Book Review: Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation

Hi, guys!

I've been really into reading & listening to more books lately while I knit & thought that you might be interested in some reviews of the ones that have caught my eye. None of the reviews are sponsored & I've paid for the books myself. I'm just selecting titles that I'm interested in & writing my honest opinion on them as I finish the books. Links in these posts are affiliate links which means that if you make a purchase through one of my links, you don't pay any extra, but I get a small amount of money for sending you to the site where you made your purchase. (It's a nice way to say thank you for pointing you towards a new favorite book.)

I hope your having a great day & happy knitting/reading!

Shaina ^_^


It took me forever to listen to mainly because the section on smoking a whole hog didn't hold my attention very well. It was interesting & well researched, but just seemed to go on forever. Alternately, the following sections on baking bread, fermentation and cheese-making were really fascinating & kept me listening attentively. (I may have even gone back to re-listen to a few sections that I was particularly thrilled with.)

All in all, this is a pretty typical Pollan book. Well researched through hands-on experience & interviews with a very balanced & practical approach to determining the value of something. (In this case, the value of 4 traditional cooking methods.) I love the history tied in with Michael's recounting of his experiences & have been inspired to try a few of his experiments myself.

Worth a listen/read if you've not got much else to distract yourself with or if you're interested in some really great recommendations for other books in various fields of cooking. My own reading list has grown by at least 20 books since reading this one & I'm planning on starting my own sourdough starter within the next few weeks. (My husband has already started making the beer.) Though I won't be making my own cheese anytime soon, I've found that I have a new appreciation for the cheeses at my local farmer's market & have been more apt to bring a variety home for everyone to sample.

Favorite Quotes

“It seems to me that one of the great luxuries of life at this point is to do one thing at a time. One thing to which you give yourself wholeheartedly, uni-tasking.”

“Is there any more feudal, soul eradiating experience than standing before the little window on a microwave oven watching the carousel slowly revolve your frozen block of dinner? Time spent this way might be easier than cooking but it is not enjoyable & surely not ennobling. It is to feel spiritually unemployed, useless to self & humanity.”

Umami…is the quasi-secret heart and soul of almost every braise, stew, and soup.

"A good pot holds memories."

If we're only going to eat the prime cuts of young animals, we're going to have to raise & kill a great many more of them. And indeed, this has become the rule with disastrous results for both the animals & the land... If we are going to eat animals, it behooves us to waste as few and as little as we possibly can. Something that the humble cook-pot allows us to do.

As a political matter, is home-cooking today a reactionary or progressive way to spend one's time? At the moment, it's all up for grabs.

Hand Taste involves something greater than mere flavor. It is the infinitely more complex experience of a food that bears the unmistakeable signature of the individual who made it. The care and thought and idiosyncrasy that a person has put into the work of preparing it. What hand taste is... is the taste of love.

Most recipes try to rush the process, promising to wrap things up & get the dish on the table in a couple of hours. These days recipes are steeped in the general sense of panic about time & so have tried to speed things up, the better to suit our busy lives.

I could, like some of the meat we were cooking, relax into it, clear my mind of competing desires & give myself over to the work... This time became a kind of luxury. And that is precisely when I began to truly enjoy the work of cooking.

"This ambivalence about the value of cooking raises an interesting question: Has our culture devalued food-work because it is unfulfilling by it's very nature or because it has traditionally been "women's work"?"

Yet, running just beneath the surface of food industry feminism was an implicit anti-feminist message. Then as now, ads for packaged foods are aimed almost exclusively at women and so reinforced the retrograde idea that responsibility for feeding the family fell to mom. The slick new products would help her do a job that was hers & hers alone.

"Obesity rates are inversely correlated with the amount of time in food preparation. The more time a nation devotes to food preparation at home, the lower it's rate of obesity."

“The dream of control is seductive but it leads to monoculture in the field and fortified white bread in the supermarket.”

“Cheese is all about the dark side of life" - Sister Noella; aka The Cheese Nun”

Recommended For

Foodies & anyone interested in the history behind what they're putting into their mouth every day.

Get A Copy

Hardcover - $14.88

Paperback - $13.58

Kindle - $14.99

Audiobook (Download) - Free w/ Audible free trial

Audiobook (CD) - $3.29