Cooked by Michael Pollan
A Natural History of Transformation

75%

13 Critic Reviews

Cooked is a call to all of us to get back to our kitchens and cook our own food as nature intended. “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” And cook it at home.
-NY Journal of Books

Synopsis

**Now a docu-series streaming on Netflix, starring Pollan as he explores how cooking transforms food and shapes our world. Oscar-winning filmmaker Alex Gibney exectuve produces the four-part series based on Pollan's book, and each episode will focus on a different natural element: fire, water, air, and earth. **

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 the Trade Paperback edition.
 

About Michael Pollan

See more books from this Author
A longtime contributing writer to The New York Times Magazine, Michael Pollan is the nation's most trusted resource for food-related issues. He is the Knight Professor of Journalism at UC Berkeley. His writing on food and agriculture has won numerous awards, including the Reuters/World Conservation Union Global Award in Environmental Journalism, the James Beard Award, and the Genesis Award from the American Humane Society.
 
Published April 23, 2013 by Penguin Books. 482 pages
Genres: Cooking, Science & Math, Health, Fitness & Dieting, Sports & Outdoors, Professional & Technical, History, Nature & Wildlife, Political & Social Sciences, Education & Reference. Non-fiction
Bestseller Status:
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Peak Rank on May 12 2013
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Critic reviews for Cooked
All: 13 | Positive: 10 | Negative: 3

NY Times

Good
Reviewed by Bee Wilson on Apr 26 2013

Paragraph by paragraph, he’s still a joy to read, conveying the deep satisfaction of, say, experimenting to achieve a sourdough bread that’s wholesome but still airy.

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Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Paul Levy on May 22 2013

While it strikes the reader that he is being modest about his own culinary abilities prior to embarking on this programme, his personal motives for doing it are endearing...Anyone who...has been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis or any of its immune-system-disorder relatives, will be as startled as I was to read these pages.

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Guardian

Above average
Reviewed by Jay Rayner on May 04 2013

The problem for Pollan is that his argument, while robust, is relatively short: cultures and societies that cook more of their own food are generally thinner, healthier and happier...Clearly his thesis needs fattening up a bit.

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Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Paul Levy on May 22 2013

Anyone who...has been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis...will be as startled as I was to read these pages. Pollan's prophetic track record makes it possible that you will be hearing a lot more about this soon.

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Guardian

Above average
Reviewed by Jay Rayner on May 04 2013

Pollan is rather obsessed by authenticity in food, setting up the industrial food process as the Visigoths rampaging across the plain to mount a final assault...At this point it all gets, well, a little overcooked.

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Publishers Weekly

Good
on Jun 24 2013

ably portrays the role of his wife and teenage son in his culinary journey, making a case for the role of food in building family connections.

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Kirkus

Excellent
on Jan 16 2013

A delightful chronicle of the education of a cook who steps back frequently to extol the scientific and philosophical basis of this deeply satisfying human activity.

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NY Journal of Books

Above average
Reviewed by Penny Pleasance on Apr 20 2013

Cooked is a call to all of us to get back to our kitchens and cook our own food as nature intended. “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” And cook it at home.

Read Full Review of Cooked: A Natural History of ... | See more reviews from NY Journal of Books

Toronto Star

Good
Reviewed by Patricia Hluchy on May 03 2013

By the end of this at times unwieldy but provocative book, it’s hard not to buy Pollan’s argument that cooking is “one of the most interesting and worthwhile things we humans do.”

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The Economist

Above average
on Apr 27 2013

...Mr Balzer concludes that, since the 1980s, fewer and fewer people have been cooking their evening meal...Mr Pollan is keen for this trend to be reversed and his book is a hymn to why people should be enticed back into the kitchen.

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National Post arts

Good
Reviewed by Vit Wagner on Apr 26 2013

A convincing case is made throughout that buying processed food usually represents false economy or false convenience, and often both.

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NY Times

Good
Reviewed by Janet Maslin on Apr 16 2013

For all the exoticism of this book’s adventures, Mr. Pollan does not stray far from familiar ground.

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National Post arts

Above average
Reviewed by Vit Wagner on Apr 26 2013

The descriptions of the various processes are fascinating. And the potential rewards are no doubt substantial. But the book’s valuable purpose is defeated if suspicions are confirmed that cooking for yourself really is just too much bother.

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Karen Russo 5 Sep 2013

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