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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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  •  
    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 6 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"
    Any additional comments?

    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.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    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!

    4 of 4 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 Wamboin, Australia 11-19-13
    Gabrielle Wamboin, Australia 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
  •  
    matthew san diego, CA, United States 09-17-13
    matthew san diego, CA, United States 09-17-13 Member Since 2008

    I am an English teacher in China and can now read and write some Chinese.I have been to 13 countries on 4 continents.I am an avid audiophile

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    "Not quite as good as previous works"

    Botany of Desire made me think about our close relationship to food and Omnivore's Dilemma was laid out so we could follow an entire meal from garden or farm to the table. In this book Michael plots the history of cooking from its primitive inception to the present. We learn that it is cooking that truly separates us from animals. He goes through barbeque, boiling, fermenting and distilling. Michael makes us think we should all go out and try our hands at some old fashion craft like baking bread or brewing beer for the sheer joy of making something we have come to expect prepackaged at the supermarket. I also happen to agree with Michael that Americans seem to want to watch cooking shows,but not to engage in cooking. This summer I suggested my friends and I cook something at home. It seemed to me like people want to go out just for the opportunity to all eat something different. I love the idea of sharing different techniques and personal feeling I get from eating a friends food or seeing what they think of my creations. America's kitchen all seems to come from a box or a can. Now that I live in China I have tried my hand at things like hummus or soup. We don't have Campbell's here. This is another great work, but I still feel like Omnivore's Dilemma was his best. It made me think about how industrialize food has become.As our time strapped world wants everything in an instant; we become a world that loses appreciation for the preparation of wholesome and delicious food and the skills to bring out its inherent flavor.

    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

    doggybird

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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 2011

    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 2004
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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
  •  
    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.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
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