Consider the Fork: A History of How We Cook and Eat
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skills. We use the same grip on sharp knives as table knives, which is disastrous. When holding a kitchen knife, you should never rest your index finger along the spine—there’s far more danger of cutting yourself than when you robustly grip the bottom of the blade with thumb on one side and forefinger on the other. A good training in table manners—which teach constant diffidence around sharpness—is bad training for the kitchen. By the eighteenth century, polite Westerners sat at the dinner table
American Cookery by Amelia Simmons in 1796. Simmons routinely deals in pounds and ounces. Her turkey stuffing calls for a wheat loaf, “one quarter of a pound butter, one quarter of a pound salt pork, finely chopped,” two eggs, and some herbs. She also gives the first American recipe for what would become a classic staple of the American kitchen: pound cake: “One pound sugar, one pound butter, one pound flour, one pound or ten eggs, rose water one gill, spices to your taste; watch it well, it will
verify the diameter of biscotti dough. I even use my iPhone as a kitchen timer. Still, not everything can be reduced to measurements. Many things that matter in the kitchen are beyond measuring: how much you enjoy the company of those you dine with; the satisfaction of using up the last crust of bread before it goes moldy; the way an Italian blood orange tastes in February; the pleasure of cold cucumber soup on a hot evening; the feeling of having a hearty appetite and the means to satisfy it.
bone-china afternoon tea, complete with scones and cream: a dwindling band. You only rarely encounter anyone polite enough to use tea tongs now, not least because sugar cubes themselves have passed out of vogue. Yet teaspoons are still everywhere. The teaspoon did not immediately travel the world. In 1741, the inventory of the French due d’Orleans included forty-four silver-gilt coffee spoons but not a single teaspoon. The French are still likely to use the smaller coffee spoon as a unit of
flatter and shallower than older dishes and trenchers. When bowls were used for all meals, the ideal implement was a spoon with an angled handle for digging deep, like a ladle (the fig-shaped spoons of the Middle Ages usually had stems pointing upward). A knife or fork with horizontal handles does not sit naturally in the curved structure of a trencher or a pottage bowl. They need a flat surface. Try to eat something in a deep cereal bowl using a knife and fork, and you will see what I mean; your