Showing posts with label michael pollan. Show all posts
Showing posts with label michael pollan. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Well-Read Redhead's Best Books of 2013!

It's that time of year, y'all!  All those Best Books lists are being released, and I am never one to be left out of the fun and games.  So without further ado...

The Well-Read Redhead's Best Books of 2013!

As happened last year, I had an immensely difficult time compiling this list.  It took me ages to narrow it down to just 10 books that I've read in the last year.  But I managed, and here they are (in no particular order, and with links to my original reviews):

1. How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn
I went into this novel with hesitation, because I hadn't done a heavy classic in a while.  I was more than pleasantly surprised.  An amazing coming-of-age tale that is going to stick with me for a long, long time.

2. Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelsson
I am admittedly biased because I love food memoirs, and I love the Food Network stars...so this was a match made in heaven for me from the start.  Either way, it deserves a spot on this list, if only because Samuelsson's journey is so unique and inspiring.

3. The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult
As an avid Picoult fan, I had high expectations for this one, and was not disappointed in the least.  I've read a lot of Holocaust-based historical fiction...this is one of the better ones I can remember coming across.

4. White Dog Fell From The Sky by Eleanor Morse
Beautiful, picturesque, gorgeous, awesome-sauce writing is the #1 reason why this made it on the list.  The captivating story is a bonus.

5. Sea Creatures by Susanna Daniel
If there was a book that should be on everyone's list for great character development, this is it.  Beautiful prose, and makes me feel like one of my 2014 resolutions should be to read more of Daniel's stuff.

6. Everybody Has Everything by Katrina Onstad
This book tugged at my mommy heartstrings.  HARD.

7. Cooked by Michael Pollan
I continue to be wow'ed by the depth of Pollan's food-based research, combined with his entertaining commentary along the way.  He makes me feel smarter...and hungrier.

8. We Are Water by Wally Lamb
Another epic family drama from Lamb.  He has yet to disappoint me.

9. Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
The unsettling tone of this novel is still creeping me out.  The ending was awesome.  I am not quite as in awe of this one as I was of Gone Girl, but ohsoclose.

10. Expecting Better by Emily Oster
This book should be required reading for every pregnant or soon-to-be-pregnant woman out there.  How I wish I had this to counterbalance all the crazy pregnancy books I read when I was knocked up with Small Fry!  At least Tater Tot is reaping the benefits now.

That's the list for this year, readers!  And now you've got 14 more days to buy them for your friends and family before Christmas.  You can thank me later.

What made YOUR best-read list for 2013?

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Wondrous Words Wednesday (37)


Welcome back, wordy friends!

Wondrous Words Wednesday is hosted by BermudaOnion each week. It's an opportunity to share new words you've encountered in your reading, or highlight words that you particularly enjoy.

Here are three of my favorite new-to-me words from Cooked by Michael Pollan.  
All definitions from Dictionary.com.

1. fungible. "Exquisitely reactive and fungible, bacteria can swap genes and pieces of DNA among themselves, picking them up and dropping them almost as if they were tools."   

adjective
(especially of goods) being of such nature or kind as to be freely exchangeable or replaceable, in whole or in part, for another of like nature or kind.

Totally new word to me, but the definition makes perfect sense in this context.

2. exegesis. "On the home page I clicked on 'Attraction & Repulsion' and found this soaring, overripe, and ungrammatical flight of cheesy exegesis..."

noun
critical explanation or interpretation of a text or portion of a text, especially of the Bible.

Here, Pollan is talking about an odd diatribe that he found on a cheese maker's Facebook page.  I'm guessing he's referring to the tone of the diatribe,as the excerpt itself was not very Biblical!

3. redound. "And this tally doesn't include the alcohol fermented for fuel and other industrial purposes...or, for that matter, all the chance spontaneous fermentations that S. cerevisiae performs on fallen or split fruit, wet seeds, and tree sap, ferments that redound mainly to the benefit of animals."
verb
1. to have a good or bad effect or result, as to the advantage or disadvantage of a person or thing.
2. to result or accrue, as to a person.
3. to come back or reflect upon a person as to honor or disgrace (usually followed by on or upon).

