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Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation by Michael Pollan
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Cooked Quotes (showing 1-30 of 79)
“For is there any practice less selfish, any labor less alienated, any time less wasted, than preparing something delicious and nourishing for people you love?”
Michael Pollan, Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation
“The shared meal is no small thing. It is a foundation of family life,
the place where our children learn the art of conversation and acquire
the habits of civilization: sharing, listening, taking turns, navigating
differences, arguing without offending. What have been called the
“cultural contradictions of capitalism”—its tendency to undermine
the stabilizing social forms it depends on—are on vivid display today
at the modern American dinner table, along with all the brightly colored packages that the food industry has managed to plant there.”
Michael Pollan, Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation
“Well, in a world where so few of us are obliged to cook at all anymore, to choose to do so is to lodge a protest against specialization—against the total rationalization of life. Against the infiltration of commercial interests into every last cranny of our lives. To cook for the pleasure of it, to devote a portion of our leisure to it, is to declare our independence from the corporations seeking to organize our every waking moment into yet another occasion for consumption. (Come to think of it, our nonwaking moments as well: Ambien, anyone?) It is to reject the debilitating notion that, at least while we’re at home, production is work best done by someone else, and the only legitimate form of leisure is consumption. This dependence marketers call “freedom.”
Michael Pollan, Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation
“A good pot holds memories.”
Michael Pollan, Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation
“Our society assigns us a tiny number of roles: We're producers of one thing at work, consumers of a great many things all the rest of the time, and then, once a year or so, we take on the temporary role of citizen and cast a vote. Virtually all our needs and desires we delegate to specialists of one kind or another - our meals to the food industry, our health to the medical profession, entertainment to Hollywood and the media, mental health to the therapist or the drug company, caring for nature to the environmentalist, political action to the politician, and on and on it goes. Before long it becomes hard to imagine doing much of anything for ourselves - anything, that is, except the work we do "to make a living." For everything else, we feel like we've lost the skills, or that there's someone who can do it better... it seems as though we can no longer imagine anyone but a professional or an institution or a product supplying our daily needs or solving our problems.”
Michael Pollan, Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation
“When chopping onions, just chop onions.”
Michael Pollan, Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation
“Cooking is all about connection, I've learned, between us and other species, other times, other cultures (human and microbial both), but, most important, other people. Cooking is one of the more beautiful forms that human generosity takes; that much I sort of knew. But the very best cooking, I discovered, is also a form of intimacy.”
Michael Pollan, Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation
“Every cuisine has its characteristic 'flavor principle,' Rozin contends, whether it is tomato-lemon-oregano in Greece; lime-chili in Mexico; onion-lard-paprika in Hungary, or, in Samin's Moroccan dish, cumin-coriander-cinnamon-ginger-onion-fruit. (And in America? Well, we do have Heinz ketchup, a flavor principle in a bottle that kids, or their parents, use to domesticate every imaginable kind of food. We also now have the familiar salty-umami taste of fast food, which I would guess is based on salt, soy oil, and MSG.”
Michael Pollan, Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation
“A French poet famously referred to the aroma of certain cheeses as the ‘pieds de Dieu’—the feet of god. Just to be clear: foot odor of a particularly exalted quality, but still—foot odor.”
Michael Pollan, Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation
“By now you will not be surprised to learn that Gaston Bachelard had a few things to say about the element of air. In a book called "Air and Dreams". he points out that we categorize many of our emotions by their relative weight; they make us feel heavier or lighter. Perhaps because uprightness is the human quality, we imagine human emotions arranged on a vertical scale from ground to sky. So sadness is weighed down and earthbound. joy is aerial, and the sensation of freedom defies the bonds of gravity. "Air," Bachelard writes, "is the very substance of our freedom, the substance of superhuman joy." Elation, effervescence, elevation, levity, inspiration: air words all, alveolated with vowels, leavening the dough of everyday life.”
Michael Pollan, Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation
“We moderns are great compartmentalizers, perhaps never more so than when hungry.”
Michael Pollan, Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation
“If the omnivore’s dilemma is to determine what is good and safe to eat amid the myriad and occasionally risky choices nature puts before us, then familiar flavor profiles can serve as a useful guide, a sensory signal of the tried and true. To an extent, these familiar blends of flavor take the place of the hardwired taste preferences that guide most other species in their food choices. They have instincts to steer them; we have cuisines.”
