This or That With Mark Bittman

Our talk after the author's recent visit to Philly

I was incredibly excited to hear New York Times columnist Mark Bittman speak at the Free Library a few Mondays ago, on tour for his latest book, The Food Matters Cookbook.  And to all you fellow “Minimalist” readers, I’m happy to report that he didn’t disappoint.  Complete with his trademark witty banter, he discussed food trends and the negative impact they’ve had on both our diets and to the planet to a crowd of more than 350.  I learned everything from the actual cost of a 99-cent hamburger ($200, after adding up production costs, ensuing environmental damage, and future healthcare expenses for the person who ate it) to how ridiculous our screwed up diet of processed foods really is:“No one is born craving Skittles, or doughnuts, or Whoppers,” he said, playfully reminding the audience that there was a time when Americans used to “eat real food, and Goldfish still swam.”

But even though I found Bittman’s talk to be enlightening and engaging, the best part came later. I had the chance to speak one-on-one to the world’s most interesting semi-vegan (no meat or dairy before 6 p.m.) about some his top picks between certain veggies, meat, meat substitutes, indulgences, and more—all of which can be included under what he calls “sane eating.” Something the rest of us could use a little more of, no?

This or That With Mark Bittman …

Be Well Philly: Tofu or tempeh?
Mark Bittman: Tofu. But really firm pressed tofu. It’s better than white-meat chicken.

BWP: Eternally forgo white pasta or all meat?
MB: White pasta. The truth is, whole-grain pasta tastes very good. And I couldn’t realistically give up meat forever, given my job description.

BWP: Wine or beer?
MB: Wine. But I like beer.

BWP: Red or white?
MB: White.

BWP: Tea or coffee?
MB: Coffee. But I like tea.

BWP: Black or cream and sugar?
MB: Milk.

BWP: Green or black tea?
MB: Black tea.

BWP: Milk or soy milk?
MB: Milk.

BWP: Sugar or honey?
MB: Both.

BWP: “Corn Sugar” or high fructose corn syrup?
MB: Ha! You do have to give them points for creativity, don’t you? Obviously, as one of many people who have spent years telling people to avoid products with HFCS in them, I think it would make things easier if they just kept the old name.

BWP: Arugula or romaine?
MB: These are two very different greens, and both have their place. But arugula. Real arugula, not that tame stuff they’re growing in greenhouses.

BWP: Quinoa or rice?
MB: Rice. I love quinoa, but you can’t do as much with it…Or can you?

BWP: Salmon or steak?
MB: Impossible choice.

BWP: Italian or Mexican?
MB: With all due respect to Mexican food, which can be great, I have to choose Italian.

BWP: Local or organic?
MB: Local. But honestly, the most important thing is that it’s a plant.