Mark Bittman is a "lessmeatarian" and he thinks you should be, too. Since the early 2000s, the New York Times journalist and cookbook author has eaten a semi-vegetarian diet, with more plant foods and fewer animal products. When he became a "Vegan before 6" -- as in, 6 p.m. -- he managed to lose weight, improve his health, and write Food Matters, a manifesto on how to eat to change the world.
When Bittman comes to Pittsburgh next week, he'll discuss how our personal decisions about what to cook and eat can affect local, national and global communities.
"Cooking is important and a useful thing for everybody to know and a pleasure for many people and a tradition that I think matters and is critical to maintain," says Bittman by phone. "But I also think that it's critical that we think about where our food comes from and how it gets to us. How it's grown, how it's distributed, how it's sold, what it is. Only by understanding that can we really become great cooks."
Bittman has encouraged readers to reconsider cooking for more than 20 years. He lacks formal culinary training. But the simple recipes offered in both his former weekly New York Times column "The Minimalist" and the best-selling How to Cook Everything series, along with his down-to-earth style, have won Bittman fans around the country. Several series on public television, as well as a recurring guest spot on the Today Show, have brought his mantra of "cooking simply, comfortably, and well" to even more people.
The past five years has found his focus broadening, from how to cook food to how to think about food. Food Matters reflects that, and has helped take Bittman from mere culinarian to food activist. He continues to write op-ed pieces for the Times, several of which have been picked up by the Sunday Review, and has stoked media frenzies and water-cooler conversations with his calls to tax junk food, subsidize vegetables and choose real food over the processed, fast stuff.
"I think that it's important to see that food is part of the bigger picture and that you can't change food," Bittman said. "Our goal is to change 100 percent of the food system."
MARK BITTMAN at the Literary Evenings Monday Night Lecture Series. 7:30 p.m. Mon., Nov. 7. Carnegie Music Hall, 4400 Forbes Ave., Oakland. 412-622-8866 or www.pittsburghlectures.org