Mark Bittman Has Advice for the Modern Eater

Being stuck at home has reinforced the importance of knowing how to cook for oneself.

filling up the compost bucket
Filling a compost bucket with food scraps.

 svetikd / Getty Images

Home cooking guru Mark Bittman has launched a new audio course called "How to Eat Now." Created in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, it addresses many of the thoughts and experiences that people have had since being forced to cook more for themselves than they did in the past. 

Bittman describes the audio course as his guide to "being an eater in the modern world." It can help you "learn how to shop smartly, ethically, and sustainably, build your own recipes, develop a balanced diet, and even advocate for better food policies." Its short, compact lessons run the gamut from playing with flavor profiles (a.k.a. using spices) to learning how to bake great bread (a food group that Bittman says has been unfairly slandered) to training your taste buds not to crave so much junk.

In an article for Heated (the blog he oversees), Bittman has rounded up twelve of his essential takeaways from the course. They result in a diverse and thought-provoking list of suggestions that many of us would do well to adopt in our own kitchens. I'd like to share some of these takeaways below, but you can check out the full list here.

1. Shop Local

This is an ideal goal, but tends to be limited by time and money. If you have both of those resources in abundance, Bittman says you'll be able to do a fine job of shopping locally, but unfortunately most people do not. In that case, just stay focused on the main goal of "shortening the supply chain." Any progress in this area is positive and beneficial to the planet.

2. Think About Meat

I'm lumping two of his points into one here (and regular readers of Bittman will already be familiar with his views on this), but he urges meat-eaters to buy meat less frequently so they can afford to buy better quality meat when they do. Furthermore, he encourages people to avoid buying fake meat – a suggestion that might annoy some vegans:

"If you want to eat less meat, eat more vegetables, eat more legumes, eat more whole grains. Don’t eat more processed food, which is what the substitution of Impossible burger for a Whopper really is."

3. Set Aside a Day for Cooking

Your life will be much easier and your diet better if you take time to batch-cook in advance. Pick a day and spend several hours in the kitchen preparing meals and/or components of meals that can be easily assembled in the moment. I don't do this as much as I should, but when I do, I focus on making soups, cooking grains, roasting vegetables, and soaking/cooking dried beans. If you're interested in this concept, check out Food52's "A New Way to Dinner" and Keda Black's "Batch Cooking," both cookbooks that helped me greatly. 

4. Don't Worry About Organic

Another controversial statement, but in keeping with Bittman's eternally pragmatic approach to cooking, organic is not more important than simply cooking food from scratch and eating plenty of vegetables and whole grains. Familiarize yourself with the Environmental Working Group's Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists to know which foods are most important to buy organic and which are not worth the cost increase.

5. Eat Leftovers

Commit to cleaning out your fridge on a weekly basis so nothing goes bad. Bittman's specific advice is to have a "clean-out-the-fridge dinner party," to which you may be the only person invited, but the point is not to neglect items that may have been forgotten. Fighting food waste is a major part of the fight to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

This is just a sampling of the solid advice Bittman offers, and you can learn more by checking out the "How to Eat Now" audio course, available here