Thursday, June 13, 2013

From Chopping to Chewing

A Natural History of Transformation
By Michael Pollan

Michael Pollan would be appalled that I listened to his book while driving down the road and eating fast food. In my defense, I was in the middle of moving to a new house and had neither the time nor the energy to cook. Pollan, of course, would argue that cooking is something that we must make time for and find the energy to do. Because it's important. It's vital. It's...tasty.

I do not disagree with him, and he makes interesting points about the ways that we've outsourced our food preparation to the detriment of our own health. But the real joys of this book are in his descriptions of the cooking he participates in. He apprentices himself to several chefs, dedicating a part of the book to cooking with a different primordial element: fire (roasting), water (braising and boiling), air (baking), and earth (fermentation). If you don't come away from this book thinking about crackling pig skin or fresh baked sourdough bread or vegetables sizzling in a frying pan, then you are a stronger (and possibly less hungry) person than me.

If you're less interested in the cooking, and more interested in the digesting, then perhaps this next book will interest you.

Adventures on the Alimentary Canal
By Mary Roach

If you've never read a book by Mary Roach, I beseech you to do so. She takes books about popular science and makes them not only interesting, but hilarious. Be warned: one of her favorite things to do is to try to gross you out. And because this book starts in the mouth and ends at, well, the other end, there are plenty of opportunities for her to make an easy joke. I will admit the one she put in about the windbreaker jackets sporting the logo of Beano made me chuckle.

But in between the laughs and the groans you will learn something. She writes with an obvious passion about her subject and a thirst for knowledge. And you will be a hit at parties with all of the fun facts she gives.

Did you know that dish detergent includes many of the same enzymes that inhabit your digestive tract? The detergent digests your food off of the plates!

Did you know that you don’t actually salivate when you smell good food? Scientists say you just become aware of the spit already in your mouth! (Ewww...)

And Elvis fans may find interest in the section that delves into his enlarged colon.

It may be icky, but it's still a wild ride from the esophagus to the intestines.

To request either of these books click on the titles or covers above.

Review by Danny Hanbery

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