|4 out of 5 stars|
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.
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.
I have to say that I appreciate an author who tells me that I am being subversive or rebellious if I cook. It’s one of the few forms of rebelliousness to which I wholeheartedly subscribe. Having read Salt Sugar Fat by Michael Moss last year, I been working diligently at eliminating processed foods from my diet—easier said than done! Especially when one is also attempting to go gluten-free.
I have many happy memories of cooking on the farm where I grew up. We knew the cows that provided our milk, the chickens that laid our eggs and the cattle and pigs that provided each evening’s main course. Sometimes Mom would even mention them by name as she served up supper. I have been in quest of a real pork chop for some time now and think I have found a butcher shop that provides a product very, very close to my idealized memories. One of the things which struck me when I moved to the city was the lack of taste in the meat and vegetables purchased from the chain grocery stores. Carrots from a chain store are more like wood than like vegetables and tomatoes are hard and tasteless compared to those we grew in our garden (fertilized with well-aged, long composted animal manure).
The problem, for me at least, is one of time. I love to cook and bake—but I also work full time and enjoy a busy social life. Having read Cooked, I can see that I will start attempting to schedule more cooking time into my life—in the past, I have whiled away many happy hours stirring soup pots, checking on oven contents and poking at dough. It’s time to return that gentle form of rebellion to my life on a regular basis.