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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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  •  
    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 2014

    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
  •  
    Michael Friedman Delmar, NY USA 05-26-13
    Michael Friedman Delmar, NY USA 05-26-13 Member Since 2014

    Bubikon

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    "Finally, a writer who can read"

    Michael Pollan joins Christopher Hitchens, Gore Vidal and Dick Cavett as an author who can read his own work well. This makes his insightful book well worth the listen. Mr. Pollan shifts well between the philosophy and history of cooking with his own explorations and anecdotes. It is a nice idea well executed.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    richard los angeles, cA, United States 05-13-13
    richard los angeles, cA, United States 05-13-13 Member Since 2012
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    "Worthwhile"

    Michael Pollan has written another book that I enjoyed and found interesting. He has delved deeply into the preparation of food and what that means to me as a physical as well as social animal.
    His easy delivery is a pleasure to listen to and what he is saying is fascinating.
    Where he explains the chemistry of our food and how it changes as it cooks was easy to follow for a layman. The cultural significance of how and why we cook is also really interesting.
    I listened to Fat,Sugar, Salt before this book and this was a good dovetail ...
    It's about time we paid closer attention to what we eat

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Andy Westport, CT, United States 05-09-13
    Andy Westport, CT, United States 05-09-13 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "helpfully, more than skin deep"

    In his wonderfully mellow, yet engaging performance, Mr. Pollan takes us through the details of a handful of cooking journeys, from barbeque to breadmaking to cheese, kimchi and more. A terrific listen. All that was missing, understandably, was the ability to actually taste what he was telling us about.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    history buff louisiana 06-26-13
    history buff louisiana 06-26-13 Member Since 2008

    carol

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    "not up to pollan's usual standards"

    love all his books, but this one just wasn't as interesting. still good, just not one i could recommend to a new pollan reader.

    3 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Thomas B. 04-08-15
    Thomas B. 04-08-15 Member Since 2014
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    "Groan!"
    This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

    Someone who enjoys information less and flowery empty prose more.


    What was most disappointing about Michael Pollan’s story?

    The story might be good but I keep just groaning in remorse as he once again mounts the steed of unimaginitive thesaurus work to inflate a decent set of words into somehow literary artistry.

    He normally fails and honestly after 2 hours he was giving me anxiety like watching an overconfident middleschooler give a book report.


    Would you listen to another book narrated by Michael Pollan?

    I enjoyed the omnivores dilemma, and botany of desire was great


    What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

    Boredom


    Any additional comments?

    Final note as a southerner: He does not get barbecue, and his ridiculous parable of a chinese farmer inventing roasted meat was obnoxiously mentioned too often.

    All I want is to be enraptured about a subject like bill bryson. Random year in the 1900's, this old house, that worlds fair....but somehow its interesting. This book is taking one of the most interesting premises, cooking, and manages to crush it to a dry mouth powder.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    justine 04-07-15
    justine 04-07-15 Member Since 2015
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    "Great!"

    I love Michael Pollan's books but sometimes found them hard to get through. This was my first audible book and what a difference listening made! Michael was gave a great, personal performance. I can't wait to read the rest of the collection.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    Rachel 03-29-15
    Rachel 03-29-15 Member Since 2014
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    "Enlivening."

    Easy to listen to. Each section took me to my kitchen. I how to try all these some day.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    Jane Rogers, AR 12-22-14
    Jane Rogers, AR 12-22-14 Member Since 2012
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    "Fascinating!"

    Michael Pollan does it again with humor, incredible history and hands on experience. The first section was a bit intense, but still fascinationg. I love the journalistic approach and yet it feels and is very personal.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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