Totally confused this one with "rebound" at first.  A much more complicated definition than I expected.

What are your new words this week?

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Wondrous Words Wednesday (36)


Welcome back, wordy friends!

Wondrous Words Wednesday is hosted by BermudaOnion each week. It's an opportunity to share new words you've encountered in your reading, or highlight words that you particularly enjoy.

Here are three of my favorite new-to-me words from Cooked by Michael Pollan.  
All definitions from Dictionary.com.

1. synecdoche. "In our modern, all-electric 1960s kitchen, that pot with its centripetal energies was the closest thing we had to a hearth, a warm and fragrant synecdoche for domestic well-being."   

noun
a figure of speech in which a part is used for the whole or the whole for a part, the special for the general or the general for the special, as in ten sail for ten ships or a Croesus for a rich man.

This definition made my head spin at first, and though I understand it, I still don't entirely understand its place in the context of the book.  I feel like "metaphor" would be easier for me to understand there...but maybe I just don't appreciate the word enough. :)

2. turbid. "The pot dish, lidded and turbid, has none of the Apollonian clairty of a recognizable animal on a spit..."

adjective
1. not clear or transparent because of stirred-up sediment or the like; clouded; opaque; obscured: the turbid waters near the waterfall.
2. thick or dense, as smoke or clouds.
3. confused; muddled; disturbed.

I've definitely heard this word before, but was unclear on the definition.

3. gnomic. "The first time I asked Samin how long some dish we were cooking should cook, she offered this slightly gnomic answer: 'Until the meat relaxes.'"
adjective
of, pertaining to, or resembling a gnome.

I pretty much guessed the definition of this one, but I didn't know if it was as simple as that!  I guess he was trying to say she was being "cute".

What are your new words this week?

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Total Chaos: June 2013 in Review

First of all, HAPPY 4TH OF JULY to all my fellow Americans!  Exert your freedoms and do lots of lazy reading today!  (While eating too many hot dogs, of course.)
Mmmm,  bacon.
Well, as you can tell from all the excitement around here lately, June was totes chaos for the Well-Read Redhead and family.  June 3 my husband accepted his job offer, and since then we have put our house on the market, had our house flood, sold the house anyway, passed the home inspection, bought a new house, gone on vacation, put in my notice at work (last day August 1), continued to keep growing this baby in my stomach, and...I don't even know what else.  I'm sure there's something else.  I can't even keep track anymore.
The Best Big Bro on vacation last month
And yet, somehow I managed to read!  Reading is a very normal part of my everyday life, but in this particular case, I'm doing some back-patting to celebrate my efforts for the month.

The June 2013 Fave/Least Fave honors were hard to choose this month, but they go to:

June 2013 Favorite: Cooked by Michael Pollan
June 2013 Least Favorite: Please Look After Mom by Kyung-Sook Shin

In total, I read/reviewed 5 books:
The Round House by Louise Erdrich
Cooked by Michael Pollan
Big Brother by Lionel Shriver
Please Look After Mom by Kyung-Sook Shin
Everybody Has Everything by Katrina Onstad

I also posted one new Small Fry Saturday Review of The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown.

In addition, we chatted about how much I sucked at Armchair BEA, you all got to enjoy The Well-Read Vacay (with awesome guest posts!: Shannon, Cari, Katie, and Jennifer), I actually finished two reading challenges, and I shared two important items of personal news (one and two).

I have another busy month ahead, as I finish up at work and we pack up all our belongings to get ready for our current house to close on August 8.  Then we have to move into a temporary rental until mid-September, when our new house closes.  Eek!!  Not to mention that Small Fry's 2nd birthday is this weekend, and on the 25th we find out if baby #2 is a boy or a girl.  If I can finish at least 5 books again this month, I get more back-pats for my efforts.  I demand it.

Have a great month, readers!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Wondrous Words Wednesday (35)


Welcome back, wordy friends!

Wondrous Words Wednesday is hosted by BermudaOnion each week. It's an opportunity to share new words you've encountered in your reading, or highlight words that you particularly enjoy.

Here are three of my favorite new-to-me words from Cooked by Michael Pollan.  
All definitions from Dictionary.com.

