Monday, April 22, 2013

Consider the Fork: A History of How We Cook and Eat   
by Bee Wilson
Is just my kinda reading. Some how I find the domestic arts very interesting.
How did people get along without the modern convinces we have today?
What did they do, How did things become standards, how did it change, good? or bad?
I have not finished this book but I just have to share what I have read so far.
We start as most book do with an introduction.  Very long for an intro but very interesting and set up the content of the book. You gotta read this on your own.
First Chapter: Pots & Pans - Discussed are what was the first Pot, how we stared to cook in them, what techniques we used, boiling, steaming, simmer, fry & etc... Why did we use them. what are they made of: pottery, steel, cast iron, copper and mix of products, and Why do we have so many pots for cooking.  Thank the Victorians for that one.  Bee writes in a conversation way or how your most beloved instructor would tell you about a subject they love.  She includes History, her conclusions and just basic common assumptions of what might have happened. all very believable.
Most country's use one pot or pan. I must admit we have 7 pots and 5 plus stoneware to cook in. I find myself using one of each on a day to day basis.
Side note on Rice Cookers
Chapter 2: Knife - Kitchen are a place of violence  How knives became what we have today.  From flint, stone, bronze, steel, stainless steal and how ideas for Military use ended up in the kitchen. Most folks in Elizabethan England had their own personal knife they kept on them. Silverware as we know it was not on every table nor in every house hold.  If you wanted to eat you had to cut up your food. This was a weapon you could cut a piece of bread or you could do some damage so somebody you did not like.
She talks about who and how we have silverware today.  How the French have a knife for every cut and the Chinese have one. My favorite section is how she talks about the "Over Bite" and why it came into excitance. Fun reading.
Side note on Mezzaluna
Chapter 3: Fire - this one is good.  How and why we have fire.  How fire is maintained and why the kitchen utensils are sooooo long from days gone by. Going from open hearth to a enclosed box of fire.
We visit Ivan Day who still Roast on an open spit as was done in the 1600 using the same tools. so cool.
Ivan gives classes in true roasting of meats. Discussed is how this way of roasting is so far removed from the type of cooking we call "Roasting". Very interesting
Dog were even use in the assisting of preparing a Roast Meat.  The dog, a special bread of dog with short legs and long body, would be put on a wheel above the stove and the little guy would run in place (like a hamster does) and turn the spit as the meat cooked.  this was called a Dog Wheel. Out raged Heney Bergh, an early animal rights lobbyist campaigned against using dog wheels. People changed and the dogs were spared the torture but they were replaced with children.  Luckley somebody tinkered with machine parts and came up with a new device that too the place of animal and child, the Mechanical Windup Jack.
And how folk had a mistrust toward the New Closed-off cooking ranges. And now we cant live without them. and so much more.
Side note on Toaster
Chapter 4: Measure (not finished reading) Love how Bee tells us how we are using an unreliable unit of measure. The CUP.  She does have me thinking I must weight my ingredient for a better final product.
How cooking mostly baking is a science and the Cup is, well, not accurate.  If you scoop the flour or spoon scooped or  sift the flour you will most likely get different measures, and each person will get yet another set of measurements.
How cookbook writes of the day did not like the idea of something different taking the place of what they were used to.
OK, this is as far as I have read. Not much of a review but more of what you will get in this so far wonderful book.