Bookshelf: June 21, 2013

Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation

By Michael Pollan (June 21, 2013) - "In Cooked, Michael Pollan explores the previously uncharted territory of his own kitchen. Here, he discovers the enduring power of the four classical elements--fire, water, air, and earth-to transform the stuff of nature into delicious things to eat and drink. Apprenticing himself to a succession of culinary masters, Pollan learns how to grill with fire, cook with liquid, bake bread, and ferment everything from cheese to beer. In the course of his journey, he discovers that the cook occupies a special place in the world, standing squarely between nature and culture. Both realms are transformed by cooking, and so, in the process, is the cook. Each section of Cooked tracks Pollan's effort to master a single classic recipe using one of the four elements. A North Carolina barbecue pit master tutors him in the primal magic of fire; a Chez Panisse-trained cook schools him in the art of braising; a celebrated baker teaches him how air transforms grain and water into a fragrant loaf of bread; and finally, several mad-genius "fermentos" (a tribe that includes brewers, cheese makers, and all kinds of picklers) reveal how fungi and bacteria can perform the most amazing alchemies of all. The reader learns alongside Pollan, but the lessons move beyond the practical to become an investigation of 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. Cooking, above all, connects us. The effects of not cooking are similarly far reaching. Relying upon corporations to process our food means we consume large quantities of fat, sugar, and salt; disrupt an essential link to the natural world; and weaken our relationships with family and friends. In fact, Cooked argues, taking back control of cooking may be the single most important step anyone can take to help make the American food system healthier and more sustainable. Reclaiming cooking as an act of enjoyment and self-reliance, learning to perform the magic of these everyday transformations, opens the door to a more nourishing life." (Penguin Press)


But Mama Always Put Vodka in Her Sangria!

By Julia Reed (June 21, 2013) - "In her new book, But Mama Always Put Vodka in Her Sangria!, Julia Reed, a master of the art of eating, drinking, and making merry, takes the reader on culinary adventures in places as far flung as Kabul, Afghanistan and as close to home as her native Mississippi Delta and Florida's Gulf Coast. Along the way, Reed discovers the perfect Pimm's Royale at the Paris Ritz, devours deliciouschuletons in Madrid, and picks up tips from accomplished hostesses ranging from Pat Buckley to Pearl Bailey and, of course, her own mother. Reed writes about the bounty--and the burden--of a Southern garden in high summer, tosses salads in the English countryside, and shares C.Z. Guest's recipe for an especially zingy bullshot. She understands the necessity of a potent holiday punch and serves it up by the silver bowl full, but she is not immune to the slightly less refined charms of a blender full of frozen peach daiquiris or a garbage can full of Yucca Flats. And then there are the parties: shindigs ranging from sultry summer suppers and raucous dinners at home to a Plymouth-like Thanksgiving feast and an upscale St. Patrick's Day celebration. This delightful collection of essays by Julia Reed, a master storyteller with an inimitable voice and a limitless capacity for fun, will show you how to entertain guests with style, have a good time yourself and always have that perfect pitcher of sangria ready at a moment's notice. (Macmillian)


'Wadjda'

A film by Haifaa Al Mansour (June 21, 2013) - "Every day Wadjda passes a toy store window showing a beautiful green bicycle. Although tit is forbidden for girls to ride bicycles, Wadjda concocts a plan to earn enough money to afford the bike by secretly selling "illicit products" in her schoolyard. But her plans are soon exposed, leaving her with only one last chance to make the money she needs; a Koran recital competition with a big cash prize. With her slyness and cunning mind, Wadjda tries to find a way to rise about her fellow competitors to make her most cherished dream come true...the green bicycle. The first film ever shot entirely in Saudi Arabia, WADJDA is the story of a girl determined to fight for her dreams." (Razor Films)