Why You Need to Watch Cooked, Michael Pollan’s New Netflix Series

In Neil Genzlinger’s Feb 17, 2016, New York Times review of Michael Pollan’s four-part Netflix docu-series based on his book “Cooked,” he writes that Pollan “is food-shaming us again…a gentle sort of shaming, and informative, but unless you’ve previously been converted to Pollanology through [his writing] you’ll come away feeling mighty guilty about what you eat.”


Like the book, the series explores four elemental categories: fire, water, air, and earth. Pollan travels to distant lands, from Morocco, Australia, and Peru, to places in the US (even Vermont). For all us proud UVMers, during his section on fermentation, he even talks to our very own and nationally recognized Dr. Catherine Donnelly about cheese bacteria.

Genzlinger can criticize Pollan all he wants. And on certain points I agree, the series nostalgia for a past where people made delicious, wholesome food from scratch in sun-drenched, gorgeous settings was a bit much because we all know that past never really existed. The long ago people, usually women, I would guess, had little choice back then but to toil 24/7 procuring, preserving, and preparing the family’s meals, and probably wouldn’t have minded a little relief.

In our modern day, however, that relief comes from us having ceded the kitchen to a highly industrialized food supply that is making most of us sick—really sick. So don’t be blinded by the splendor of the series. Pollan’s real message is critically important. Not knowing how to cook—having that essential knowledge taken away—is a real problem. He’s not saying women need to go back to the kitchen; in fact, during the series, he and his son try to regain some of what was so implicitly known by his ancestors by learning to cook.

The series is worth viewing. Who knows? Maybe it will resonate enough that some will even try to cook something for dinner.


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