Michael Pollen – Cooked

He is a famous author and chef who has written several books on the history of food that are on Blinkist and I’m working my way through them. He also has a four part series on NetflixCooked after the title of his book that it follows. The episodes deal with the effects of Fire, Water, Air and Earth. It comes as no surprise that he has worked closely with Samin Nosrat on her Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat cookbook. He taught her how to write while she taught him how to cook.

In Fire he ventures around America looking for the secrets to bbq and grilled meats. He compares traditional methods to the ones used to industry. He goes in for the science and analyses the proteins present in meat with the transformation they undergo when being cooked – denaturalisation. He also indulges in some male bonding too while learning the secrets of southern cooking in addition to the history which is rooted in slave culture.

In Water he looks into the changes that have taken place in the American food industry since the 1950’s. He also tackles the rise in obesity and type 2 diabetes. I’m shocked to find that there is no longer an adult onset diabetes as type 2 used to be called. It’s now often found in children. This is directly linked to the fact we spend less time the kitchen and more time working. Even in India, one of the poorest countries in the world, you can’t live off one income and processed food is becoming the norm.

In Air he looks at the importance of bread to the daily diet in Morocco. He gets political about what happens when the price of bread rises too much; and how these conflicts cause shortages all over the world. Due mostly to over reliance on imports from bad harvests because of changing climatic conditions. He also gets scientific examining the role that gluten performs and why it’s so difficult to get a good gluten free loaf.

In Earth he examines the process of fermentation. Here he discovers that cacao beans are first fermented for a week before they are dried and then turned into chocolate etc. I didn’t know it was necessary to do this because the raw beans are so bitter as to be unpalatable. If you’ve ever eaten cooking chocolate you might know this taste. In contrast to chocolate, cheese is a another food that undergoes fermentation that we all know about. Here still there are more secrets to be discovered by looking into the science of the rind on cheeses. He also experiments by making his own beer to continue on from when he learnt to make bread.

I have found this series fascinating to watch to realise that there is a lot to learn from traditional methods of cooking that we can’t replicate in our modern high tech kitchens. The culture of disgust in relation to the French appreciation of stinky cheese is an amazing topic to have a discussion on. Our overuse of antibacterial sprays to clean with and antibiotics to cure to disease is causing a backlash in the health of our gut biome which is only just starting to be looked into seriously. I liked the anthropological look into ancient cultures and how they would pickle vegetables to get through the winter which is why vegans need to eat kimchi etc to remain healthy. Its a source of b vitamins and even vitamin c.

Best wishes

Angela