a book about the history of how we cook & eat

consider the fork1

consider the fork (2012) by bee wilson is about the technological innovations in cooking & eating over the centuries starting with fire, clay pots & roasting to intelligent refrigerators & modernist cooking <such as sous-vide>

the book is underwhelming and not as interesting as i hoped it would be <but perhaps it’s because i read it just after a very fascinating book> \ i do recognize that there were major innovations in how we cooked & ate our food | i consider just three / starting with the clay pot & improvements in materials <cast iron, stainless steel, combinations of materials to achieve the most efficient heat conduction in pots & pans> and the invention of related implements <spoon, spatula, etc.> | the move from open hearth cooking to gas & electric stoves and ovens | and refrigeration <extended the life of food & removed its seasonality> / everything else in between, in my opinion, were “nice to have” but not critical in the domestic kitchen <such as the microwave> \ though i acknowledge that the “minor” innovations, aside from fueling consumerism, have had major implications in the broader context <culture & economics>

one reason why i’m not overly impressed by the innovations in between is that i like my cooking to be an organic experience & so the less the presence of “time-saving” kitchen gadgets <which consisted a lot of the innovations in the kitchen> the more i feel that i cooked <besides, having gadgets means you have to clean & store them, so there’s really no time savings plus they take up space> \ for me peeling, cutting, dicing, chopping, slicing, mincing, pounding, etc. are all part of the cooking process and to have a gadget do that takes away the pleasure & organic-ness of cooking <though i admit to using pre-cut vegetables & meats | that is real time savings> \ the other reason is that the foods that i cook are quite simple <stir fry, soups, stews, asian> and require only basic cooking methods  <stir fry, pan fry, stew, boil> / i don’t even bake | in fact, my oven has been broken since fall <or summer?> \ so all i need along with basic knowledge are basic tools / something to cut with <cleaver>, something to cook on & with <stove, wok, stainless steel pot & pan, stirrer>, rice cooker

nevertheless, this book is an entertaining & quick read and may be interesting to the serious & more sophisticated cook <whom i assume does more than stir fry, pan fry, stew & boil>

thanks to my favorite curmudgeon for lending me this book

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