1. alimentary. "But as Wrangham points out, the alimentary and digestive apparatus of Homo erectus is poorly adapted to a diet of raw meat..."   

adjective
1. concerned with the function of nutrition; nutritive.
2. pertaining to food.
3. providing sustenance or maintenance.

This one sounded familiar, but I definitely did not know the definition beforehand.

2. elides. "...this definition diplomatically elides the whole vexed issue of sauce; it also hints at the sacramental quality of barbecue."

verb
1. to omit (a vowel, consonant, or syllable) from pronunciation.
2. to suppress; omit; ignore; pass over.
3. (in law) to annul or quash.

I originally thought this was a typo of "elude".  The definitions are somewhat in the same ballpark--one is intentional, the other is not.

3. protean. "Fire, it seems, is protean; smoke, too."
adjective
1. readily assuming different forms or characters; extremely variable.
2. changeable in shape or form, as an amoeba.
3. (of an actor/actress) versatile; able to play many kinds of roles.

This is another one I thought I knew, but didn't.  Here, Pollan is talking about the two very different fire-based cooking methods of two chefs.

What are your new words this week?

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Wondrous Words Wednesday (34)


Welcome back, wordy friends!

Wondrous Words Wednesday is hosted by BermudaOnion each week. It's an opportunity to share new words you've encountered in your reading, or highlight words that you particularly enjoy.

Here are three of my favorite new-to-me words from Cooked by Michael Pollan.  
All definitions from Dictionary.com.

1. quotidian. "As soon as you start down this path of thinking, the quotidian space of the kitchen appears in a startling new light."   

adjective
1. daily: a quotidian report.
2. usual or customary; everyday: quotidian needs.
3. ordinary; commonplace: paintings of no more than quotidian artistry.
4. (of a fever, ague, etc) characterized by paroxysms that occur daily.
noun
5. something occurring daily.
6. a quotidian fever or ague.

I like this one.  Such a fancy-sounding word for something so...everyday.

2. declension. "They disdain charcoal as a modern-day declension and sauce as 'a cover-up for bad cooking.'"

noun
1. an act or instance of declining.
2. a bending, sloping, or moving downward: land with a gentle declension toward the sea.
3. deterioration; decline.
4. deviation, as from a standard.

I figured the meaning of this one pretty well from its context, but I don't know if I've ever actually seen it in print before.

3. habilines. "Compared to the apelike habilines from which it evolved, Homo erectus had a smaller jaw, smaller teeth, a smaller gut--and a considerably larger brain."
noun
I couldn't find this one at dictionary.com.  An internet search showed that this is a term used for the members of the species Homo habilis, which is thought to be the earliest species (now extinct) in the human genus Homo.  Basically, early humans.

What are your new words this week?

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Book Review: Cooked by Michael Pollan


Title: Cooked
Author: Michael Pollan
Publisher: Penguin
Publication Date: April 23, 2013
Source: borrowed from the good ol' public library

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

In Cooked, Michael Pollan explores the previously uncharted territory of his own kitchen. Here, he discovers the enduring power of the four classical elements—fire, water, air, and earth—to transform the stuff of nature into delicious things to eat and drink. Apprenticing himself to a succession of culinary masters, Pollan learns how to grill with fire, cook with liquid, bake bread, and ferment everything from cheese to beer.

Each section of Cooked tracks Pollan’s effort to master a single classic recipe using one of the four elements. A North Carolina barbecue pit master tutors him in the primal magic of fire; a Chez Panisse trained cook schools him in the art of braising; a celebrated baker teaches him how air transforms grain and water into a fragrant loaf of bread; and finally, several mad-genius "fermentos” (a tribe that includes brewers, cheese makers, and all kinds of picklers) reveal how fungi and bacteria can perform the most amazing alchemies of all. The reader learns alongside Pollan, but the lessons move beyond the practical to become an investigation of how cooking involves us in a web of social and ecological relationships. Cooking, above all, connects us.

The effects of not cooking are similarly far reaching. Relying upon corporations to process our food means we consume large quantities of fat, sugar, and salt; disrupt an essential link to the natural world; and weaken our relationships with family and friends. In fact, Cooked argues, taking back control of cooking may be the single most important step anyone can take to help make the American food system healthier and more sustainable. Reclaiming cooking as an act of enjoyment and self-reliance, learning to perform the magic of these everyday transformations, opens the door to a more nourishing life.


