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Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation | [Michael Pollan]

Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation

In Cooked, Michael Pollan explores the previously uncharted territory of his own kitchen. Here, he 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. In the course of his journey, he discovers that the cook occupies a special place in the world....
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Publisher's Summary

Fire, water, air, earth - our most trusted food expert recounts the story of his culinary education

In Cooked, Michael Pollan explores the previously uncharted territory of his own kitchen. Here, he 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. In the course of his journey, he discovers that the cook occupies a special place in the world, standing squarely between nature and culture. Both realms are transformed by cooking, and so, in the process, is the cook.

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 listener 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: with plants and animals, the soil, farmers, our history and culture, and, of course, the people our cooking nourishes and delights. Cooking, above all, connects us.

The effects of not cooking are similarly far reaching. Relying upon corporations to process our food means we consume huge 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.

Download the accompanying reference guide.

©2013 Michael Pollan (P)2013 Penguin Audio

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  •  
    Michael United States 05-02-13
    Michael United States 05-02-13 Member Since 2010
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    "Very enjoyable listen!"
    Any additional comments?

    As a long-time foodie, home chef, and serial do-it-yourselfer, I greatly enjoyed Michael Pollan's treatise on food alchemy. The story is engaging, I learned a few new things, and Pollan does an excellent job of narrating in a natural, conversational tone. I only listen to audiobooks during my long commute, and I found myself anxious to get back on the road so I could listen to it some more. If you're passionate about food and cooking, you won't be disappointed!

    7 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kurt Dillon, MT, United States 05-09-13
    Kurt Dillon, MT, United States 05-09-13 Member Since 2005
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    "Excellent"
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    I found this book to be fascinating. Masterfully blending biology, chemistry, politics, history, health and culture (pun intended) Micheal Pollan bakes an airy loaf of wisdom that's also entertaining. Cooked is about how we humans interact with our food. It's something we all do but unless you're a professional foodie something we seldom think about. I highly recommend this read and especially this audio version read by Pollan.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Matt Oklahoma City, OK, United States 05-08-13
    Matt Oklahoma City, OK, United States 05-08-13 Member Since 2007
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    "Michael Pollan Fans Will Love It."

    Great book. Michael Pollan fans will love it. BUT, in the past, his books were narrated by Scott Brick, who is fantastic. I wish the author didn't narrate the audiobook.

    6 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    John MENLO PARK, CA, United States 11-22-13
    John MENLO PARK, CA, United States 11-22-13 Member Since 2007
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    "For curious cooks . . ."

    This book was not as transformative a listen as Botany of Desire, but I really enjoyed it and found myself talking about it a lot with friends. (always a good sign) It made me want to get into my kitchen on a weekend and experiment with long-ago clipped recipes. Very enjoyable.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gabrielle 11-19-13
    Gabrielle 11-19-13 Member Since 2012
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    "contagious passion"
    What did you love best about Cooked?

    I loved the description of slow roasting pork and the love of the process of fermentation in pickles, beer and baking. This book inspired me to make some mead, for which I am very grateful, thank you, Michael.

    I generally love Michael's work and enjoyed this book as I expected I would but I am already a food and brewing aficionado so I already know how to brew, bake, ferment and roast, but not to the same extremes. I do not like finicky, faddish cooking so I was relieved to see how Michael focused on the real aspects of real, good, life-giving food.

    For anyone who is wanting to go on a gastronomical journey throughout their lives with understanding and intention, this is probably an excellent place to start.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Wendy Flagstaff, AZ, United States 09-07-13
    Wendy Flagstaff, AZ, United States 09-07-13 Member Since 2005

    aznurse

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    "I'm newly inspired....."

    First off, I'm a total Michael Pollan fan. I first read "Food Rules" many years ago, which made so much sense that it became the springboard for my becoming vegan, a lifestyle that has lasted and lasted. Each and every one of his books has rekindled my commitment to stay away from processed foods and the other over-manufactured foods on the grocery shelves.

    "Cooked" takes the next step. Pollan uses the four elements (earth, air, fire, and water) to show us the delights of home cooking and the benefits therein. While I don't eat meat, I still enjoyed his adventures thru barbeque and braising (without any desire to try the foods he cooked), but it was his adventures into bread baking and fermentation that really spurred my imagination.

    Pollan, a polished and award winning writer, takes the under-recognized elements of food and nutrition and makes them mystical. For example, the intricate interplay of microbes used in bread baking become characters in the drama of the baked loaf. He has an understanding of the interrelationship between food and society that made me sit back and sigh. Yes, it's all so clear now.

    This is a very special book ... a perfect companion to Michael Moss' "Salt Sugar Fat." We can turn the current health crisis around if we listen to these sages of food.

    I could write more, but I need to go punch down the bread dough that is rising in the kitchen....

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Norcal Reader Redwood City, CA, United States 08-17-13
    Norcal Reader Redwood City, CA, United States 08-17-13 Member Since 2009
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    "just not very compelling"
    Any additional comments?

    I'm sure this book will be seriously enjoyed by many people, just not me. I've read a few other Michael Pollan books, and found them so interesting. This one seriously bored me -- I just could not continue reading. Just seems like so much bloated overthinking.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Diane United States 08-07-13
    Diane United States 08-07-13 Member Since 2008
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    "Long-winded"

    Fans of Michael Pollan’s “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” may be disappointed (as I was). “Cooked” contains ample material to justify the purchase of this book, but unfortunately the material is overwhelmed by fluff and repetition. Had an editor slashed about 50% of the text - the excess words between the information - I would have given this book 5 stars.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sarah 07-15-13
    Sarah 07-15-13
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    "Half gets five stars. Half gets two."

    I really enjoyed the parts actually about cooking and exploring its history. Not so much the lengthy sermonizing and philosophizing about 21st century American cooking habits. Yes, it's Michael Pollan, and that's his thing. Nonetheless, the lectures could've been edited extensively without loss of the message. I wish he'd stuck more to his topic and less to his opinions about the topic. By the way, I thought he read his book beautifully and have no issues with the performance aspect of this audio book.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Doggy Bird Glen Ridge, NJ USA 05-26-13
    Doggy Bird Glen Ridge, NJ USA 05-26-13 Member Since 2001

    Avid reader of classics and fiction, history and well-written genre novels. Music lover and huge audiobook fan.

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    "Really fascinating book, well-read by the author"

    I am enjoying this book so much I decided to write a review before I finished. I usually am skeptical of author-narrated books since they don't always compare well with professionally narrated audios. This is definitely not the case with COOKED. I like the author's narration very much, he reads at a perfect speed, his voice is pleasant and he sounds like he knows what he's talking about. There's an aspect of direct communication and connection that really adds a lot to the audio.

    Further, this is such a fascinating exploration of food and the history of cooking that I cannot stop listening and re-listening to some parts of the book a second time. I really like the way Pollan approaches his topics, illustrating his points through experiences with individuals who are experts at doing the kind of cooking he is studying and scientific studies on different chemical reactions that take place during cooking. I also enjoy the historical perspective.

    I am almost halfway through the book and well into the chapter on water, or pot-cooking after having very much appreciated both the introduction and the section on cooking with fire. One of my favorite ways to listen to audiobooks is when I am cooking, which makes listening to this particular audiobook especially nice. Highly recommended read for anyone who loves to cook, loves to eat, or is interested in the role of cooking in human history.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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