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.
©2013 Michael Pollan (P)2013 Penguin Audio
This book answered many questions for me, and gave me the opportunity to discover previously unappreciated aspects of food and cooking, as well as the nuts and bolts mechanics of how food goes from raw ingredients to a great meal. I particularly enjoyed the way he divided the topics to correspond to preparation. I actually came away feeling like I could, and should, attempt some of the more advanced cooking techniques that he describes. Extremely well written and as entertaining as it is informative!
I would listen to "Cooked" again because there were so many metaphors about cooking and life that it was hard to put them all in order. It was very good to see how we are shaped by our culture reflected in our food.
If the section on bread doesn't make you want to go out and sample a good loaf of artisan bread or better yet to make you yearn to learn how to make it then something is wrong. While listening to this section I could almost smell the bread baking.
There was an ease to what he was saying.
I listened to it in two sittings, so that was close. It is that good.
Only Michael Pollan can take the idea of how we cook our food and make that most basic of activities relate to who we are and how we came to be human.
I was intrigued by the idea that we are the only animals who cook our food...and that may be what, in fact, what allowed our brains to get enough energy-dense meals fast enough to allow our energy-hog brains to develop. Fire also took us from solitary hunter/gatherers to social beings. The last chapter, about fermentation, was absolutely fascinating. What we have done to damage the microflora we need in our co-evolution with the microbial world is the information we need to make better decisions as a society.
I've never heard Michael Pollan read before, and, of course, he is the perfect voice for his words. He is a charming and engaging reader. (In a tiny comment, he do wish he say genu-in rather then genu-wine.)
I am an unabashed fan of this writer whose brilliance and intriguing topics touch all of us in such fundamental ways!
Very thought provoking! Enjoyed his views and thoughts on modern day food culture, or lack there of. I already do most of my shopping at the farmers market and cook most meals. However, I will definitely be trying my hand at bread making after reading this book.
The style of writing, sliding from recounting the process of preparation into fascinating historical anecdotes, psychological theory and other titbits of information is so highly enjoyable I wanted to immediately go try sautéing onions properly. I've never cooked them for half an hour for anything other than onion soup, but now I'm going to try whenever I have time. And for a non-barbecue eater, I now want to try American barbecue.
The mix of anecdote, history and food preparation invokes the social import that cooking has traditionally had in my family. I love histories of things we consider "mundane" anyway, since quite often they are the key to larger explorations of history, and this is definitely one of the most enjoyable.
It made me want to chop onions. I think that's a fairly extreme reaction to a book. :)
Say something about yourself!
Michael Pollan's passion and interest comes through clearly. He made me become fascinated with sourdough bread and I bought and now care for a sourdough starter (named Fred).
Michael Pollan's experience and passion about his journey in expanding his cooking skills is contagious and thoroughly enjoyable.
I expected another great book on food from Michael Pollan but I got so much more. He takes you on a journey of not only how the elements to draw the maximum taste and nutrition from our food but also how each type of cooking engages and enhances our culture and family.
I also learned how modern food preparation methods that intend to shortcut the amount of work in our meals also shortcut the flavor and especially the nutrition.
I loved this book and talked about it with my friends and coworkers.
Daughter of a librarian, trained as a librarian, a lifelong lover of books. Mysteries, sci fi, fantasy, biography, true crime, romance, cooking, classic films, etc.!
A look at learning how the four "ancient" elements change food, and how these changes have changed us as humans. I was skeptical after seeing a brief interview, but after listening to the book, getting the whole explanation instead of the 15-second sound bite, I have recommended this book to co-workers, family, and friends. Pollan does not write from a clinically detached place, he actually learned to bake bread from his own natural starter culture, braise with the best of them, brew at home, pickle and ferment veggies, make cheese, and barbeque. He shares the triumphs of the processes, as well as the failures, and his encounters with the true artists he met along the way. He has learned that cooking can bring the family together, especially when the interest and passion is shared with the other members of the family. I think the fact that he still continues to make bread, braise, and brew occasionally speaks volumes to the satisfaction that can come from food lovingly and artfully produced and appreciated. When you learn to appreciate the art and effort that go into the preparation, you are much more conscious and conscientious in the eating and drinking!
I would not listen to this in one marathon evening or even weekend, but it is worth the time to change your understanding and appreciation of cooking.
I have listened to 2 previous audiobooks by this author and found them to be very good. This book was as good or maybe even better than the other two books. Michael Pollan did a great job narrating it and I feel like it added a lot to my enjoyment of the book. I will likely listen to it again before long!
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