Book Reviews

The Poet’s Guide to Food, Drink, & Desire
by Gaylord Brewer

The Banquet of Donny & Ari: Scenes from the Opera
by Naomi Guttman

by Michael Pollan

Revenge Baking
by Randon Billings Noble

Biting the Apple
by Jeanie Greensfelder

Best Food Writing 2014
edited by Holly Hughes

Creamy and Crunchy
by Jon Krampner

Biting through the Skin
by Nina Mukerjee Furstenau

Feeding Orchids to Slugs
by Ann Mah

Mastering the Art of French Eating
by Florencia Clifford

Ivan Ramen
by Ivan Ramen

Third Thursday Potluck Cookbook
by Nancy Vienneau

Mint Tea & Minarets
by Kitty Morse

Prospero’s Kitchen
by Diana Farr Louis and June Marino

Mushroom: A Global History
by Cynthia Bertelsen

One Straw Revolution
by Masanobu Fukuoka

Fried Walleye & Cherry Pie
by Peggy Wolff

Day of Honey: A Memoir of Food, Love, and War
by Annia Ciezadlo

by Chloe Yelena Miller

The Hungry Ear
by Kevin Young

Best Food Writing 2012
by Holly Hughes

Dinner: a Love Story
by Jenny Rosenstrach

My Kitchen Wars
by Betty Fussell

American Cookery
by Laura Kalpakian

Apron Anxiety
by Alyssa Shelasky

Cucina Povera
by Pamela Sheldon Johns

Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen
by Laurie Colwin

The Social Life of Coffee
by Brian Cowan

The Raw and the Cooked
by Jim Harrison

Modernist Cuisine
by Nathan Myhrvold, Chris Young, and Maxime Bilet

Horsemen of the Esophagus
by Jason Fagone

Coffee Philosophy for Everyone
by Scott F. Parker and Michael W. Austin

by Kathryn Borel

Food Rules
by Michael Pollan

On Reading
by Rilke and Ruskin

America the Edible
by Adam Richman

Interview with the author of Party Girls,
Diane Goodman

Death Warmed Over
by Lisa Rogak

How to Cook a Crocodile
by Bonnie Lee Black

Great Food,
All Day Long

by Maya Angelou

Love Bites: Marital Skirmishes in the Kitchen
by Christopher Hirst

Best Food Writing 2011
edited by Holly Hughes

Balzac's Omelette
by Anka Muhlstein

The Little House Cookbook
by Barbara M. Walker

Muffins and Mayhem
by Suzanne Beecher

As Always, Julia:
The Letters of Julia Child and Avis De Voto


by Jason Wilson

The Particular Sadness
of Lemon Cake

by Aimee Bender

The Bluberry Years
by Jim Minick

Livingston and the Tomato
by A. W. Livingston

by Barry Estabrook

Palmento: A Sicilian Wine Odyssey
by Robert V. Camuto

Best Food Writing 2010 edited
by Holly Hughes

by Lizzie Collingham

Four Fish
by Paul Greenberg

The Physiology
of Taste

by Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

Far Flung
and Well Fed

by R. W. Apple, Jr.

The Food of a Younger Land
by Mark Kurlansky

The Dirty Life
by Kristin Kimball

by Michael Ruhlman

Cooking with Italian Grandmothers
by Jessica Theroux

Blood, Bones & Butter
by Gabrielle Hamilton

by Steve Almond

The Alice B. Toklas Cook Book
by Alice B. Toklas

Medium Raw
by Anthony Bourdain

Appetite City
by William Grimes

Twain's Feast
by Andrew Beahrs

97 Orchard
by Jane Ziegelman

Born Round
by Frank Bruni

by Kate Moses

Full English by
Tom Parker Bowles

Following Fish by
Samanth Subramanian

Eating Animals by
Jonathan Safran Foer

Immortal Milk: Adventures in Cheese
by Eric LeMay

For You, Mom. Finally
by Ruth Reichl

Farm City
by Novella Carpenter

Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant
edited by Jenni Ferrari-Adler

