Michael Pollan Explains How Cooking Can Change Your Life; Recommends Cooking Books, Videos & Recipes

Last year, we fea­tured “How Cook­ing Can Change Your Life,” an ani­mat­ed short based on the work of In Defense of FoodThe Omni­vore’s Dilem­ma, and Food Rules author Michael Pol­lan. If you want more — and the culi­nar­i­ly inclined fans of Pol­lan, a self-described “lib­er­al food­ie intel­lec­tu­al,” often can’t get enough — have a look at his extend­ed pre­sen­ta­tion on the same sub­ject above. (If you pre­fer an audio pod­cast, you can get an MP3 with audi­ence Q&A and all here.) The talk came as part of an event held at the Roy­al Soci­ety for the Encour­age­ment of Arts, Man­u­fac­tures and Com­merce (RSA), which con­fronts the daunt­ing ques­tion of how peo­ple can “improve their family’s health and well-being, build com­mu­ni­ties, help fix our bro­ken food sys­tem, and break our grow­ing depen­dence on cor­po­ra­tions.” Pol­lan’s rec­om­men­da­tion, it may or may not sur­prise you to hear, comes down to one sim­ple act: cook­ing.

Of course, any­one who decides to jump into cook­ing in the 21st cen­tu­ry real­izes how sim­ple it isn’t, or at least how com­pli­cat­ed we’ve made it. Pol­lan, as luck would have it, real­izes this, so today we’ve round­ed up some of his resources that can help you learn to cook bet­ter, or indeed cook at all. Sur­pris­ing­ly, the man him­self has nev­er writ­ten a cook­book. “While I enjoy cook­ing, I’ll leave the art of per­fect­ing and dis­sem­i­nat­ing recipes to the pros,” he writes. “That said, I believe that if you can read, you can cook, and I have a few cook­books that I use reg­u­lar­ly and rec­om­mend to those of you want­i­ng good, healthy and basic recipes” — from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Every­thing and How to Cook Every­thing Veg­e­tar­i­an to Chez Panisse chef Alice Waters’ The Art of Sim­ple Food, and even (“when I have an ingre­di­ent I want to use but don’t know what to do with it”) epicurious.com.

You can find more Pol­lan-endorsed food read­ing, includ­ing San­dor Katz’s The Art of Fer­men­ta­tion and Michael Moss’ Salt Sug­ar Fat, on his lists at Omnivo­ra­cious and Barnes and Noble. He also offers a roundup of online cook­ing resources:

Pol­lan’s sec­tion on cook­ing class­es and oth­er ways to learn to cook, aside from a vari­ety of sug­ges­tions of region­al insti­tu­tions, includes these use­ful options:

  • A “free, beau­ti­ful book full of recipes that fit a food stamp bud­get” called Good and Cheap.
  • Skill­Share, whose “inno­v­a­tive plat­form allows almost any­one, any­where to teach a project-based class either online to a glob­al com­mu­ni­ty or offline in their local com­mu­ni­ty. You can search for cook­ing, brew­ing or bread bak­ing class­es in your region.”
  • Life­Hack­er and its “cook­ing advice, recipes and how to’s.”

And if you missed it, don’t for­get to take Pol­lan’s own course “Edi­ble Edu­ca­tion,” free from UC Berke­ley. I like to think he’d sec­ond my own advice on the mat­ter: just cook some­thing that sounds good, any­thing that sounds good, right now. Not that I dare inflict the result on friends and fam­i­ly until I’ve learned a lit­tle more — which is when all those links above come in handy.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

How Cook­ing Can Change Your Life: A Short Ani­mat­ed Film Fea­tur­ing the Wis­dom of Michael Pol­lan

Michael Pollan’s Book, Food Rules, Brought to Life with Ani­ma­tion

Michael Pol­lan on Sus­tain­able Food

MIT Teach­es You How to Speak Ital­ian & Cook Ital­ian Cui­sine All at Once (Free Online Course)

Sci­ence & Cook­ing: Har­vard Profs Meet World-Class Chefs in Unique Online Course

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on cities, lan­guage, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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