Within the rarified world of food writers, few have made a more major impact in recent years than Mark Bittman and Michael Pollan. (We might also mention Morgan Spurlock, of Supersize Me fame and wonder at the alliterative preponderance of names that start with the letter “M” in this métier). Both writers, of late, have been even more in-the-news than usual, because both have written new books. They even got together a little while back for a friendly, fascinating chat. The subject: healthful eating, of course.
I read just about every column that Bittman writes, and not just for the recipes, but for his perspective onfood and cooking, which I share. His Minimalist columns demonstrate that good, home-cooked food does not have to be elaborate; that satisfying dishes can come together quickly, with few ingredients. But more than that, he encourages people to get cooking, even in the tiniest of kitchens.
And now Pollan has also taken up this clarion call. His new book – Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation – decries the food industry’s push to replace home-cooked meals with chemical-laden, sodium-infused packaged, frozen, or take-out foods. He rightly explains that the only way to know you’re getting good food is to take charge of the process, from shopping for high-quality ingredients, to preparing the meal – ideally with family and friends – and serving it at the table, thereby bringing people together.
I live by Pollan’s cardinal rules: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. And (as should be obvious from my profession) I am an avid cook, with a keen interest in nutrition and food policy. And, like Bittman, I believe anyone can cook, and I encourage you (and everyone else) to do so. As my mother says, “If you can read, you can cook.” This is especially true if you follow simple recipes, like those in my blog. Yes, anyone can cook a basic meal.
Time does not always allow for the preparation of snacks, and that’s why I created Cookiehead — to provide wholesome, yummy, convenient snacks that are made from ingredients that most people find in their cupboards: recognizable, nutritious and real. They’re the cookies and brownies and muffins you’d make yourself, if you had the time (and my delicious recipes).
Like Bittman, I adhere to a diet that he calls “flexitarian.” My diet is largely plant-based, but does not eliminate eggs, dairy, fish, and meat — which I eat in moderation. One way to do that is to follow the practices Bittman describes in his new book, VB6: Eat Vegan Before 6:00 to Lose Weight and Restore Your Health… for Good. Ever since he changed his diet to bring himself back from the brink of pre-diabetes, Bittman has advocated reduced consumption of meat and animal products, for the health of individuals and the planet. His way to do so is to follow a vegan regime eschewing all animal products (as well as processed food) before 6 pm, then eat whatever he wants for dinner. His VB6 diet, if it were adopted by his many steadfast readers, would seriously decrease demand for meat and could help end the industrial, factory-farming practices that are so bad for the environment (and the animals, of course). And it would also go a long way to reversing the diet-based health crisis that threatens our nation’s waistline, coffers, and mortality rates.
However, people will only follow such a diet if the food tastes good – hence Bittman’s new focus in his New York Times column: Healthy, Meet Delicious. Funny, that has a familiar ring to it… Oh, right, the Cookiehead ethos: that healthful snacks don’t have to taste like sawdust! And our tagline, of course: Insanely tasty. Crazy smart.
Both of these books, Bittman’s VB6 and Pollan’s Cooked, are on my reading list. They’re queued up behind another food book by another “M” author, Fat Sugar Salt, by Michael Moss. Apparently, these three M-guys stick together. Here’s another recent Times story, with video, featuring the Michaels (Pollan and Moss) shopping and making lunch together.
In my too-busy career, creating snacks that are free from preservatives and chemicals, yet full of nutritious, real-food ingredients, I’d love more time to read the books by my original-thinking, concerned food-activist colleagues.
If you’ve been reading this blog in the past year or so, you’re well aware that I always make time to cook for my family. I do wish for more time to read what’s on the bestseller list. Having had only enough time to peek into these new books, I can tell they’re full of food for thought.