As in his previous books, Michael Pollan argues in “Cooked” that relying on processed food disrupts our link to the natural world and weakens our interpersonal relationships. But this time he takes a more hands-on approach, doing apprenticeships with a variety of culinary masters who teach him the fine points of fermentation, the benefits of bacteria, and other secrets of honest cuisine. He joins us in the studio.

Cooked Pollan Introduction

Excerpted from COOKED by Michael Pollan. Reprinted by arrangement with The Penguin Press, a member of Penguin Group (USA), Inc. Copyright (c) Michael Pollan, 2013.

Interview Highlights

Michael Pollan, professor of journalism at UC Berkeley and author of "Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation"

  • Beth Grant DeRoos

    Am blessed to have had two working parents growing up, yet homemade meals were the norm, simply because they knew how to cook and they knew homemade was healthier and less expensive.

    With the advent of the slow cooker there is no reason someone cannot have a homemade dinner ready when they get home. Or cook dinner while you sleep, then put in refrigerator and simply reheat.

    Friends who started making all meals at home, and sitting down to eat as a family found they became healthier, slept better, and the ones who needed to lose some weight, did so.

    Today’s kitchen have all the bells and whistles and more owners who make excuses for not using them.

    Am off to pick some fresh vegetables from our garden for todays meals. LOVE Both of you Michaels!!!

  • Yes! I make almost every meal. LOVE to do it. About to start fermenting. Have a trusty box of Caldwell cultures for the first go at it. Thank you Michael for the hands-on approach. Hands only get better :>)

  • wokstar

    As a cooking teacher, I totally agree that home cooking is best! You can control your ingredients. The most rewarding part is cooking and eating with your family, priceless. I’ve been making Kimchi but instead of brining first, I use vinegar which helps it break down much faster so I can eat it sooner, yum.

  • Hello

    There is evidence that evolution gave humans a brain that is as large as it is because our recent hominid ancestors overcame the hurdle of eating only uncooked food and graduated to being able to cook their food, providing the energy boost needed to power a larger brain. Avoiding cooked food is therefore unnatural based on recent research:


    • totally agree with this line of thought. we are what we are because we learned how to handle food. and it’s sad that we started to forget all our accumulated knowledge since the begin of the 20th century.

  • Cooking is not a chore when properly done. It is a celebration you get to enjoy three times a day. And yes I was a working Mom who raised three kids, one of whom went on to become a Cordon Bleu Chef

  • Chris OConnell

    Looks like Pollan has hit it out of the park again. Congrats on the book!

  • geraldfnord

    I am in no way a raw food enthusiast, save that I find some foods (and all fruit save berries) much tastier raw, but I wonder about the real significance of the oft-cited phenomenon of adult women’s often not menstruating when nourished solely by raw food. I’m not sure it has much bearing on our ancestors who, not having the advantages of cooked food or vaccination or basic hygiene while growing, tended to be substantially smaller than we, male and female alike—the number of calories necessary to maintaining fertility in (say) a proto-woman 1.2 metres tall and massing 35 kilos at most would be much lower than those for a modern, First -World, woman of 60 kilos and 1.6 metres.

  • Thank you michael! As a stay at home mom, I love cooking for my family, community, and health. I feel that there is no monetary value to the quality of life cooking has brought me.

  • Riad

    I love your books and you’ve helped me learn a lot about food but I have not heard you drawing the strong connection between the buildt environment and health. I tend to think the obesity epidemic is as much a product of what we put in our mouths as how much we are moving. The car dependent communities we live in are as much if not even more to blame for our health problems.

  • Man CouchBum Dullen

    I agree wholeheartedly with the comment you made about cooking shows, with one exception. There is a British show called “Gordon Ramsay’s F Word” that encourages home cooks by putting them in the kitchen with Gordon, teaching the public to source locally, and showing simple yet delicious, elevated dishes that are easy to make.

  • CyberSkull

    I took cooking in high school. As I recall, the class did have more girls than boys, but it was fairly close to half/half. It was a great course with a real chef for a teacher.

  • Bob Killroy

    I’ve tried Fermenting…the big problem is it does not taste good. Quite the opposite. Please don’t try the old song and dance that your taste buds will change. Nope, mine our cantankerous. What’s the point of eating if it doesn’t taste good. I’ll stick with fire, water and air.

    • try using Caldwell cultures. Fermented carrots, beats, cabbage are crisp and delicious.

  • Chris

    Please ask Mr. Pollan to address difficulties of low-income folks, people with multiple jobs, and little money–not so easy for them to cook nice home cooked meals. Wages and economy play big role in our diets, no?

    • Monique

      I learned about home cooking from the lady who cleaned my home. I always try to pay as well as I can possibly afford because I feel that people in low paying jobs have to shop in the same places I do and pay the same prices and I never understood how they managed on what they earned. Until I learned from my cleaning lady how she fed her family. With home cooking she provided better meals at a fraction of the price and she made sure everyone in the family helped out because she was always short on time. Using what I learned from her, I just fed 25 people for about half of what I used to spend on a meal just for myself. Low income folks are sometimes light years ahead of us on healthy home cooking on a budget.

  • My family and I are planning on attending Michael Pollan’s discussion on May 22nd at Barnes and Noble in El Cerrito on May 22nd. We cordially invite him to come to our house (a mile away from the signing) for dinner after the book signing, so he doesn’t have to go to a restaurant again He said that he hasn’t yet had an invitation to a home cooked meal after a signing. This can be a first for him!

  • My mother lives with my husband and I. I am responsible for meals M-F, and I cook most of those meals (usually 4 days a week, sometimes 5). I’m frustrated that on the weekends, we end up eating delivery or fast food because neither my husband nor mother seems to value eating good – or real – food. Do you have any tips on how to change this?

  • Amy Zimmer

    Our Local high school, Windsor High School has an amazing Culinary Arts program…so good to see students cooking, seeing themselves in the kitchen, AND preparing the local elementary schools garden bounty for the students! We also have a “good food” crew of high school students that goes around to the elementary schools and teaches good food selection.

    • Amy Zimmer

      oops good food choices…

  • Chris

    Here’s Food First article on the Farm Bill mentioned on today’s show: http://www.foodfirst.org/en/Farm+Bill+Fiasco%3FWhat+Next+for+the+Food+Movement%3F

  • Julie

    Regarding the four elements in cooking (earth, fire, air, water), Michael Pollan was wondering about the element in preparing sushi. Clearly, it’s the metal of the knife.

Sponsored by

Become a KQED sponsor