I’ve Got a Crush on Mark Bittman

I’ve had a crush on him for years, ever since I picked up a copy of his seminal cookbook, How to Cook Everything. For many moons, this cookbook was my first choice for gifts when friends married or celebrated special birthdays. Mark taught me how to make a great pan-roasted salmon, how to roast a whole chicken, how to make yeasted waffles in the dark days when I was interested in food but not yet ready to go to culinary school and make a career change.

Later, after I got some training and work experience, I relied less heavily on Mark’s writings, but I still identify with his emphasis on mastering a technique and then learning to riff on it when you feel like shaking things up. I still look to him as a master of basics (although I have not always had success with his patisserie recipes) and in some ways wish I had his job.

I was supposed to meet Mark and cover some junket event he was doing down in DC a few years ago, but weather or something intervened and our stars never crossed. Dammit! I have emailed him before and he was as nice as can be, got back to me almost immediately, and gave me his blessing to reprint a recipe in a column. (I’ve had similarly nice exchanges with Michael Ruhlman, but that’s another crush-confession for a future post.) Of course, Bittman can be a confessional sort too, as you can see in this column from last weekend about his overreliance on being easy to contact: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/02/fashion/02sabbath.html?_r=1&scp=3&sq=bittman&st=nyt&oref=slogin (See, we even have obsessive e-mail checking in common!)

Besides the “How to Cook…” books, Mark is probably best known for his Minimalist column in the New York Times.  His column is a weekly highlight for me, especially when he handles something less common like today’s story covering a simple approach to octopus. I have started watching the videos he shoots for the Times columns and some of them are great…you can find links to the last few here: http://www.nytimes.com/pages/dining/index.html

I especially recommend the roasted tomato soup video for its special appearance of a Mr. Tomato Head type. I love macabre kid-like stuff like that. I love Mark Bittman.

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