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A Natural History of Transformation

This book can be downloaded and read in Apple Books on your Mac or iOS device.


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.

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 reader 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. Cooking, above all, connects us.

The effects of not cooking are similarly far reaching. Relying upon corporations to process our food means we consume large 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.

From Publishers Weekly

Mar 25, 2013 – Spurred by a number of objectives improving his family s general health, connecting with his teenage son, and learning how people can reduce their dependence on corporations, among others Pollan (The Omnivore s Dilemma; In Defense of Food) came to the realization that he d be able to accomplish all those goals and more if he spent more time in his kitchen. He began cooking. Divided into four chapters based on the four elements, Pollan eloquently explains how grilling with fire, braising (water), baking bread (air), and fermented foods (earth) have impacted our health and culture. In each case, Pollan examines the process as well as the science of barbecue, bread, and beer-making in addition to each particular method s effect on humanity. Cooking over high heat, for example, enabled primates brains to grow much bigger and digest their food faster, making them more efficient; fermented foods like kimchi can promote and encourage the growth of good bacteria in the gut, a function that highly processed foods are unable to accomplish. These and other revelations (obesity rates are inversely correlated with the amount of time spent on food preparation, microbiologists believe that onions, garlic and spices protect us from the growth of dangerous bacteria on meat, which could explain why we are drawn to flavorful foods, etc.) make for engaging and enlightening reading. Liz Farrell, ICM.

Customer Reviews

Very Sad

what a shock - it's the fault of whiny ambitious women that we all are unhealthy and eating poorly. Back to the kitchen girls so you can sacrifice for the good of all. How about we try a new way - all you men quit your jobs and take over all those highly rewarding nurturing jobs and we will see how the world looks in fifty years.

Too euro-centric

OK, so Pollan is a true New Yorker. But beyond Kimchee, he completely ignores anything but european food. For example, in the tropics, large leaves from plants were used to wrap food and stick it in the fire millenia before pots were invented. Rice, potatoes, manioc, corn, many sources of carbs and starch are not subjected to fermentation, never require "air". At least he should have looked at how Native Americans cooked, if he really wanted to go back to the roots of food. Isn't he crazy about eating local? There is a history, a long and relevant one, way before the Dutch allegedly "bought" the island of Manhattan for a few coins. It is not just women he mistreats with this book. Every culture escept Europeans are treated with disdain. Maybe he included Korean food because Samsung is beating the heck out of Apple. Apples are after all, Chinese in origin.

A must-read for anyone who ever stepped into a kitchen!

Once again, Pollan delivers on bringing the reader back to the relationship between humans and the food we eat. Taking us through four fundamental classical elements (fire, water, air, earth) and how they act to transform raw ingredients into foods we take for granted, Pollan gives a new appreciation of how cooking by these methods have shaped our cultures and possibly been our own evolution. By combining his naturally conversational voice with complex scientific concepts, he helps us to better understand cooking and as with any good book, leaves the reader with a call to action and the drive to be a better person.

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  • $13.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Social Science
  • Published: Apr 23, 2013
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Print Length: 480 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: This book can only be viewed on an iOS device with Apple Books on iOS 12 or later, iBooks 1.5 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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