It was a about five years ago that I went to hear a talk by Mark Bittman. I think he was on a tour promoting his book, Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating. On the slim chance you don't know who Mark Bittman is, he's one of the most well-known and popular food writers in the world. For most of his career, he wrote about indulgent, animal-based cooking — I wasn't one of his fans. Then, because of personal medical issues (pre-diabetic, overweight and other concerns), he reluctantly embarked on a plant-heavy diet to regain his health. He chose food instead of medication, and as he became accustomed to his new regimen, and healthier, he began to really enjoy it. He went from extreme to minimalist in terms of his food preferences, and really began to pay attention to the toll an animal-based diet was taking not only on health, but also on the environment. His thinking continued to evolve, and soon he began to embrace the subject of animal suffering. He considers himself a flexitarian, and in addition to many other food-related books, has written a book and companion cookbook (VB6) about being vegan before 6 p.m., then eating anything you want after 6. Although he still uses animal products, he includes them sparingly, but he believes that people will be more inclined to change their diets if they approach the change slowly and non-dogmatically.
Anyway, I went to hear him out of curiosity — what would he say? Who would show up? What would they think? His talk was amazing, and surprised me. He spoke fervently about the unsustainability and cruelty of an animal-based diet. He talked about the damage the food giants have done to health by producing and power-marketing junk food. He explained what a healthy, responsible diet would look like. He said that free-range chickens and eggs, and humane meat was a scam. He said the ultimate goal would be to become vegan, but he wasn't there yet. He supported his talk with charts and research, and I was impressed with how direct he was in his condemnation of the standard American diet. But he was also gentle, kind and generous in both his lecture and the Q and A that followed — not a bit of snark or superiority. He answered the least informed questioners with the same respect and thought that he showed the most informed. I left the lecture with a lot of respect for Mr. Bittman — he may never become a vegan, but he was using his popularity and access to a widespread audience, to spread a message they might not otherwise hear, and he was doing a great job.
Not only is he sharing information about healthful and cruelty-free eating, but he continually shares great recipes that are easy to make and delicious. Whenever I come across one of his cooking articles, I check to see if it is something I might like. We made his crispy quinoa cakes recently, and they were great — simple, nourishing and tasty. I'm a diehard vegan, as you know, but I still have a lot of respect for people like Mark Bittman, who are introducing people to new ideas about food, and perhaps changing the way they eat. Vegans have made a lot of progress in promoting the vegan lifestyle, but I think we also need people like Mr. Bittman, with his wide following, encouraging people to make changes in their eating habits. What do you think? Are non-vegans helping, hurting or having no effect on diet change?
Ingredients for quinoa cakes
based on Mark Bittman's recipe in the New York Times Sunday Magazine
- 1 cup quinoa
- 1/4 cup chopped almonds
- 2 tablespoons minced shallots (or onion or scallion)
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
I just started taking care of my one-year-old grandson two days a week, and I can't resist sharing a few photos from his first naptime. I got the rabbit at IKEA when I first knew he'd be spending time at our house so he would have a cuddly friend to keep him company in his cot. Looks like it was a good choice!
The little munchkin woke up happy.
So far he's been pretty easy to care for — he has a great attention span so it's easy to keep him interested in his toys, and he's pretty cheerful.