Featured Reviews, VOLUME 6

Michael Pollan – COOKED [Feature Review]

[easyazon-image align=”left” asin=”1594204217″ locale=”us” height=”110″ src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41VKzhj8L6L._SL110_.jpg” width=”72″]PAGE 3: Michael Pollan – COOKED

 
 
 

Here is some of Pollan at his worst, this comes from “Water” as well:

 

“Yet even on the weekends, most of us are moving too fast for slow cooking, even unattended slow cooking. So if we cook at all we clip ten- and twenty-minute recipes from the newspaper and throw expensive filets on the grill. This is certainly what Judith [his wife] and I do…it took me awhile to get accustomed to the idea of spending several hours at a time in the kitchen.”

 

And this, to me was really what Pollan’s book was about, though he never gets directly at it. Pollan continues, in the subsequent chapters of “Air” and “Earth” to ponder Americans’ time (mis)spent in the kitchen, but he seldom digs deeper to examine why that is complex. He does not address the antithesis of his book – what a luxury it is to spend several hours in the kitchen. Yes, Pollan does state that “time became a kind of luxury, and that is precisely when [he] began to enjoy the work of cooking.”

 

 

But cooking, as Pollan fails to point out, is a necessity. Yes, it can certainly be a joy, but getting back to the type of cooking Pollan is calling for would reverse the progress society has made in women’s rights, or reallocate that time to the one or both person’s in a relationship. Cooking of the type Pollan advocates for takes time, and many people in the current economy are overworked, overburdened, and overcommitted, whether by choice or not.

 


ADVERTISEMENT:

When Pollan sets out to accomplish what he laid out in his Introduction, namely, address the necessity and complexity of the four elements, he excels. In “Air,” Pollan writes, when we hones in on his real subject, air, movingly–like this:

 

“To compare a loaf of bread with a  bowl of porridge is to realize how much of bread’s power, sensory as well as symbolic, resides precisely in those empty cells of spaces. Some 80 percent of a loaf of bread consists of nothing more than air. But air is not nothing.”

 

This writing seems fresh, attentive, and education, three great things that appear, sometimes, in Pollan’s writing. He continues,

 

“In bread, it [air] is where much of the flavor resides, and is the reason bread is so much more aromatic than porridge. The air trapped in the alveoli conducts bread’s aromas–the two hundred or so volatile compounds that have been identified in a well-baked sourdough–to the back of the mouth, where they then drift up into the nasal passages and, by means of retronasal olfaction, reach the brain.”

 

Here again Pollan is assertive and descriptive. Not only does he highlight how we taste, but also the way in which we taste. “Air,” of all the sections in this book, is the most pleasing.

 

“Earth” is Pollan’s exploration of sauerkraut. Perhaps the most fascinating and complex chapter, “Earth” highlights the process of fermentation and goes against the grain of some modern medical theory: the necessity for microbes.

 

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