Thursday, August 29, 2013

Weekly Book Post: Flight Behavior and Cooked


Both Barbara Kingsolver and Michael Pollan are on my short list of favorite authors.  In fact, if I was going to have a fantasy dinner party, these two would be some of the guests.  (Who else?  Wendell Berry, Wangari Maathai, Desmond Tutu).  So taking these books on family vacation with me was an obvious choice.

Flight Behavior is Kingsolver's latest novel.  I was first introduced to Kingsolver with The Poisonwood Bible, and I still consider that her greatest work.  This latest book is not as good, but it's still a lovely and well-written book.  Set in the mountain country of Tennessee, this is a tale of global climate-change, told from the point of view of a compelling main-character who combines natural curiosity and intelligence with stifling poverty and lack-of-education.  Many parts of the novel seem to have been written as a thought experiment - a way to create a conversation between the rural "reds" and the urban educated "blues" of our increasingly polarized society - but even if the conversations seem contrived they are still really good.  So the work feels a bit like the story took back seat to the political agenda, but I still enjoyed it.

Cooked is Pollan's latest book about food.  Here, he delves deeply and romantically/sentimentally into four types of cooking: cooking meat on a fire, cooking slowly in water, baking bread, and fermenting things.  Along the way, he coaxes, exhorts, begs, cajoles, and generally just tries to convince us all that we should be doing more cooking from scratch and rely less on industrial-processed foods/food-like-substances.  Although I agree with his point, and I found many parts of the book excellent, I also found myself laughing at some of his hyperbole (particularly in the section about BBQ, which he compares to ancient animal sacrifice to the gods and goes on a very poetic bent about man's control of fire).  But really, some giggles and quibbles aside, Pollan has once again delivered an important piece of the argument about how we should eat, and what is wrong with our modern consumer society.  And the arguments that this book is anti-woman are ridiculous to me - he goes out of his way to point out that preparing food for us is a human task, not a woman's task, and that the industrial system dismantled home cooking, not the woman's movement.  But I have my issues with the whole domesticity/feminism dichotomy, anyway.

I'd recommend both books, while not claiming them to be the best works of either author.  But when you this awesome, even your lesser works are worthy of our time to read. :)

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