A Natural History of Transformation
Pollan, Michael (Book - 2013 )
Average Rating: 4 stars out of 5.

Item Details

"In Cooked, 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. 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"--
Authors: Pollan, Michael
Statement of Responsibility: Michael Pollan
Title: Cooked
a natural history of transformation
Publisher: New York :, The Penguin Press,, 2013
Characteristics: 468 pages ; 25 cm.
Content Type: text
Media Type: unmediated
Carrier Type: volume
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Report This Dec 18, 2013
  • modis01 rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

Fun to read! Pollan personally experiments with different forms of cooking and takes us as the readers with him.

Report This Dec 06, 2013
  • Maxine85 rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

A great read! As per usual Michael Pollan is in fine form in this book - Cooked is an indepth look at 4 different cooking techniques, and the science, the history, the health and the spirit behind them. I enjoyed chapter 1 (Fire) on BBQ-ing, but felt it went on a bit too long. Chapter 2 on braising (cooking with water) was a bit thin on the history and the science, that might be because of the topic or because cooking with water has often been considered a 'female' form of cooking and thus has less official documentation than other forms of cooking. Or it may have just been the idea itself - cooking with water can be easy (boiling a veggie) or complex (a many layered stew) - this was the chapter I felt had the least to say. Chapter 3 and 4 (baking and fermentation) were really where Pollan shines as a writer. And if this doesn't get you interested in baking your own bread or trying your hand at making kimchee I don't know what will. An inspirational book from a wonderful food writer! Highly recommended.

Report This Nov 21, 2013
  • maryannherring rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

I am a better cook because I read this book and finally, I have learned how to make bread that is good.

Report This Jul 17, 2013
  • sheojuk rated this: 2 stars out of 5.

Not up to Pollan's usual standard. He either needed money, or was under contract to deliver another book. The fact that millions of people are avoiding wheat seems to have eluded him, and the access to ancient grains and many hours to produce exquisite bread are out of reach for almost everyone. The one good section was the last, on fermentation. In ten years, a great deal of healthcare will focus on our intestinal flora, and fermented foods will be recognized for their vital contribution to health. Mostly, this book was a self-indulgent exercise, not too much benefit to the reader.

Report This Jul 13, 2013
  • jeffreyochsner rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

This latest book from Michael Pollan is excellent. As usual, he has fascinating information to share, and he writes very well. I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in food, cooking, eating, or good health. That should be pretty much everyone! Enjoy!

Report This Jun 11, 2013
  • ksoles rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

"Eat food. Not too much, Mostly plants." This mantra from Michael Pollan's 2008 bestseller, "In Defence of Food" has helped kickstart a modern movement away from the ugly industrial food chain and towards a healthier, more humane and ecologically friendly way of eating. However, in his introduction to the newly released "Cooked," Pollan worries: “It is entirely possible that, within another generation, cooking a meal from scratch will seem as exotic and ambitious – as ‘extreme’ – as most of us today regard brewing beer or baking a loaf of bread or putting up a crock of sauerkraut.” He therefore sets out to explore the power of cooking, loosely defined as transforming raw, undigestible foods into wholesome, delicious ones. He divides "Cooked" into sections on fire, water, air and earth, a theoretically brilliant conceit based on the four classical elements that can transform food. Unfortunately, fire and water can only get so interesting... The fire section introduces readers to one guy who barbecues whole pigs, and then to another guy who barbecues whole pigs. Pollan learns from the guys how to barbecue whole pigs, then proceeds to barbecue a big piece of pig in the firepit he keeps in his front yard in Berkeley. He dresses up this narration with quotes from and anecdotes about the Marquis de Cussy, Claude Lévi-Strauss and a French philosopher named Gaston Bachelard, who wrote the not-so-scinitillating-sounding "The Psychoanalysis of Fire." Water follows fire in a very tedious chapter devoted to braising and the joys of chopping onions. Eminently skim-able. "Cooked" does pick up in the second half, where Pollan turns to earth, discussing the bacteria and fungus that turn milk to cheese, grain to beer etc, and to air, explaining how flour and water become bread. Here, we meet “fermentos,” who preach the critical but unappreciated role of bacteria in our diets, a nun who is also a PhD microbiologist and celebrated cheese maker, and a couple of the greatest bread makers in North America. Here, Pollan finally tells fascinating "foodie" stories steeped in chemistry, history and anthropology. Pollan indeed proves that cooking provides the key to a healthy, sustainable food system but only half succeeds in raising awareness and excitement about getting into the kitchen.



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