Monday, April 29, 2013

Michael Pollan: Cooked

We’re off on a bit of a tangent this week. All of us are engaged in helping to train chiropractors. Part of that involves working with patients to help them modify their dietary habits, in order to help reduce obesity, hypertension, diabetes and the risk that comes with having those conditions. Thus, we include courses in nutrition in our curriculum, and we look at interventions designed to help patients improve their health naturally. All this by way of suggesting that we look carefully at Michael Pollan’s new book, “Cooked.”

Pollan reports on the changing nature of food delivery in the United States. In his earlier book “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” he focused on the growth of the factory farm and the implications for the long-term health of US citizens. In this book, I can reduce his core argument down to a sound bite, but it is a very important sound bite: Cook more by yourself, using natural products, and have family meals each day.  Pollan finds that the average person spends no more than 27 minutes a day in food preparation, uses corporate products to make meals, and often does not have family dinners.
Confession: I am marries to a woman who spent many years of her life as a professional chef. She worked initially in a gourmet grocery and later owned her own h9igh-end catering business, where she often cooked for celebrities and politicians in the Chicago area. In fact, she once made a dinner for the president of McDonald Corporation. And she still cooks, and loves to cook. So, we don’t go out to dinner (except when we travel), and we make dinner every day, using the best produce we can find.

But this puts us at odds with the vast majority of Americans now. I often look at the grocery carts of people checking out at the same time we are, and I often see pre-made foods in high abundance, and I still see lots of white bread, sugared pop, and prepared foods. Pollan wants to change this, and this book is a broadside against the current state of the American food industry.
In the book, Pollan looks at what he calls Fire, Water, Air and Earth. In the section devoted to Fire, he discusses barbecue- not the kind of barbecue you might think about when I say the word, but about how fire transforms meat, how historically this meant something significant in human evolution, and how today’s pit masters harness the power of wood to make something spectacular. In Water, he examines braising food, using boiling water to create sauces and make the inedible edible. Air is about baking bread; how yeasts cause flour to rise, to allow air to enter, and to help then create a variety of bread styles. And in Earth, the focus in on fermentation, of which there is now an entire movement, one that my wife and I are members of. We were introduced to fermentation by our son, who was making not just beer, but also sauerkraut, kimchee, and kombucha. All are fermented products. And all are pretty easy to make, none more so than sauerkraut.

Here is how easy. To make sauerkraut, shred a couple of cabbages. We use red cabbage. Put in a clean glass jar, and liberally salt the cabbage. Place a weight on top- we use a plate with a baggie of water on it. Cover with a towel, and stick it in your basement. Come back in three weeks. When you do, and when you look at the jar, you will see all the bubbles of fermentation taking place. We then put the kraut in smaller storage vessels and stick them in the fridge. It is ready to eat. And the first time scares you because you know this is a controlled rotting process- but it’s great.
So, I recommend this book to you, and suggest it provides a pathway to a better and more sustainable food lifestyle. Well worth the read.

No comments: