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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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  •  
    gmrob 06-04-13
    gmrob 06-04-13 Member Since 2006

    gmrob

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Another Excellent Book"

    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!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Alexander culpeper, VA, United States 05-29-13
    Alexander culpeper, VA, United States 05-29-13 Member Since 2010
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    "I cook now."

    I have enjoyed many of Mr. Pollans books and was excited to find this addition to his self read collection. I really enjoyed " A place of my own" and hoped it would be more along the lines of that than some of his past dissections of the Lipid Theory. I enjoyed those also but this book really made me see cooking in a different light. I took some valuable knowledge away from this writing. I became friends with the sour dough culture in my kitchen, appreciate the baking process so much more and open up a whole new world when it comes to meat. The beer I have yet to try. For those who even have a slight interest in cooking.... Michael Pollan will or tries very well to change your perspective on the subject in the way most Pollan fans would expect. Loads of research and thought go in to all his works and he did not fail here.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jerry United States 05-18-13
    Jerry United States 05-18-13
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    "Perhaps a better title: Cooking Transforms Humans"

    The first criticism I heard about the book was it "nothing more than just a cookbook. The sage of better farming and other such wisdom about changes needed to our agricultural world should do better." Of course this profound analysis came from looking at the book and thumbing through the pages when it first arrived at Costco.

    In reality this really is the transformation of Pollan's writing from science and engineering to why art is more the reason for our humanity; more than our technology. Cooking is the basis for and history of our culture. Could it be the reason our culture is sick and dying, is because our cooking is a metaphysical manifestation of the sick and dying industrial age?

    It could be argued that specialization created our industrial consumer culture, but yet it is specialization that is making too big to fail, the cause and effect of future failure. Cooked is but a minor analysis of what truly makes us human and puts the focus back to where it belongs, on the transformation of ingredients into transformational food, rather than fast food junkies, less human, and less healthy

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    James Outlaw, Jr Memphis, TN United States 05-14-13
    James Outlaw, Jr Memphis, TN United States 05-14-13 Member Since 2005
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    "A good "read""
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Anyone who is interested in learning a little more about the basic fundamentals of cookig will enjoy this book.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Peter Buckeye, AZ 05-14-13
    Peter Buckeye, AZ 05-14-13 Member Since 2011

    Husband, Father, Fighter Pilot and Granite Stater.

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    "Started right up again..."
    If you could sum up Cooked in three words, what would they be?

    FIRE WATER AIR


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Cooked?

    This book inspired me to try out some bread making. It will for you too!


    What about Michael Pollan’s performance did you like?

    Fantastic narration by the author. His previous narrator was a little snotty...


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    Yes, I would rewind chapters just to listen to them again.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Matt Slaybaugh Oxford, OH 05-12-13
    Matt Slaybaugh Oxford, OH 05-12-13 Member Since 2005

    Artistic Director of Available Light Theatre.

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    "Unbelievably, almost as good as his last."
    Where does Cooked rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    Second best.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    The surfing bread-maker.


    What about Michael Pollan’s performance did you like?

    He's simultaneously highly intelligent, but homely and casual.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    I cried a couple of times.


    Any additional comments?

    Unbelievably, this book is almost as good as The Omnivore's Dilemma. It's not as consistently good, but it reaches similar heights on many occasions. The chapter about bread is divine.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    G-Man 05-06-13
    G-Man 05-06-13
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    "Not Scientific Enough"

    This is not the book I was looking for. The first two chapters describe the importance of eating together and how we eat more processed (not cooked) food. The next three chapters cover barbequing and the authors adventure barbequing with a master. At this point I stopped. I wanted a scientific listen and find it in: "Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human." This book is referenced a couple of times in "Cooked". While I am a Pollan fan, and it is unfair to review a book without finishing it, I wanted something more thought provoking.

    2 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    alan north wales, PA, United States 11-26-13
    alan north wales, PA, United States 11-26-13 Member Since 2007
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    "Too full of himself"
    What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

    Edit out the howlingly ignorant prononouncements from anthrolopology and quotes-from-the-classics


    What was most disappointing about Michael Pollan’s story?

    Too much fluff obscures his tales of adventures among the foodies.
    His observations on how we eat are interesting the first time around, but can not withstand his hectoring repetitions


    Any additional comments?

    audio is the wrong format - this should be skimmed page by page, not audited from start to finish

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Judith Okemos, MI, USA 05-27-13
    Judith Okemos, MI, USA 05-27-13
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    "Too bad"
    What would have made Cooked better?

    Michael Pollan, an author I generally liked, tries so hard not to be sexist that he is pretty darned sexist. Gee, he didn't discover cooking. And now that he has, I guess it is important. Cannot finish listening to this. He probably has a broken arm from patting himself on the back.


    Has Cooked turned you off from other books in this genre?

    No.


    How did the narrator detract from the book?

    He cannot pronounce "culinary."


    Any additional comments?

    Gee, why are you telling us how to structure our reviews?

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
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