I know I rave about all of Michael Pollan’s books, and his new masterpiece, COOKED, is no exception. I just started reading it, and although I’m not a substantial way through yet, I’m already confident in the fact that it is going to be another insightful and engaging read. For me, what sets Pollan apart from a lot of other food authors is his willingness to submerse himself, literally, into his writings and document his own food experiences. Rather than presenting readers with just the facts, Pollan offers them his vivid memories from the adventures that he’s had not only in his own kitchen, but also in eateries, farms, and restaurants throughout the country. He’s always refreshingly honest about his successes and failures in the kitchen, and he challenges preconceived notions and opinions about health, wellness, and eating. I must say that COOKED doesn’t disappoint and encompasses all of the things that make Pollan a really gifted writer. Here, Pollan presents “A Natural History of Transformation” where he explores how the four classical elements have endured the test of time. The book is divided into four sections, as follows:
Part One: FIRE
Part Two: WATER
Part Three: AIR
Part Four: EARTH
Pollan takes on the role of a student in training as he ventures out to gain mastery of four different recipes that involve one of each of the classical elements. For example, he travels to a barbecue pit in North Carolina to acquire the necessary skills needed to manipulate fire, and a baker teaches him about the presence of air and how it can transform ordinary ingredients into a cohesive recipe. However, whatever Pollan is doing, he makes it clear that the act of cooking is what strengthens our roots culturally and reminds us of our connection to Nature.
While I was reading the Introduction in this book, one of the things that really grabbed me was how Pollan presented the origins of cooking. He referenced another book, CATCHING FIRE, written by Richard Wrangham, and in it he argues that cooking ingredients was what originally divided the human race from apes. The revelation of cooking truly humanized us as a species. In actuality, when you really think about it, this hypothesis has a lot of truth behind it. By cooking, we were able to evolve as a species because a digestible and energizing diet allowed for our average brain size to increase and our digestive tracts to decrease. This then allowed for us to evolve into a more complex species.
Indeed, Pollan advocates that cooking may be the single most critical step we can take to promote the healthfulness of our food system in this country. I hope that many of you will give this book a try and, as always, I’d love to hear your comments and thoughts about it!
Until Next Week…Plan Well, Pack Well, Live Well,