Making Sense of Water

Almost every number used to analyze California’s drought can be debated, but this can be safely said: No level of restrictions on residential use can solve the problem. The solution lies with agriculture, which consumes more than its fair share.

That doesn’t mean homeowners can’t and shouldn’t cut back.

But according to estimates by the Public Policy Institute of California, more water was used to grow almonds in 2013 than was used by all homes and businesses in San Francisco and Los Angeles put together. Even worse, most of those almonds are then exported — which means, effectively, that we are exporting water. Unless you’re the person or company making money off this deal, that’s just nuts.

Read the rest of this column here.

Posted in Food Politics

Introducing #BittmanTopics

Whether you’re cooking it, eating it, or following the policies around it, food brings people together. In that spirit, I’m introducing #BittmanTopics: a place where we can all share ideas about a different food-related topic each month.

Here’s how it works: at the beginning of the month, I’ll introduce a new subject. For the next few weeks, you can use #BittmanTopics to approach it from whatever angle you like—share related news and articles, exchange recipes and photos, ask questions and swap tips, or just weigh in. At the end of the month, I’ll compile my favorite photos, recipes, and comments (with credit to you, of course) in a post back here on my site and share on social media. Now on to the topic for April…

Photo by Yunhee Kim

Photo by Yunhee Kim

Spring produce. We all thrill to the first hints of spring at the market, like real peas, favas and strawberries. Eating locally, obviously, isn’t new: barely anything was shipped more than a couple of hundred miles until after World War 2. But even though most produce is available year-round, the word “seasonal” still has plenty of meaning. Even now, some of us are enjoying local strawberries while others are just getting those first few ramps.

What does spring produce mean to you? What’s local to you this month? What springtime ingredients and dishes are you cooking right now?

Photos by Jim Wilson

Photos by Jim Wilson

Here are some recipes and readings to get us going: light stews to transition from winter to spring, an updated take on spring’s signature pasta, and asparagus 12 ways. For dessert, two of the easiest strawberry dishes. (Careful with those Big Ag strawberries.)

Remember to get in touch on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or in the comments below and share your favorite recipes, articles, thoughts and tips with #BittmanTopics. Check back in as often as you’d like and look for my favorites at the end of the month.

Posted in Bittman Topics, Food Politics, Recipes

McDonald’s Turns ‘Progressive’

You could almost feel sorry for McDonald’s. That’s an odd sentiment when you consider that the company’s revenues in 2014 were $27.4 billion and its stock price makes it worth something like $92 billion. It’s among the world’s most valuable brands and has three times the United States market share of Subway, its nearest competitor.

Enviable. Yet for years its new products, business ventures, even social media attempts have gone wrong: It sold a 90 percent share in Chipotle,now one of its strongest competitors; it introduced products like chicken wings, which went nowhere; it created a Twitter hashtag, #McDStories, that turned into a bashing event. And it has spectacularly failed to attract or even hold on to millennial customers, who’ve fled in droves.

Posted in Food Politics

Taking the Mystery Out of Cardoons


Cardoons are clearly related to artichokes, but in no way do they rank as highly, and that’s just the way it is.

Posted in Produce, Recipes

Stop Making Us Guinea Pigs

The issues surrounding G.M.O.s — genetically modified organisms — have never been simple. They became more complicated last week when the International Agency for Research on Cancer declared that glyphosate, the active ingredient in the widely used herbicide Roundup, probably causes cancer in humans. Two insecticides, malathion and diazinon, were also classified as “probable” carcinogens by the agency, a respected arm of the World Health Organization.

Posted in Food Politics

HTCE Fast: Shrimp and Tomato Paella


Paella need not be a huge ordeal; if it were called baked rice and shrimp in a skillet, you’d think it was a piece of cake—which it is.

3 1/2 cups shrimp or vegetable stock or water, plus more if needed
Pinch of saffron
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion
Salt and pepper
1 pound peeled shrimp
3 large ripe tomatoes (1 1/2 pounds)
2 cups short- or medium-grain white rice, preferably paella or Arborio rice
Several sprigs fresh parsley for garnish

Continue reading

Posted in Mark Bittman Books, Recipes, Seafood, Spanish

Why Not Utopia?

Why Not Utopia

Some quake in terror as we approach the Terminator scenario, in which clever machines take over the world. After all, it isn’t sci-fi when Stephen Hawking says things like, “The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.”

But before the robots replace us, we face the challenge of decreasing real wages resulting, among other factors, from automation and outsourcing, which will itself be automated before long. Inequality (you don’t need more statistics on this, do you?) is the biggest social challenge facing us. (Let’s call climate change, which has the potential to be apocalyptic rather than just awful, a scientific challenge.) And since wealthy people don’t spend nearly as high a percentage of their incomes as poor people do, much wealth is sitting around not doing its job.

Read the rest of this column here. Illustration by Kristen Hammerstad.

Posted in Food Politics

For Perfect Pasta, Add Water and a Vigorous Stir

Flavio Pasta

On a clear fall day in Rome, I was sitting outside at Flavio al Velavevodetto, a restaurant in Testaccio, in a neighborhood that was once the city’s slaughterhouse district and is now inhabited by both older working-class people and gentrifying youngsters. Flavio de Maio, an elegant, middle-aged businessman turned chef, sat across the table from me; a translator sat between us. I had come at the recommendation of a friend, the Rome-based journalist and historian Katie Parla, who told me that if I was looking for the epitome of Roman pasta, this was the place.

I had a question for Flavio: Why did he think that the simplest pastas of all — pasta alla Gricia, pasta cacio e pepe and pasta aglio, olio e peperoncino — were the darlings of Rome, appearing on nearly every menu?

Read the rest of this column and get the recipes here. Photo by Grant Cornett.

Posted in Italian, Recipes

Spring’s Opening Act

Grilled Lettuce and Peas

Back in the ’80s, I resented the existence of Meyer lemons and anyone who championed them. Those groovy Bay Area people would write recipes calling for Meyer lemons, as if anyone could find them, and insist that a regular lemon just wouldn’t do.

Now I have a Meyer lemon tree growing outside my kitchen door. My friends come and take 10 at a time, and there are still 100 lemons left.

And actually, they are amazing, with an oily orange fragrance. But this isn’t a story about lemons. Rather, it’s about me, and Berkeley, where people leave boxes of Meyer lemons on the sidewalk because they have too many.

Read the rest of this column and get the recipes here. Photo by Melina Hammer.

Posted in American, Recipes