Why Cook?

In an excerpt from his new book, Cooked: A Natural History of TransformationMichael Pollan laments that economic specialization “neatly hides our implication in all that is done on our behalf by unknown other specialists half a world away”:

Perhaps what most commends cooking to me is that it offers a powerful corrective to this way of being in the world — a corrective that is still available to all of us. To butcher a pork shoulder is to be forcibly reminded that this is the shoulder of a large mammal, made up of distinct groups of muscles with a purpose quite apart from feeding me. The work itself gives me a keener interest in the story of the hog: where it came from and how it found its way to my kitchen. In my hands its flesh feels a little less like the product of industry than of nature; indeed, less like a product at all. Likewise, to grow the greens I’m serving with this pork, greens that in late spring seem to grow back almost as fast as I can cut them, is a daily reminder of nature’s abundance, the everyday miracle by which photons of light are turned into delicious things to eat.

For more, check out Pollan’s interview with Adam Platt. A highlight:

I think it’s interesting that this strikingly powerful interest in all things having to do with food coincides with a progressively more mediated, digitized life. We spend our time in front of screens. We don’t exercise our other senses very much. And food is this complete sensory experience. It engages all five senses. It’s a sensual pleasure. And it is also—and I think this is a very important part of the food movement—really a communitarian movement. What’s driving people to food in many, many places is the kind of experience you can have at a farmers’ market. It’s really a new public square.

(Photo by Steve Evans)