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Food Matters: A Guide To Conscious Eating with More Than 75 Recipes

Mark Bittman
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Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Format: Diet Book
Cuisine: American


Mark Bittman is a lamentably rare species: a North American food celebrity who is famous almost exclusively by the power of his writing. His How To Cook Everything has permeated countless household since first published more than a decade ago. This reviewer has been by told on many occasion that it's 'The Bible' by a host or hostess busily cooking away. His New York Times columns (and videos) are refreshingly clear. People understand him, and he understands how people (i.e. we the civillians who have not cooked in commercial kitchens) actually cook.

So now, after a best selling book, How To Cook Everything Vegetarian it appears that Bittman has got religion and has picked up Michael Pollan's torch. Food Matters is partyl polemic and partly a how to guide.. The polemic is a somewhat democratised version of Pollan's mantra of "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." from In Defense of Food, with a touch of The Omnivore's Dilemna thrown in. It might be reduced to: don't eat so much meat, it's bad for you and the planet. There is a strong streak of environmentalism to Bittman's diet book. His account of the damage caused by industrial food production is succinct and powerful, especially if (as this reviewer suspects) it's directed at the majority of the population that doesn't already shop at farmers' markets and read the literature of sustainable nourishment.

The diet book part of his work, is as one might imagine it: full of strategies to make eating fresh good food a little easier for the harried modern eater. The recipes are sensible and straightforward, but will also include one slightly unusual ingredient: a twist that makes allows Bittman to name it "My Way".  There is much emphasis on vegetables, which is becoming Bittman's signature. In his NYT column he chronicled his conversion to being a "vegan until six", eschewing meat, sugar and refined carbs during the day, and eating whaterver he felt like at night. It worked for him: he lost his excess weight and feels great. And there is both a commonsensical logic and a comforting nod to pleasure in his prescription. This book seems to be more about before six than after, but that's ok, that's the point of the thing.

Most Gremolata readers probably know most of what Bittman is writing about. Or at least won't be surprised. But we should all go and buy a copy anyway. We all know some one who'd benefit from Food Matters and sure doesn't hurt to take a refresher course, if we flip through it before passing it along. Perhaps this is finally the diet book that will stop the madness.


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