Pollan's book Cooked (2013) is quite interesting but has too much information to write about or narrow down. What are the basic ideas and the message covered in Pollan's book? What are some...

Pollan's book Cooked (2013) is quite interesting but has too much information to write about or narrow down. What are the basic ideas and the message covered in Pollan's book? What are some references to the main idea/message and opinions in the book?

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jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Michael Pollan's Cooked, the author, motivated by a desire to cook healthier food for his family and reduce their reliance on large corporations, uncovers the physical processes that create food. His central idea is that cooking is a "defining human activity" (page 5). By this, he means that cooking is at the center of the development of our civilization. It not only keeps our bodies healthy and active, it also creates communities and is an important shared activity. In fact, he says that "cooking... is one of the most interesting and worthwhile things we humans do" (page 11). His questions are motivated by the desire to have "a deeper understanding of the natural world and our species' peculiar role in it" (page 2). 

As the author regards cooking as so vital to our lives, he is perplexed by what he calls the Cooking Paradox--the fact that we spend more time watching food being prepared on television than actually preparing it. People are riveted by cooking shows, yet they tend to rely on prepared foods that involve very little actual cooking. To restore our idea of what cooking is and its importance, the author devotes his book to the study of four vital physical processes that create food: cooking with fire, cooking with water (braising); baking bread (using air); and the creation of fermented food (using the earth). He believes that if we can understand and master the physical processes of cooking, we will return to this fundamental activity rather than simply watching it on television. As a result, we will be healthier and more connected to other people.

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