Bittman & Bagels

I really enjoyed Mark Bittman’s New York Times opinion piece, “Bagels, Lox and Me,” though not just for its content (a delight) or its message (important). What stands out to me is how the author ties a recent anecdote into a larger story he has been telling for years now.

Bittman’s mission is simple: get people to eat better. What separates his cookbooks (namely my preferred How to Cook Everything) and recipes from those of other authors is the focus he puts on understanding not just how to cook, but how cooking works. Anyone can throw a potato in the oven; Bittman explains what makes varieties of potatoes behave differently and when to use them. The underpinning to cooking “everything” is knowing how most everything will cook.

He also knows that helping to foster a lasting relationship with food and cooking isn’t nearly enough, which is why he writes socially conscious distillations of the current political landscape. For years he has railed against the soda and junk food industries, taking Coke to task for disingenuous ads and spreading its sugar (and resultant disease) far and wide. Just last week he connected the dots between the Supreme Court’s McCutcheon decision and how we eat. From that piece:

In the food world, change from the ground up is all well and good. We desperately need cooks, gardeners, farmers and teachers. But we also need legislation.

Back to bagels and lox.

This week’s piece impressed me because it was a new spin on Bittman’s ongoing narrative. Real change takes time. His eating of an unhealthy (and non-vegan, going against the title of his latest book, VB6: Eat Vegan Before 6:00) yet familiar, comforting food doesn’t undo the work he has done. Instead it becomes a recognition of the cultural significance of what we eat and where we come from. It is yet another building block to the long-running story of Bittman’s career.

I aspire to find moments like that and weave them into the story I want to tell. And I wouldn’t mind some appetizing either.