Author and journalist Michael Pollan is more than just another writer extolling the virtues of fresh, locally produced and sustainable food. His work has been at the forefront of a growing movement, with his books and articles regularly spotlighting the long process that brings our food from the field to our table — sometimes with less-than-savory stops along the way. Now, in his new book, “Cooked,” he explores how we can best transform raw ingredients into delicious meals prepared at home.
Growing up, “we had a home cooked meal four or five times a week,” Pollan told PBS NewsHour correspondent Jeffrey Brown, recounting his own childhood. “I could count on sitting down to dinner.”
But more and more, Americans outsource their cooking, either by eating out at restaurants, getting fast food or buying pre-made, packaged meals in the freezer aisle. The decline of actual cooking has had serious consequences for health and the land, Pollan argues.
“If we outsource all of our cooking to corporations, they will only buy from big companies, big farms. They are not going to buy from small farms,” Pollan said. “So the continuation of [the local or organic food] movement … depends on people continuing to cook or reviving a culture of cooking.”
“The decline of everyday home cooking doesn’t only damage the health of our bodies and our land but also our families, our communities, and our sense of how our eating connects us to the world.”
— Michael Pollan, author of “Cooked”
His book explores various cuisines and techniques, including fundamentals like bread, barbecue and fermentation. Pollan visited many kitchens around the world, belonging to chefs from all walks of life, where he discovered how much can be observed about the natural world from inside the kitchen. Among his teachers were Sister Noella, a Connecticut nun who makes cheese in wooden barrels, and Hyeon Hee Lee, a Korean woman who taught Pollan her family’s traditional kimchi recipe.
Michael Pollan reads an excerpt from his new book, “Cooked,” in which he tells the story of how he learned to make kimchi, the difference between “tongue taste” vs. “hand taste” and the cook’s role in developing flavor.