If you know or have read anything Mark Bittman has written, you likely appreciate his views on food and his common sense. For those of you who don’t know who Mark Bittman is, he is the acclaimed author of over 20 books (including the How To Cook Everything series), a writer and editor for the New York Times, and a HUGE activist for good food for everyone. I have been involved in the same movement as him for the past decade or so, though not on purpose – I call myself an “accidental activist”. I started my blog because of my love for eating good food, but in asking questions about where the food came from, I started to realize how complicated it was, and that wasn’t because I was 8 years old – I am more baffled than ever about it now! As I read ( a lot of Michael Pollan!) and watched documentaries (especially Food Inc. and Fed Up), I realized how political and how completely unsustainable our food system is, and how truly crazy our choices of the food we put on our plates are! We know better, so why don’t we do better?
With “Big Food” marketing to kids (if you don’t know about my run-in with big sugar in 2014, see here for the story on that), how can we battle this? I try to present (see one of my presentations here), when I have the opportunity, and generally try to just promote and advocate for good causes like saving the bees or promoting organic eating and I try to be a fervent supporter of these important causes.
I have also been a huge fan of conversation-like talks by influential people. In this fashion, I have been fortunate enough to have seen Jamie Oliver, Michael Pollan, and now, Mark Bittman live in Toronto. I believe that an interview-style talk is a lot more meaningful and conveys a message a LOT better than just a solo presentation. When I heard that Mark Bittman, someone I had read about before and really admired, was coming to Toronto, I knew I had to go and listen to his important words. I also hoped to actually take him out for lunch or dinner – maybe next time!
As the talk, organized by Community Food Centres Canada, began, Mark was asked about many important things by journalist Ann Hui – things like how we “now know about sustainability, and there is no excuse”, referring to how in the past, we polluted our earth but we didn’t know how harmful it was, yet we continue to do this despite knowledge of how destructive we are. He also mentioned that we should fight every battle, no matter how bleak the chances are, because we never know when we may win. These words really resonated with me, because it is true that we all need to fight every fight possible, because even the slimmest chance of winning is enough. In this day, my generation wants to make a difference but there is so much that makes positive change seem impossible. Just hearing Mark’s perspective on this is something I will keep with me and share with others.
After listening to the hour-long conversation, there was time for a few audience members to ask Mark a few questions, and I was lucky enough to get to the microphone quickly enough to be second in line. My question, which is something I ask influential people like Mark if I am given the chance, was “If you could tell high school students who don’t care about food one thing to make a real impact, what would it be?” His answer? Eat more real food, and less junk food. He also stated that we should categorize our food habits and the impact junk food could have in the same breath as driving without a seatbelt and other issues that seriously endanger our lives – because the way you eat can shorten your lifespan! (you can watch and listen to my question and his answer here)
I also really liked his answer about food waste, which you can listen to here. We really have to stop eating ANY industrial meat, and junk food. It just makes sense. Read and listen to him and you’ll understand!
How can we make people care more to actually take action and eat better? Please send me a message if you have any ideas, or even to let me know why you don’t make changes despite having the knowledge that it matters!
Following the Q and A, I was lucky enough to get a copy of A Bone To Pick (one of his books which is a collection of his op-eds that I can’t wait to read)! After he signed the book, I patiently waited around in hopes of asking him a few questions that I had prepared. Because he was on the way to a reception, I only got to ask one, so chose to ask him what three meals he believes everyone should be able to cook. The answer: rice and beans, stir-fried veggies, and salad. I already know how to make rice and beans, and I make great big salads pretty much daily, if not twice daily, but I had never stir-fried veggies. I am a much better eater than I am a cook, but he inspired me, and I wanted to at least honour his time answering me with some action. So, I set out to learn, and I made some stir-fried broccoli straight out of Bittman’s book How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. I plan on making this a LOT now – it was really easy, took minutes and was a hit with my family!
Getting to listen to and meet Mark Bittman was an inspiring experience, because he is someone who I really look up to and someone who has made real change. He even talked about how one of the groups he works with successfully brought a national food policy to the attention of the Obama Administration, which is no mean feat! But, unfortunately there was not a change made, and with the current administration, there isn’t a conversation to even start about food. But it was great to hear that he wasn’t discouraged to keep pouring his time and energy into change, and amazing to also hear how he believes writing and speaking qualifies him as an activist – that means what I am doing matters, and also what you are doing matters too!
I hope to be able to see Mark Bittman speak again, and maybe even have the chance to take him out to dinner next time! 🙂