VB6, On Sale April 30th

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I’ve spent the better part of my adult life thinking about food, but it wasn’t until six years ago when my doctor suggested I become a vegan — or face dire health consequences — that I began to seriously confront my diet.

Yes, I liked vegetables and grains, but as a food writer it was unrealistic to give up meat and dairy for good. VB6 was my compromise. I’d become a part-time vegan. From the time I woke up until 6 p.m. I’d eat a strict vegan diet: no animal products, no processed foods —not even white bread. For dinner I’d eat whatever I wanted.

A month later I’d lost 15 lbs. My cholesterol and blood sugar levels were down. My sleep apnea was gone. I felt good. So I kept it up. Then I wrote a book about it.

VB6 outlines the philosophy and principles of this diet, and digs deep into the science behind why it works. Eating this way will not only improve your own health, but the health of the planet as well, and VB6 includes more than 60 recipes to get you started on the right track. I hope you’ll give it a try. And if it works for you like it did for me, let me know. Tell your friends about it. Feel great and help others do the same.

You can pre-order VB6 at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Indie Bound.

Posted in Mark Bittman Books

Slow Food Quickens The Pace: My Interview with Carlo Petrini

AMSTERDAM — It may be that Slow Food’s original focus on taste and the quality of food — on gastronomy — simply seemed too narrow, and therefore elitist. But at least since its “Puebla Declaration[1]in 2007, Slow Food has become a force to be reckoned with, probably the only international organization that integrates concerns about the environment, tradition, labor, health, animal welfare … along with real cooking, taste and pleasure.

Slow Food was founded by Carlo Petrini, who remains its president. He was a food writer when he launched a protest in 1986 against the opening of an enormous McDonald’s branch (more than 400 seats) in Rome’s Piazza di Spagna (better known to Anglophones as the Spanish Steps) — the first McDonald’s in Italy. More than 20 years before the coining of the term “locavore” and “the Omnivore’s Dilemma,” Petrini saw the battle as being against the industrialization of food, and now, a generation later, he was clearly prescient.

Read the rest of this article here.

Posted in Slow Food

Dim-Sum Leaves China: Recipes from State Bird Provisions

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I first ate dim sum in 1968 at Nom Wah, on Doyers Street in New York’s Chinatown. (The place is still there.) The appeal of the service style was immediate and tremendous — why couldn’t every meal be an uninterrupted stream of small, exotic dishes brought to you on a gleaming (or at least functional) cart? I’m quite sure that I said, either on that visit or one of the frequent ones that followed, “Someone needs to do this with non-Chinese food.”

Tasting menus and tapas bars came close, but nothing quite captured the spirit of the dim-sum cart. Until last year, when State Bird Provisions opened on Fillmore Street in San Francisco.

Read the rest of this article and get the recipes here.

Posted in Chinese, Recipes

Gnocchi: 4 Flavors, 4 Sauces

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A phrase often used (overused, really) to describe well-made gnocchi is “light as a cloud.” It’s not an especially instructive description for a piece of real food, and for cooks hoping to try their hands at gnocchi for the first time, it can be downright daunting.

It’s true that gnocchi requires a bit of technique, but achieving that cloudlike texture — “light” is perhaps a simpler, less intimidating word — isn’t actually that difficult.

Read the rest of this article, get the recipes, and watch the video with Mario Batali here.

Posted in Italian, Recipes

The Wheat Lowdown

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Those of us who cook believe that you have to cook to eat; baking bread is different. With so many relatively decent loaves readily available in stores, bread-baking is more of a hobby. The result, of course, will be eaten and enjoyed — and bakers know the rewards of blowing people’s minds with a good loaf: “You made that?” — but baking is not mandatory. (I say that having just paid four bucks for a “baguette” that would serve better as a kitchen sponge.)

As with any practice, baking gets better over time. But the odd thing about bread-making is that any epiphanies you have along the way are only temporarily gratifying. You always make progress, but then your standard rises, and in the end baking provides that oddly addictive combination of satisfaction and frustration.

Producing a great baguette is an art, but whole-grain bread is real sustenance, and I wanted good ones in my repertory. So over the past few years, I’ve challenged myself to make 100 percent whole-grain bread, and to make it delicious.

Read the rest of this article and get the recipes here.

Posted in Baking

The Cosmetics Wars

If all goes according to schedule, next month the European Union will become “cruelty-free,” banning without exception the sale of cosmetics ingredients that were tested on animals.

Don’t celebrate yet.

Because although there may be less animal testing of personal care products than there once was — even here in the United States — and many manufacturers have found new ways of determining that products are “safe,” there are still plenty of questionable ingredients in your bubble bath, many of which haven’t been tested by any means at all.