My Review:

You've all heard me wax poetic about Michael Pollan in the past.  I find his nonfiction works about food to be endlessly fascinating.  If you've never read any of his stuff, probably his two most well-known books (other than this one) are The Omnivore's Dilemma, and In Defense of Food.  The Omnivore's Dilemma takes a close look at where our modern-day food comes from: everything from our organic (or is it?) produce, to the Cheetos in Aisle 5.  It's eye-opening (and somewhat disturbing) for sure.  On the flip side, In Defense of Food is about how we decide what to eat.  What does the American diet consist of, and is it really good for us?

I highly recommend reading those two books before jumping into Cooked.  Cooked is a great follow-up because as Pollan states in the intro, it bridges the gap between those other two subjects: he already wrote about where food comes from, and what we choose to eat, but what about the way that food gets to the table?  How do we prepare it...and why?  That's what Cooked attempts to examine.

The book is divided into 4 chapters: Fire (grilling/barbecue), Water (braising/pot meals), Air (bread making), and Earth (fermentation, such as pickling and beer brewing).  Pollan argues that lot of our meals these days are ready-made by corporations: frozen dinners, boxed cereals, instant mashed potatoes, etc.  What people define as "cooking" these days is iffy at best...and I'll admit it, I say that I "cooked" dinner on a night when I boiled up a pot of pasta and threw a glop of Ragu on top.  Is that really cooking though?  Wouldn't cooking be a more apt description if I made the noodles, or crushed up the tomatoes for the sauce?  Pollan attempts to get back to the basics with these four methods of cooking--methods that a lot of us have outsourced to the food service industry in the last 50-ish years.

I was enthralled by every chapter, but unexpectedly, the one that got most of my attention was the last  (Earth, or fermentation).  I honestly thought this one would drag a little bit for me.  I'm not particularly interested in pickling, and I'm familiar with brewing already because my husband has done it, so I figured I wouldn't glean much from that section.  However, Pollan includes a deep discussion about how "fermentos" (a subculture of fermenters that believe in using natural (ie not sanitized) fermentation processes to make things like sauerkraut, pickles, cheese, etc) are adamant about the health benefits of their products.  In the world of antibacterial hand soap and throwing out any cheese with the smallest dot of blue fuzz on it, many of us have lost the "good" bacteria in our GI tracts that we need in order to digest things well and ward off infections.  He makes some really great, well-researched points, and I found myself reading half the chapter aloud to my husband ("listen to THIS part, OMG you will thank me later for enlightening you!").

The book as a whole will make you feel smarter, while also providing some entertainment.  Pollan found a person (or several people) in each chapter to help him try his hand at their cooking techniques, often with unexpected results.  (And often with delicious results...prepare to feel voracious after reading.)  His personal experiences, paired with the historical and scientific information he has gathered, makes for an excellent read.

Have I hooked you yet?  Cooked is an awesome nonfiction pick for anyone interested in the food they prepare.  At the very least, it will inspire you to look at your oven in a whole new way.  You do have to be prepared for some history lessons, as well as some food science, but they're mixed so seamlessly into the rest of the narrative that I doubt you'll be bothered.

Now then...off to perfect my braising technique.

Have you read any of Pollan's books?  What did you think?

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Top Ten Words/Topics That Make Me Think INSTA-READ!

I haven't participated in Top Ten Tuesday over at The Broke and The Bookish in quite a while, but I like this week's topic:

Top Ten Words/Topics That Instantly Make You Buy/Pick Up A Book
Any books that fall into these categories are pretty much insta-reads (or at least insta-going-on-the-TBR) for me.  As I made the list, I realized that a lot of it, for me, has to do with wanting to read about things that are relevant specifically to my life.  Does this make me a selfish reader?  If so, I am not ashamed.

1. "The _______'s Wife/Daughter"
Example: The Pilot's Wife by Anita Shreve  
I adore most books with this title structure.  Why?  Perhaps because I am a wife...and a daughter?  Plus, titles like these almost always equate to women's fiction, which I love.

