Thursday, March 10, 2016

Michael Pollan's "Cooked" on Netflix

Australian tribes people at their fire in the Outback, from part one "Fire" of Michael Pollan's Netflix special, COOKED.
In Michael Pollan's video series COOKED, there are examples of cooking by tribal Australians, by barbecue pitmasters from the American South, by urban women in India, by bread-bakers in Moroccan villagers, and by Michael Pollan's own friends and neighbors in Berkeley, California. The series is full of fabulous images of kitchen activities, of mould spores forming on cheese, of bread dough in every stage from kneading to rising to baking, of the exotic locations where some of the cooks live and work, and much more.

The series, in my opinion, converts a fairly intellectual book (also titled Cooked) into a  delightful sensory experience -- except that unfortunately you can't smell or taste the products! Though Pollan covers a good deal of research by food scientists, anthropologists, and historians, the series is impressive mainly for the range of visuals. Here are some examples from the four parts of the series:

Pitmaster working on Barbecue from "Fire."
Kitchen in India, from "Water."
A pot boiling, from "Water."
Bakers' shop where families bring their own bread to be baked, from
"Air." This episode also has memorable imagery of a traditional miller,
where water-driven grindstones grind the grain for bread.
From "Air."
A nun who is a biochemist and cheesemaker, from "Earth."
A little-known processing fact: cacao beans must be fermented to produce the taste of chocolate -- from "Earth."
Pollan narrates the entire series, as well as demonstrating the cooking and
baking skills he learned while researching the book.
In the Atlantic this week is an article that goes perfectly with "Cooked" -- More Than Half of What Americans Eat Is 'Ultra-Processed'. The article begins by quoting Pollan's most famous line: “eat food, not too much, mostly plants,” which they ideintify as "oft-quoted, less oft-followed." They conclude: "ultra-processed sugar bombs are replacing 'more nutrient-dense foods,' and leaving people “simultaneously overfed and undernourished." Best of all, they have a clear and useful definition of ultra-processed:
"Formulations of several ingredients which, besides salt, sugar, oils, and fats, include food substances not used in culinary preparations, in particular, flavors, colors, sweeteners, emulsifiers and other additives used to imitate sensorial qualities of unprocessed or minimally processed foods and their culinary preparations or to disguise undesirable qualities of the final product."
Pollan's quest for traditionally processed foods -- bread, cheese, fire-cooked meats, braised meat and vegetables and much more -- offers an alternative to industrial, ultra-processed foods.


The Ninja Baker said...

Thank you for your intro to Cooked...Now I'm intrigued to see Pollan's film...And, sigh, maybe one day they'll invent film / TV where you can actually smell the food...Although without being able to taste the yummies, it might be a tad too tantalizing!

Beth F said...

I too really liked this series. I hope Netflix does some more of these short documentaries with Pollan

Tina said...

Thanks for highlighting this series. We had canceled Netflicks a while back but I am making a list for things I want to see when we resubscribe. This looks excellent.

Unknown said...

Looks like a good series. Thanks for sharing those great images.

Margot said...

I have a copy of Cooked still sitting on my shelf. I read and then set it back down. I really want to read it but it's tough to get through. Thanks to your post, I see an alternative.

Carole said...

Fresh is best ok. Cheers from Carole's Chatter!

Vicki said...

I have been thinking about reading this book. After your post I think I need to add it to the tbr list!

Deb in Hawaii said...

Cooked is on my "to watch" list so I am happy to hear another positive review of the series. ;-)

Tera said...

Does anyone know the disg being made in EP 2 with the onions and veggies and meat then put in the oven 3 hours. The cilantro threw me off. I wa t that recipe!