Michael Pollan, Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation
“There's nothing really quite like that first soft spring breeze of intoxication. Keep drinking all you want, but you will never get it back.”
Michael Pollan, Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation
“I found that, much like gardening, most cooking manages to be agreeably absorbing without being too demanding intellectually. It leaves plenty of mental space for daydreaming and reflection.”
Michael Pollan, Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation
“Cooking—of whatever kind, everyday or extreme—situates us in the world in a very special place, facing the natural world on one side and the social world on the other. The cook stands squarely between nature and culture, conducting a process of translation and negotiation. Both nature and culture are transformed by the work. And in the process, I discovered, so is the cook.”
Michael Pollan, Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation
“The bread was so powerfully aromatic that, had I been alone, I would have been tempted to push my face into it.”
Michael Pollan, Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation
“It seems to me that one of the great luxuries of life at this point is to be able to do one thing at a time, one thing to which you give yourself wholeheartedly. Unitasking.”
Michael Pollan, Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation
“As I’ve heard some bakers say, baking takes a lot of time, but for the most part it’s not YOUR time.”
Michael Pollan, Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation
“To ferment your own food is to lodge a small but eloquent protest - on behalf of the senses and the microbes - against the homogenization of flavors and food experiences now rolling like a great, undifferentiated lawn across the globe. It is also a declaration of independence from an economy that would much prefer we remain passive consumers of its standardized commodities, rather than creators of idiosyncratic products expressive of ourselves and of the places where we live, because your pale ale or sourdough bread or kimchi is going to taste nothing like mine or anyone else's.”
Michael Pollan, Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation
“Great cooking is all about the three 'p's: patience, presence, and practice.”
Michael Pollan, Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation
“Water is H2O, hydrogen two parts, oxygen one, but there is also a third thing, that makes it water, and nobody knows what it is.” —D. H. Lawrence, Pansies”
Michael Pollan, Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation
“The ads have also helped manufacture a sense of panic about time, depicting families so rushed and harried in the morning that there is no time to make breakfast, not even to pour some milk over a bowl of cereal. No, the only hope is to munch on a cereal bar (iced with synthetic “milk” frosting) in the bus or car. (Tell me: Why can’t these hassled families set their alarm clocks, like, ten minutes earlier?!)”
Michael Pollan, Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation
“One USDA scientist went so far as to claim that there has never been a documented case of food-borne illness from eating fermented vegetables.”
Michael Pollan, Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation
“If we address frankly what is evoked by cheese, I think it becomes clear why so little is said. So what does cheese evoke? Damp dark cellars, molds, mildews and mushrooms galore, dirty laundry and high school locker rooms, digestive processes and visceral fermentations, he-goats which do not remind of Chanel … In sum, cheese reminds of dubious, even unsavory places, both in nature and in our own organisms. And yet we love it.”
Michael Pollan, Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation
“The transformation which occurs in the cauldron is quintessential and wondrous, subtle and delicate. The mouth cannot express it in words.”
Michael Pollan, Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation
“Umami…is the quasi-secret heart and soul of almost every braise, stew, and soup.”
Michael Pollan, Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation
“Boiled food is life,’ Levi-Strauss writes, ‘roast food death.’ He reports finding countless examples in the world’s folklore of ‘cauldrons of immortality,’ but not a single example of a ‘spit of immortality.”
Michael Pollan, Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation
“[I]t is remarkable how much sheer bullshit seems to accrete around the subject of barbecue. No other kind of cooking comes even close. Exactly why, I’m not sure, but it may be that cooking over fire is so straightforward that the people who do it feel a need to baste the process in thick layers of intricacy and myth. It could also be that barbecue is performed disproportionately by self-dramatizing men.”
Michael Pollan, Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation
“Wrangham cites several studies indicating that in fact humans don’t do well on raw food: they can’t maintain their body weight, and half of the women on a raw-food regimen stop menstruating. Devotees of raw food rely heavily on juicers and blenders, because otherwise they would have to spend as much time chewing as the chimps do. It is difficult, if not impossible, to extract sufficient energy from unprocessed plant matter to power a body with such a big, hungry brain.”
Michael Pollan, Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation
“Handling these plants and animals, taking back the production and the preparation of even just some part of our food, has the salutary effect of making visible again many of the lines of connection that the supermarket and the "home-meal replacement" have succeeded in obscuring. yet of course never actually eliminated. To do so is to take back a measure of responsibility, too, to become, at the very least, a little less glib in one's pronouncements.”
Michael Pollan, Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation

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