Cooked by Michael Pollan has had me thinking about my food very seriously. I listened to the audiobook on a car trip the Midwest, driving through acres and acres of soybeans and corn – no doubt genetically modified, and almost all of it, apparently, meant for animals, not people. And even though it’s been almost two weeks since I finished it, I still keep going back to it as I’m wandering through the grocery store, packing my daughter’s lunch or planning our weekly dinner menu. Its implications really are that far-reaching.
The book is divided into four parts, representing both the four elements and the four food “transformations” he associates with them: fire (barbecue); water (braising); air (bread making); and earth (fermentation). The book isn’t a cookbook, although there are recipes. Rather, the book takes an ethno-biological look at human development, coming down on the side of humans not only being able to cook, but actually having developed the way we have because we cook. Seriously, you’ll never look at a loaf of store-bought bread the same way after reading this book. And that rule about hot food when traveling, especially to tropical destinations? There’s definitely a reason for that!
I have to admit, by the end of the barbecue section, I was wondering if I could ever enjoy meat (particularly pork) again – so little of it seems to be raised in the healthful way that Pollan says is possible. But my family is unwilling to give up meat completely. Luckily, we are blessed with a number of local, organic farmers in our area, and since reading the book I have been dealing with them exclusively for meat. The flavor is fantastic, but there is a definite downside. The costs are really high -- $30 for a large lamb shoulder yesterday, but I will no doubt get two meals from it. At those prices, meat will likely become a tiny portion of our weekly diet – another thing I wouldn’t call bad at all. And I’m sure Pollan wouldn’t either. I guess that’s the point.
Michael Pollan narrated the book. I liked his voice and his passion for the subject matter, which definitely comes through. But after listening, it’s easy to understand why he gets labeled an “elitist” so often. Seriously, my husband and I looked at each other blankly after he riffed for about 10 minutes on the drudgery of chopping onions. Really? That’s your big problem? You write for a living and have the time to spend a whole day perfecting your braising technique – not to mention kneading loaves of bread – and you’re complaining about chopping onions? I admit it – we just couldn’t help laughing at Pollan’s “First World” problems more than once while listening. But that didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the book or the importance of its message.
Many thanks to JoAnn at Lakeside Musing for her review – and for sharing this audiobook with me! We enjoyed it thoroughly – and it really made a loooong car trip far more enjoyable than it might have been.
Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page. Thanks to Beth Fish Reads for hosting!