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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.

©2013 Michael Pollan (P)2013 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

"Pollan narrates his book in a conversational style filled with conviction and eagerness that drive the listener to join his evolutionary quest." (AudioFile)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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Inspired

love it! inspired to try creating bread or beer or fermented dishes. I love how he goes into such detail about each dish and how he ferments or creates other dishes. I am ready to get started!

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Fascinating but Wordy

My third Pollan book, l found it wordy again but still a fascinating read. As an avid, well read cook with a technical background, much of the information was not new to me but that which wasn't made the read worthwhile.

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  • Candy
  • NORCO, US, Canada
  • 04-26-17

A Great Listen

Loved this book. Pollan's is poetic, insightful, humorous, and enlightening. The personal touch of him reading his own book is a bonus.

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Michael Pollan, take a bow.

The best food book I have ever read or heard. It made me fall in love with food again.

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South Park Chef

What made the experience of listening to Cooked the most enjoyable?

Helps you think about the food you put into your body

What did you like best about this story?

Learning the direction of food and the makers behind it

Which character – as performed by Michael Pollan – was your favorite?

Cooking the pig with "Fire"

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

The stories behind the food and the people

Any additional comments?

Anyone who loves food need this book in their lives.

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Educational and Entertaining

Food is imperative to us all and MP helps reinforce the importance of our relationship with it.

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  • S.F.
  • Chicago, IL USA
  • 09-15-16

Well-trodden ground

Would you try another book from Michael Pollan and/or Michael Pollan?

I have read several of Michael Pollan's books, and though this one has an intriguing conceit at the heart of it, the conclusions he comes to are nothing new. The Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food literally changed the my life in the sense that they expanded and transformed my thoughts about food in the modern world. This book....did not. It was same-old same-old from Pollan.

Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Michael Pollan?

A professional narrator. I could hear him mentally checking out with his own material. You can tell, as a listener, when a narrator gets bored, and it becomes a struggle to listen attentively when it happens. Some writers are able to enliven their own material in a really exciting way (see: Bill Bryson), but Pollan doesn't really.

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Ugh

What would have made Cooked better?

The entire thing smacks of pretension. The topic is interesting, but the approach is stale.

Would you ever listen to anything by Michael Pollan again?

Absolutely not.

Would you be willing to try another one of Michael Pollan’s performances?

Absolutely not.

If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from Cooked?

Get rid of the whole thing and find an author that has something to say.

Any additional comments?

Painful experience. Unfortunately, I couldn't refund this purchase for some reason and use the credit for something worthwhile.

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This is an amazing book

As a horticulturist, gardener and cook this book was amazing! Written only the way Michael Pollan writes!! Every moment was delightful, educational and dare I say transformational. All I can say is Thank you!

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