Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Hooked on Cooked


 I got a review copy of Michael Pollan's latest book,Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation, (Penguin Press) last summer. Twenty three pages in, at the end of the Introduction, a meditation on cooking and why we do it (or should), I was totally engaged. This is his best one yet, in both the quality of thought and writing. Pollan weaves together stories, science and speculation with his own deep and deeply personal contemplation of what we eat and why, how we prepare it his hands on experiences in the kicthen and what these efforts mean. It's a big book, in every way, and rewards the reader with a wealth of information, entertainment and inspiration.

 The content is divided into four sections, Fire, Water, Air, and Earth, representing the basic elements that alter and enhance raw ingredients. I learned something from every chapter, including what I've been doing wrong in the kitchen and what I could do better, plus many new vocabulary words (that will up my Scrabble game considerably). The text is immensely erudite and yet, completely accessible and very practical. He tells you how to do things, like make a perfect soffrito or sour dough starter and do justice to a pork shoulder, contemplates the essential role of bacteria in our lives, and waxes philosophical on the requirements of a true, slow braise- patience, presence and practice- and the delicious rewards. Reading made me want to read more and cook more.
  I couldn't stop talking about the book, which made the husband want to read it. We loved it so much that we gave copies to our adult twin sons, along with cheese making kits from Leener's, for their December 22nd birthday. One of the boy's called me 24 hours later to say he was already into it and fascinated.
  Now that all the gift buying and bestowing for others is done, you'd be wise to give yourself a copy of Cooked as a present. I have no doubt that will deliver many hours of pure and profound pleasure. And prompt a desire to bbq, bake, and saute and ferment.

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