Tag Archives: Mark Bittman

Brilliant Bookish Families

Whenever I figure out that two people I adore are related, I feel pangs of jealousy for members of their family. Have you noticed all the talented families out there creating great art?

• Decemberists’ wunderkind (and Montana native!)  Colin Meloy not only has a artistic wife in Carson Ellis, with whom he is releasing a book (Wildwood) this fall—but a gifted sister as well! Recently Maile Meloy wrote a piece for the New York Times called “Reading and Its Rewards,” which linked books with bikes. A winning combination!

• If you’re not familiar with Mark Bittman, he is a New York Times columnist and brilliant food writer. Follow his blog and you will be drooling on yourself regularly—and the best part is, his recipes are usually fairly simple and able to be prepared by those of us who haven’t attended Le Cordon Bleu! His daughter Kate works for The New Yorker, and in June they produced a video together for the magazine about cooking on Father’s Day.

• Perhaps less modest than the other two families, but certainly more amusing, are the Talent FamilyAmy and David Sedaris. Individually they create very different books, David having earned his notoriety by personal essay and Amy coming to books via comedy, first withWigfield and then her breakout title I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence. To date they’ve only worked together as the Talent Family once, to write the script for The Book of Liz. Independent projects aside, they often appear in one another’s work: Amy has cameoed in David’s stories and provided voice talent for his audiobook recordings; and David has contributed recipes to Amy, including instructions for the notorious “Fuck-It Bucket.” Even David’s partner Hugh Hamrick contributed endpaper design for Amy’s first book, and usually takes David’s portrait for the back cover of his books.

• The previous families are still alive and working, but the Brontë sisters were another noteworthy bookish family. Writing originally under male pen names, their novels are still considered noteworthy classics of English literature, with compelling stories that continue to enthrall readers more than a century later.

Do you know of any other families where genius runs rampant?

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Great Books for Eating: How to Cook Anything Vegetarian

Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian quickly established itself as a bible in my life after I received it for Christmas in 2008. Bittman writes for the New York Times and a lot of his work focuses on basics: take this article, for example, that shows how to equip a kitchen well for under $300. Now this is a guy I could get behind!

As a vegetarian cookbook, everything in here is fair game for me, unlike many of the classic cookbooks. If there is a particular vegetable I want to try but don’t know anything about, this book will tell me how to prep the ingredient, with illustrations, as well as provide at least a couple of recipes that incorporate it. Recipes are basic, requiring ingredients I have or could easily get. (No need for organic arugula hand-picked by virgins in Belgium.) Solid illustrations, ample explanations, and hearty encouragement are all provided.

The only area that I’ve been less than impressed with so far is the bread baking section. It’s fair to say my first baguettes wouldn’t be perfect, but a good recipe can transcend newbiedom. My baguettes lacked the proper nooks and crannies, my cinnamon rolls were tasty but grew stale quickly, and although the pizza dough recipe was very close to my favorite the results paled in comparison. Bittman says he’s not a huge baker, and I believe him–I’ll stick with A Year in Bread for now.

How to Cook Anything Vegetarian has helped me cook more of my own meals and ignited my creativity, all while saving me money. It has showed me that I can make omelettes, muffins, soy mayonnaise, croutons, and more, using ingredients that don’t include hydrogenated soybean oil or high fructose corn syrup. I’ve eaten better because of the book. As I’ve been whittling down the number of books I own, my cookbooks have been needing to justify the space they’re taking up on my shelves–this one will be on my shelf for years to come.

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