Those who know me know I have a strong interest in cooking shows.
I am a huge fan of Iron Chef and Alton Brown’s Good Eats
(so much so that I actually own all three volumes of the Good Eats cookbooks!).
Although I haven’t watched much in the way of cooking shows in recent years due
to not having a permanent cable subscription, my zest for this content is as
strong as ever.
That’s why I was so excited to watch all four parts of the new Netflix series
Cooked, based on the book by Michael Pollan. The strong emphasis on emotions,
flavor, quality ingredients, and food science hits all the highlights for me.
(And unlike the series Chef’s Table, also on Netflix, Cooked doesn’t lose sight
of the food when studying the quirks of individual cooks.)
Cooked consists of four mini-documentaries, each discussing a different type
of “cooking”: braising/grilling, cooking, baking (specifically of bread),
and fermenting/pickling/aging. Although each episode has a different feel,
and often centers itself in different locales, they all tend to follow a similar
- Introducing a novel perspective on a specific type of cooking
- Introduce cooking some dishes that way, exploring what really goes into that
- Discuss the history of the cooking method
- Segue into a discussion about the food science of that type of cooking, and
some nuances of that science (I especially loved every second featuring
- Spend some time discussing how degenerate the American diet is with respect
to this cooking method, and how we should all hearken back to 1950’s American
- Philosophize about how we’re okay even if we don’t hearken back to 1950’s
American culinary traditions, as long as we eat healthier and cook our own
I’m a bit ambivalent about this systematic approach to the documentary
Although the approach was novel and refreshing for the first two
episodes, by the third episode, I was already anticipating what each act would
hold. I also grew weary of the token-mandatory-philosophizing which apparently
needs to conclude every episode of every modern pop-documentary.
(Maybe I don’t like being philosophized to?) However, I still found each episode
and the overall approach compelling enough to be able to take each episode on its
own strengths. I definitely think that this series being only four episodes,
and having a well-defined scope, contributed significantly to the watchability
of the series.
Overall, I would recommend this series to other cooking show enthusiasts.
Although I don’t believe it would interest anyone not at least interested in food,
or convert to traditional cooking anyone not already so interested,
it definitely holds power and pleasure for those of us who are.