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VINE VOICEon 27 November 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Another one of those books which fulfills a need in me for cookbooks that read like novels. Just a joy to read, makes your mouth water in parts, and is fascinating too. A great book for anyone who loves food, food, food.
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on 5 December 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is a very interesting insight into how our tastes and cooking habits habits have changed over the years. Highly recommended for any foodies looking to extend their knowledge beyond the next plate.
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VINE VOICEon 15 May 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Cooked is an admirable stab at having the reader reconnect with food through, of all things, cooking. At times laboured, but never less than spirited and well researched, Cooked - as Pollan's somewhat exhaustive introduction sets up -- is a wake-up call on the fact that too many of us don't eat cooked food, but the engineered result of food processing. And while it would be possible to come away after 10 pages with the feeling Cooked is going to be some paean to 'the good old days', Pollan then sets out to remind the reader of the magic that is cooking.

Cut into four sections, denoted by the elements - fire, air, earth and water (roasting, baking, vegetables and boiling) -- each part acts as a history/process overview, invariably set against the author's experience in, say, learning to bake bread for himself.

At times Pollan slips a little too far down the rabbit hole and the detail gets dense, but stick with Cooked and what evolves is the kind of story of how mankind discovered the processes of food preparation which, if they were aspects of a fictional movie shown to aliens, would have viewers marveling at the brilliance of life as we know it. In short: Pollan reconnects us, through revelation, with the kinds of insight into our daily meals which, in the end, shows just as far we've been tempted into eating rubbish by the commercial food industries.

Cooked could possibly do with a revision: Pollan's introduction is too dense, gives too detailed an overview of what he then goes to explore in the main book, to the extent that, the intro done and starting on the first chapter, we already know 'the butler did it'. However, plough on, and the book is a treasure trove of the kind of knowledge and stories that really does (albeit gently) shame us into realising we've somehow traded in our humanness and connection with our ancestors for little more than convenience and a few minutes saved, standing in front of a microwave instead of getting our hands into the soil of our very - magical - existence.

To conclude: a fab book; a bit heavy on the detail from time to time, but, in the spirit of Pollan's mission, a much more satisfying meal for its inclusion.

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on 28 October 2016
Michael Pollan is a great writer, This book is just amazing, story about cooked food, how it started and how it affected different parts of the world.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Michael Pollan's 'Cooked : A Natural History of Transformation' is an
absorbing and enthralling read; an elemental discourse and exploration
into our origins as social beings. The fact and act of cooking, in
Mr Pollan's view, underpins our development as a species capable of
extraordinary feats of imagination and creativity and differentiates
us from other creatures for whom the use of fire was never an option.

The author is passionately preoccupied with what we have lost by way
of cooking and sharing food with family, friends and community to the
industrial scale production of pre-prepared convenience foodstuffs
which have weaseled their way into every nook and cranny of our lives
and that a return to preparing our own food with love and imagination
would be to re-capture the essence of what it might mean to be human.

It is a grand hypothesis but one which Mr Pollan elucidates with a light
touch, an inquiring spirit and not a little humour, as he seeks out culinary
authenticity and intimacy among artisanal purveyors of good barbecue, bread
cheese and beer for whom history, continuity and quality are as important as
the air we breathe . He wants to rekindle skills which might otherwise be lost.
He would have us believe that smaller is better. He wants us to have fun.

Above all he wants us to cook!

Fire. Water. Air. Earth. This graceful book could make the world a better place.

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on 3 June 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
In "Cooked" Michael Pollan, author of "The Omnivore's Dilemma", embarks on an investigation into the various ways humans transform the products of nature into food. Taking as a starting point the elements fire, water, air, and earth, Pollan focuses on 'grilling with fire, cooking with liquid, baking bread, and fermenting all sorts of things'.

So Pollan travels to North Carolina to sample and cook whole hog barbecue (this chapter had me salivating throughout...), has lessons in home cooking and, by contrast, organizes a depressing ready-meal family dinner, tries to bake the perfect sourdough, and meets a pickle evangelist (just one of many colourful characters who populate the book).

Pollan is a genial guide and his writing is often very funny. I didn't think a hundred pages on whole hog barbecue, for example, would hold my attention, but the mixture of personal experience, cultural history, politics, and science, means that "Cooked" slips down very easily.
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on 19 April 2016
A slow hard read
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on 24 July 2013
Cooked, by Michael Pollan, is not a cookbook. Rather, it's a book which continues his examination of modern American food culture, and how time spent worrying about what we eat would be better spent cooking . Cooked is based around him improving his own cooking skills; albeit as an award winning and best selling food writer, rather than shut himself off in the kitchen and make mistakes, he has quite a lot of fun spending the publisher's money travelling and learning from the best.

It's split into four chapters: fire, water, air and earth, which he has linked to the four traditional preparation techniques he investigates: cooking with fire (yes, really!), braising, baking with yeast, and fermenting, but there is plenty of discussion around each subject, from the cooking hypothesis to the prevalence of brewing being driven by the need for a drink that's not going to kill you, unlike medieval water.

