Mark Bittman, food columnist for The New York Times, has joined the Greek chorus of foodies for a better planet. Openly acknowledging that he is building on the investigative work of Michael Pollan (“The Omnivore’s Dilemma”) and others, Bittman has taken up the mantra of: eat more plants, fewer animals, and less in general.
Although Bittman’s new book, Food Matters, largely repeats well-documented food research, he does bring something new to the table: recipes and a four-week meal plan.
As “The Minimalist” for the Times, Bittman is a culinary adventurer without being froufrou. His straight talk has won him a near-cult following, and his “How To Cook Everything” cookbooks have become staples for home cooks.
Now that American consciousness has been elevated to realize that (1) we raise and consume more than 9 billion animals a year, (2) marketing schemes can package food to look more nutritious than it is, and (3) our collective diet is not energy sustainable, Bittman gives readers the courage to keep on cooking instead of taking a vow to subsist on whole-grain bread and tap water. (Although he does include a recipe for a trendy-sounding Hybrid Quick Bread.)
Bittman advocates a “nearly vegan until dinner” approach, loading up on grains, vegetables, fruit, and beans and avoiding animal products during the day, then enjoying free rein (within reason) at night. He claims this approach has helped him drop a significant amount of weight.
Another new diet is not what Americans need, Bittman acknowledges, advocating instead a “shift in perspective or style” and to “deny nothing; enjoy everything, but eat plants first and most.”
Eating well has grown beyond issues of taste and personal health. It’s getting harder to forget that we share a planet with dwindling energy resources and a growing human population. To Bittman and others focusing on the interconnected issues around food, knowing the impact of what and how much we eat has become a moral imperative.
If all of this seems a bit much, simply strap on Bittman’s meal plan. He’s done all the thinking for you, so all you have to do is cook, eat, and enjoy.
Kendra Nordin is a staff editor.