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Mark Bittman: Professing green while blogging…veal recipes?

As authors and publishing houses cash in on Average Joe’s New Year’s resolution to lose weight and eat healthily, cookbooks, self-help titles, and all things dietary under the sexy new subject heading “environmental responsibility” are crowding bookstores’ new release tables—and for the love of green, Mark Bittman was not about to miss out.

The author of The New York Times’ The Minimalist and Bitten blogs and How to Cook Everything Vegetarian offers the enviro-curious reader Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating (Simon & Schuster). Part counsel, part cookbook, Food Matters offers a simple Pollan-esque mantra: “Emphasize plant foods, and minimize animal products and junk foods.”

Bittman isn’t supporting veganism (womp womp), but he certainly renders reducing meat from the average American diet, or even eliminating it entirely, a reachable goal for those who haven’t caught on. Though Bittman makes note of and derides the repulsive treatment of animals-as-livestock, animal welfare isn’t his sticking point; it’s the environment and all of the damage animal and junk food consumption causes it. Generally speaking, there isn’t much not to like: he unfolds the more opaque ways in which the production of these foods damages the environment, offers a critique of the government’s role in America’s unhealthy taste for meat and junk food, and suggests how we might eat more consciously (while relentlessly invoking the maxim of his book). Finally, he offers recipes that are nearly all vegetarian and all include vegetarian versions, and many of the recipes are vegan.

Nonetheless, when I began reading Bittman’s book, I was shocked by his show of unusual awareness and consideration. Last Monday, just a little more than a week before Food Matters published today, Bittman offered a recipe for Roman veal at Bitten. “If you can find veal shoulder—not always easy—that would work nicely here,” he says. Why is a fellow who seems so sure about the damage and injustice inherent in especially veal production describe how to make the calf tasty? Besides, it doesn’t jibe with his suggestion in Food Matters that we use meat for flavoring (if at all) and not as a main dish. (He does, however, stipulate that he eats consciously during the day but eats whatever he wants for dinner.) Indeed, many—though not most—of Bittman’s recipes at Bitten and The Minimalist contain or hinge on meat.

It makes one wonder whether Bittman, like so many others, contradicts himself just to make money; I’d guess that the large majority of Times readers aren’t vegetarian. I know some Emerson-loving Bittman supporter somewhere is mumbling something about hobgoblins. But how much pandering and inconsistency can we stand in the figureheads on the popular media side of the green movement?

12 Comments

  1. Comment by

    CatherineMala

    on #

    Well, Bittman may know the benefits of Veganism but his bread and butter definitely comes from carnivore cuisine. It’s sad though, but it’s all business to him..

  2. Comment by

    eatingconsciously

    on #

    Ugh, I can’t stand Mark Bittman sometimes. I remember once he was on Martha Stewart Radio talking about his “vegetarian” brussels sprouts, but then admitted they are much better with bacon!

  3. Comment by

    elainevigneault

    on #

    Ugh, he really annoys me. But what annoys me more is when vegans, vegetarians, and AR people promote him.

  4. Comment by

    alan

    on #

    this guy is all cattle, no hat.

  5. Comment by

    joolenka

    on #

    I’ve had several email exchanges with him. And the man sounds conflicted. He claims he must put meat recipes in his blog to please his “masters” and his meat-eating readers.

    But when I directly asked him if he’ll one day become a vegetarian/vegan, he replied “it’s inevitable”.

    So I think he’s looking for a way to reconcile his career ambitions with his moral and ethical viewpoints. I just wish he would realize that his career would in no way suffer, but in fact flourish further, if he became a vegan food writer.

    Regardless, a good place for him to start is to at least eliminate recipes for things like veal and pork…I would imagine he has enough power and authority to veto what his “masters” say.

  6. Comment by

    Kathy

    on #

    I don’t get him at all.

    If he wants to eat meat, that’s fine. But I wish he would at least admit his stance and perhaps educate his fellow meat eating folks about just HOW to eat meat in the most body and earth friendly way.

    …such as choosing only grass fed beef or hormone free dairy and meat, ect.

    I recently wrote about this topic on my blog…
    http://kblog.lunchboxbunch.com/2008/12/new-face-of-todays-farmer-considering.html

  7. Comment by

    ali

    on #

    I met him at a conference and he was very nice – but I will say the veal thing is kind of a big slap. Most omnivores won’t even touch baby cow. Because…well, they don’t want to eat babies! However, while I resent his hypocrisy, I still recognize that the man does a lot to raise awareness. So I shall remain conflicted, and hope he comes all the way around to the side of compassion.

  8. Comment by

    Brivari

    on #

    I can’t stand this guy! I can’t forgive the TV show he did where he cooked blackened tofu in meat drippings and dropped the snide comment “don’t tell the vegetarians”. GRR!!!

  9. Comment by

    NotBuyingIt!

    on #

    Wow. This guy-like so many others who pet Rover while chowing on a burger-is obviously not one of us. Shame, even the prez to be says he is going vegan (true or not, at least he recognizes the impact). This weakling on the other hand (gee I already forgot his name) deserves to “Hit the road!” as far as I’m concerned. No one respects a Flip Flopper and he is obviously no leader if he cannot even keep up with us “little people”.

  10. Comment by

    Alex

    on #

    I think we should let off the guy. Criticizing veal consumption’s a good thing, but Bittman seems to be doing more good than bad overall. One need not be all or nothing, and falling somewhere in between does not necessarily amount to hypocrisy. Granted I haven’t read Food Matters — if it says something like “veal is awful” in it, and then he promotes veal, well then hypocrisy it is. But from what I HAVE read, he seems more like a middle-of-the-roader to influence through friendship, not ostracism.

  11. Comment by

    PalmReader

    on #

    What is your point?

  12. Comment by

    Amy Cameron

    on #

    This guys seems to be not sure of what he really wants. I think this is just part of the popularity that VEGANS, GREEN TECH, CONSERVATIONISM is gaining. And he is just riding the wave. Goodluck to him. I am still up for CSR (corporate social responsibility) though.
    Amy Cameron
    BuildMySiteforFree.com

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