Award-winning food writer Bee Wilson published her newest book Consider The Fork that deals with the history of eating as fire, kitchen utensils, and the kitchen itself.
Since prehistoric times, humans have braved getting into the business end of razor-sharp knives, scrapes, mashers in the name of creating something delicious, or at least edible.
The author gets down to basics in this very informative, wide-ranging book that makes for fine reading to all interested in food and food history.
She explains the importance of pots and how the shapes have remained constant since their inception, but the material and sizes have changed over time. Humans were cooking for centuries, if not millennia, before some sharp-minded cook invented the pot. The original cooking method was roasting on open fires or on primitive grilling contraptions, both of which wasted a lot of wood.
Then she explains in how people all over the world cook, some by estimating quantities, others using familiar cups or spoons, yet others cups and tea- or tablespoons, but the most accurate of all is weighing which takes care density of foods. One standard cup of flour weighs 140 grams, but in different parts of the world the size of cup changes.
In the USA, if and when people cook, they prefer cups and spoons because of convenience and all recipes are in these measurements. Commercial recipes are always given in weights.
In the end, she explains that all recipes are ratios of one ingredient to another; therefore your grandmother’s handful of ingredient to another is the right ratio. Even if your hand may be bigger or smaller, the ratio wills till be the same, though not the end quantity of the recipe.
She deals with ice cream makers, mentioning that to us some primitive machines may look antique, but may be as effective as expensive apparatus some famous designer may claim to have invented.
After reading this extremely well researched, informative, and entertaining book, you will never look at kitchen equipment you did up to now.
The discussion of the history of fire in cooking is fascinating and relates to professor Richard Wrangham’s seminal book titled Catching Fire.
The only aspect of fire she did not mention is induction heat that is now becoming more popular especially with professional cooks.
This is a mesmerizing and beautifully written book, a subject into which few historians have ventured.