Mark Bittman on writing and the food revolution

Mark Bittman is a key player in "how we eat today." Across his many cookbooks, Bittman has shown readers how to bring together knowledge and improvisation in their kitchens — and has dazzled chefs like Mario Batali, who remarked, of How to Cook Everything, "I'll now bequeath my cookbooks to a collector; I need only this one." In 2010, Bittman was named a weekly columnist for the New York Times, becoming the first food writer to command such a perch on the op-ed page of any major newspaper. For five years he used his Times column to explore the intricacies of our current food system, dramatizing how it's set up to sap the health of our bodies and our planet, and suggesting how we might eat better and live better.

In this C&V episode, Bittman reflects on how he became the unique writer he is. In the first part, he opens up about the people and cultural forces that shaped him in his teens and twenties. In the second, he reads and discusses one of his more personal New York Times columns, "Bagels, Lox & Me," and describes what it was like to be a columnist for the Times.

This episode is supported by UC Berkeley's Art of Writing program, which hosts events, courses, and contests to foster excellent writing among Berkeley students.

Mark Bittman resources for this episode

Mark Bittman's website

Bittman's A Bone to Pick: The Good and Bad News About Food (2015)

"A Complicated Optimist" and "Bagels, Lox & Me" (from the New York Times)

Bittman's full archive at the New York Times

Mark Bittman, Michael Pollan, Ricardo Salvador, and Olivia De Schutter, "A National Food Policy for the 21st Century: a memo to the next president" (2015)

Music resources for this episode

Blue Dot Sessions, "Jackbird" (license), "Front Runner" (license), and "Drifting Spade" (license)

Shonen Knife, "Fruits and Vegetables," from Brand New Knife (1997) (Amazon) (discogs)