Thursday, December 05, 2013

Cooked by Michael Pollan

Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation by Michael Pollan
"At a certain point in the late middle of my life, I made the unexpected but happy discovery that the answer to several of the questions that had most occupied me was in fact one and the same.
Thus begins Michael Pollan's latest food memoir/manifesto.  In this recent title, he moves beyond where our food comes from (The Omnivore's Dilemna) and what we should eat (Food Rules), to the history of cooking.  Focusing on the four classical elements -- Fire, Water, Air, and Earth, Pollan sets out to discover the roots of classical cooking techniques by working with masters of each type of cooking.  For example, he travels to North Carolina to meet barbecue pit masters who teach him how to cook with fire.

Along with the fascinating history of each type of cooking, Pollan examines the ways in which cooking has changed human society, and the ways that not cooking has more recently impacted society.  His discussion of gender roles in cooking is especially fascinating.

Cooked adds to Pollan's earlier work, and will be of interest to anyone concerned about the food we eat and its place in our culture, or who simply enjoys food writing.  As I cooked Thanksgiving dinner last weekend, I found myself thinking of his passages on spending long afternoons chopping onions.

Readers who enjoy Cooked should definitely check out Pollan's earlier food non-fiction, along with Salt, Sugar, Fat by Michael Moss, and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver (both previously reviewed by my fellow VBPL reviewers)

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