Cooked Book Summary By Michael Pollan

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Cooked (2013) is an insightful exploration of the history of human relationship with cooking and baking.

This book takes a look at how cooking has become an essential part of our lives and how we have perfected various techniques to turn food into delicious, nutritious meals.

From fermentation to baking and other creative methods, this book delves into the centuries-old art of turning raw ingredients into something that nourishes us.

It's an intriguing look at the history of cooking and nutrition, as well as a great resource for modern cooks looking for new ideas.

Cooked Book

Book Name: Cooked (A Natural History of Transformation)

Author(s): Michael Pollan

Rating: 4.5/5

Reading Time: 19 Minutes

Categories: Health & Nutrition

Author Bio

Michael Pollan is a celebrated food journalist, renowned author, and influential figure in the culinary world.

He's been credited with reshaping the way we think about food and his expertise has been sought after in documentaries, interviews, and across various other media outlets throughout his career.

He's responsible for works such as The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food, among others.

He also holds a teaching position at the University of California at Berkeley in their journalism department where he has made invaluable contributions to students' understanding of this ever-changing industry.

Explore The Power Of Cooking: How A Curiosity Of Fire And Pot Transformed History

 Power Of Cooking

For centuries, humans have been using the power of fire to transform what it means to be human.

By using our ingenuity and creativity in the kitchen, we’ve been able to nourish our bodies in unique ways that wouldn’t have been possible without cooking.

This seemingly simple act of cooking has had a tremendous impact on mankind’s history.

It has allowed us to delve much deeper into what it means to be human and how far we’ve come as a species.

And through the discovery of new tools like stoves and grills, yeast, and even pottery, we’ve found exciting new possibilities for understanding food preparation and nutrition better.

From learning why a cooked egg is healthier than a raw one to examining why consuming less-cooked food can lead to poor nutrition, Cooked Book Summary provides a comprehensive look at how cooking has changed everything from society’s relationship with grain, to the way we look at being human.

Cooking Makes Food Easier To Digest, More Nutritious, And Safer To Eat

Humans have always known that cooking food can make tasty meals, but recent studies have shown that there are even more benefits to cooking.

Specifically, cooking food can make raw ingredients more digestible and more nutritious for humans.

When proteins like meat are cooked, the heat works to unravel its structure.

This makes it far easier to digest due to the weaker protein structures being broken down more effectively by enzymes in the human stomach.

As an example, a boiled egg is 90 percent digestible compared to only 65 percent if eaten raw!

Additionally, cooking also alters the composition of food chemically, unlocking vitamins and minerals within it as well as making certain inedible ingredients safe to eat – take root cassava for instance, which is toxic when eaten raw but perfectly fine when cooked.

It’s also a bonus that cooked food stays edible for longer than non-cooked food.

In short, through evolution we’ve seen that cooking our food provides us with many benefits beyond just tastiness – it also helps us effectively absorb nutrients from what we eat and preserves them for maximum digestion efficiency and nutrition value!

Why Bacon Is So Delicious – The Fifth Taste Of Umami

Smoked bacon, mushrooms, kelp and anchovies all have something special in common – they express umami!

Umami was first discovered by Japanese chemist Kikunae Ikeda, who was studying the snowy crystals that form on dried kelp.

He found that it contained glutamate, which did not fit into existing taste categories – so he coined the sensation as umami, meaning “pleasant savory taste.”

It wasn’t until 2001 when US scientists studying taste receptors on the human tongue found one specifically for glutamate, thus confirming that there is indeed a fifth taste.

You can experience umami when you combine these glutamate-rich foods with other flavors found in fish sauce or porcini mushroom stock.

By consuming foods that contain all three molecules – glutamate, inosine and guanosine – your food can become a veritable umami explosion of taste!

The Us Food-Industrial Complex Has Led To Unhealthy Eating Habits And Higher Rates Of Obesity

Unhealthy Eating Habits

The post-war move to convenience foods has had a significant, long-term impact on the way Americans eat.

With food manufacturers, advertising executives and marketers all contributing to the development of surplus industrially-processed food, the traditional American diet shifted from whole foods to processed ingredients and ready-made meals.

This shift has meant that people are far less likely to cook fresh, wholesome, healthy meals than before – opting for convenience and familiarity instead.

Furthermore, due to the lack of nutritional value in many of these processed foods, not only is cooking time being reduced it’s leading to an increase in unhealthy eating habits.

It’s alarmingly easy for companies to add sugar, fat and salt when mass producing their products but none of this offers any benefits nutritionally speaking.

Harvard economists concerned about this trend conducted a study back in 2003 which showed that the more time people spent preparing food in the kitchen – as opposed making use of convenience products – was directly correlated with obesity levels; suggesting that a lack of home cooking is resulting in an increased number of overweight individuals within our society.

