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Michael Pollan is a preeminent journalist and author in the food and agriculture world and in Cooked he walks us through different food categories and processes but his main argument is that we need to reestablish our intimate relationships with food.

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Key Takeaways
  1. Breaks book down into 4 different sections - Fire (Cooking food and BBQ), Water (braises and stews), Air (growing plants) and Earth (fermentation)
  2. Argues how we are drifting away from an intimate relation with food and need to this back as food plays such a large part in our culture, our relationships and our health
What I got out of it
  1. A very intimate take on food  which was both fun to read and informative. Very important to maintain our close relationship with food as it builds not only our health but our relationships too.
Read Cooked

Part 1- Fire
  • Visits BBQ joints in Aiden, NC and describes how cooking meat has some primal effect on us and satisfies us like few other things
  • There are so many steps between us and our food that we forget that animals have to die for us to enjoy them. Getting back in touch with this fact allows you to appreciate it more and be more mindful when you do decide to eat meat
  • Cooking transcends the animal and is one of the very few things that separates us from beasts
  • Cooking is a form of adult play
  • Cooking is an evolutionary prerequisite as it allowed us to get more nutrients in less time and fueled our brain to grow larger and gave us more leisure time
  • Raw food diets are unhealthy in the long run as our bodies aren't built for that anymore and would take too long to chew and breakdown all nutrients
  • Interned with Ed Mitchell who is world renowned for his whole hog BBQ and simple cooking techniques
  • Only two things which can transcend race in the south - BBQ and War
  • Bittor Arguinzoniz is a legendary chef in Spain that uses fire exclusively at his restaurant
Part 2- Water
  • Learns braises and stews
  • Onions and garlic some of the most widely used ingredients and they're found to protect us against harmful microorganisms
  • Soffritto or mirepoix are universal - combination of celery, onion and carrots (aromatics)
  • Prepared foods has saved people hours per week and we have put this saved time to watching more TV and "secondary" eating - eating while doing other tasks
  • Dietary recommendation - eat whatever you want as long as you make it yourself
  • One of today's great luxuries is to be able to do just one thing at a time - when stirring the pot, just stir the pot
  • Cooking at home brings people and families together like few other things and helps form a close, cohesive bond
Part 3- Air
  • 90% of food's energy is lost each step up a food chain - argument for eating less meat and making smart choices (grass-fed, local when you do)
  • Wheat is grown more widely than any other crop in the world
  • Goes into detail of how he made bread from scratch and some of the pitfalls he encountered along the way
  • There are synergies at work with whole grains that we don't understand yet. People taking the exact vitamins we know are in whole grains do not get the same benefits as people who just eat whole grains
  • Look for stone ground flour and for whole grains to be the first ingredient
Part 4 - Earth: fermentation, cold fire
  • Fermentation has mystified people for eons and only until Louis Pasteur described the process less than 150 years ago did we figure it out. However, exactly how the bacteria and fungi function is still largely unknown
  • Fermentation - salt tolerant bacteria eat the sugars and release lactic acid to kill competitors
    • Fermentation one of the most important skills that helped our ancestors thrive
    • Sauerkraut, kimchi, chocolate, coffee, beer, wine, etc all need fermentation
  • Have more different strains of bacteria in our gut than our own cells. 9/10 cells are these microbes and 99% of the DNA we carry are theirs
    • Most important job is to keep gut wall healthy which breaks down food in order to extract nutrients
    • Use microbes and bacteria instead of our own system because they're an evolve so quickly
    • Gut health is extremely important and effects every part of our being. Eating fermented foods helps a lot with gut health
    • C sections, antibiotics, hand sanitizer a and the like destroy our gut health and makes us more prone to allergies and getting sick
    • Eat less processed foods, find your creativity cooking and be open to trying new things

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