Readers of this blog know I am a tremendous fan of Mark Bittman. My husband knows very well–and informed me this morning of the news that Mark Bittman’s Minimalist column was being published for the last time. While Mark (as I call him) will still continue to write about food, and I’ll still be reading him, it’s still poignant for me to not have the Minimalist to look forward to every Wednesday.
I always loved watching cooking shows–even in sixth grade I looked forward to the Saturday morning cooking shows on PBS–but I didn’t cook all that much, maybe just things here and there. And when I went to college, I hardly knew what to do in a dorm kitchen. It wasn’t until my last year of law school, when I found a forgotten Christmas gift my husband had received from his aunt, The Minimalist Cooks at Home, that I started trying to cook regularly. I loved how he broke down recipes into a basic template–you could see yourself feeling like you could master a technique, riff on it, vary it, change it–rather than be a slave to just some instructions on a page. Such a small volume, yet so many possibilities. I had never heard of Mark Bittman, but then it turned out there was this book, How to Cook Everything, which quickly became my most trusted cookbook, my initial stop whenever I was trying to devise what to make next (and I’m always thinking about food…).
I’m sure I would have started cooking without Mark Bittman, but I can’t imagine learning to love it as much as I do, and certainly I would not have as much confidence to play around and improvise in the kitchen. Now I often have a hard time eating things that aren’t homemade, because I eat so much less processed food (less, not none–but that’s still a good thing). Most importantly, Mark Bittman doesn’t force you to just buy organic or make a big to-do about having the “right” ingredients (except perhaps smoked Spanish paprika…), even as his recipes have become more environmentally conscious, they are still within the average person’s means–both as a matter of technique and as a matter of economics. While I live in a part of the country now where it’s not hard to find the fancier ingredients, I am from a part of the country where there is no “cheese counter” in the grocery store or a “butcher’s shop” you can make unusual requests at. And that’s what’s great–many of the culinary stars want to make a change in how America eats, which isn’t a bad thing in and of itself given how much we’ve gotten towards eating processed food and the effect its having on our health. But it’s not really accessible–the tone, the emphasis on the “right” ingredients, or special techniques–just aren’t always practical. And again that’s what I appreciate about Mark Bittman. So to echo so many others–thank you, and we look forward to your new ventures!