Michael Pollan: “cooking is political”

The most famous food writer in the US talks to Rai Expo about his latest book, “Cooked”. He explains why civilisation is born at the table and on the stove

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Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation (published in Italy by Adelphi) is the latest book by Michael Pollan, New York Times writer and one of the leading American experts on food and agriculture.Rai Expo met the author, source of the renowned phrase “eat food, not too much, mostly plants” (the opening words of a famous article he wrote on the vital relationship between food and health) at the Mantua literary festival.

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The author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food tackles the contemporary paradox around food and cooking: an activity that is increasingly turned into a showpiece (just look at the proliferation of cooking programmes on TV) but is actually carried out personally less and less, especially in the US.

Cooked is a real journey in the classic “Pollan style” (alternating between stories, sketches of day-to-day life in the US and beyond, history and scientific analysis) through the building blocks of cooking, to discover the vital role that they have had in the history of human civilisation.The book is divided into four parts for each of the four elements, which are also the basis of the key techniques for processing food: fire (cooking meat), air (making bread), water (cooking vegetables, tubers and again meat) and earth (fermentation).

If it’s true that cooking – and eating together around a table – is a building block of civilisation and democracy, breaking that bond between the individual and food in favour of companies that produce and process it for us is, in Pollan’s view, nothing short of an attack on civilisation.

That’s why cooking is a political act, a way of putting the brakes on our dependency on what Pollan calls “corporate cooked food”, , produced by companies that disregard human health and proper nutrition.



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