Mark Bittman and why he still eats meat
Mark Bittman has a bone to pick with vegans. "I just don’t think there’s any compelling reason to be one," he says in a recent episode of #EatForThePlanet with Nil Zacharias.
The award-winning author of 20 books, including How to Cook Everything Vegetarian and VB6: Eat Vegan Before 6:00, thinks that labels like veganism or vegetarianism get in the way of the real problem: An industrial food system committed to cheap meat and dairy production that places burdens on our health, contributes to climate change, and harms food workers.
Another reason to spurn labels? They set us up to fail. Sticking with any one system is hard for most of us. "You don’t need a guru. You don’t need a set of rules. You don’t need labels," he says. Rather, a good rule of thumb is to avoid anything labeled with health values.
"Fighting for the right to food that’s green, nutritious, affordable, and fair is a fight to avert catastrophe and ultimately improve life on this planet."
At an individual level, he says, working toward a better food system requires being pragmatic. "There’s something called reduce your meat consumption, cut out junk food, and eat more plants," Bittman says flatly, as if he’s said it a million times already. These are choices we can make in the comfort of our own homes, choices we can manage and stick with.
In a recent Grub Street article, "The New Foodieism," Bittman addresses where progress can be made on a broader scale, especially now while dealing with an increasingly absent and irresponsible government. "Fighting for the right to food that’s green, nutritious, affordable, and fair is a fight to avert catastrophe and ultimately improve life on this planet," he writes. "The presidential election didn’t change this at all. It just made it more clear."
Perhaps now more than ever, he writes, "Good food can define a democracy."
Bittman’s takeaway: Where to begin redefining the American way of eating? Bittman recommends teaching children about where food comes from and to some extent about cooking. Prevent marketers from getting children addicted to sugar and other junk food when they’re young. Enforce EPA regulations so you can’t raise animals by the tens of thousands in closed environments. Take antibiotics out of the food supply. Subsidize fruits and vegetables for people who can’t afford them. And make land available to new farmers. “Let’s do those things a few at a time,” he says, “then figure out what’s next.”
Consider spicing up your meal tomorrow with Mark Bittman's simple and delicious variations on
| Yield: 4 servings | Time: 35 minutes |
1 to 1 1/2 pounds baby carrots, green tops trimmed, or full-sized carrots, cut into sticks
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat the oven to 425°F. Put the carrots on a baking sheet and drizzle with the olive oil; sprinkle with the cumin and salt and pepper. Roast until the carrots are tender and browning, about 25 minutes. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.
Try these simple variations
Roasted Carrots with Fennel Seeds. Substitute fennel for the cumin.
Roasted Carrots with Pine Nuts. Omit the cumin. Add 1/4cup pine nuts in the last 3 or 4 minutes of roasting.
Roasted Carrots with Sesame. Substitute 2 tablespoons peanut or neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn, and 1 tablespoon dark sesame oil for the olive oil. Substitute up to 2 tablespoons black and white sesame seeds for the cumin; add them in the last 3 or 4 minutes of roasting.
Roasted Carrots with Dates and Raisins. Omit the cumin. Add 1/4cup each golden raisins and chopped dates in the last 10 minutes of roasting. Garnish with chopped nuts, like pistachios, almonds, or walnuts, and a couple tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves.