Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation is a terrific book which everyone who is even remotely interested in cooking should read. Even if you are not interested in cooking, you should still read it.
Cooked was written by Michael Pollan. The book was published by The Penguin Press in 2013. The book is 486 pages long, including the appendix (four great recipes) and the index.
The book is divided in four parts: Fire, Water, Air, and Earth.
Fire concerns itself with the cooking of barbecue –whole hog cooking. When I started the book I was sure this would be my favorite part. Mr. Pollan visits several pit masters to learn the business of cooking a whole pig. The men he talks about in this part of the book are like rock stars. In the process, we learn about the differences between commodity pork vs. more traditional kinds of pork. We learn things like cooking the wood before cooking the pig and the fact that cooking with fire is a communal affair. In all the parts, Mr. Pollan goes into exquisite detail as to what happens during the cooking process.
Water has to do with cooking inside; in the kitchen, with pots and water. We follow Mr. Pollan as he visits cooks and learns how to cook with water. This section is also terrific. It is almost as if you are reading four different books. In this section, we learn about vegetables and how aromatic plants give cooking with water its own magic.
Next comes Air. This section is about baking bread. Again, Mr. Pollan finds an artisanal baker to learn from and we are treated to graphic descriptions of bread making.
The final part of the book is Earth. This section was very interesting to me as I had very little knowledge (almost none) of the process of fermentation. In this section we learn the important part bacteria and yeast play in human health as we read about making cheese, sauerkraut, and beer.
This is a great read as Mr. Pollan is an excellent writer and it is also a reference book of sorts. The appendix contains four different recipes to try. Pick up a copy if you can.