The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Michael Pollan - Cooked; a Natural History of Transformation.

timko's picture

Michael Pollan - Cooked; a Natural History of Transformation.

Michael Pollan’s new book  - Cooked - considers with care the process of transformation of different food stuffs through transformative and elemental processes; fire, water air and earth.

It is the Air and to a degree the Earth chapters which I think may be of great interest and enjoyment to this forum.

Using the notion of air, Pollan explores the nature of bread from a variety of cultural, biological and commercial perspectives. He does not ignore the great sensual and creative pleasures that making bread can offer; tactile, olfactory, visual and aural. You feel his developing pleasure and it is a joy to share. 

 He offers an insightful exploration into sourdough and its health benefits as well as a persuasive argument and playful discussion around the use of whole wheat. I found myself savoring this chapter and enjoyed the delightful coincidence of reading it as a passenger at forty five thousand feet above sea level.  

108 breads's picture
108 breads

I want to read more about fermentation. Would you recommend other books as well. My curiosity is described in

timko's picture


your project sounds very interesting and looks remarkable too.

I can see that you have a really wide ranging book list as well, we share many of the same ones. I have found that Harold McGee's book, On Food and Cooking, is great to read alongside other books. it doesn’t deal with the topic at hand solely but has proved remarkably useful to me. He is always so sage and clear. He also cites some good references on bread and sourdough starters; which deal with fermentation.

Peter Reinharts’s Whole grain breads deals with the questions around fermentation with whole grains is really helpful too. I think you make a comment about the complexity of his recipes in Bread Baker’s Apprentice? I re read through these every so often and find myself always returning to the bread I always make and heading the advice in Chad Robinson’s Tartine – to smell the fermentation and notice its changes and differences in textures each day. The floral notes, the sharper notes and their depth change with feeding – for example if I have been away. So recognizing the bouquets  and textures helps me understand what to aim for with my starter.

 Pollans book is a remarkably helpful and I enjoyed the whole grain experimentation  he tried.  I tried his version of it and found it to be very successful, although I wasn’t able to slow down the rapid growth of my dough in the fridge. Next time I ll divide in three instead of two loaves.