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Sunday, September 8, 2013


"You want Americans to eat less? I have the diet for you. Cook it yourself. Eat anything you want - just as long as you're willing to cook it yourself."

This quote from Harry Blazer, food industry market researcher, in Michael Pollan's new book, Cooked, sums up a novel solution to the current epidemic of chronic disease in the United States.

Pollan points out that obesity rates are inversely correlated with time spent cooking: The more you cook your own food, the less likely you are to be obese and suffer associated health problems. So in an effort to cook more, Pollan explores the "previously uncharted territory" of his kitchen, along with the transformative powers of nature: fire, water, air, and earth.

In Fire, Pollan writes about "whole hog" barbecue and the time he spent with renown North Carolina pit master Ed Mitchell. Coincidentally I read it just before the Big Apple BBQ Block Party in New York City and the idea of slow-cooked whole hog simply seasoned intrigued me so much that I made my way there to sample it myself. I was glad I did.

In Water, Pollan experiments with braising one pot meals. He demonstrates how easy it is to turn vegetables and inexpensive cuts of grass-fed meat into delicious and nutritious meals that feed the whole family.

In Air, Pollan bakes bread from scratch and introduces fermentation. He suggests that the recent rise in gluten intolerance and celiac disease may be related to the short fermentation that modern breads undergo. He also explains the benefits of longer fermentation, which includes slower absorption of sugars from bread and lower associated insulin spikes.

In Earth, Pollan expands on fermentation and experiments with brewing beer and making lacto-fermented vegetables like sauerkraut and cheese. He also discusses the benefits of fermented foods and the healthy bacteria they contain.

If your kitchen is unfamiliar territory, buy this book today. Pollan even includes four recipes at the end, one for each element, to help you get started.

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