Evolution of Cookware and Cutlery
Have you guys considered the evolutions of cook tools are very slow? Sure we have better steels today than thousands year ago, but they are not huge changes. Knives are still knives. Knives have maintained the same shape and functionality. It isn't like I would use a knife from thousands year ago different than a knife from today. Cookware -- same phenomena. Our quality control of carbon steel and cast iron have improved, but only marginally. I suppose the invention of aluminum manufacturing has help some, but even then it is a small improvement. A pan is still a pan.
On the oppose end, transportation technology has changed from horseback riding to car to plane. We have telephone. We have washing machines. We have TVs and computers.
If a person from 1000AD is to time-travel here, he be in a shock of everything, except the kitchen. I am not saying there is nothing new in the kitchen. We have refrigerators and microwaves, but refrigerators are to preserve foods and microwave is mostly use for warming things. When it comes down to actual cooking, not much has changed.
Any thought as to why cooking tools have not evoluted much?
Biggest changes in kitchen technology? Sure a pan is a pan, a pot is a pot, but a weekend camping in the woods reveals huge progress. In no particular order:
1) Gas and electric ranges. We take reliable, adjustable cooking heat for granted. The open hearth is not so far back in our history, and wood and coal stoves were still commonplace up until WW2. Modern ranges also allow for a broader range of cookware -- on wood and coal fires, copper, cast iron,and ceramics were the only materials that worked well. Microwaves have not quite lived up to their promise. Magnetic-induction may turn out to be the next leap forward.
2.) Kitchen sink. The abiliy to have fresh clean water on tap, and the ability to dispose of waste water is huge. Having to haul water of questionable quality from a well or waterway, and haul gray water back to a sump is a thing of the past.
3.) Refrigeration. Massive changes in how we eat. Salting, smoking, drying, canning are now matters of preference, rather than necessity. And refrigeration allows long distance transport of perishables. Fresh meats, fruits, vegetables and dairy are available year round in most of the industrialized world. More food actually makes it to the consumer -- substantial reduction in waste and spoilage.
Your points are valid. I think clean water has dramatically improved our health and life expectancy. Refrigeration has also changed the way we transport and store foods. We can also point out the technology for canning food also has great impact. Microwave also has huge impact in term of how we heat our foods. I bet more than 90% of households have microwave ovens and that speaks volume in its influence and necessity.
That being said, the technology for cooking has not make huge changes compared to other areas. By cooking, I am using a narrow term as in from preparing foods to cooking them – as in transforming raw foods to consumable foods. We still use knives and we still use pots and pans. Yes, they are made better with better quality control, but the mechanism is the very much the same. On the other hand, our means for transportation has changed a lot from horseback riding to cars to planes, and our way for communication has changed in leaps and bounces from written letter to telegraph to phone to email and cell phone texting. The mechanism for transportation and communication has changed completely.
I think the main reason that kitchen utensils haven't changed much is that they are simple hand tools representing "mature technology". It is hard to improve on the spoon for stirring or eating soup (although today the spoon may be made of stainless steel or even titanium).
If you think about it, many other simple hand tools are pretty much the same as they were hundreds or thousands of years ago - the hoe, the rake, the broom, the shovel, the comb, the paintbrush, the hammer, the axe, the saw, the file, the crowbar, scissors, pliers, etc., etc.
re: tanuki soup
I think you are right. Most cooking tools are very mature. Afterall, knives are knives and they are probably the very first tool human invented -- ok, either the stone spears or the stone knives.
It does beg the question why new technology did not help advance the way we cook. I think microwave oven had the potential. Had we started to cook with microwave, then it would have been a revolution change. All other cooking methods, let's be gas, electric, wood, coal, induction cooking, are based on transferring heat from a metal cookware to the raw food. The mechanism of cooking is the same. Microwave is revolutionary because it cooks foods from inside out (almost) by exciting rotational energy. The other methods rely on vibrational energy excitation. Unfortunately, foods cooked by microwave are usually not very tasty. Through I have to say microwave did introduce the microwave frozen dinner market.
We have invented the technology for electric knife and that is different from all the other passive knives. Unfortunately, an electric knife is poor at precision and accuracy. We also have food processors, but that has yet to replace kitchen knives.
Thinking about this some more, I realized that the issue is less about tools, and more about the nature of the food itself. Food preparation is still about taking raw foodstuffs -- meat, vegetables, fruits, legumes, cereals -- heating them, and reducing them to a size that a size that can be eaten. The tools needed to do that job have been developed and perfected over millenia, so not surprising that little has changed. If there is change in the air, it will be in response to this planet's growing (over) population. As the number of mouths to feed increases and the amount of arable land stays the same, the foods that we currently enjoy will become a luxury. Replaced by what? I am sure that the folks at ADM/Cargill/et al. have some sort of "soylent green" in the labs.