The Making of the Minimalist

Food Matters lays out the case—philosophical and culinary—that Mr. Bittman has been making in print and on video over the

Food Matters lays out the case—philosophical and culinary—that Mr. Bittman has been making in print and on video over the past year. Like Mr. Pollan’s, it might be boiled down to: Eat less meat. It’s a rule he follows dutifully—no eating animals during the day—and to which he attributes much of his weight loss.

Also: Farmers’ markets may be a good thing, but they’re not going to save the world.

“People buy food in supermarkets,” said Mr. Bittman. “And they’re gonna buy food in supermarkets. So, it doesn’t matter if they buy good meat at the farmers’ market or good broccoli; what matters is they go to the supermarket and buy good broccoli—or even bad broccoli!—instead of meat.

“The grass-fed beef concept is really great,” he went on, “but if you don’t cut consumption, it doesn’t matter. There’s not enough room for grass-fed beef any more than there’s enough room for imprisoned beef.”

It’s the same with seafood. “All this farm-raised stuff, it’s crap,” he said, but he is wary of promoting wild fish. “If I tell you to go eat it, it’s gone.” Mr. Bittman said he cannot update Fish because so many of the 70 species he wrote about have since disappeared.

Not to ruin one’s appetite for dinner or anything! After several trips to the kitchen for knife tests, the monkfish was almost done. Mr. Bittman was waiting it out in the living room, slouching low in his chair and cradling a glass of white wine. He wasn’t freaking out in the slightest.

“As you can tell, I know what I’m doing, but I had no idea exactly what was going to happen. I made plenty of mistakes,” he said. Among them, he didn’t chop the cabbage enough; he forgot to turn the skillet on before searing the monkfish; and he burned his fingers while peeling the chestnuts. None of this bothered him.

“I have no interest in helping people becoming chefs,” Mr. Bittman said. “I have an interest in 50 percent of the people in America knowing how to cook. And whether they cook like chefs or not, I don’t care. It’s probably better if they don’t. It would be better if they cook like me, which is adequately.”

jwegman@observer.com

The Making of the Minimalist