Friday, March 30, 2018

Cephalopod Coffeehouse: March 2018

Welcome one and all to the Cephalopod Coffeehouse, a cozy gathering of book lovers, meeting to discuss their thoughts regarding the works they enjoyed most over the previous month.  Pull up a chair, order your cappuccino and join in the fun.  If you wish to add your own review to the conversation, please sign on to the link list at the end of my post.

Title: Consider the Fork: A History of How We Cook and Eat
Author: Bee Wilson
Consider the Fork is an ambitious project, exploring the history of human cooking through the evolution of the tools we and our ancestors have used for the job.  Each chapter follows a specific technological path: knives, fire, grinding - particularly grains - and even the very existence of a kitchen as a separate, specialized room of the house.  Human life has revolved around food preparation for thousands of years.  How we eat and cook has had an enormous impact on language, social structures, home design and even the alignment of our jaws.

The most amusing chapter for me to read on a personal level was about measurements.  The idea of standardized measures at all, let alone in the kitchen, is actually a relatively recent human development.  Many accomplished cooks, my wife included, eschew the idea of specific measurements with food unless absolutely necessary.  She feels she can pretty well judge a tablespoon of oil without getting out the measuring spoons and, to be fair, I believe she probably can.  Even if she can't really, the resulting food that comes out of the kitchen is proof enough for me that she definitely knows what she's doing.  On the other hand, I have no such faith in my own capacities.  If the recipe says a cup, I want to be as on the dot as I can possibly manage.  Once, as a joke, my late grandmother-in-law gave me a set of measuring spoons with indications for a dash, a pinch and a smidgen.  The real joke?  I use the spoons faithfully.  Drink recipes call for a dash of something all the time - sometimes multiple dashes.  How am I supposed to judge three dashes of bitters without a spoon?!!!

According to Wilson, we're both full of it.  There's more science in my wife's eyeball measuring than she'd admit and my spoons and cups aren't nearly as exact as I believe.  She is, hands-down, the better cook so at least at our house, I suppose she wins the philosophical argument.

Consider the Fork is a keeper.  With so many books about the history of particular ingredients, an exploration of preparation is essential to a broader study of food.  Wilson's writing is both informative and engaging, reflecting thorough research and a genuine passion for cooking.

Please join us and share your own review of your best read from the past month.  This month's link list is below.  I'll keep it open until the end of the day.  I'll post April's tomorrow.  Meetings are the last Friday of each month.  Next gathering is April 27th.


12 comments:

  1. That sounds a really interesting book. I can guess making white sauce/cheese sauce but baking goods I always measure, although I'm never very sure how accurate my kitchen scales are. A dash, a pinch and a smidgen sound great but how much would a 'dollop' be?

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    1. From what I can find, a dollop is about a tablespoon. Interestingly, though, that's one I can imagine eyeballing. I think of taking a dollop of something as the result of a specific physical gesture with the spoon: scoop out, drop in, with a little shake at the end.

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  2. This sounds like a really interesting book; part history, part how-to. I have often flip-flopped between using measurements. When I cook I don't use them, but when I bake I do. Definitely adding this to my TBR.

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    1. Not so much on the how-to, actually. Mostly history, with lots of anthro.

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  3. Well, bah!
    I'm going to go put this on my reading list because it sounds fascinating, but I will probably never get to it. :(

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  4. This sounds like an interesting read. I am not much of a cook- though I am cooking a little more each year. I am always intrigued by people who have an internal measuring system.
    ~Jess

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    1. I would love to cook with that level of confidence. Someday maybe.

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  5. My Mum was one fabulous cook. She did most by rote a dash here and there but Baking was measured. I miss all her breads, cakes and cookies.
    I cook less and less now. Son has taken over and is a fabulous cook.

    cheers, parsnip

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    1. Everything I have read and heard says that measuring is far more crucial with baking. But, we should all be going by weight rather than volume.

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  6. I'm a 'by eye' cook, and love the premise of this book. Food is fundamental to life, we should be mindful towards it.

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    1. I expect you would enjoy Consider the Fork a lot.

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