Cooked – A Natural History of Transformation

It’s been a while since I’ve written about a book.  I’ve read several books, both fiction and non, but for some reason, I have trouble determining which ones to write about.  A couple weeks ago, I said I was thankful that I was almost finished with a book I’d been reading for a long time.  Well, I’m happy to say that I’m now (finally) done!


Cooked“Cooked” is unlike any other book I’ve ever read.  It’s not the kind of book that I couldn’t put down for wanting to know what happens next.  I actually couldn’t read much of it at one time because it was so full of information and I often wanted to absorb and think (dare I say chew on it?) for a while before moving on.  Hence, it took me a long time to get through it.


Author Michael Pollan shares what he learned from various experts and from his own experiences in the kitchen about four basic methods or means of creating food and drink.  The book is a study of not only food itself but also history, agriculture, philosophy, religion, nutrition, culture, geography and science and how all these things contribute to the way we cook and think about cooking (or not, as the case may be).  There’s a little humor thrown in too.


The four elements are fire, water, air and earth.  Fire was by far my favorite section, as it focused on barbecue.  The water chapter explored braising and one pot cooking.  Air took on the challenge of transforming grains into an amazing loaf of bread.  Finally, the earth portion of the book was about the role of bacteria and fungus in fermentation, pickling, and making cheese.


It was all rather fascinating.  I learned a lot about so many things.  My favorite quote, near the end of the book when the author talks about the transformations in his life based on his journey in writing this book, is this:

To try your hand at doing something new is to find out a few new things about yourself, too.  Which is yet another good reason for coming into the kitchen.”


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