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Food and Wellness

Michael Pollan: Cooked - A Natural History of Transformation

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Date and time
Monday, May 12, 2014

Bestselling author 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. 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. Cooking, above all, connects us. The effects of not cooking are similarly far reaching. Relying upon corporations to process our food means we consume large 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.

Michael Pollan is the author of *In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto*, winner of the James Beard Award, and *The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals* (2006), which was named one of the ten best books of the year by both *The New York Times* and *The Washington Post*. It also won the California Book Award, the Northern California Book Award, the James Beard Award for best food writing, and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Pollan is also the author of *The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the World* (2001); *A Place of My Own* (1997); and *Second Nature* (1991). In 2009 Pollan appeared in the documentary *Food, Inc.* and the PBS documentary *The Botany of Desire*. A contributing writer to the *New York Times Magazine*, Pollan is the recipient of numerous journalistic awards, including the James Beard Award for best magazine series in 2003 and the Reuters-I.U.C.N. 2000 Global Award for Environmental Journalism. Pollan served for many years as executive editor of *Harper’s Magazine* and is now the Knight Professor of Science and Environmental Journalism at UC Berkeley.