Mark Bittman's Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating 

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I’ve been a big fan of Mark Bittman for a long time. I’ve done radio interviews with him and reviewed his work from time to time in this column. Sure, I was a bit miffed that he chose to call his new book Food Matters. But, hell, I never trademarked the phrase I’ve been using for nearly 15 years, so, my bad. One thing is certain: To both The New York Times food columnist and to me, food matters.

With Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating, there’s a bit of a “jumping on the bandwagon” feel, since it follows on the heels of works like Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food, Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and others. Like those fine books, Food Matters is at once an eating manifesto, cookbook and health guide for both the person and the planet.

At the core of Bittman’s book is this question: “Could improved health for people and planet be as simple as eating fewer animals, less junk food and super-refined carbohydrates?” I think you know the answer.

As for personal health goals, Bittman himself has trimmed down considerably since discovering legumes, whole grains and veggies. His manifesto for saving ourselves (while also saving our planet) is based simply on what he calls “sane eating.” That pretty much boils down to moving away from the typical American diet— loaded with animal fats, refined sugar and empty calories—toward the traditional cuisines of the Mediterranean, Middle East, India, France, Asia and North Africa.

Not exactly cutting-edge stuff, but a hell of a lot more appealing than Slim-Fast. And Bittman makes sane eating sensuous, with 75 flavorful recipes like his paella, which includes chorizo and shrimp, or a delicious roasted chicken and chickpea stew. Just because food matters, it doesn’t have to be bland or boring.

Quote of the week: For our own sakes as well as for the sake of the earth, we need to change the way we eat. —Mark Bittman

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