June’s Simple, Good and Tasty Book Club Pick: Food Matters

Mark Bittman, cookbook author and New York Times columnist, takes a balanced look at our food lives in Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating. Packed with recipes and sensible advice, Bittman brings us another step closer to taking all of the thoughtful knowledge about food choices, environmental impacts, the Standard American Diet – ground other authors have indeed covered – and breaks it down in a simple, easy-to-use manner. 

Certainly, if you have been a devout Michael Pollan fan over the years, this book might be a bit light. But if you haven’t read each and every Pollan tome, NYT’s "The Minimalist" delivers the gist of the issue in a straightforward way. describes the book as “applied Pollan." You can take these ideas and, right away, put them right to good use.

Bittman promotes the idea of “sane eating” which allows breathing room for the implications of time, the realities of access, and the existence of bacon. (Bittman’s advice is to use it as a seasoning.) Because let’s face it, a life of deprivation isn’t exactly the definition of sane. 

Furthermore, Bittman has a special knack for making recipes accessible and fun. Instead of continuing the myth that cooking – even with a gourmet twist – is limited to the realm of foodies, Bittman breaks it down. With basic guidelines, you can riff on these dishes based on what’s in the house or what’s in season. This book is downright helpful, regardless of how much time you spend tinkering around in your own kitchen.

From "Booklist" on

Only America could produce a Mark Bittman. One moment, he’s traversing Spain on public television with celebrities in tow, peddling the newest fad in high-end dining and drooling over prodigious quantities of savory food in tight closeup. The next moment he’s promoting minimalist cooking. Now he reports his own passionate belief in agricultural sustainability and slow food, and he touts a new diet that not only offers guilt-free pleasure but also makes Americans look as good as the beautiful people he hangs out with. His prescription: become aware of where food comes from; choose foods intelligently; pay attention to broad, inclusive nutritional principles; balance intake and exercise; snack judiciously; and make sure that whatever one eats, it’s as attractive to the palate as it is to the waistline. Bittman’s fame will generate lots of attention, and his commonsense advice, while not new, bears the hallmarks of contemporary nutritional wisdom. Recipes included.

Here’s a sample of this month’s book club discussion topics:

  • Let’s talk about the impacts of what just one person eats, or just one family. Can we really make a difference?
  • What’s the most important aspect of your food decisions – your own health, treatment of animals, living in harmony with the environment, or something else?
  • How has your typical weekly diet changed over the past year or so? Have you made adjustments like Meatless Monday or buying more local produce, or shopping at a farmer's market?
  • What do you think about Bittman’s “vegan until 6:00 p.m.” approach? Too much? Not nearly enough?
  • If you were to create the perfect role for government in our food system, what would it be? How would it function differently than it does now?

We hope you can join us at this month's book club discussion. As usual, we'll be at Mississippi Market Natural Foods Co-op’s Selby location on Thursday, June 24, from 7 to 9:00 p.m. and at the Harmony Co-op in Bemidji from 6 to 8:00 p.m. We look forward to seeing you there!


Tracy Morgan is a Twin Cities foodie, cookbook hoarder, and owner of all the right kitchen gadgets. Living in downtown St. Paul, she loves to take her green trolley shopping at the Farmer's Market and see how much weight it can handle. When not spotlighting local goodies for Simple Good and Tasty, Tracy runs Segnavia Creative, a business development and marketing firm. She also serves on the board of directors for the Mississippi Market Natural Food Co-op. Her last blog post for Simple, Good and Tasty was Farmers' Markets Spring Forward: Picking and Choosing the Market for You.