Michael pollan offers a deft and persuasive anatomy of the art and science of cooking.
A Natural History of Transformation
by Michael Pollan
Penguin Press HC, The
$27.95 List Price
In the half-dozen years since The Omnivore’s Dilemma became the benchmark argument for knowing where the stuff you eat comes from, Michael Pollan has ascended to the top of the locavore food chain. He’s now arguably the most respected, and certainly one of the most visible, proponents of locally grown and sourced food. Alice Waters may have been doing it longer and Eric Schlosser louder, but Pollan’s influence on how we eat and what we think about it—through Omnivore and his subsequent books and articles—has been widespread and profound, enough to reach the ear of our current commander in chief and to spark a spate of serious activism around farm legislation. Waters coined a verb—“Pollanize”—for what happens to your relationship to food after reading his work, and the result has meant a whole lot of people changing the way they eat, or trying to. I realized the extent of Pollan’s influence several years ago in the wilds of the Paraguayan Chaco, where a self-professed former Big Agra booster told me that reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma had prompted him to quit his job at Unilever Argentina and to start raising his own cattle—grass fed, of course.
So it may come as something of a surprise to learn that the guy who’s turned on thousands of “Pollanites” to the deliciousness of farm-raised food isn’t much of a cook. Or at least he hadn’t been until he took up an extensive study of the art, science, and origins of cooking for his latest book, Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation (Penguin Press, $28). The project grew out of a 2009 essay Pollan wrote for the New York Times