Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Food Matters Cookbook: A Review and a Giveaway

You've likely heard of Mark Bittman, author of a variety of award-winning cookbooks, including the grandiosely-named How To Cook Everything. (I don't own a copy, so I'll refrain from passing judgment on the validity of the title.) I was not actually very familiar with Bittman's work until recently, when a publicist at Simon & Schuster asked if I'd like to take a look at Bittman's new book and host a giveaway. Well, this is that giveaway! The instructions will be at the end of this post.

The Food Matters Cookbook: 500 Revolutionary Recipes for Better Living is a hefty volume packed full of tips for eating like "food matters" - and as you may have guessed from the title, there are a lot of recipes. 500 of them. Revolutionary? I'm not so sure. I think Bittman just gets a kick out of hyperbole. His writing did convince me, though, that it would be both doable and desirable to shift the ratio of meat and veggies that I eat so that meat becomes a side dish rather than the centerpiece. This book appeals to me because Bittman comes across as an omnivore who knows he will never give up meat entirely, but for a variety of reasons, he works to shift his focus (and the readers') to vegetables. This is something that I can do, and I was surprised that many of the veggie-heavy recipes sounded good to me, a slowly reforming steak-and-potatoes kind of girl. 

Bittman's philosophy towards food is friendlier than, say, Michael Pollan's. No rules here; this isn't a "manual." Instead, it's a friendly, relaxed collection of suggestions for ways to treat our bodies and our planet better. Less animals, less processed foods, more plants. This goes well with the guideline I've always tried to follow: everything in moderation. If I want bacon, sure, I'm gonna have bacon, but it doesn't need to be the daily main course. (Ok, maybe once in awhile...)

The recipes are friendly as well, written in an easy-to-follow conversational tone with abundant suggestions for variations. In fact, I see these more as starting points with hints about how to improvise rather than full recipes. You could follow them as written easily enough, but I found myself using them as little brain triggers from which to develop a full menu.

There are no photographs of the food; I suppose for a book of 500 recipes, there isn't really room for photos. The lack of images disappointed me initially, but I actually think it's for the best. Bittman's secondary goal seems to be to leave the readers more self-sufficient and more confident in the kitchen and the market, and by not providing photos, he forces us to work harder to learn from the book and test our own abilities.

There are many cookbooks on my shelf that I go to for a few standard recipes and then forget about for months, but The Food Matters Cookbook - aside from having so many recipes - has lessons and hints that will always be useful. I'm looking forward to delving into it in greater detail.

Upcoming Events
Bittman will be speaking in Boston twice this month: this Wednesday, November 3rd, at the Museum of Science, and Monday, November 15th, at New Center for Arts and Culture. (Click those links for ticket information and more.)

The Giveaway!
Simon & Schuster is providing a copy of The Food Matters Cookbook to one lucky reader! You have until this Wednesday, November 3rd, at noon (EST) to enter.

(1) Get two entries into the giveaway by leaving a comment on this post about what the phrase "food matters" means to you. (Maximum two entries per person for commenting.)

(2) Get one entry into the giveaway by retweeting any of my Twitter updates regarding this giveaway. (I'm @blumie.) I'll update this post with a link to my tweet once I've posted the first one. (Maximum one entry per person for retweeting.)

So, you can get up to three entries. I'll announce the results on Twitter on Wednesday night after using a random number generator to pick the winner. Good luck!

Disclaimer: I was provided with a free copy of The Food Matters Cookbook by Simon & Schuster, and one reader will also be provided with a free copy. As I am not backed by the budget of a publication, I do occasionally accept free food and products for potential review. Acceptance of these samples and products do not obligate me to write a positive review or any review at all. When I do write, it is my full and honest opinion, regardless of the cost (or lack thereof) of the food or product.


  1. "Food Matters." me that means that conscious choices in food is truly important--whether it be that you are making the choice to make a real food meal for your family at home, choosing to support organic farmers, or sometimes opting for the healthy choice over the "fast choice"...even if it takes a little more effort! We so often in our culture take food for granted and don't stop to think about the work that goes into it and taking the time to appreciate where it comes from in order to get all the way to our tables...or mouths!

    christinaalmond at gmail dot com

  2. Tweeted:

    christinaalmond at gmail dot com

  3. I'd love to win a copy of the book! For me, the phrase "food matters" means that we need to be more aware of what we eat and consider food not just for how it tastes, but for what it does for us, emotionally & nutritionally.

  4. To me, food matters means being thoughtful about what you eat. From where you buy, to the quality of ingredients, to the way in which we consume food. It also differs across groups - for some its access to healthful/quality food, for others its the luxury of having choices of what to eat.

  5. I do have How to Cook Everything, and it seems like this one follows the same formula. Basic ideas, and then he sends you off in different directions with variations on those basics. It's a great way to teach and to also learn.

    To me, "food matters" means that we need to start taking more time to decide what matters as far as what we buy, prepare, and ultimately put in our mouths. It's been fun for me, over the last few years--finding out that yeah, it does matter! What we see on grocery store shelves are for the most part, processed and harmful over time.

  6. And tweeted:


  7. To me, "food matters" means that food isn't just for meaningless consumption or instant gratification. My hubby & I take into consideration where our food comes from, how it's prepared, question if it's "real" food or not, and how it's effecting the earth. Our appreciation for trying new foods has increased as we've realized more & more that food does indeed matter. :)

  8. I retweeted you also. :) (@sarahlynton)


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