Since his New York Times op-ed column debuted in 2011, Mark Bittman has emerged as one of our most impassioned and opinionated observers of the food landscape. The Times’ only dedicated opinion columnist covering the food beat, Bittman routinely makes readers think twice about how the food we eat is produced, distributed, and cooked, and shines a bright light on the profound impact that diet—both good and bad—can have on our health and that of the planet.
In A Bone to Pick, Mark’s most memorable and thought-provoking columns are compiled into a single volume for the first time. As abundant and safe as the American food supply appears to be, the state of our health reveals the presence of staggering deficiencies in both the system that produces food and the forces that regulate it. Bittman leaves no issue unexamined; agricultural practices, government legislation, fad diets, and corporate greed all come under scrutiny and show that the issues governing what ends up in our market basket and on our tables are both complex and often deliberately confusing. Unabashedly opinionated and invariably thought provoking, Bittman’s columns have helped readers decipher arcane policy, unpack scientific studies, and deflate affronts to common sense when it comes to determining what “eating well” truly means. As urgent as the situation is, Mark contends that we can be optimistic about the future of our food and its impact on our health, as slow-food movements, better school-lunch programs, and even “healthy fast food” become part of the norm.
At once inspiring, enraging, and enlightening, A Bone to Pick is an essential resource for every reader eager to understand not only the complexities inherent in the American food system, but also the many opportunities that exist to improve it.
Bittman (How to Cook Everything Fast) compiles pieces primarily written during the past four years (from the New York Times and the Times Sunday Magazine) in this overview of contemporary food-related concerns. Eschewing chronological presentation, Bittman groups the essays under six headings: "Big Ag," "Sustainability and What's in Between," "What's Wrong with Meat," "What Is Food and What Is Not," "The Truth About Diet(s)," "The Broken Food Chain," and "Legislating and Labeling." Bittman covers a variety of issues; though a well-known cookbook author, he's also a reporter who often gets out of the kitchen. His travels take him to Sacramento Valley (to see a "big tomato operation"), pig farms in Iowa, and a food bank in Rhode Island. Bittman has far more than one "bone to pick," lecturing on cruelty to farm animals, the use of antibiotics and pesticides, worker rights, the dangers of added sugar, and insufficient government oversight, to name just a few. His complaints about what he calls a "broken" food system are consistently balanced with viable solutions; his resounding message ("eat real food") is simple enough, and supports his overall goal of human health and agricultural sustainability. Bittman's compelling essays are a call to action and a reminder to readers that the future of food and of the planet is in their own hands.