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Cooked: A Food Series to Take Seriously

Words by
November 08, 2016
Cooked, a four-part Netflix documentary series by Michael Pollan, certainly provoked some heated discussions when it aired this past February. Best-selling author and staple participant in the American food conversation, Pollan is famous for encouraging eating in a way he believes is the healthiest for our bodies and the environment. His ideas? “If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don’t. Don’t eat anything your great‐grandmother wouldn’t recognise as food. Eat mostly plants, especially leaves.” His books, talks and articles all stem from his historical interest in food but have since melded into a sort of promotion of a food philosophy that some call patronizing and guilt-inducing and the New York Times has dubbed food shaming. What do we think?
Well, there’s no doubt Cooked offers an appealing approach, both visually and content-wise, since critics and viewers wouldn’t be talking about it otherwise. Inspired by Pollan’s 2013 book of the same name, the series is broken into four different episodes that discuss food preparation according to the elements: fire (cooking with heat), water (boiling and braising), air (baking, especially bread) and earth (fermentation). Covering an ambitious amount of material in very little time, each episode is packed with part history, part anthropology, a side of science and always some modern cooking techniques. For some so-called foodies, the content might seem like old news, but we found that the interesting information (who knew over one-third of the food we eat is in some way fermented?) and engaging conversations with food characters all over the world kept us curious until the end.
photo © Netflix/Cooked
The series spans the globe and the cinematography gives us a serious case of wanderlust. From bread baking in Morocco to fire hunting with aboriginals in Western Australian, and a trip to the American South for time-honored barbeque traditions, our mouths are watering by the end of each segment. But the problem is just that. Will this informative and visually appealing series actually get viewers off the couch and into the kitchen? In reference to the cooking and celebrity-chef food shows of today, Pollan says in an interview with Edible, “Television is not fundamentally interested in you leaving the couch. Television wants you to watch more television.” We are all about Pollan’s bottom line (Create! Cook! Get in the kitchen! Know your food!) and here's to hoping that with Cooked, his good intentions inspire valuable action in a world where it seems people are making more time for watching food shows than making food.

Country: USA
Language: English
Release Date: 19 February 2016 (USA)
Production Co: Jigsaw Productions, Netflix