Let’s learn a little history on cooking this week

Hi everyone, this post is one of a kind as it will feature the works of one particular author. Bee Wilson’s two works, Consider the fork and First Bite are titles I found that have an extensive history of cooking and the food we eat. Yes, friends, these are hard core nonfiction titles. If you’re after some lighter reads, I suggest you wait a few days, or you could persevere and learn something today by pressing the button below.

cover image of kitchen utensils comprising of spoons and forks on black background. looks like bit of salt inside one spoon. white letters below read Consider the Fork.
A fascinating read…

The first book, Consider the fork – a history of invention in the kitchen, gives an expertly comprehensive and quite witty account of the history of our modern kitchen. It had taken countless inventions, small and large, to get to the well-equipped kitchens we have now, where our old low-tech spoon (found, like the knife in every culture) is joined by mixes, freezers and microwaves, but the story of human invention in the kitchen is largely unseen. Countless decisions, obsessions and preoccupation have gone into the making of our pots and pans. Indeed the very foods we eat speaks of the time and place we inhabit. As I read through this quite hefty tome, I gained an interesting insight into the history of our everyday household tools and implements. From the humble cooking pot, with which we are able to eat plants that would have been otherwise toxic if eaten raw, to the knives, spoons and forks we seem to be unable to live without, this book explores the history of each item’s inventions and illustrates their development through the ages. Bee Wilson details how cultures around the world had different uses and perceptions of the other. From the birth of the fork in Italy as it discovered pasta, to culture wars over spoons in Restoration England, and tests for how to choose the perfect pan, Consider the fork opens our eyes to the incredible creations that have shaped how and what we cook. Encompassing inventors, scientists, cooks and chefs, this is the previously unsung history of our kitchens. 

The most interesting quote for me was that of anthropologist Richard Wrangham, where he was recorded saying that “the first act of cooking or roasting was THE decisive moment in history we ceased to be upright apes and became more wholly human.” Wrangham also writes that “cooking was a great discovery not merely because it gave us better food, or even better it made us physically human. It did something, even more important: it helped make our brains uniquely large, providing a dull human body with a brilliant mind.” That to me is the most profound thing I’ve ever read!! If you’re the curious type like me, please give this book a try!!

image of spoon at top of cover. blue background with large white letters reading First Bite below spoon.
Bee Wilson’s second amazing book

Bee Wilson’s second book, First Bite: How we learn to eat, details the many ways we as humans learn to eat. Everyone starts life by drinking milk. After that it’s all up for grabs. We are born not knowing what to eat; we each have to figure it out for ourselves. From childhood onwards, we learn how big a portion is and how sweet is too sweet. But how does this happen? What are the origins of taste? And can we change our food habits for the better? In First Bite, award-winning food writer Bee Wilson draws on food psychology, neuroscience and nutritional science to reveal how our food habits are shaped by family and culture, memory and gender, hunger and love. She introduces us to people who can only eat food of a certain colour, toddlers who will eat nothing but hot dogs; doctors who have found radical new ways to help children eat vegetables. She also looks at the effects of siblings, social pressures and geography on our eating choices. The way we learn to eat holds the key to why food has gone so disastrously wrong for so many people! But both adults and children have immense potential for learning new, healthy eating habits, and First Bite explains how we can change our palates to lead healthiers, happier lives. This brilliant read taught me how we form our food preferences and the methods we can use to change them. I liked the case studies of experiments tried by scientists in the US, Europe and UK. The Plate A – Plate B one was exceptionally interesting along with the Sapere method that worked in Europe through sensory exploration. 

From the epilogue the advice I will take forward into my life includes:

  • Eating well is a skill. We learn it. Or not. It’s something we can work on at any stage.
  • If you want yourself to get better, focus less on the food and more on your own response to it. 
  • Your first job when eating is to nourish yourself. 
  • Before you change what you eat, change how you eat.
  • If you want your children to eat better, don’t tell them what to do; eat better yourself. 
  • Cajoling, urging and hinting doesn’t change how people eat. It doesn’t work with children and it doesn’t work with adults.
  • Girls eat better when food stops being something forbidden.
  • Boys eat better when their parents continue to expect them to eat vegetables and include them in home-cooked meals as they get older.
  • Changing the way you eat is hard, but it can be done. The Japanese did it and succeeded. 

Both these reads deserved a solid 5 ⭐ from me for the caliber of writing and research undertaken!!

Stay safe and keep reading

Miss Mahee

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