Hungry Onion Drooling Q&A with Mark Bittman (Jan 19, 2017 2pm ET)

What have you been into cooking lately ? Any chance for the recipe ?

What are the problems in our food system you focusing on these days?

It sucks when a recipe bombs. When you are doing background research, besides things like typos that your average cook may notice, what are some of the more subtle red flags that you encounter that signal a recipe won’t work or hasn’t been tested for a home kitchen?

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Mark, what’s behind the decision to join the academia? Do you feel Columbia is a continuation, and perhaps a better platform (than say, the Times) to be a food policy advocate?

Some people say small-scaled, polycultural, sustainable farming is an unrealistic, expensive and utopian way to feed today’s populous planet. Do you think there is any merit to this argument or is this argument flawed?

I want to give a very warm welcome to Mark Bittman, who is the author of numerous award-winning cookbooks including the ubiquitous How to Cook Everything, writer of The Minimalist column for The New York Times, and food system journalist. Mark also recently joined the faculty of Mailman School of Public Health of Columbia University.

Welcome Mr Bittman! And thanks for taking the time to do the Q&A with your readers tonight!


I never lived in the Bronx. My mom and dad did, though, and my grandparents ran a restaurant there, before World War 2. It was called “Art’s Kosher Dining Room.” My grandmother cooked and my grandfather probably made a nuisance of himself. My parents met there. Sadly, I never got to eat there.

As an advocate of a plant-based diet, do you run into resistance from folks who cherish the American culture of meat consumption- steak, BBQ, etc.?

Favorite eats in the Bay Area while you were there?

Thanks for saying so. And yeh, the weight thing is an issue. Doorstops.
I’m living back east, FYI.
Anyway, I think restaurants in the Bay Area, in general, have gotten more precious and less authentic in the last few years. I’d say there is no better region in the country, possibly the world, for home cooks – superior ingredients are everywhere – but, restaurant-wise, it’s not nearly as interesting as Los Angeles. Which isn’t to say there aren’t some great places. But I’d rather have a kitchen.


Never say never but the Times days are over. We’re working on a variety of different ways to get my voice out there.
And I’m working on a book that’s going to blow minds. Stay tuned.


What do you think is the biggest food-related distraction from a healthy diet and sound lifestyle?
“Low fat diet”, “Avoid aluminum cookware”, “Water bottles”, “Kale salad”, “Juicing”, “Gluten-free diet”…etc.

Anything that is more complicated than this message: “Eat real food, and try to eat more plants than you used to,” is a distraction. The ones you mention are superb examples.

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Not a hell of a lot I fear. Some. But not as much as the marketing people at Pepsi.


Let me say this about waste reduction: You have an entire state – Iowa – as well as several similar states nearby, whose agriculture is devoted to two crops, corn and soybeans. Those two crops are used primarily for a) animal feed, b) junk food, and c) ethanol. The conversation about waste should begin there: We are wasting some of the best agricultural land in the world planting crops that amount the production of non-food. Everything else pales by comparison.
On the level you’ve brought up, it’s clear that cooking and eating at home is a far more efficient use of ingredients than anything else; fewer things are wasted, fewer are thrown out, leftovers are easily saved and re-used.
Institutions – I’m sure it’s far more technical than either of us could imagine. But it could start, again, with using real ingredients and treating them respectfully.


I’ve been working with Union of Concerned Scientists to bring the message of fair, affordable, nutritious, and green food to a wider audience. I and three buddies just wrote this op-ed for Civil Eats, which you might want to take a look at. And I’m thinking about other vehicles. In a way the work for the times felt a) repetitive, b) limited and limiting, and c) like I was preaching to the choir.


Mark, thanks for your view point. Arguably any changes around that is much harder because of federal food policy and politics. But we should have that conversation for sure.

All you’re saying is true. But markets in general need to evolve. To do that, farming needs to evolve: we need more farmers devoted to raising real food on more land. And then we need a plan for allowing everyone to afford that food. It’s not an easy road but it’s an essential one.


We talk all the time, and just wrote this together.


It might be the one thing that’s changed the least: Take good ingredients and don’t fuck them up. That’s what real home cooks do.


37 years by the way!