Cooked is the latest book on the expansive topic of food by Michael Pollan. He is the famous author of the Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food. Cooked was the the latest food for thought book club selection for January.
In Cooked, Pollan examines the connection between cooking and culture. He outlines the historical perspective beginning with the discovery of fire which he identifies as the basis of all cooking. What follows is the use of water for braising, air for bread baking and earth, namely the use of fungi and bacteria, for fermentation. He completes many excursions to examine these four concepts. For instance, he travels to South Korea to visit a kimchi museum. He studies cheese making in an abbey in New England. Thankfully, Pollan includes recipes to highlight these four concepts.
The group discussed how involved these recipes are and whether or not they are realistic for the novice cook. The bread recipe in the book, for example, takes 5 to 10 days from start to finish.
There was also a question about how much of a "foodie" one must be to fully appreciate this book. Some were intrigued by the direction he took this book: it reads as a personal journey rather than teaching the reader how to cook. As an aside, I couldn't help to notice as we sat in the Doylestown Bookshop how many cookbooks and magazines about cooking lined the shelves. The interest in cooking seems quite real, at least in Doylestown! The conversation often strayed from the book to other interesting topics about food and I found that the participants provided great knowledge about food and cooking.
Michael Pollan's examination of cooking history is an enjoyable read, for the experienced cook or for the beginner. This book is well recommended.