After transforming the way we think about our relationship with plants and the world-altering impact of what we eat, Michael Pollan invites us to rediscover the elemental pleasure of transforming raw ingredients into meals--through grilling (fire), braising (water), baking (air), and fermenting (earth)--in his fantastic latest, Cooked.
Pollan contends that learning to cook elevated our ancient ancestors from lone animals into increasingly intelligent, civilized groups--and gave us the fuel for expanding brains--it's one of the essential acts that made us human. Now, we spend scant time doing real cooking, but we've become obsessed with watching people cook, a paradox that signals longing for that lost experience.
In his own quest to close the seed-to-table loop, he spent three years learning to cook with great pit masters, chefs, bakers, and “fermentos,” making Cooked a lively, passionate exploration of the elemental appeal of making a meal.
In the spirit of diving back into our own kitchens with renewed gusto, we asked Pollan to send us his favorite cookbooks.
The Everlasting Meal by Tamar Adler: As much a philosophy of everyday cooking as a cookbook (though the recipes are terrific), Adler's book shows us how to cook beautifully with the most modest of ingredients and skills.
A Platter of Figs by David Tanis: A former head chef at Chez Panisse (and now a columnist for the Dining section at the New York Times), Tanis offers a gorgeous cookbook with perfect, elegant menus to suit the season. A mainstay of our dinner parties.
The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters: All of Alice Waters’ cookbooks are wonderful, but this once is the most readily approachable and offers the essential recipes for everything from a great vinaigrette to salsa verde, roast chicken and polenta. Reminds me of The Elements of Style, and just as necessary.
Tartine Bread by Chad Robertson: An inspiring book for the bread baker--my favorite primer on bread.
The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Katz: The definitive volume on all the arts of fermentation, from yogurt to kvass, sauerkraut to pickled anything you can imagine.
How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman: If it’s not already in your collection, you’re either already a great cook or in deep trouble. The basics on everything, and indispensable.