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May 8, 2013 at 6:00 AM
Of course Michael Pollan, the man who taught the world a lot about modern eating, already knew his way around a kitchen. But he always had a greater hunger for questions of food production and politics than for mastering cooking techniques.
For his latest book, though, “Cooked,” the author spent three years delving into the elemental basics of food transformation — he classifies them as fire (barbecue), water (braising), air (baking bread), and earth (fermentation). It’s a more personal journey than his other works, he said in a phone interview before his upcoming Seattle appearance, though “I’m always aware of the larger political context in which I work.”
Pollan wrote that he took on the kitchen-based question after considering the “curious paradox” of how Americans began handing over so much of our meal preparation to the food industry just when we began spending so much time thinking about food and watching people cook it on TV. By the end of his studies, he’s concluded that cooking doesn’t just transform the food we eat, it transforms us too — from consumers to producers.
His well-reported journey wends through sourdough starters, gender politics, a Wonder Bread factory, cheesemaking, an onion’s “strategy” for not being chopped, and one memorable microwaved frozen dinner.
Pollan will speak at Benaroya Hall on May 13. Tickets ($24-52) are available online. There’s also a $125 reception benefiting the Neighborhood Farmers Market Association. Here’s an edited, condensed version of our conversation:
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