Cooked: Michael Pollan's new Netflix series explores the history of cooking

'Cooked' investigates how the four natural elements—fire, water, air, and earth—transform raw ingredients into food. All four episodes are now available on Netflix.

Virginia Mayo/AP
American author Michael Pollan gestures while speaking during a working session at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland in 2008.

Michael Pollan has written four New York Times bestsellers: Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual(2010); In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto (2008); The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals (2006); and The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the World(2001). His most recent book, Cookedexplores how cooking “involves us in a web of social and ecological relationships: with plants and animals, the soil, farmers, our history and culture, and, of course, the people our cooking nourishes and delights.” And now, Pollan has teamed up with American documentary film producer and director Alex Gibney to create a four-part Netflix series that debuted this month, called "Cooked." Check out the trailer here.

“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,” says Pollan.  

"Cooked" investigates how the four natural elements—fire, water, air, and earth—transform raw ingredients into food. It gives the viewer an “enlightening and compelling look at the evolution of what food means to us through the history of food preparation and its universal ability to connect us,” says Pollan on his website.

Each of the four episodes in the series focuses on one of the natural elements: "Fire" (barbecue); "Water" (braising); "Air" (bread making); and "Earth" (fermentation). In “Fire,” Pollan learns from Australian Aboriginal hunters and a barbecue pit master. In “Water,” he looks to the kitchens of India to learn the value of pot cooking, exploring the consequences of highly processed foods in the diet. The third episode, “Air,” takes the viewer to Moroccan fields and food labs to learn about bread making. In the last episode, “Earth,” Pollan investigates how microbes help create delicacies like chocolate and cheese. All four episodes are now available to view on Netflix.

Stephanie Van Dyke works in sustainable agriculture and local food policy in Minneapolis, MN. Stephanie completed her undergraduate degree at St. Olaf College, where she received a BA in Economics and Psychology and gained a particular interest in social entrepreneurship and increasing healthy food access. Her lifelong interests in wellness and gardening inspire her career focus on protecting the environment and improving the food system.

This article first appeared in Food Tank. 

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