2. Marital Strife
Example: Love The One You're With by Emily Giffin
Okay, this is NOT something I aspire to, but my interest is always piqued by a book with marital strife as a major plot mover.  I like to think it's because my marriage is so blissfully wonderful that I have to look elsewhere to read about such things.  :-)

3. Babies/Pregnancy
Example: A Bump In The Road by Maureen Lipinski
Again, this is completely selfish in nature, but as a mom I love to read about mom-related and baby-related books.  Most of them are written either from a very humorous perspective (I love to laugh at my own mom mistakes, why not others' as well?) or an introspective one (moms muddling through child-rearing and trying to figure it all out).  I enjoy either side.

4. Travel + Humor = Win
Example: Notes From A Small Island by Bill Bryson
I'm a lover of travel.  And travel can be hilarious sometimes.  Miscommunicating in countries where you don't know the language, not knowing local customs, missing connections--these all have the potential to be funny (in hindsight, at least).  A travel memoir that embraces this is a winner.

5. Food-Related Nonfiction
Example: In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan
I've already waxed poetic about food memoirs, but my love extends to all things food-related.  I am a horrible chef, but my stepfather was trained at the Culinary Institute of America, so I harbor a fascination for this area of reading.

6. "Psychological Thriller"
This term is pretty broad, but I think the spirit of Gone Girl captures it fairly well.  The more twisted and unexpected, the better.

7. Zombies
Example: World War Z by Max Brooks
This has absolutely no relation to anything in my life.  I just have a really sick fixation on the zombie apocalypse.  I have an escape and survival plan in place, it involves baseball bats and an Ergo carrier.

8. Female 20-Somethings In Their Post-College Years
I am slowly (gracefully?) exiting the 20-something age group, so perhaps this preference will soon change.  But I always find books in this category to be relatable to some area of my life...either in career building, wedding planning, friend-keeping, etc.

9. Collegiate Setting
What can I say?  I adored all 4 years of my college experience, and now I work at a college.  College settings are very, very familiar to me.

10. Set In/Near My Hometown
Example: I Know This Much Is True by Wally Lamb
I should basically just say "Wally Lamb novels" because no one else sets their books in southeastern Connecticut.  But if they did, I would totally read them!  No matter what the genre!  SECT in the house, boiiiiiiii.

What do you think, readers?  Do you share any of my preferences?  What are your insta-read topics?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Top 10 Most Anticipated Books of 2013

Top 10 Tuesday is hosted each week by The Broke and the Bookish.  I haven't participated in it for a while, but I'm pretty excited about this week's topic of
Most Anticipated Books of 2013

There's a lot of good stuff on the horizon next year!  Here's what I'm most looking forward to:

1. Doctor Sleep by Stephen King
I am SO STOKED to re-read The Shining in anticipation of this sequel!

2. The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult

One of my favorite authors, I look forward to her new releases every Feb/March.

3. Family Pictures by Jane Green

JG does great women's fiction, and this one sounds excellent.

4. Joyland by Stephen King

Another King release!  I am unapologetic in my adoration.

5. Level 2 by Lenore Appelhans


Lenore is a fellow (though much more seasoned) book blogger, and her first release comes out in January!  Plus, I won a signed copy of the UK edition from her blog, which I cannot WAIT to read and review for you all very soon.

6. And The Mountains Echo by Khaled Hosseini
The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns were captivating...I can't wait to see what Hosseini has in store next.

7. Untitled by Veronica Roth
I know, this one is on EVERYONE'S list...but of course I want to know how the Divergent trilogy ends!!

8. When She Was Gone by Gwendolen Gross

This book, about a 17-yr-old's disappearance just before she leaves for college, sounds exactly like the type of modern drama I'd be into.

9. Cooked by Michael Pollan

If you haven't read Pollan's first two books (The Omnivore's Dilemma, and In Defense of Food), do that now.  Then come back here and be excited about his new release with me.

10. The Accursed by Joyce Carol Oates

I've read only a fracton of Oates's long library of books, but I've enjoyed every one that I've picked up.  Her new one, set in Princeton, sounds haunting.
What are you looking forward to in 2013?

 
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