Why bother cooking? The reasons to skip it are stacked as high as the microwavable meals in a Costco freezer case. You don’t have time, of course (or you think you don’t); that’s the big one. But you also don’t do it as well as the professionals, so it’s tempting to let them handle it for you. Or at least let them give you a head start in the form of meal-assembly shops, cake mixes, and canned, frozen and pre-chopped ingredients.
Michael Pollan thinks you should bother, and not just as a fashionable exercise in hipsterdom. His latest book, “Cooked,” is a powerful argument for a return to home cooking of the sort that doesn’t begin with an attempt to find the perforated opening.
Pollan is not the first person to issue this clarion call. Scores of food writers and editors, myself included, have long bemoaned the increasing influence of corporations on the public’s diet. We have seen the slow retreat from the kitchen — even while interest in TV food shows has grown — as a primary contributor to America’s (and increasingly, the world’s) obesity epidemic and other health and environmental ills. But perhaps only Pollan can so effectively pick up the threads of so many food movements, philosophies and research papers and knit them into a compelling narrative with a crystal-clear message. “My wager in ‘Cooked,’ ” he writes, “is that the best way to recover the reality of food, to return it to its proper place in our lives, is by attempting to master the physical processes by which it has traditionally been made.”