Sitzbook Review: “Cooked” by Michael Pollan

Wow, I just realized how out of practice I am when it comes to writing blog posts, especially book reviews! Um,… hello? Welcome to this blog…site? Here’s a book thing?

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OK, let’s start over. I’m obviously very behind on a lot of things, and book reviews is one of those things. I read this book back in February for my Sitzbook project. Those were the days when we didn’t have a baby, so I tended to get more reading done. If you’ll remember, over the past few years I’d been reading a book a week, but I (wisely) imagined that I’d not have enough time for that this year, so I decided to read a book a month instead. The trick was that each book had to be over 500 pages. Well, Cooked by Michael Pollan, at 480 pages, was pretty close, so I counted it. And with the The Pillars of the Earth clocking in at more than a thousand pages in January, I figured I could fudge some numbers when necessary.

So, there’s the intro. But now I’m having a really hard time remembering details about the book. I definitely know it was a good read. Michael Pollan is one author who I can count on to take an abstract topic and explore it, while adding value with his writing style and generally interesting premises. He’s almost like the Malcolm Gladwell of food writing. Also like Gladwell, he also looks absolutely nothing like I thought he did. I’m assuming that when other people read non-fiction books, they form mental pictures of the authors in their heads, right? I’m sure it can’t just be me. But the weird thing is how often my mental pictures are completely wrong.

So, we’ve established the following:

  • This book is good.
  • Michael Pollan may be a shape-shifter.
  • This book will really make you want to go to North Carolina to try the BBQ there.

I guess we’ve not actually established that third point, but it was definitely my takeaway (pun intended) sitting here eight months later. I also remember the general outline: He examines different ways of preparing food including fire (like BBQ), water (boiling), air (baking), and earth (fermentation), and takes side trips to learn how about the techniques’ history and to try to become at least semi-adept at each. There are even recipes at the back of the book.

Like Pollan’s other books, this one reinvigorated my desire to cook and try new things, especially longer-cooking dishes like crock pot meals. And I’ve actually broken out the crockpot maybe 20 times this year. That may not sound like a ton, but it’s better than the zero times most people with crock pots use them in a given year. So while it was entertaining, it also had some tangible, delicious benefits.

Has anyone else read it? What are you reading these days? Any good suggestions?

Thanks for reading this blog!

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Errand-Running Monkey at Sitzblog
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