“Cooked,” Michael Pollan’s new four-part Netflix docuseries about cooking past and present, features Pollan the historian, Pollan the sociologist, Pollan the aspiring chef, and, yes, Pollan the wrangler. He may not be wagging his finger at us as emphatically as he often does (see: The Omnivore’s Dilemma, “Food Inc.”) but the journalist can’t help but shame us about our terrible habits regarding the industry, preparation, and consumption of food. Though entertainingly educational and far gentler than his usual treatises, this is not a show to watch while eating. This is a show to watch while cooking – preferably from scratch.
As our own cooking efforts dwindle – Pollan estimates that the average American spends twenty-seven minutes a day on food preparation, which is less than half the time spent in 1962 – the amount of hours we log watching food television and cinema is on a major uptick. On one hand, the reason hardly requires spelling out: Who doesn’t love deliciousness? But the real reasons may be closer to the bottomless hunger we feel when eating Wonder Bread. Having stripped the wheat of its original nutrition, we crave the kind of nourishment that no amount of “enrichment” can confer. Though modern life has made it possible and even pragmatic for us to eat meals we have not prepared ourselves, we benefit emotionally, physically, and spiritually from cooking in ways that continue to haunt us. Some have attempted to rectify this void by taking part in the slow-food movement. But many more have developed the habit of eating supermarket rotisserie chickens and Trader Joe’s tikka masala while watching others cook on TV and in movies. Continue Reading →