Bread: Unlocking The Energy Stored In Grains For A More Efficient Diet

When humans discovered how to make bread, they unlocked a multitude of health benefits that were unavailable before.

That’s because the process of fermenting and baking dough unlocks nutrients that are inaccessible in raw ingredients, making bread an essential part of the human diet.

From our paleolithic ancestors who discovered that mashing, roasting, or soaking their grains made it more filling and sustaining, to the Egyptian inventors who created leavened bread in 4000 BC by leaving a bowl of seed mush in a warm space and allowing it to bubble with air – these early societies all understood the power of bread.

Not only was bread far more nutritious than its raw ingredients, but it also represents smarter energy use than eating animals directly from the food chain.

Consuming sources lower down on the food chain such as plants and seeds is far more efficient – and this is why we have so many herbivores in nature!

So if you want to reap the most nutritional benefits from your food source, go for a loaf of bread.

You won’t regret it!

How White Bread Became The Norm – And What We Can Do About It

Industrialization has had an immense impact on the production of white bread, creating a loaf that is essentially void of any nutritional content.

In the 19th century, roller mills were developed which allowed white flour to be produced in large quantities.

By removing the germ and bran of the wheat grain, or essentially all the color and texture, it also stripped it of important vitamins and minerals.

Today, people are consuming a lot more white flour than ever before—with 95 percent of wheat consumed in America coming from this industrial product.

This shift has led to malnutrition and a pervasiveness of disease such as diabetes and heart disease.

In response, companies have added nutrients back into white bread, yet these additives don’t make up for the nutritional loss from extracting whole wheat out of their loaves.

Even “whole-grain” loaves often contain unhealthy levels of sugar to compensate for taking out healthy ingredients like bran.

All these factors have contributed to an increase in our tastes for–and consumption of–white bread that strips away any benefits from its original form as a nourishing snack.

Humans Are Superorganisms Comprised Of Microbes, Whose Role In Our Lives Goes Beyond Digestion And Fermentation


Microbes play an essential role in keeping your gut healthy.

We may not be aware of it, but the hundreds of different species that live in our body cohabitate to act as a superorganism with many impressive functions.

In fact, nine-tenths of these cells are microbial species, and their collective DNA takes up 99 percent of your body’s total DNA!

One main role of microbes is to serve as external digesters – breaking down food so your body can better absorb nutrients.

They’re also necessary for fermentation processes, which have created a lot of the foods we know and love such as cheese, beer, coffee, bread and chocolate.

Nearly every culture around the world uses the process of fermentation to create edible foods.

But due to modern sterilization techniques and the overuse of antibiotics we often don’t get all of the potential health benefits provided by these microbes.

A diet rich in naturally fermented foods has been linked with improved digestion, reduced inflammation, increased immunity and prevention from cancer – all thanks to increased microbial diversity in the gut.

Examples like Captain Cook’s supply of sauerkraut on his two-year sea voyage demonstrate how humans have known about the health benefits associated with fermented foods for centuries.

So whatever you do, don’t forget to include those fermented goodies – they’re key to keeping your gut healthy!

Fermented Foods: A Treat For Both Human And Animal Palates

Humans and animals alike seem to enjoy a good drink, but other fermented foods can be something of an acquired taste.

Alcohol is perhaps the most popular fermented food across both cultures and species – while humans are the only animals that brew beer and spirits, many animals have been found to consume naturally produced alcoholic fermentations such as durian fruit fermentations.

In studies, chimps and rats have even been observed to seek out alcohol and partake in drunken revelry from time-to-time in groups.

Meanwhile, other kinds of fermented foods can require some cultivation over time before they become popular or desirable.

Take Korean kimchi, Icelandic pickled shark, or aged French cheese for example – these all require a certain kind of palate developed during childhood or adulthood for them to become truly enjoyed.

Even Americans didn’t appreciate the powerful stench emanating from huge stores of Camembert cheese during World War II – had they known what it truly was beforehand, they wouldn’t have ordered its burning!

Wrap Up

In conclusion, Cooked by Michael Polan is a captivating story that teaches us the importance of cooking for ourselves and appreciating the tastes that nature has to offer.

The book emphasizes that cooking from scratch – using natural ingredients and fermentation – can help us make our food more wholesome and pleasurable.

The book offers actionable advice on how to get started with fermentation and baking, giving readers an opportunity to deepen their knowledge of this ancient craft.

Overall, Cooked is sure to motivate you to take a more active role in your kitchen, become more conscious about what you eat and further appreciate the beauty of nature and all its gifts.

Arturo Miller

Hi, I am Arturo Miller, the Chief Editor of this blog. I'm a passionate reader, learner and blogger. Motivated by the desire to help others reach their fullest potential, I draw from my own experiences and insights to curate blogs.

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