He starts with meat, and more specifically, cooking meat over fire. Rather than pussyfooting around with a chop or two and a backyard charcoal grill (I now know that a barbecue is not what I thought it was), he jumps in the deep end of learning whole hog barbecue - cooking an entire pig overnight in hot smoke. It sounds utterly delicious; I'm not sure if anywhere in the UK does it (the troubles of the cooking pits catching alight would hint that it's unlikely).

Stews, braises and similar dishes are discussed in the water chapter. Rather than simply relate his experiences in learning techniques from the experts, the chapter again is more a riff on and investigation into the history and pre-history of food and cooking, and the concept of taste. This approach continues throughout the book; such as his search for the perfect loaf of bread and experiments in fermenting, such as sauerkrauts and beer. There is much consideration of how we, as humans, are harbours for a huge number of different types of bacteria, mostly in the gut, and how a terror of anything but clinical levels of sterility are actually unhelpful and that what might be a better idea is to encourage beneficial bacteria.

If you want recipes then this is not the book for you. There are four in the back of the book, but really this is a well written and easily readable meander around the meaning of food and cooking. It's an effective polemic, though, and I did come away convinced that while for me there might be nothing - absolute nothing - half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats, a second ranking but significant contributor to a healthy and contented life is a hands on approach to the food we eat.
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VINE VOICEon 19 July 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
When I asked for this book I thought it was a cookery book - it turned out to be quite different - but I am so glad I read it - it is very, very interesting.

The author is a professor of journalism and the writing is like a very long Sunday newspaper article - you feel he is writing directly to you.

The author is American & most of the present day references are to America.

This is NOT A COOKERY BOOK - though there are 4 recipes at the back.

This book is more - Anthropology, Biology, History, Philosophy & Science.

The book is divided into 4 main parts - covering cooking from Pre-Historic times to the present day.

*FIRE - cooking with fire - much about whole hog roasting.

*WATER - cooking in pots - with liquids. At the end of this part is a fable about "Stone Soup" - I recognised this as a story my Polish mother used to tell!

*AIR - mainly about bread - I really MUST try sour-dough.

*EARTH - mainly about fermentation - vegetables & fruit & milk - so interesting as I make yoghurt & soft cheese - on my trips to Poland all my relatives had brine fermented cucumbers on the go - also on my last trip in October 2011 - my aunty still was making her own sauerkraut - there was a container on the balcony of her flat - it is much tastier than shop bought - this book inspired me to have a go here in the U.K.

"The recipe is not the recipe" - I know what he means - a recipe is a starting point - at the end there is a recipe for each section - Pork Shoulder Barbecue, Meat Sugo, Whole-Wheat Country Loaf & Sauerkraut.

There is lots to make you think about the history of cooking & the food industry today - but also lots of inspiration for cooking yourself - Well worth taking the time to read!
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 30 September 2013
Talk about hitting the nail squarely on the head, the publicity material for this thought-provoking book gets it right and sets the tone - more and more are we reading about/watching about food and cookery, it is easier and easier to get ingredients from anywhere in the world yet as a society we eat more and more processed foods and actually cook less. Reheating is not cooking.

The author considers the paradox that society seems to be preferring to think about and consume the art of cooking instead of undertaking the exact-same exercise. At the same time "we" tend to increasingly worry about the origin of ingredients, welfare of animals in our food chain and obsess about our health and diet, whilst shovelling down more and more processed foods. The author's solution is easier said than done: get cooking. This hardback book with an impenetrable academic-sounding title lets you sit on the author's shoulder, looking on as he rediscovers the art and love of cooking by getting out and about, cooking with and using the basic elements of fire, water, air and the earth. Recipes not included.

This is not a book that glorifies the celebrity chef world, it doesn't sit and lecture on the evils of factory-produced meals whilst talking up the world of small-scale artisan production. Instead it is a more back to basic, good and honest appreciation, drawing inspiration from many sources and possibly acting as a voyage of rediscovery along the way. It is not going to be a light read, despite it being written in a biography or diary style. It is text, text and more text. No action images of the author doing his stuff, no mouth-watering images, no scenic shots. For a first person book it is surprisingly ego-free too.

If you are prepared to put the time in with this book you will probably come away a more inspired, interested and possibly active cook. The book effectively demands participation without being so uncouth as to actually demand it. Inspires would be an insipid word. It just "does" but short of seeing the book for yourself, sharing in the belief and participating in the process you might not fully appreciate the possible enormity of the changes that may follow. Of course, you might still prefer to sit on the couch, watch a "cooking show", consume the culinary dream and convince yourself that you are part of the cooking craze or culture, before eating your supermarket-produced ready meal.

This book might be one of those lightbulb moments for you that can generate some life-changing moments. Or it might be something you consider is a waste of your money and abandon it in haste. There is probably no middle-ground and quite rightly so.
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