The Minimalist is gone.
“The Minimalist” was a The New York Times column by Mark Bittman, cook for everyman. His column came with a video, each for something simple: frittatas, pickled lemon, chicken under a brick. After 13 years and over 700 columns, Bittman has decided to move on.
I don’t think Bittman cooks especially well; he can’t plate at all; but he has great comic timing and exudes fun. (I have often tried to spy him on his lower-Manhattan runs. He makes himself—not his family, but his favorite places to buy vegetables, his running route, his humor—known through his videos.) His bestselling How to Cook Everything is a great map for making everything basic and some things divine; it’s the only cookbook I use. (“It’s the dirtiest cookbook in our kitchen,” chef Mario Batali has said, too. Make us mates in our tastes, Bittman.)
Bittman published that first bestseller in 1998, after no formal training in cooking but lots of experimenting and public face time (Bittman’s a people person more than a chef). He wrote some other food books, too, like Food Matters and How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. Now, he’s dropping his online video blog to write on varied topics (some food-focused) for the magazine and the Opinion section.
I’ll miss you, Minimalist videos. I have had four staple routines with The New York Times: “Sunday Routine” in the Metropolitan section, “Modern Love” in Sunday Style, the wedding video on Sunday, and, most devotedly, the minimalist videos. They have been my procrastination, my midday salivation, my imagined activity that I almost never complete at night. They are candy: a snap of someone being sloppy and informal about his profession. I’ve learned to cook one or two things in them.
The frittatas, for instance. I will hold onto you, Bittman frittata, a good light way to eat egg and cheese. You please me. You have a minimal bit of egg and a good bit of salt in your sharp parmesan, tang in your tarragon. We cook bundles of asparagus like logs banging in the pot, until they peak in green, then pour them into ice water, to sustain. The shallowest bed of egg meets a logroll of asparagus; smothered in your cheese and herb, you are light; with a slice of sourdough and a glass of wine, you are fine.
So dies a simple one. He was a cushion for the brain in midday. But we’ll probably get to follow him on. Bittman is good friends with Batali, who’s certainly active, and he has multiple political things still to say about eating healthy (he has a no-meat-during the day policy. He says he lost lots of weight by only eating veggies till dinner time); and so I’m sure he’ll be offering us some new tome soon.
Ilana Simons is a therapist, literature professor, and author of A Life of One's Own: A Guide to Better Living through the Work and Wisdom of Virginia Woolf. Visit her website here.