Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation

Penguin Pr: Penguin Group (USA). Apr. 2013. 480p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781594204210. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9781101605462. COOKERY
OrangeReviewStarNew York Times best-selling author Pollan (The Botany of Desire; The Omnivore's Dilemma) delivers a thoughtful meditation on cooking that is both difficult to categorize and uniquely, inimitably his. Framing a consideration of food preparation using the classical elements—fire, air, water, earth—this title chronicles the author's own investigations into barbecue, braising, bread making, and fermentation. Encompassing the wonder of alchemy, the scientific precision of chemistry, the inevitabilities of biology, and the complexities of parsing social and cultural meaning, this work weaves history and science with Pollan's personal journey in attempting and, in some cases, mastering the techniques. In the introduction he calls the title "a 'how-to' book, but of a very particular kind." It's more of a "why-to" book about cooking, if there can be such a thing, including a few recipes (more like patterns) and an excellent, thorough list of additional reading.
VERDICT Intensely focused yet wide ranging, beautifully written, thought provoking, and, yes, fun, Pollan's latest is not to be missed by those interested in how, why, or what we cook and eat.
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