Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation

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Penguin, Apr 23, 2013 - Social Science - 480 pages
Michael Pollan, the bestselling author of The Omnivore's Dilemma, Food Rules, and How to Change Your Mind,†explores the previously uncharted territory of his own kitchen in Cooked.†

"Having described what's wrong with American food in his best-selling†The Omnivore's Dilemma†(2006),†New York Times†contributor Pollan delivers a more†optimistic†but equally†fascinating†account of how to do it right. . . .†A delightful chronicle of the education of a cook†who steps back frequently to extol the scientific and philosophical basis of this deeply satisfying human activity."†Kirkus†(starred review)

Cooked†is now a Netflix docuseries based on the book that focuses on the four kinds of "transformations" that occur in cooking. Directed by Oscar-winning filmmaker Alex Gibney and starring Michael Pollan, Cooked teases out the links between science, culture and the flavors we love.

In Cooked, Pollan discovers the enduring power of the four classical elements—fire, water, air, and earth—to transform the stuff of nature into delicious things to eat and drink. Apprenticing himself to a succession of culinary masters, Pollan learns how to grill with fire, cook with liquid, bake bread, and ferment everything from cheese to beer.

Each section of Cooked tracks Pollan’s effort to master a single classic recipe using one of the four elements. A North Carolina barbecue pit master tutors him in the primal magic of fire; a Chez Panisse–trained cook schools him in the art of braising; a celebrated baker teaches him how air transforms grain and water into a fragrant loaf of bread; and finally, several mad-genius “fermentos” (a tribe that includes brewers, cheese makers, and all kinds of picklers) reveal how fungi and bacteria can perform the most amazing alchemies of all. The reader learns alongside Pollan, but the lessons move beyond the practical to become an investigation of how cooking involves us in a web of social and ecological relationships. Cooking, above all, connects us.

The effects of not cooking are similarly far reaching. Relying upon corporations to process our food means we consume large quantities of fat, sugar, and salt; disrupt an essential link to the natural world; and weaken our relationships with family and friends. In fact, Cooked argues, taking back control of cooking may be the single most important step anyone can take to help make the American food system healthier and more sustainable. Reclaiming cooking as an act of enjoyment and self-reliance, learning to perform the magic of these everyday transformations, opens the door to a more nourishing life.
 

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - dmturner - LibraryThing

This was heavier going (with less at stake for the reader) than Omnivore's Dilemma, and was more of a book to be read slowly and savored. If you're interested in serious artisanal food, this is a ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - yhgail - LibraryThing

I enjoyed this book. I listened to via Audible. The author reads the text with enthusiasm, occasionally seeming to speed a little too much for my taste, but still enjoyable. I appreciate the depth ... Read full review

Contents

WHY COOK?
1
CREATURES OF THE FLAME
25
WATER
123
The EDUCATION OF AN AMATEUR BAKER
203
EARTH
291
HAND TASTE
405
APPENDIX I
417
A Short Shelf of Books on Cooking
437
Selected Sources
447
Index
459
Copyright

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About the author (2013)

Michael Pollan†is the author of seven previous books, including†Cooked,†Food Rules,†In Defense of Food,†The Omnivore's Dilemma†and†The Botany of Desire, all of which were†New York Times†bestsellers. He's also the author of the audiobook†Caffeine: How Caffeine Created the Modern World.†A longtime contributor to the†New York Times†Magazine, he also teaches writing at Harvard and the University of California, Berkeley. In 2010,†TIME†magazine named him one of the one hundred most influential people in the world.

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