Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Minimalist

The most-read article on the NY Times website this week is "101 Simple Salads for the Season," an installation in the series entitled The Minimalist, which is the creation of food and travel journalist Mark Bittman.

Mr. Bittman also writes a blog entitledBitten http://bitten.blogs.nytimes.com/on the Times site, and he's the author of a number of books including How to Cook Everything and Food Matters. He is one of the lucky three who get to travel with celebrity chef Mario Batali on the PBS series Spain: On the Road Again. His eponymous website has links to all of his work.

He refers to his lifestyle as "Vegan Before Five," avoiding animal products until dinner. He became an advocate of this approach because he discovered he could still eat fish, cheese, and some meat and yet by limiting them in this way he enjoyed many health benefits. His weight and blood pressure dropped, and his cholesterol is now at a recommended level. Additionally, he cites the major implications of this lifestyle for the environment: if all of us in the developed world ate half the meat we do now, our impact on the earth would be vastly reduced.

What I like best about his philosophy, though, is that he believes cooking is not a complicated thing, solely the province of those with fully tricked-out kitchens. Keep a decent pantry and have the most rudimentary kitchen (he is clearly addressing New Yorkers in this regard) and you can make a healthy and delicious dinner, so he believes. The 101 Salads article is divided into several sections---vegan, vegetarian, salads with seafood, salads with meat, and salads with pasta. They are all short recipes. Even better, he's got a number of basic salad dressings detailed on the sidebar, along with a video on how to make a good dressing with three elements: a fat, an acid and a flavoring. Do check out his website and the Times article. Contrary to the celebrity culture, we don't have to be chefs to enjoy the kitchen: we only need to be cooks with appetites. Dine well!

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