And animal testing is far from over. In fact, China officially mandates animal testing of cosmetics, which puts manufacturers in something of a bind: they won’t be able to engage in animal testing and sell in the European Union, whereas their products must be tested on animals to be sold in China. Quantum theory aside, they cannot occupy both of those spaces simultaneously.

Read the rest of this column here.

Posted in Food Politics

A Time Before Tabbouleh

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I had been cooking for only a few years when, in 1972, a friend gave me “A Book of Middle Eastern Food,” by a woman named Claudia Roden. In my cooking life, there was no more important influence than that book.

Roden rose to prominence later than Elizabeth David and Jane Grigson, the two grandes dames of mid-20th-century cooking in Britain. (David and Grigson helped Britons “fix” a cuisine that had gone horribly wrong because of war and the accompanying hardships.) But when Roden published “Middle Eastern Food” in 1968, she built on their influence, expanding — almost exploding — the vision of what was possible. It would be only a slight exaggeration to say there was effectively no hummus or tabbouleh before then. And suddenly there were not only those, but also rosewater, meat cooked with dates and phyllo dough.

The reason for Roden’s broader view is simple: She was born in Cairo to a family of Syrian Jews, left for school in Paris when she was 15 and was reunited with her parents and siblings in London, when the Suez crisis of 1956 chased the Jewish community out of Egypt. Her first book was inspired by the food of her childhood. Her research ultimately led her to write extensively about the foods of North Africa, Spain, the Mediterranean and the Middle East. Her “Book of Jewish Food” is the most comprehensive work on the subject and, unlike many books on the topic, gives equal weight to the cooking of Sephardic and Ashkenazi Jews.

I wanted to cook with Roden for years, and finally, on a recent visit to London, I was invited to her home to do so. What to cook with someone who awes you?

Read the rest of this article and get the recipes here.

Posted in Middle Eastern

Lawns Into Gardens

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The seed catalogs have arrived, and for the roughly 15 percent of Americans who appreciate the joys and rewards of growing some of their own crops, this is a more encouraging sign than Groundhog Day or even the reporting of pitchers and catchers to spring training.

Yet several times a year we hear of a situation like the one in Orlando[1], where the mayor claims to be striving to make his city green while his city harasses homeowners like Jason and Jennifer Helvenston for planting vegetables in their front yard, threatening to fine them $500 a day — for gardening. The battle has been raging for months, and the city’s latest proposal is to allow no more than 25 percent of a homeowner’s front yard to be planted in fruits and vegetables.

As if gardens were somehow an official eyesore, or inappropriate. (Jason Helvenston, my hero, said: “You’ll take my house before you take my vegetable garden.”) If you want to plant a lawn, that’s fine, though it’s a waste of water and energy, both petrochemical and human. Nor are lawns simply benign: many common lawn chemicals are banned in other countries, because most if not all are toxic in a variety of ways. My guess is that 100 years from now, lawns will be about as common as Hummers.

Read the rest of this column here.

Posted in Farming

Surf and Turf Revisited

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Even the best foods can become tiresome, which is the only reason you would ever do anything with oysters other than opening and swallowing them. For something almost as primitive, the people of western France, where some of the world’s best oysters are produced, perfected the idea of teaming them with sausage.

I was introduced to this combination in Brittany years ago. It happened before dinner, as an appetizer, and came just a few hours after a lunch that consisted of four dozen of the region’s finest.

Oysters go down easy, so I didn’t see this as a problem. If I was puzzled by this incongruous-looking duo, that lasted only until I started eating. The combination of crisp, hot, spicy sausage and cold, creamy oysters may have been unpredictable, but it was as sensible as waffles and ice cream.

Read the rest of this article and get the recipes here.

Posted in Seafood

Coke Blinks

Once again, Coke has blinked. It famously did so in 1985, when it introduced “new” Coke, replacing its original formula with one it thought would have greater appeal with its audience. It was wrong then.

This time it might be right, but it isn’t going to do the world’s best-known brand any good. It’s hurting from decreased domestic sales and smarting from the piles of evidence that soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages are not only our biggest source of calories, but also among our most harmful. So it has struck back with a two-minute video whose ostensible message is that too many calories will make you fat (true), that those in Coke are no worse than any others (false), and that we’re all in this together (ridiculous).

The video is brilliantly executed. Its honeyed, heart-rending voice-over and stirring images — as American as a Chevy commercial — nearly caused me to go out and buy a case myself, as I recalled those innocent days of the ’50s and ’60s when Coke and cigarettes and Our Country and I were all (it seemed) young together, happy and happening and eating burgers and fries like there was no tomorrow. It took me back to when Coke was the real thing, it was “it,” we were teaching the world to sing together, and even Mean Joe Greene was just a cutie. There’s always been Coca-Cola.

Read the rest of this column here.

Posted in Food Politics