Friday, August 16, 2013

Cooked by Michael Pollan

I read this book for The Kitchen Reader reading group that I'm part of and I am so glad that I did! I'm also counting it in my Foodie Readers Book Challenge for 2013. I don't know if I would have gotten around to reading it otherwise and it's a great book!  Be warned though - he goes into very detailed information in parts.  I found that I read most of it but some of it, I have to admit, I just skimmed.

Cooked is divided into four main sections fire, water, air, earth.

In Fire, he spends time with to two different barbeque pit masters in North Carolina where they do whole hog barbecue, to learn and get some hands on training. Great line about the pit room at the Starlight Inn  "The pit room was in fact an infernal chamber, and not a place likely to stimulate an appetite for cooked pig in many people."

His first taste of the barbecue - "So this was barbecue. Right away I realized I had never before tasted the real thing, and I was converted. This was easily one of the tastiest, most succulent meat dishes I had ever eaten, and certainly the most rewarding $ 2.75 I’d ever invested in a sandwich."

The time he spent with Ed Mitchell is when he finally got some hands-on experience and it was fantastic reading.  I'm going to try to find and watch the Throw Down with Bobby Flay episode where he went head to head with Ed Mitchell.

This section of the book includes a little history, a little mythology and a little bit about the Bible.  He's a good writer and keeps the book moving by adding in these interesting little tidbits along the way.

Needless to say, both the Starlight Inn  and The Pit are on my 'to visit' list the next time I'm road tripping along the east coast!

Next up in Water which covers braising, stews, and  soups.  I love the story about how Samin, his former student who gives him cooking lessons, got a job a Chez Panisse.

I was intrigued by the dish pork in milk maiale al latte and will try cooking it soon.

He really is a talented writer.  This line for instance - "Braise: the sound of that lovely word itself suggests a certain slow unfolding, the final “z” sound trailing off with no hard consonant to stop it." Awesome!

I enjoyed the stories about Sunday cooking and spending time his son and dinners around the family table.  Just lovely.  I also plan on eventually trying his recipe on braising at the end of the book.

Air. The section on baking was probably my favorite.  Just before reading this book, I began the process of making a sourdough starter.  So, the section of the book was not only interesting but very useful for me. I plan on baking bread with my starter soon and will post the recipe/blog here on my cooking/travel blog.

Earth was a fun section.  It was all about fermenting - vegetables, beer, cheese etc. I especially loved to part on cheese making with Sister Noella. The beer making was also super interesting (partly because my husband has also just started making beer at home).

This is a really good book that I would recommend to friends.  The author is good at weaving practical advice, stories, history, religion, and technical information all into one very readable book.


  1. I'm just about to finish Cooked and I have really enjoyed it!

    Joy's Book Blog

  2. Oh, this sounds like a tasty book. I'm an okay cook and a terrible baker, but I feel like if I knew just a *little* more, I'd be better off.

    1. You will definitely learn a lot with this book! Enjoy!

  3. Wow. I haven't heard of this book before and I can't imagine why. I think my husband would even find it interesting and he is not a reader. I may have to look into this. Great review. Thanks.

  4. I agree that Pollan is good at weaving together different types of information. He tackles the science of cookery and many human facets. At times I find his sentence structure a bit tedious. (Sadly, I also lean towards overbearing sentences, so I need to learn to simplify my writing.) I'm glad you liked the book! Great review.

  5. I really want to read this -- I have it in print and on audio -- not sure which way I'll read it. You make it sound fascinating.