June Book Review: Cooked by Michael Pollan

Josh gave me the book Cooked by Michael Pollan for Mothers Day. I have loved everything I have read by Michael Pollan, but this book may have been my favorite. He has a way of taking very simple, fact-focused subject matter and making it mesmerizing. I mean, the entire first section of this book was about how barbecue is made, and somehow it was a page-turner!

The premise of the book is that cooking may be of central importance in many different realms of our lives: health, connecting with people, changing the American food system, faith, and re-connecting with creation. Pollan writes that, at some point, he realized that many of the questions he had been asking himself for years ended up having the same answer: Cook. These included questions about how to improve his families health, how to connect with his teenage son, how an ordinary person can help reform the food system, how to achieve a greater degree of self-sufficiency in our dependent culture, and how to connect to the natural world and understand our role in it.

Pollan uses the four classical elements (fire, water, air, and earth) to organize the content of the book. The first section chronicles the history of cooking meat over a fire and, in particular, whole hog barbecue. The water section describes the historical advancement of cooking in a pot with liquid (often water or broth). The air section is a thrilling and mouth-watering story of bread-baking (I unfortunately read this section while taking a break from wheat – it was quite torturous to read about artisan bread during this time.) The final section was about fermentation, and was quite illuminating about the make-up of our bodies and the microflora that call us home.

The “earth” section on fermentation was the part that has changed my perspective on food and life. I have been a proponent of good bacteria and eating live culture foods for awhile now, but this greatly expanded my understanding and inspired me to try some new ventures. I was especially taken with Sister Noella, the cheese-making and microbiologist nun.

I highly recommend this book, and I highly recommend cooking!! The book also includes one recipe for each element. I especially look forward to trying the bread recipe…


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