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Photo courtesy of Fran Collin

When it comes to diets, we’ve tried them all. But according to Michael Pollan--best-selling author and locavore extraordinaire--what we really need to do is toss our ZonePerfect bars and channel our inner Giada. “The best diet,” he says, “is to eat anything you want as long as you cook it yourself.”

Pollan’s latest, Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation, is a rallying cry for a return to the kitchen. Obviously, it’s nothing novel, but no one packs a punch quite like Pollan, who knits together history, anthropology, sociology and chemistry (even a little Greek mythology) to tell the story of what he calls our most innate human activity.

But actions speak louder than words, and Pollan is most convincing when he rolls up his sleeves and dives in, barbecuing whole hogs in rural North Carolina, braising and stewing onions alongside a Chez Panisse sous chef, baking loaves of whole-grain sourdough bread, fermenting cabbage--even brewing his own beer (hey, we'll take any excuse to call beer healthy).

Cooked is as fascinating and eye opening as The Omnivore’s Dilemma and just as impossible to put down--unless you’re picking up a cutting board and knife instead.

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