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Get Cooked

cooked-coverSome people geek out about Star Trek movie release dates or scoring tickets to Super Diamond. Me, I anxiously await new books by Michael Pollan. Ever since I read The Omnivore’s Dilemma in 2009, I’ve pre-ordered every one of his subsequent books. And then when I get the call from the book store that the book is in, I literally get in my car that minute.

Yes, I’m a Pollan geek.

Here’s why:

At a certain point in the late middle of my life I made the unexpected but happy discovery that the answer to several of the questions that most occupied my was in fact one and the same:


Some of those questions were personal. For example, what was the single most important thing we could do as a family to improve our health and general well-being? And what would be a good way to better connect with my teenage son? Other questions were slightly more political in nature. For years I have been trying to determine (because I’m often asked) what is the most important thing an ordinary person can do to help reform the American food system, to make it healthier and more sustainable? […] How, in our everyday lives, can we acquire a deeper understanding of the natural world and our species’ peculiar role in it? You can always go to the woods to confront such questions, but I discovered that even more interesting answers could be had by simply going to the kitchen.

This is from the introduction to Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation. And, by the way, the introduction alone was worth the cover price. I haven’t finished the entire book yet, but so far it’s fascinating. Cooked examines the four basic natural elements — fire, water, air, and earth — as they pertain to food (right now I’m in the “water” section, and Mr. Pollan is learning the art of braising from a Persian-American chef). Along the way, Pollan manages to convey things I’ve always thought about but could never articulate quite as well, such as: “…cooking — defined broadly enough to take in the whole spectrum of techniques people have devised for transforming the raw stuff of nature into nutritious and appealing things for us to eat and drink — is one of the most interesting and worthwhile things we humans do.” Amen.

Even if you’re not a food geek like me, I highly recommend picking up the book. (Oh, and Star Trek Into Darkness comes out May 16!)

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