Weekend Review: Food Matters by Mark Bittman

Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating with More Than 75 RecipesIn Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating (2008), professional food writer Mark Bittman explores the intersections of personal and global health. Citing his encounter with the report Livestock's Long Shadow as his "ah-ha" moment on the effects of our current food system on the degradation of ecosystems, Bittman provides us with a brief history of overconsumption, nutrition, and government's sometimes misguided regulatory involvement. His solution is something he's dubbed "sane eating," which means focusing on simply prepared meals that make vegetables and grains the star and use meat and dairy only for flavoring, if at all. To assist the reader, he includes 75 recipes in addition to basic instructions of how to source and prepare their ingredients.

The introductory and background material is interesting and framed to appeal to the average joe who isn't necessarily on the "green" train. His driving point is to eat simply and mindfully (that is, as if "food matters") because it is what is best for your body and can help you to lose weight--the saving the world part is a nice bonus. All of this material has been covered before, but what Bittman adds to the conversation are the recipes and his instructions on how to prepare the basics. When I decided to start cooking from scratch, I, like many of my generation who were raised on fast food and pre-packaged meals, had absolutely no idea how to cook bulgur wheat. I could barely wrap my mind around how to make rice that wasn't "instant." His instructions in this area are truly helpful and provide a great resource for those in a similar situation. The bulk of his recipes, however, lack inspiration. Don't get me wrong, they're good, basic recipes, but they failed to capture my imagination. Roughly 60% of the meals that I already cook are either vegetarian or use very little meat, so I know that there are exciting recipes out there that fit his criteria. These just are not. I also disagree with some of his nutritional advice. While I do agree that a great majority of Americans can and should eat less meat and dairy, I don't agree that soy milk is a good alternative to cow or goat milk, for example.

Overall, this is a good quick read and a valuable resource for beginning cooks who are looking for basic instruction and a place to start.

5 comments:

  1. I just had 2 articles published on the website Blogcritics about sustainable fish and the curent tenuous status of our oceans and waterways. At some point we will be held accountable for all of our transgessions against nature. It's important people like you inform your readers about good information like the one in that book. Good job. Cheers!

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  2. I love your weekend reviews- you give really great descriptions and it always makes me want to read the book! Great post.

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  3. Thank you both! I really enjoy writing them and I'm glad that someone gets something out of them! :)

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  4. this is such a thoughtful review. thanks for sharing your opinions about this book--it's great to be informed about how what we eat affects our bodies and our environment. i like that you took a critical look at bittman's advice, too. makes me want to read more of your reviews! any chance you'll be sharing more of your daily recipes here?

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  5. Allison, Thanks for your comment! Sure, I can share more recipes! We're in a bit of a menu rut, so that might be just the motivation I need to break out of it. :)

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