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January 26, 2011


Mark Bittman gets political

Mark Bittman, The Minimalist

Today Mark Bittman announced that he's ending The Minimalist cooking column in the NY Times after 13 years. He's had a great run of making cooking at home feel accessible, smart, and fun.

I don't know if Mark Bittman and I just naturally have similar approaches to cooking and food, but after reading his columns and cookbooks (How To Cook Everything, regular and vegetarian editions) over the years, I often find myself thinking "What Would Mark Bittman Do?" when faced with an unexpected shortage of a key ingredient or a dish that isn't coming together quite as I'd hoped.

Bittman makes me feel like I can cook anything I want to, and that once I've messed around with a type of dish or ingredient, I can and should improvise and trust my instincts. Plus, he's really funny. I flip through sections of his cookbook that I'll probably never use (e.g. meat, sauces, cauliflower) just because he's such a hilarious guy who clearly has fun in the kitchen. As he says in his departing column, "I never maintained that my way of cooking was the 'best' way to cook, only that it's a practical way to cook. (I'm lazy, I'm rushed, and I'm not all that skillful, and many people share those qualities.)"

He's a guy who has no problem with shortcuts that makes sense, like sauce in a jar or the most versatile and delicious of all condiments, ketchup ("I mean, why not?"). But he's driven up the wall by how expensive and cruddy packaged salad dressing is when it's ridiculously easy and cheap to make fresh yourself.

So now that he's not The Minimalist anymore, he's going to start another Times blog about food and politics, which is a direction he's been moving toward for a while now. He did a fantastic talk at TED in 2008 about food and what's wrong with what we eat. This talk, in conjunction with Food, Inc., changed the way I think about the food industry forever. I especially like the kind but blunt way he talks about the food his own mother served at a time when eating in America was mostly about meat, thrift, and convenience, and seemed to involve a lot of canned pineapple.

"What I see as the continuing attack on good, sound eating and traditional farming in the United States is a political issue," he writes, introducing the new blog that will launch next week. Over the years, he's turned into an eloquent food crusader speaking out against meat-heavy diets and processed crap, and now he'll get a dedicated space to rail against Big Food. I'm psyched.

Here's a collection of his best cooking videos, including the outstanding Kitchen Starter Kit one, and here's a collection of all his columns, dating back to 1997.

categories: Food, Media, Politics
posted by amy at 10:46 AM | #

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We like Mark Bittman a lot too. Andrew's more likely to snuggle up to a cookbook like a novel and get a whole lot out of it, but I agree that his sense of humor and "you can do it your way too!" sort of attitude is refreshing. I make his pancake recipe every now and then, and every time I make it, I'm like, why do people buy pancake mix? This is so easy and tastes so much better!

Posted by: Leigh at January 27, 2011 12:29 PM

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