Mark Bittman on the Lunch Agenda Podcast: "Cooking is About Compromise"

 "If I could get everyone in the United States to make rice and beans once a week, I would have had a successful career." --Mark Bittman



This week, I got to ask Mark Bittman, of New York Times column and twenty cookbook fame, all the questions I've ever wanted when he joined me for the finale episode in Lunch Agenda's "Teaching Food" series.

A few great Mark-isms from our conversation:

[On his philosophy to teaching cooking]
"Cooking is about compromises. You never have the perfect ingredients, you’re never as talented or experienced as you want to be. And for sure you never have as much time as you want to have. So you make what compromises you need to make. But the closer you can get to cooking real food from scratch, the better your food is going to be."

[On his tendency to write in parentheses]
“Things are not black and white. Cooking can be pretty straightforward, but I think it’s important to know that there are lots of options. People who pretend you can only do things this way, people who think this is the best, that bugs me....I want people to know that there’s a lot of ways to get dinner on the table. Some of them are faster, some of them are slower. Some are more precise, but my stuff is much less precise."

[On what he learned from a comment last year seen as "hurtful" and "enraging" to black people]
"The feedback that I got afterwards was, 'Think about where not everything that you say and not everything that I say is original to me'. And sometimes it sounds like it’s original to me, but that many people have put lots of work into the kinds of issues that I talk about and think about, and that that should be acknowledged."

[On his new newsletter and website,]
"It is really the first time in my life I’ve had full and total control over my output. There’s always people to negotiate with. Editors, copy editors, proof readers, etc. The newsletter is both scary and liberating in that we just get it ready, and send it out. I’m the last word. We’ve already had one screwup and I’m sure we’ll have many more."