I ♥ Macarons
by Hisako Ogita

The Hamburger
by Josh Ozersky

Best Food Writing 2009 edited
by Holly Hughes

by Archestratos

Eat, Memory edited by Amanda Hesser

Eat My Globe
by Simon Majumdar

by Jason Epstein

What We Eat When We Eat Alone
by Deborah Madison

The Sweet Life
in Paris

by David Lebovitz

Modern Spice
by Monica Bhide



by Michael Pollan
Penguin Books, 2014
480 pages
ISBN: 978-0143125334

Review by Ellee Prince

In one of my most vivid memories at age six, my mother, slim and soft, stood in the kitchen of my childhood home. She leaned over the sink, with the bright California sun shining through the square window, and peeled tart green apples one at a time. The peels slipped from her knife in paper-thin spirals. Holding one in my fingertips, I ate it slowly with small front-toothed nibbles from one end to the other, watching her move among the food as she hummed.

I believe some of our strongest memories are surrounded by food. Especially in our childhood years, where first tastes sometimes imprint themselves in profound ways. The memory of my young mother making pie is filled with the sharp sounds of her knife, the crisp scents of apples and cinnamon, the sticky touch of unbaked dough. That memory is also filled with feelings of safety, abundance, creativity, and connection.

Michael Pollan's book, Cooked, is all about food. It's about history and origins and technique and the culture that arises from "doing" food. But this somewhat whimsical book written in part how-to, part memoir, part journalistic narrative, is ultimately and most certainly about connection. As he attempts to understand food as a consumable—how it evolved, how it nourishes, how it sets us apart and draws us together—throughout more than 300 pages, Pollan slowly explains the connecting power of food.

Segmented into the four elements of life—Fire, Water, Air, Earth—Pollan puts himself in the role of novice barbecuer, sous chef, baker, and fermenter. He seeks experience with the outside forces we apply to our meals: the grill, the cook pot, the oven, and the microbiota.

In Cooked, Pollan explores an everyday necessity from a variety of angles. He tells us that everything we consume has an origin, whether we understand it or not. “The beer in that bottle,” he writes, “I’m reminded as soon as I brew it myself, ultimately comes not from a factory but from nature—from a field of barely snapping in the wind, from a hops vine clambering over a trellis, from a host of invisible microbes feasting on sugars.”

As we read, we begin to see the larger point he's trying to make: roughly, that eventually among the list of "this comes from that" we arrive at ourselves. We face our own origins and dependancies, which don't actually have a whole lot to do with a grocery store, a stove, a kitchen, a cook pot, but so much more to do with what these luxuries and evolved necessities have in common: food. And when we understand our relationship to food, we begin to understand each other.

“Cooking,” writes Pollan, “is all about connection, I’ve learned, between us and other species, other times, other cultures (human and microbial both), but most importantly, other people.”

I was raised on the edge of the microwave revolution. Our first microwave — a large chrome and brown-laminated beast — reminded me of the old station wagons with wood panelling on the doors. Though it took up most of the counter space, it was primarily used for reheating dinners from the previous night. It wasn’t until my late teens with a newer, slimmer, gleaming-white microwave stationed close to the sink, that entire meals were often prepared in six minutes or less. It allowed a family of four to eat different meals at different times, for the sake of preference or convenience.

What would my understanding of food be without my mother’s apple pie, without the apple skins and the smell of cinnamon-infused pastry dough slowly baking in the oven? Likewise, how would my connection to my family have changed without microwaved chili or meatloaf or lasagna in single-serve plastic bowls? One can only speculate in hindsight.

Yet, looking to the future, as we navigate GMOs, the rise in food allergies and intolerances, yearly outbreaks of e. coli and listeria, and recommendations over how much or how little grains/meat/eggs/fats/carbs we should daily consume, it seems the best step forward is to learn from the past. According to Pollan, we can do this by understanding our food; by learning how it came to be on our plate, and once again giving our meals a place of prominence in our connection to the world around us.

As Pollan asks early on in Cooked, “To barbecue or to braise? To roast or to boil? That, apparently, is the question, and much—about who we think we are—depends on the answer.”