Fuel Costs and the Foods You Eat

dtrammel's picture

In moving posts, I ran across this reference to "Consider the Fork: A History of How We Cook and Eat" by Bee Wilson. In it she discusses how the access, or lack of fuel, affected the way people cooked food.

Since prehistory, humans have braved sharp knives, fire, and grindstones to transform raw ingredients into something delicious—or at least edible. Tools shape what we eat, but they have also transformed how we consume, and how we think about, our food. Technology in the kitchen does not just mean the Pacojets and sous-vide of the modernist kitchen. It can also mean the humbler tools of everyday cooking and eating: a wooden spoon and a skillet, chopsticks and forks.

In short, the fuel we use for cooking, the foods we eat, and the tools we use are intertwined like Celtic knotwork. England, which had vast hardwood forests, roasted haunches of meat on huge open hearths. They used spits, long forks, griddles, spiders, and kettles that bubbled over the coals. Carving was done at the table, and a personal knife was essential for eating. Much of China and Japan, on the other hand, was fuel-poor so food was chopped fine with high quality kitchen knives, cooked quickly in woks over very high heat, and served in bowls with chopsticks. Parts of India were also fuel-poor. There the tandori oven was used to cook food quickly at high heat. The North African tagine slow-cooked stews and vegetable dishes over charcoal bricks. It requires very little water."


How then might our own cooking change as cheap fuel goes away?

Right now i do very little baking, because I don't want the oven going for a long time. I prefer to do a quick stir fry where I can add a bunch of home grown additives like sprouts and Purslane leaves. I also use my microwave alot as well as my small food steamer.

A haybox, or its more modern daughter, the insulated cooler with blankets and a pot, can extend the length of cooking time for things like stews, with now additional fuel costs. Solar cookers do it with no cost energy. Rocket stoves can give you a quick high temperature with little fuel besides twigs and sticks collected around the yard.

How do you think the family dinner will evolve as the Collapse moves forward?