Subtitle: A Natural History of Transformation
Genre: nonfiction cooking
Length: 416 pages of story, 468 pages including index and appendix
Interest: It’s Michael Pollan’s newest book – of course I’m interested! I love all of his writing.
Summary: This isn’t so much a cookbook as a discussion of cooking and how it’s changed over time. Pollan breaks the book into four sections named for the original four elements, and discusses a cooking technique that corresponds to the section. First he talks about Fire and barbecue, learning how to do traditional pork barbecue in North Carolina. Next he takes on Water and learns how to braise food. Third, he focuses on Air and learns how to bake an excellent sourdough loaf of bread. Finally, he addresses Earth and takes on fermentation, learning how to ferment vegetables, make beer, and cheese. Throughout the process, he finds his family draws closer as good smells waft out of the kitchen. While he doesn’t keep making everything, he feels more self-sufficient because he can make his own really good food from real ingredients (which is often not what industrialized food is composed of). He concludes with a recipe for each section of the book.
Final thoughts: I must admit I find Pollan’s writing very inspirational. Reading about all of his cooking lessons makes me want to cook more. I’m definitely going to try his sourdough bread recipe (bonus that it’s partially whole wheat) and I’m trying to get up the courage to try sauerkraut or another fermented vegetable. I really enjoyed how he wove his experience in making healthy food by hand into a discussion of the industrial food market and all of its health problems. I like the fact that he did provide a couple of recipes, even though it wasn’t really a cook book. He certainly reminds us in his writing that a bit of extra time put into food preparation is worth it, at least once in a while. I highly recommend the book.
Title comes from: It’s descriptive of the topic.
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