Man, this is a good contender for the color square too because boy howdy can Michael Pollan’s writing turn to purple prose at times. I love reading about food, much to my coworker’s confusion, and particularly books like this, that view cooking as a whole rather than a collection of recipes. I know that reading about food is like dancing about architecture, to borrow from Frank Zappa, but when Pollan waxes poetic at times I wanna roll my eyes.
It doesn’t help that Pollan can be a bit elitist. Homie seems like the kind of guy who’d ask for the house chablis at McDonalds, if he were ever forced at gunpoint to go there. I get that there is magic in backyard barbecue, truly taking the time to break down an animal to get it “right,” and so much of the food he describes makes me want to take a road trip to taste the bread Pollan obsesses over replicating, or to try the barbecue that Pollan cooks with pit masters.
But he loses me with the excursion to the supermarket for a “break” from cooking that ultimately takes as long as his braises. First off: I love to cook. Love it. But I’m well off enough that I can a) take risks and not be short food if I screw up a dish enough to render it inedible, b) have a house with a kitchen suitable for cooking, c) live in an area with no want of specialty ingredients and d) EVEN I EAT PREMADE FOOD SOMETIMES. You know why? Because it’s faster. Not necessarily in cook times, but in terms of mental labor, planning, realizing an ingredient is spoiled/missing, coordinating what everyone feels like or keeping it from being too similar to someone’s lunch – these intangibles mean that sometimes, yes, I will make box mac and cheese or throw some frozen eggplant parmesan in the oven. And while it may take as long to get to the table, more often than not I’m not babying it or thinking too hard while making it. But then again, I’m not trying to make a point about the state of cooking in the US, so I’m also not taking turns with the microwave (usually if I’m nuking something, it’s because I’m not hungry at the same time as everyone else is), or choosing the microwave if throwing it in the oven is faster/easier. The difficulty with home cooking is not laziness, it is the widening chasm between the classes, which Pollan at least acknowledges. But dude, maybe just keep punching up instead of down?