Thursday, January 17, 2013

Review: Consider the Fork: A History of How We Cook and Eat by Bee Wilson

I can never remember my grandmother without remembering the smoke-filled kitchen she worked in day in and day out. One of her best creations was rasam, the lentil broth soup that is the cornerstone of South Indian cooking. It wasn't until I tried my hand at recreating the dish in the heat of her kitchen that I realized what a precise science the dish was, even though grandma seemed to churn it out daily with such nonchalance. The secret ingredient she swore by? A special pot called an eeya chombu, made with an alloy containing tin and other metals. My ninth grade self didn't realize that eeya chombu translated to "melting pot" - quite literally. Venturing into the kitchen one day while grandma was having a shower, I decided I would surprise her with a rasam of my own. I could do it. I had seen her make it many times, after all. But to my horror, as the soup gradually began to simmer and then violently boil over the untamed fire, the pot simply melted away. Not only had I lost my rasam but also my grandma's precious pot! Grandma, bless her soul, took in the scene of the crime with an extra dose of equanimity and Dad replaced the pot that very evening. All's well that ends well and my accident was forgiven and forgotten.

It was that temperamental kitchen tool - my grandma's eeya chombu pot - that I was reminded of while reading Bee Wilson's fascinating historical account of the implements we use in working with one of humankind's most basic drivers - food.

The rest of my review is at BookBrowse.

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