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Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation Hardcover – April 23, 2013
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Like many of his other books, Pollan divides Cooked into thematic sections (Here: Fire [Grilling], Water [Cooking in water], Air [baking], and Earth[fermenting/pickling]) but they seemed a little forced, as Pollan himself seems to acknowledge. You need fire for three of the four, and yeast plays a pretty big role in both beer and bread. I get what he was trying to do, but it felt like it didn't quite work to enhance the themes of the book rather than merely provide breaking points.
His introduction sets the stage for the entire book. He identifies a dilemma in modern culture: we spend less time cooking than ever but more time watching and idolizing others who cook. Pollan explains that contemplating this dilemma triggered something in him to write this book, and I think he makes an important overarching observation: although cooking may not be the most efficient use of time, it is an alchemic process that transforms both raw foods and people. Without cooking, humans would not be what we are today. The modern trend to remove cooking from everyday life, therefore, is likely to have huge consequences on who we are. As Pollan notes, our fascination with cooking reflects the deep-seated position it holds in our lives.
The book contains long sections with meditations on what cooking is and what it means to culture, both ancient and modern, and for the most part I enjoyed them.Read more ›
Pollan opens the book by explaining the day that realized that all of the questions that occupy his time seem to lead back to cooking. How to improve your health? Cooking. Good way to connect with the family? Cooking (and brewing). The most important thing we can do to help reform the American food complex? Cooking. Pollan admits he has always been mildly interested in the act, but it wasn't until he realized how important it could be that he began wanting to learn how to do it in earnest. Pollan realized that though American's seem to be obsessed with cooking (Top Chef, The Taste, Anthony Bourdain, Hell's Kitchen) we seem to do very little of it.
Pollan breaks down his education into four sections, much like he broke down The Botany of Desire and The Omnivore's Dilemma. The first section, called Fire, starts out at a North Carolina BBQ. It's here that Pollan strives to solve the mystery of "pig-plus-wood-smoke-plus-time" and what makes it so darn good. He spends time with pit-masters, learning the find art of the fire, which involves everything from Freudian theory, ancient gods and the Bible to chemistry and, of course, Big Meat. Before his fire education will be over, the reader will journey with Pollan to Manhattan, Berkeley, Spain and back again.
From there we dive into Water, which starts out, inexplicably, with chopping onions.Read more ›
In Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation, Pollan pairs his sharp journalism skills with his acumen as a thoughtful analytic essayist to look more deeply at the way we transform plants and animals into food--and why a better understanding of how and why we do it matters. He observes: "The work, or process, [of cooking] retains an emotional or psychological power we can't quite shake, or don't want to. And in fact it was after a long bout of watching cooking programs on television that I began to wonder if this activity I had always taken for granted might be worth taking a little more seriously" (pg4). Not surprisingly to anyone familiar with Pollan's work, he uses cooking to help restore our connections to a healthier natural world.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I bought this book after watching the Netflix series and while I enjoying the series and the book, the book has a depth that could not be contained in the hour segments on the... Read morePublished 2 days ago by Lincoln
Loved the natural history of cooking and the impact on socialization of humans. It reconnected me with my Italian family heritage and my mother dedication to cooking and dinners. Read morePublished 9 days ago by Louis A J Ray
Mustread, kindled my joy of cooking afaim, and.made me want to ExperimentPublished 14 days ago by Kristian Tjensvoll
Michael Pollen did not disappoint with this book. I have read his other books and really enjoyed this one! Read morePublished 23 days ago by Catreena McCarthy
The book brings you back to the basic food origins and evolution over the years of food. It's illuminating into the history of food and cooking, and the importance of taking time... Read morePublished 25 days ago by Sonya Ziolkowski
The topic is interesting, I thought the book would be more about how food is prepared, but there are many tangents into personal stories (like full chapters on BBQ). Read morePublished 1 month ago by Alicia Flick
The author manages to drag out interesting but simple concepts with lengthy storytelling, I preferred the Mr. Pollan's early books that were richer in educational content.Published 1 month ago by John D. Caldeira