Thursday, December 5, 2013

Test your knowledge of food lore with this culinary quiz

"Cooking is full of paradoxes. It is art and science, ancient and modern, fundamental and trivial, easy and difficult. Wilson presents these dissonances in their entirety, making no show of resolving them. In the end, her tone suggests that she writes about food for the same reason we read about it: sheer pleasure and lighthearted fascination. The big questions are just seasoning for the soup."—New Republic; image from Antique Books Magneto Diary
Reading the hugely enjoyable Consider the Fork: A History of How We Cook and Eat  has inspired me to share some of my gleanings as a quiz. By British food writer Bee Wilson, it came out in paperback this fall.
1. Who were the first people to invent powdered milk? a) the Americans; b) the Mongols; c) the Persians; d) the British; e) ancient Hebrews
2. Where do the earliest recipes on record come from? a) Africa; b) Mesopotamia; c) Egypt; d) China; e) India
3. What was the eating implement that medieval and renaissance folks in Europe kept on their person all day long? a) knife; b) spoon; c) fork; d) metal cup
4. The use of what implement affronted Cardinal Richelieu so greatly that he took drastic steps to modify it? a) the "trifid" spoon; b) the two-tined fork; c) knives sharpened on both sides like a dagger
5. What kitchen appliance was Richard Nixon so boastful of that a visiting Nikita Kruschiev lied and said the Soviet Union had plenty of them? a) Waring blender; b) refrigerator; c) Cuisinart; d) electric stove; e) Poplawski drink mixer
6. Which multifunctional piece of cutlery is essential to an entire food culture? a) the Inuit ulu; b) the Japanese santoku; c) the Chinese tou; d) French Sabatier carbon steel knives e) all of the above; f) none of the above.
7. What is the oldest form of cooking? a) roasting; b) baking; c) sautéing; d) boiling; e) marinating.
8. True or false: Medieval coroners reports listing accidental deaths indicate that women were more likely to die from gathering and sampling mushrooms and other wild foodstuffs than from any other cause.
9. What original invention was the single greatest improvement ever to occur in kitchen technology? a) enclosed coal stoves; b) gas-powered heat; c) electric stoves; d) microwave cooking.
10. How did cooks indicate time in recipes in the Medieval and early modern eras? a) small hourglasses; b) prayer duration; c) nursery rhymes; d) folk songs

Answers:
1. Who were the first people to invent powdered milk? a) the Americans; b) the Mongols; c) the Persians; d) the British; e) ancient Hebrews
b) the Mongols

2. Where do the earliest recipes on record come from? a) Africa; b) Mesopotamia; c) Egypt; d) China; e) India
b) Mesopotamia (in the region that is now Syria, Iraq, and Iran). Mostly for pot cooking: e.g., they described how to boil up mutton and water and mash in some fat, salt, leeks, and garlic.

3. What was the eating implement that medieval and renaissance folks in Europe kept on their person all day long? a) knife; b) spoon; c) fork; d) metal cup
a) knife. Most everyone had one of their own. Wilson describes a Swiss family portrait from 1640 by H. H. Kluber in which the daughters have flowers in their hair and silvery knives, attached to silk ropes, around their waists. Handles could be made of amber, ivory, rock crystal and agate and were carved with flowers, doves, or religious figures. “You would no more eat with another man’s knife than you would brush your teeth today with a stranger’s toothbrush.”

4. The use of what implement affronted Cardinal Richelieu so greatly that he took drastic steps to modify it? a) the "trifid" spoon; b) the two-tined fork; c) knives sharpened on both sides like a dagger
c) knives sharpened on both sides like a dagger. Again with the knives! The Cardinal was supposedly so offended by a guest using the point of a knife to pick his teeth that he ordered all of his own knives made blunt. In 1669, Louis XIV passed a law forbidding cutlers from forging pointed dinner knives. The subsequent end of communal plates of meat meant it could be cut and portioned in the kitchen instead of at the table.

5. What kitchen appliance was Richard Nixon so boastful of that a visiting N. Krushchev lied and said the Soviet Union had plenty of them? a) Waring blender; b) refrigerator; c) Cuisinart; d) electric stove; e) Poplawski drink mixer
b) refrigerator. In 1959, 96% of U.S. households had refrigerators, compared to 13% for Britain. The vast majority of Soviet kitchens had no fridges at all.

6. Which multifunctional piece of cutlery is essential to an entire food culture? a) the Inuit ulu; b) the Japanese santoku; c) the Chinese tou; d) French Sabatier carbon steel knives e) all of the above; f) none of the above.
e) all of the above. But Wilson does rhapsodize about the tou, which when used by a master can do just about anything.

7. What is the oldest form of cooking?: a) roasting; b) baking; c) sautéing; d) boiling; e) marinating.
a) roasting! "If anthropologist Richard Wrangham is correct, the first act of of cooking or roasting—around 1.8 to 1.9 million years ago—was the decisive moment in history: namely, the moment when we ceased to be upright apes and became more fully human. Cooking makes most foods far easier to digest, as well as releasing more of the nutritive value. The discovery of cooked food left us with surplus energy for brain growth."

8. True or false: Medieval coroners' reports listing accidental deaths indicate that women were more likely to die from gathering and sampling mushrooms and other wild foodstuffs than from any other cause.
Ever so false. Sad to say, most accidental deaths for both women and children occurred because of the large open hearths. Women's long skirts often caught on fire and children were prey to all manner of blazing hearth–related injuries.

9. What original invention was the single greatest improvement ever to occur in kitchen technology? a) enclosed coal stoves; b) gas-powered heat; c) electric stoves; d) microwave cooking.
b) gas-powered heat

10. How did cooks indicate time in recipes in the Medieval and early modern eras? a) small hourglasses; b) prayer duration; c) nursery rhymes; d) bawdy folk songs
I so wish it was d, but it's b) prayer duration. Yes, those medieval minds were so ingrained with their Pater Nosters and whatnot that they used them to time cooking processes.
Scores
7-10—You get the Cordon Bleu prize!
4-6—You may dub yourself a sous chef.
1-3—Remedial watching of Julia Child's cooking programs is required.
Other super-duper food books: The Fresh and Green Table; Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef by Gabrielle Hamilton.

Read an excerpt from Consider the Fork here.
“Wilson writes beautifully and has the academic chops to deliver what she promises…. Reading the book is like having a long dinner table discussion with a fascinating friend. At one moment, she’s reflecting on the development of cast-iron cookware, then she’s relating the history of the Le Creuset company and the public’s changing tastes in color and then she’s reminiscing about her mother-in-law’s favorite blue pots…. The pace is leisurely but lively…. It’s hard to imagine even the non-geek being tempted to skim sections. Just because Wilson takes her subject seriously doesn’t mean 'Consider the Fork' isn’t a pure joy to read.”—LA Times

4 comments:

  1. I got a pretty good score. Didn't know Russia was that far behind in the Cold War.
    The choices in #6 are all knives or choppers, right?
    My answer to #9 wasn't listed--the telephone!

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    1. Yes, you're right about #6. Well done!

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  2. I got 8 right, which suprised me since (except for the refrigerator – remember K Blows Top?) I was mostly guessing.

    Didn't know the Mongols invented powdered milk (goat milk? yak milk?), but I always found it interesting that Lewis & Clark traveled with hundreds of pounds of 'portable' soup. (Explained further here.)

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  3. That joke about the definition of a vegetarian (lousy hunter), can now be applied to consumers of Lipton Noodle Soup.
    I shall have nightmares about men chowing down on Flicka. Thanks RPS!

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