ice became viable. You will never again walk into your kitchen without thinking of the rich history represented by even the humble fork.”

Smithsonian Magazine
“Bee Wilson’s spirited history of kitchen implements ranges from the humble wooden spoon to the cutting-edge sous vide machine. A British food writer and historian, Wilson is learned and personal, wise and charming…. There are complex investigations at work in Wilson’s book; it’s nominally about things in our cabinets and on our shelves, but it’s really about family, labor, technology, sensation…. From such ingredients an enchanting book is made.”


About the Author

Bee Wilson is a food writer, historian, and author of three previous books, including Swindled: The Dark History of Food Fraud, from Poisoned Candy to Counterfeit Coffee. She has been named BBC Radio's Food Writer of the Year and is a three-time Guild of Food Writers' Food Journalist of the Year. Wilson served as the food columnist for the New Statesman for five years, and currently writes a weekly food column for the Sunday Telegraph 's Stella magazine. She holds a Ph.D. from Trinity College, Cambridge, and lives in Cambridge, England.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most helpful customer reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By suz44444 on June 14 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book gives the reader some insight into the kitchen tools and traditions of how we prepare and consume food. I enjoyed the commentary at the end of each chapter that enlightened the reader about specific food-related topics. An informative and fun read for anyone who loves to cook or eat!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By microfiche TOP 1000 REVIEWER on May 28 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I like this book for the reason the previous two reviews fault it : its style. Actually I found it quite well put together. The spoons stir in the kitchen and lift the soup in the dining room / hall (even when and where there were no formal places to make / eat the food). The knives chop and cut. The forks pierce and hold. The Cusinart blends and does all that food processors do. Each chapter puts the development of the item in its chronological place.

The style is chatty and personal. The author talks about the chefs she has met and the foods she has eaten out and prepared in. She mentions her family, incidents in her growing up in Mum's kitchen. It's not a scholarly tome, but enough "I didn't know that" moments to satisfy this reader. It also has an excellent bibliography, though I don't think I could find a tenth of the books in Ontario outside of the University of Guelph's Culinary History collection.

No recipes.

One problem with the Kindle edition: The drawings in the paper version are imbedded in the text. This means that if the text surrounds in the drawing, the Kindle process "read" all the text to the left of the drawing, then all the text to the right of the drawing. Those sentences are mangled. It doesn't happen often; but it is confusing, annoying and I might buy the book when / if it is remaindered, instead of adding notes from the version in my public library to the Kindle.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Reader Writer Runner TOP 50 REVIEWER on Jan. 26 2013
Format: Hardcover
Well, 3.5 stars...

Forks, knives, pots and pans, measuring cups. These kitchen fixtures seem so basic that we can hardly imagine a time in which they didn't exist. But Bee Wilson takes us that far back in history and presents a fascinating look at the tools of cooking and eating.

How did humans cook food before pots? Only by charring and grilling. How did people know when an egg was cooked before timers? By reciting six Lord's Prayers. And how did recipes come to have standard measurements? Well, they still don't - most of the world uses weight, a system much more accurate than cups.

On one hand, Wilson deftly covers the basics in an informative, wide-ranging, and witty book. You can open any page of "Consider the Fork" and think, "I never even considered that!" On the other, the book has an "uncooked" feeling; it lacks cohesion and contains some patently false-sounding narrative. A smattering of history, a few attempts at charming personal anecdotes, and lots of name dropping don't yield much in the end.
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By A reader on July 31 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A good read. I would maybe have liked a little more in-depth history, and some photos of some of the tools and kitchens discussed in the book would also be useful.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Pierre Gauthier TOP 500 REVIEWER on Oct. 21 2012
Format: Audio CD
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.
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