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Spurred by a number of objectives-improving his family's general health, connecting with his teenage son, and learning how people can reduce their dependence on corporations, among others-Pollan (The Omnivore's Dilemma; In Defense of Food) came to the realization that he'd be able to accomplish all those goals and more if he spent more time in his kitchen. He began cooking. Divided into four chapters based on the four elements, Pollan eloquently explains how grilling with fire, braising (water), baking bread (air), and fermented foods (earth) have impacted our health and culture. In each case, Pollan examines the process as well as the science of barbecue, bread, and beer-making in addition to each particular method's effect on humanity. Cooking over high heat, for example, enabled primates' brains to grow much bigger and digest their food faster, making them more efficient; fermented foods like kimchi can promote and encourage the growth of good bacteria in the gut, a function that highly processed foods are unable to accomplish. These and other revelations (obesity rates are inversely correlated with the amount of time spent on food preparation, "microbiologists believe that onions, garlic and spices protect us from the growth of dangerous bacteria on meat," which could explain why we are drawn to flavorful foods, etc.) make for engaging and enlightening reading. Liz Farrell, ICM. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
New York Times best-selling author Pollan (The Botany of Desire; The Omnivore's Dilemma) delivers a thoughtful meditation on cooking that is both difficult to categorize and uniquely, inimitably his. Framing a consideration of food preparation using the classical elements-fire, air, water, earth-this title chronicles the author's own investigations into barbecue, braising, bread making, and fermentation. Encompassing the wonder of alchemy, the scientific precision of chemistry, the inevitabilities of biology, and the complexities of parsing social and cultural meaning, this work weaves history and science with Pollan's personal journey in attempting and, in some cases, mastering the techniques. In the introduction he calls the title "a 'how-to' book, but of a very particular kind." It's more of a "why-to" book about cooking, if there can be such a thing, including a few recipes (more like patterns) and an excellent, thorough list of additional reading. VERDICT Intensely focused yet wide ranging, beautifully written, thought provoking, and, yes, fun, Pollan's latest is not to be missed by those interested in how, why, or what we cook and eat.-Courtney Greene, Indiana Univ. Lib., Bloomington (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
*Starred Review* Pollan's newest treatise on how food reaches the world's tables delves into the history of how humankind turns raw ingredients into palatable and nutritious food. To bring some sense of order to this vast subject, he resurrects classical categories of fire, water, air, and earth. Pollan visits pit masters to learn what constitutes authentic barbecue. An Italian-trained Iranian American teaches him the subtleties of proper cooking in pots, how to coax maximum flavor from humble vegetables, herbs, meats, and water. Baking trains Pollan to watch, listen, and feel the action of living yeasts in doughs. The harnessing of fungi and molds to ferment sauerkraut and beer and produce cheeses illuminates the fine and ever-shifting boundaries between tastiness and rot and how the human palate can be trained. Four recipes accompany the text, and an extensive bibliography offers much deeper exploration. Pollan's peerless reputation as one of America's most compelling expositors of food and human sustainability will boost demand.--Knoblauch, Mark Copyright 2010 Booklist