This week I went to see Author Michael Pollan speak about his new book "COOKED" at packed house at the Isabel Bader Theatre in Toronto. This was another presentation by the Cookbook Store. He was interviewed by Matt Galloway from the CBC's Metro Morning. Who knew that Matt was such a foodie and cookbook junkie.
Michael is the author of 4 New York Times bestsellers:Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual (2010); In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto (2008); The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals (2006) and The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the World (2001).
I have the audio versions of "In Defense of Food" and "Cooked" but still need to work on getting through his other books.
Cooked is written in 4 parts like the elements. FIRE, WATER, AIR, EARTH.
He writes about the importance of fermentation and how the way we eat food has changed over the years. There is even a recipe for making starter bread in this book.
His chat in Toronto with Matt Galloway was funny, interesting and thought provoking.
He spoke about the changes in the division of labour and how it affects what people eat and how things are prepared in the home. How things changed when manufacturers of food products started to market foods beginning in the 50's to how we have changed the way we eat now.
One thing that he also talked about was that if more people "COOKED" more they probably would be healthier because they probably wouldn't be eating things like French Fries everyday because it's too much of a pain to make it at home. I never thought about it that way but it is true. I might make french fries once a year if I have a craving for them but generally don't like to make deep fried things at home because of the mess, and the waste of the oil used. Fast food chains like McDonald's who are probably the single highest user of russet potatoes in the world have made it easy for people to eat things like french fries everyday. They deal with the mess of it and make it efficient and cheap for people to have them anytime they want. If you made them at home I bet you wouldn't eat them everyday.
He also talked about a little family experiment that he did with his family where they all had microwave meals one night. He said they spent more time waiting for their microwave meals to heat up separately instead of just making one meal and sitting down at the table together in less time than it took for them to constantly heat up each individual microwave meal. A quote that got a good chuckle out of the audience was "The microwave is the Ayn Rand of cooking.. everyone for themselves".
He said that all of the microwave meals all ended up tasting the same with the same bullion cube taste. I have to admit I always noticed that too and because they food never looks as appetizing and never leaves you satisfied and full after eating them they are never my first choice for dinner. The only thing I don't mind is the stouffer's Baja Chicken Flatbread. It doesn't fill me up but it is a tasty snack that almost tastes like something you would make fresh.
They also talked about getting children involved in the cooking process again. When I was a kid I always helped my mother cook at home everyday. What he said was that because of the pursuit of success, parents let their kids off the hook of doing chores at home so they will do their homework. But really what's more important when you finish you education... whether you know calculus or whether you can feed yourself? I couldn't tell you anything I learned about calculus but I remember and have used some of the things I learned in Home Ec.. which doesn't seem to exist anymore. If the parents don't have time or the skills to teach kids how to cook then I think that food education should be mandatory in schools for kids to learn how to feed themselves properly. If kids learn how to make things at home maybe that will reverse the current childhood obesity problem. Once again they won't be relying on burgers and fries and pizza on a daily basis. You can't make french fries at home in the 5 minutes it takes to order it at a fast food restaurant and you can't even make pizza dough as fast as it takes to heat up a slice at a pizza place. Maybe kids would choose to make salads or stir fry's or pasta at home instead.
The other thing that was really interesting was that he talked about a new shopping cart that sectioned off an area for produce that was larger and that people bought more produce when they used that cart. He suggested it to Walmart so will see what happens there. It usually all comes down to economics. What grocery stores make the most money on is what is usually pushed to the forefront in the best view of consumers so they will reach for that first. There is a whole psychology to grocery stores and how they place the foods but that is a whole other conversation that I will write about another time.
He said he was taught how to cook by a woman who said "The key to good cooking is patience, practice and presence"
It was a pleasure to meet Mr. Pollan after the show.
Enjoy the process of cooking and you will do it more often.