How would you like to eat all of your meals with a spoon while reclining? Well that’s how they did it in the middle ages before we had the kitchen utensils we use today.
Other than spilling porridge on your best tunic, a spoon is pretty limiting in terms of what you’re able to eat. Just ask the inventor of the spork. When we think of actual kitchen tools perhaps it is the simple wooden spoon your grandmother always used to stir her famous sauce that first comes to mind. But the evolution of the tools with which we cook and eat was a crucial step forward in human history, freeing up our time and allowing us to diversify our diet, depending on the season and available resources.
Chopsticks were the first kitchen utensils with which people began to eat food in the far East, starting with China, around 5000 years ago. After widely being used during the widespread Han and Ming dynasties, they also became the main way of eating food in the nearby countries of Korea, Vietnam, Japan, Malaysia, Cambodia, Thailand, and others. Around the mid 1400’s, European courts began to experiment with the idea of forks, finding it useful in preventing dirty fingers when eating foods that tended to stain.
But it wasn’t until 1533, during the Italian renaissance with the arrival of Catherine de' Medici who implored the nobility to sit upright and introduced the fork and knife, which they could now use in their new eating position, that it then started gaining in popularity with the commoners.
Besides the way we eat, the kitchen utensils with which we cook are that which may have had the most profound effect on how our dining options evolved into the seemingly endless options we have today. The first tools for cooking that humans are known to have used were actually stones. Some were sharpened for cutting and others were rounded for grinding. When it was discovered that by heating the stones in the fire, water could be boiled and purified of bacteria, it was a crucial discovery in lengthening human life. Unfortunately this method was not the most ideal, as the ash is transferred into the water, it requires a very hot fire which requires a lot of fuel, and the process is overall very labor intensive.
In the 5th century BCE in China, cast iron was being used for pots and pans and farming equipment. This remained the primary method for cooking even up through the 15th century, when at that time it was used by the Europeans and Americans to make cauldrons. Everything was cooked on an open fire mostly in Dutch ovens until Benjamin Franklin invented the wood range, causing a drastic evolution in kitchen utensils. Some time after, in 1826, an Englishman named James Sharp invented the gas oven.
The advancement in technology arriving at the electric oven was close behind, when in 1892 Thomas Ahearn invented the electric range. As people began to use the newer types of cooking ranges, tools like spoons with long handles that were needed to reach into the fire were replaced with shorter ones. Hanging rings were no longer needed and handles on Dutch oven were designed to make it easier to be carried in and out of the oven. By the 20th century skillets were replacing Dutch ovens entirely and new metals
and surfaces for cooking like stoneware, stainless steel, Teflon, Glass, Aluminum, carbon steel were eventually introduced.
The advent of refrigeration also created a greater need for the evolution in kitchen utensils. Meat, which was formerly a luxury as families had to raise their own livestock, could now be preserved. Before, people ate mostly stews, porridge, and soups but now a much wider range of options could be considered.
As technology has developed, kitchen utensils have also advanced exponentially. While there may be different ways to discover how to use your cheese grater, there are more or less a set of kitchen tools we use depending on the foods we consume. Famous chefs like David Chang and Gordon Ramsey give their opinions on what essentials any modern cook should use, but it greatly depends on how and where you eat.
Today, as we connect our lives through the internet, our cooking tools have followed suit. Smart cooking accessories - technological devices that are connected through the internet - are now replacing even some of the most traditional kitchen utensils we have always depended on, completing multiple tasks with one multifaceted, digital , tool. One of such solutions, ThinQ, uses AI technology (Artificial Intelligence) to connect your kitchen devices like the dishwasher to the oven to the microwave, giving you multiple ways to cook, serve, and even test the temperature of your food without even being in the room.
While there may be upsides to a robotic fridge that makes you shopping lists and plays you your favorite tune while stirring grandma’s famous sauce, sometimes, there is just no replacement for that favorite wooden spoon.