Mark Bittman’s newest cookbook isn’t just a cookbook. It’s a book that discusses the implications – both to our own health and to the environment around us – of the way we eat. Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating with More Than 75 Recipes is divided up into two main sections, with “Food Matters” coming first and the recipes coming second. Bittman leads the reader through a chapter on “rethinking consumption” to get the reader’s attention before exploring the topic futher and discussing the history of food as it relates to overconsumption and how eating habits can be changed to reflect a not-so-mindless attitude towards food.
There are plenty of facts and figures throughout the book, so this isn’t just a random collection of thoughts (not to name names, but some books in this genre certainly come off this way). Some of the statistics in just the first section are very eye catching – 7% of American’s calories come from soda, for instance. The book is very US-centric because that is where the audience for the book is. That doesn’t mean that in other developed countries there is no problem with overconsumption or eating too much junk/processed food – and organic junk food is still junk food – it just isn’t the focus of this book.
Unlike some politically/socially minded food books, this one does have the distinct advantage of also being a cookbook. Whether you agree with Bittman or not, you still get access to a whole bunch of new recipes. All of the recipes were designed with the theme of the book in mind and most use a minimum amount of ingredients to produce big flavors, and the recipes that use meat tend to augment it with lots of vegetables. They also use whole grains, heart healthy fats and suggest a very minimal amount of anything processed. As you might expect from the author, the recipes are easy to follow and have very straighforward instruction. The recipe section includes breakfast, lunch, snacks, dinner and even dessert.