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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. In the course of his journey, he discovers that the cook occupies a special place in the world, standing squarely between nature and culture. Both realms are transformed by cooking, and so, in the process, is the cook. Each section of Cooked tracks Pollan’s effort to master a single classic recipe using one of the four elements. A North Carolina barbecue pit master tutors him in the primal magic of fire; a Chez Panisse–trained cook schools him in the art of braising; a celebrated baker teaches him how air transforms grain and water into a fragrant loaf of bread; and finally, several mad-genius “fermentos” (a tribe that includes brewers, cheese makers, and all kinds of picklers) reveal how fungi and bacteria can perform the most amazing alchemies of all. The reader learns alongside Pollan, but the lessons move beyond the practical to become an investigation of how cooking involves us in a web of social and ecological relationships: with plants and animals, the soil, farmers, our history and culture, and, of course, the people our cooking nourishes and delights. Cooking, above all, connects us. The effects of not cooking are similarly far reaching. Relying upon corporations to process our food means we consume huge 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.
- ISBN-13: 9781611761436
- ISBN-10: 1611761433
- Publisher: Penguin Audiobooks
- Publish Date: April 2013
- Page Count: 11
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2013-06-24
- Reviewer: Staff
Pollan (The Omnivore's Dilemma) narrates his latest, which explores the transformative cooking power of four vital elements: fire, water, air, and earth. Pollan's reading has an easygoing, next-door-neighbor tone that works to distance him from the "foodie" label that inevitably attaches itself to his name. While Pollan certainly tackles the heavy-duty science portions of his narrative smoothly, he's at his best when portraying the book's sometimes-colorful cast of characters. The most memorable of these figures include a barbecue pit master with a checkered business record and a deep attachment to the whole-hog slow cooking and a California hipster/baker. Pollan also ably portrays the role of his wife and teenage son in his culinary journey, making a case for the role of food in building family connections. A Penguin hardcover. (Apr.)
You can't be too rich
Aiyah, Alamak! (that’s “OMG” to Singaporeans), Kevin Kwan has let the solid-gold, diamond-encrusted cat out of the Hermès Birkin bag, big time. His fabulous, over-the-top debut novel Crazy Rich Asians, read by Lynn Chen with just the right hint of a Far Eastern accent, is the romp of the season. We’re in Singapore in the super-secretive, super-snobby palatial inner sanctums of the super-rich, where families have intermarried for generations. Into this conniving society of splendor-soaked, couture-clad billionaires, where designer names pour down like the monsoon, walks Rachel Chu, a lovely, smart, 30-something Chinese-American professor from New York. She’s been invited to attend the “wedding of the century” by Nicky, her handsome, charming Singaporean boyfriend, who somehow neglected to tell her about his lineage-obsessed family, its staggering wealth and his position as heir apparent. Rachel’s OK as a girlfriend, but as the family realizes that Nicky might marry her, all the stops are pulled out to stop him. Super fun from beginning to end.
RETURN OF THE DEVIL
To be honest, Revenge Wears Prada, Lauren Weisberger’s sequel to her best-selling, made-into-a-major-motion-picture debut novel, is not quite as delicious as its predecessor. But with Megan Hilty’s right-on reading, it’s a classic guilty-pleasure beach listen, a sandy soap opera with ongoing allure and appeal. Ten years have passed since the events of the first book, and Andrea Sachs, having survived the Prada-wearing devil with only minor episodes of PTSD nightmares, is the editor-in-chief and co-owner, with her former Runway colleague Emily, of a hit, hip bridal magazine. With a suave, sexy new husband—scion of a media empire himself—and a little bit preggers, Andy is on her way to having it all. Yet she isn’t totally happy; there’s a pea under this princess’ pile of luxurious mattresses, and it takes some time for her to find it. We’re back in that world of glamour and fashion, where the devil can still call the shots, everyone is gorgeous and shod in Christian Louboutin, and Andy can do her courageous, stand-up-for-herself shtick all over again.
TOP PICK IN AUDIO
Michael Pollan has become our public foodie intellectual; drop the “foodie” and the title still fits. He’s made us think about food in new ways, about how the food choices we make impact our lives and our planet. Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation, the latest product of his boundless curiosity about what we eat, is leavened by Pollan’s companionable narration and his superb ability to synthesize huge amounts of information. Though he already had some kitchen skills, Pollan decided to really learn to cook, to master the four key methods of “transforming the raw stuff of nature”: fire, water, air and earth. His midlife culinary crusade, peppered with his encounters with gifted practitioners—a South Carolinian whole-pig-roasting pit master, a renowned bread baker, a cheese-making nun, dedicated fermentos, a young Chez-Panisse-trained chef schooled in the art of braising—prompts Pollan to delve into the culture and chemistry of cooking, and into its history, philosophy and politics—gender and otherwise. Cooking makes us human and, he suggests, happier and healthier. So, listen and learn. Or, in my poor approximation of a Pollanian maxim: Cook food. As often as possible. Reap the pleasure.