There was a lot of jumping up and down in my house last month, when I found out that Netflix was airing “Cooked”. I loved the book and could not wait to meet the protagonists while listening to Michael Pollan who, when it comes to food, is someone you want to listen to.
Author and activist, Michael Pollan has written many books and articles about what he describes as “the places where nature and culture intersect: on our plates, in our farms and gardens, and in the built environment.” In 2010 he was named by Times Magazine as one of the world’s 100 most influential people.
“Cooked” is a celebration of food. Food as it once was and, if we put our minds to it, as it could be again. Like the book, the documentary is split into four sections: Fire, Water, Air and Earth. Through human stories from around the world, “Cooked” explores how these four basic elements have, for generations, shaped the way we cook and eat.
From Australian Aboriginal hunters to Sister Noella Marcellino (aka the cheese nun), we are taken on a path of rediscovery of basic cooking techniques such as barbecuing, braising, bread making and fermentation.
When we learned to cook is when we became truly human. But we’ve lost touch, I think, with how that food got to our plates – Michael Pollan
“Cooked” looks at how processed and fast food have become the staples of “modern” life. How is it that a simple food like bread, made for centuries with 3 to 4 ingredients (i.e. flour, salt, water and yeast), nowadays contains over 20 ingredients (some of them you cannot even pronounce)? As we ingest increasing amounts of ready meals, takeaways and fast food, is it really a surprise that diet related diseases such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension and certain types of cancer are on the rise? And why do we prefer to watch TV, to eat in front of the TV and even to watch cooking programmes on TV, rather than cooking for ourselves and eating together?
Eat whatever you want, as long as you’ve cooked it yourself – Harry Balzer
One of the most powerful suggestions that Michael Pollan makes on the programme is to follow Harry Balzar’s advice to eat only what you have cooked yourself. Surely reacquainting ourselves with the pleasures of cooking and eating together would solve a lot of the problems of our health and wellbeing obsessed society.