Cooked is an entertaining and educational history of how we turn raw ingredients into delicious food and drink. Classical cooking methods using the elements of Fire (grilling), Water (cooking in water), Air (baking), and Earth (fermenting/pickling) are presented along with the history behind each method. Pollan learns from the wisdom of masters in their field; each of his teachers is whole-heartedly devoted to his or her specialty. Following his education with each master, Pollan goes home and creates his own version of BBQ, bread, cheese, sauerkraut, beer and wine. In a conversational and entertaining tone, Pollan discusses using whole fresh foods and why this is so important from an ecological standpoint. He reminds us that we are interconnected with our natural world, farmers and even the microbes in and outside of our bodies. There is something to learn within each of the methods from both a health and a technical standpoint but the side lesson in microbiology taught during the Earth element is especially fascinating. Lessons learned from the "cheese-nun" with a PhD in microbiology are not only entertaining but also educational and are an important lesson to pass on to friends and family. It's not often that you want to, and actually can, explain in simple, family-friendly terms how microbes, and the harnessing of fungi and molds, ferment and work together to keep our digestive systems healthy. But after reading Cooked, you will want to share you new-found knowledge and will be able to.
Pollan tell us that there is no other time in human history when people spend as much time watching, learning and talking about cooking. He also goes on to say that there is no time in history when people spend less time actually preparing and cooking meals. How does the same activity that many consider drudgery become pure entertainment? Pollan believes that the work or process of cooking retains an emotional power and that people are comforted by a simple human activity that can be traced back to the beginning of time. Read this book and you are sure to agree with him and you just might get out your apron.
Reviewed by sw, 03/14. Other reviews by sw.