I’m a recent convert to the work of Mark Bittman at the New York Times. In fact, before I got involved with this Co-op effort I had never really heard of him. Not being much of a cook myself, I had never really followed his Minimalist column but my impression was he made an effort to convince take-out and restaurant addicted Manhattanites that they could in fact cook for themselves with food they found at the corner bodega in a kitchen that was barely large enough to hold a medium-sized saucepan. I’ve visited many a friend who lives in Manhattan and can count on one hand the number of times I’ve seen any of them cook or even have non-perishable food in their apartments. So clearly Bittman’s work was necessary and will be missed.
He has since moved on to a weekly opinion column which moves away from recipes and lifestyle tips to policy discussions and pointed critiques of lifestyle choices (especially the one that thinks processed food are a way to save much needed net surfing time). His latest column poses the question about whether eating real food is even possible. Or, borrowing a slogan coined by his Times colleague Michael Pollan, is it possible to “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants“?
The hook for this column was the recent release of the USDA’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010 (which he acknowledges seems a little late but also explains the reason for). The much discussed criticism of the guidelines, which have otherwised been praised for finally acknowledging that Americans need to eat less (a “guideline” that goes against the USDA’s other mission of promoting American manufactured and produced food) is that they are asymmetrical in that they explain which foods are good to eat but which nutrients should be avoided (being careful not to offend the meat or dairy industry by telling Americans to eat less meat or fewer Three Musketeers bars). We’ve tweeted about other food policy writers like Marion Nestle who have made this point and it is an important one. Until the USDA resolves this multiple personality disorder, the U.S. Federal government will continue to lack an agency or authority that is purely on the side of our nutritional well-being (HHS has WAY too much on its plate to play this role).
So your reading assignment is to catch up on the new Bittman column, including the Food Manifesto that he kicked things off with and let what he writes bounce around your brain for a little bit. You may not agree with everything but at least it’ll get you thinking about the choices you make when you go to hunt down your dinner at the local supermarket. It has for me!