Ah Mark Bittman, why don’t I like your recipes more?
I like Mark Bittman. I like his approach to cooking and eating and I like what he has to say about food. I have his “How to Cook Everything” and “Minimalist Cooks Dinner” cookbooks. “How to Cook Everything” has pages falling out of it because I refer to it alot – it really does have recipes for pretty much anything you want to make, with lots of variations. None of the recipes are the best one you’re going to find for that particular dish but they’re passable. I only cooked from “Minimalist Cooks Dinner” a few times because the recipes were, meh.
I first heard about Bittman’s VB6 diet at a lecture he gave in 2012. I arrived early, hoping to stalk him – I mean make chit chat with him, and get a good seat. He was sequestered away in a private room so stalking was not possible but I did get an excellent seat. His talk was about the type of food Americans eat (bad) and where it comes from (also bad). I kept forgetting that I wasn’t listening to Michael Pollan — their messages are similar. During the Q&A, he talked about his diet which he calls VB6, or Vegan Before 6:00. (The VB6 cookbook hadn’t come out yet.) He needed to lose some weight and had some health problems so his doctor recommended that he become a vegan. His compromise was VB6. He eats vegan for breakfast, lunch, and any midday snacks and eats what he wants for dinner. The diet was successful for him and over time, his dinners became less meat heavy and healthier. He still has the flexibility to eat what he wants or splurge from time to time, but his overall diet is good.
I found the VB6 cookbook to be a bit overwhelming. To follow the suggested diet, you’d have to cook breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. Bittman gives alternatives, for example when you’re eating in a restaurant, but I get the impression that this should be an exception. I generally eat toast (no cooking involved) and coffee with frothed milk (one of my reasons for living – coffee with frothed Clover whole milk – no way am I giving that up) for breakfast, I go out for lunch when I can (my opportunity to take advantage of the wonders that is Los Angeles) and dinner is the meal that I cook every day. I went on a three-week cleanse once and had to cook all three meals and snacks and although the food was delicious and healthy, it was alot of work. I was so happy to go back to my morning toast and coffee.
However, I did cook some recipes from VB6. I liked that the recipes, even the ones with meat, were veggie-centric. I make a vegetable-laden pasta sauce that yielded enough for two meals — I froze half (sauce was ok, nothing spectacular), baked falafel (bad idea or maybe it was just my execution), a vegetable-laden frittata (very good), muesli (excellent and simple, a worthy replacement for my morning toast), and baked ziti with greens (by this time, I had returned the book to the library and had to remember the recipe along with some improvisation).
Bottom line, I did not love any of the recipes. However, I do like the VB6 approach if you’re the type that needs rules to guide your diet yet also don’t want to be denied the foods you love.