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Michael Pollan wants you to cook

Michael Pollan.

Image of Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation
Author: Michael Pollan
Publisher: Penguin Press HC, The (2013)
Binding: Hardcover, 480 pages

In Michael Pollan's latest book, "Cooked," he's hoping he can convince readers to slow down and cook dinner tonight -- instead of microwaving a pre-made meal.

"I really think that we've been sold a bill of goods with the argument that [cooking] is drudgery and we lack the time and we lack the skills," he says. "It's one of the most democratic of pleasures available to all of us."

As cooking shows become more popular, we're paradoxically seeing a decrease in home cooking.

Since 1977, it's fallen by half. Pollan says that has "disastrous effects, both for our agriculture and for our health" and that shift has in part been a result of marketing efforts that have been "designed to get us out of the kitchen" in favor of pre-prepared meals that bring in more dollars for food companies.

"All the money in the food industry is in processing," he says. "It's very hard to make money selling simple ingredients."

There are other economic reasons fewer people are cooking: In an age when time is money, cooking takes a lot of time. Pollan says it's not so much about time as it is about putting value on a home cooked meal.

"We find time for the things we value."

He points to the two hours a day we spend outside of working surfing the web.

"We don't value cooking," he says. "We've fallen into this mode where we let the corporations do the cooking for us. The problem is, they don't do it very well."

Though prepared foods can be cheap and fast, the process to make them involves cheap materials and a ton of additives.

"This is a great case where the efficiency of capitalism is actually undermining the health of people."


AUDIO EXTRA: Michael Pollan on how the popularity of cooking shows doesn’t necessarily mean we’re cooking more, what he calls the "cooking paradox."

Are you cooking more or less? Comment below or tweet us @MarketplaceAPM.

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, public radio’s program on business and the economy.
Image of Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation
Author: Michael Pollan
Publisher: Penguin Press HC, The (2013)
Binding: Hardcover, 480 pages

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