Must do’s: What we like this week
Laura Miller, who generally does not have “patience for the touchstones of foodie literature,” was pleasantly surprised by Michael Pollan’s “Cooked,” written from the perspective of a journalist and gardener rather than a celebrity chef:
His effort to deepen his understanding of the process of turning food into meals is the subject of his latest book, “Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation.” I wish I could say “Cooked” is entirely free of moments of flabby philosophizing (“Isn’t it always precisely when we are most at risk of floating away on the sea of our own inventions and conceits that we seem to row our way back to the firm shore that is nature?”), but they are rare. Admittedly, the book’s thematic structure is also a shade precious. It’s divided into four sections according to what the ancients perceived to be the four elements — fire, water, air and earth — each attributed to a different cooking method — grilling, braising and other forms of cooking in liquids, baking and fermentation. As ever, Pollan makes each of these themes the occasion for real thought as well as some energetic reporting.