Mark Bittman has proven to be a tireless author. His “How to Cook Everything,” available both as a thick book and a handy iPhone application, is a compendium of basic recipes for (almost) everything one could imagine wanting to cook, and he has been the New York Times’ recipe columnist for many years running.
Mr. Bittman recently retired from his position as The Times’ Minimalist, however, in order to begin work on a new column in their opinion pages. If his first column as an opinion writer is any indication, we can only hope that he will bring the same level of energy to his new position.
His “Food Manifesto for the Future” amounts to a mainstream articulation of what would, until fairly recently, have been rather radical views about what is dramatically wrong with the food system. Many Slow Food members will find much of it unsurprising (Mr. Bittman notes at the onset that they are “frequently discussed”), though the clarity, passion, and forthrightness with which it is written are energizing. However new the ideas, it is exceptionally well done, and it deserves to be widely read.
What is particularly noteworthy is that, while its title evokes extreme radicalism (which we are happy to play up with a spoof on a book cover that many seasoned readers will recognize from college), this critique of the agricultural, advertising, and cultural status quo is hardly as radical as the title implies. Indeed, Karl Marx would have been hard-pressed to succeed in getting his views aired in the Times, let alone to have them receive the widespread (if still far from universal) support that Bittman’s have so far.
Revolution, therefore, might be the wrong image. Change might be more evolutionary… and as Mr. Bittman’s example demonstrates, it appears to be moving in a very good direction. Nevertheless, whether it occurs via markets or politics, it is crucial to emphasize—as Mr. Bittman seems reluctant to do directly—that it depends on each of us. [Edit: Or maybe he isn’t….] In that regard, this call to action is most fitting.