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Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation

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Michael Pollan

13 Hours 25 Minutes

Penguin Audio

April 2013

Audio Book Summary

Michael Pollan, the bestselling author of The Omnivore's Dilemma, Food Rules, and How to Change Your Mind, explores the previously uncharted territory of his own kitchen in Cooked. 

Cooked is now a Netflix docuseries based on the book that focuses on the four kinds of 'transformations' that occur in cooking. Directed by Oscar-winning filmmaker Alex Gibney and starring Michael Pollan, Cooked teases out the links between science, culture and the flavors we love.

In Cooked, Pollan 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.

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Reviews

  • Lauren C.

    Great listen, if you’ve read his other books, or just love cooking you, won’t be disappointed! He focuses on technique not recipes, on why you don’t want to brown your mirepoix, or why salting your meat isn’t about the salt flavour but what it does to the meat. Interesting to hear the history of how the different methods of cooking evolved and their effect on our health and culture. Always like hearing an author narrate, expresses the true tone of the writing.

    Book Rating

  • J L

    I would think the use of the title apprentice is a pretty long stretch. maybe more like an unpaid day laborer. he is pretty long winded, more like a kid trying to stretch their subject to make the minimum requirements for a term paper. there are a few interesting stories but mostly a book probably written by someone trying to write another book not because of a burning passion

    Book Rating

  • mp

    I'm glad that I finally listed to this book, because I've heard so much about this one. I'm sad that it was not as good as the hype surrounding it. I thought it had a very poor format... more repetitive than a 5 paragraph essay -I'm going to tell you what I'll tell you -I'm going to tell you -I'm going to tell you what I told you Intro paragraphs to the chapters seem to touch on enough of each subject, that when he finally gets around to diving into each topic, there isn't much deeper to go. And topics keep returning through out the book. THAT SAID, there were a few nuggets of interest such as making bread and beer that were somewhat interesting to hear. I give it a score of "meh", which is half way between yuck and yay.

    Book Rating