Just released on September 21, Mark Bittman follows up on Food Matters with a Food Matters Cookbook that delves deeper into the cooking-side of his philosophy.
Bittman follows a vegan-until-six approach to eating. “That’s my way; your way may be different,” he says, emphasizing that the key point is to make your diet as plant-heavy as possible.
Americans consume twice the global average of meat per day, resulting in a whole slew of environmental, ethical, and nutrition-related problems. For one, our massive consumption of meat necessitates the need for factory farming in order to produce all those animals we slaughter and turn into food on our plate. Industrialized factory farming gives little thought to how the animals are treated, and churns out tons and tons of excess greenhouse gases (one estimate by the World Watch Institute says as much as 50% of our global greenhouse gas emissions).
Bittman, whom is not a vegetarian, makes the point that “even if you believe animals were put on Earth to be eaten, you probably don’t believe they should be tortured,” which is what all too often happens in these factory farms.
Current consumption of animals isn’t sustainable, in terms of our planet or our nation’s health. On one side, if we turned all the land used to feed animals into land used to grow food for human consumption, we could entirely eliminate the 1 billion who are left hungry in our world. On the other side, if we cut down the 70% of calories that we devote to animal-based and highly processed foods, we could also cut down on the 1 billion adults currently considered overweight.
Mark Bittman creates recipes for what he calls “sane eating,” taking your diet back to the way our ancestors ate, and flipping that percentage of calories around so that 70% of our diet is derived from plant-based foods instead.
The Food Matters Cookbook provides a basic guide for beginner cooks looking to dabble in an area of cooking that will allow them to cut back on meat, dairy, and junk and contribute to their own health and the health of the planet. Bittman provides the quintessential recipes of any learning cook looking to create fresh dishes from scratch, such as his “Quick Vegetable Stock,” “Mostly Whole Wheat Baguettes,” and “Chili con Poco Carne.” While recipes like “Baked Rigatoni with Brussels Sprouts, Figs, and Blue Cheese” may sound a bit daunting, nearly all of the recipes in the cookbook are simple and accessible for cooks of any level, including the one just mentioned, which simply takes quality ingredients and combines them into a dish full of flavor.
He also takes on everyday recipes and molds them to fit his more sustainable approach to eating, such as the TLB, which turns the classic BLT into a sandwich focusing more on the “LT” and less on the “B.”
My only complaint with the cookbook is that it doesn’t contain one single photograph in the entire book, and I’m a sucker for cookbooks with pictures that lure me in to cook up the recipe.
I decided to test out one of the basics: Pico de Gallo. Like Bittman promised, this resulted in a salsa fresca delicious enough to eat by the spoonful.
Pico De Gallo (from the Food Matters Cookbook)
-2 large tomatoes, chopped
-1/2 large onion, chopped
-1 tsp. minced garlic
-1 fresh hot chile (such as a habanero or jalapeno), seeded and minced
-1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
-2 tbsp. lime juice
-Salt and black pepper, to taste
Combine all the ingredients in a bowl, taste, and adjust the seasoning. Let the mixture rest for 15-30 minutes if possible to allow the flavors to meld.