Posts tagged michael pollan

Chicks dig it

[Books: Chicks and Salsa & Breakfast, Lunch, Tea: The Many Little Meals of Rose Bakery]

Monday on NPR’s Fresh Air, Michael Pollan raised a scary point: the one-day possibility that cooking dinner may go the way of axing and plucking a chicken for dinner.


He was talking about how we’ve gone from a people who cook to one that watches cooking happen on television; how cooking has gone from active daily ritual to fascination, from survival skill to sporting entertainment on shows like the Food Network’s Iron Chef and Chopped. (Download and listen, or check out his New York Times Magazine cover story on the subject.)

What Pollan didn’t broach was whether or not there’s any possibility of chickens doing the actual cooking — a concept that’s been entertaining us around here recently. That’s the [wink] subversive element in Chicks and Salsa by Aaron Reynolds. Quinn found the book at the library, but I was the one who insisted we bring it home. This kid’s book follows a farm full of industrious animals who, bored with the usual farm feed (can you blame them?), ransack the garden for tomatoes and cilantro and scallions, then cook their way through a week or so of Southwestern standbys.

Except for an unsavory appearance by some mysteriously available nacho-cheese sauce, the book is a fiesta of fresh, homegrown produce and real acts of cooking. The salsa is roasted, the chiles chopped (recipes are even included in the back, encouraging readers to not just read about the dishes, but to actually produce them). And when those chiles run out, the rooster that started it all turns his cooking attention to French cuisine.

Anglo-French cuisine is the subject of Rose Carrarini’s Breakfast, Lunch, Tea: The Many Little Meals of Rose Bakery (in Paris’s 9th). This is one of those scrapbook-style cookbooks (the trend of which can probably be used as evidence that we’re in an era of “Just look, don’t cook” ). Still, it’s a book that’s gratifying to both settle down with and to cook from. Truthfully, the book is more recipe than open letter, more tip and technique than light bio.

The photos have a being-there quality (and, oh, how I want to be there!), from the snapshot of the aloof bread-supplier to the caught-on-camera flour-dusted pastry kitchen.

And maybe I am part of a dying minority of people who cook, but those visuals that entertain (the lump of scone dough on a counter, the geometric angles of a perfect vegetable tart), also serve to inspire. I may start on the couch, watching or reading or gawking, but I’ll finish in my own kitchen, and there will be flour dust everywhere. (But no bloody chickens.)

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You think you have it down. You keep the countertop fruit basket and refrigerator crispers stocked. You’ve indoctrinated your kids to (usually) munch carrots and cucumbers and have a fondness for frozen grapes. Sure, you (occasionally) toss not-ideal granola bars into the backseat after school the way Shamu’s trainers toss herring — but isn’t it ideal to avoid a low-blood-sugar-induced meltdown? Those bars are a foil-wrapped concession that you ventured deep into the supermarket to procure, but they are completely devoid of anything really, really bad.

You know, because you read the box.


And then you read Michael Pollan’s “In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto.” You realize just how insidious the food world you inhabit really is. Reading labels isn’t the noble practice you thought it was because it means you’re as much under the spell of the reductive science of nutrition as all the other suckers inhabiting the Western world. You’re smack in the palms of food producers: The more you read labels and boxes, looking for health claims and the absence of no-no ingredients, the more reason they have to process more label-heavy foodstuffs (“Now with omega-3s!”).

You’ve been played. Swindled. And you thought you were being good.

Then, as you contemplate the newfound knowledge that all that time you spent up on your high horse you pretty much just had your head in the clouds, your husband walks in the door carrying this:


Just as you’ve resolved to think twice before (occasionally) buying processed snacks that owe their existence to nutrition science, husband hauls in a bag of “robot food.” That is, scientifically engineered calories for athletes who must refuel on the fly (see, your husband’s a mountain biker who races several times a year and who happens to share office space with a company that plans bike races and triathalons and similar events).

You don’t neglect to note the irony that this supply entered your home in a trash bag.

You remain in your corner absorbing Pollan’s unscientific-but-logical brand of wisdom while your husband gears up for a ride by absorbing an ultra-scientific blend of crystalline fructose and super soy protein.

Is this what they call agreeing to disagree?

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