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Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation Hardcover – April 23, 2013
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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 ›
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 ›
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
Another great Pollan book with some great thoughts on food. He lays out the information so well. This may indeed be my favorite of his books to date.Published 5 days ago by TSA
I couldn't finish it, way too much information for me to care about. Would only recommend it to anyone that just loves to read and can't find anything elsePublished 7 days ago by Amazon Customer
Pollan is a relative rock star in the field of food writing and like most “stars” some people love him and some people hate him. Read morePublished 17 days ago by YGinNYC
Love this book and the documentary that goes along with it. Everyone should read this and become more educated about the food they are consuming.Published 24 days ago by Kasey G.
Listened to this while road tripping with my 16 year old son who's main goal was to eat as much BBQ as possible in 5 days. Read morePublished 26 days ago by Ian Cheistwer