One of my guilty procrastination techniques all through medical school was to watch Mark Bittman’s Minimalist Videos.  I LOVE them!  They are short, funny, and produced well.  But most of all they offer fantastic recipes:  simple to execute, healthy, and delicious.  Just what everyone needs more of in their lives!  His recipe for chickpea flour savory pancakes has become a staple in my repertoire.  I leave out the wheat flour, and double the chickpea flour to make it gluten free.  Often I add shrimp, diced red peppers, scallops, fresh parsley, fennel bulb, or minced scallions.  It is incredibly versatile.  Another recipe that I have adopted successfully is his sweet potato salad.   Sweet potatoes are nutrient dense compared to their white potato counterparts.  In this version, Bittman gives potato salad a complete makeover, adding black beans, cilantro and lime.  Fresh, creative, easy and nutritious!  I was very excited when I learned that he would be speaking at Powell’s Books this week!  He is touring to promote his new cookbook titled The Food Matters Cookbook, following the publication of his book, Food Matters.  The thrust of his message promotes movement toward a plant based diet and away from processed foods.  His personal health has improved since making these changes in his diet and he argues that this way of eating is good for our planet’s health too.  He shared some statistics about the industrialized livestock industry which were indeed damning.  It was at that point in his presentation that I started questioning his message.  Sure, I agree that industrialized animal production is a nasty business, using far more water, land, petrol, and resources than it should, but all these statistics are based on feeding animals a GRAIN based diet.   Cows, pigs, and chickens have not evolved to eat grains, and neither have we.  Factory farmers feed cows corn because it fattens them up and makes them grow faster than their grass grazed cousins.   Prairies and grasslands that could be feeding cattle using only the sun and rain as resources have been converted into giant corn and soybean monocrops in order to feed cattle and fuel our industrialized food industry.  The solution is not to become vegetarian, but to raise our meat sustainably.  In my experience as a physician I see my patients’ health improve when they eliminate grains (especially, but not just wheat) from their diets.  I would assert that eating grass fed meat with heaps of vegetables and small amounts of properly prepared grains and legumes is the ideal to shoot for.  I do agree with Bittman’s main message that we need to eat REAL FOOD, which means we need to cook.  We need to protect our children from anti-foods like soda and chips that are available from vending machines in their schools, and served to them on trays (subsidized by the government) in school cafeterias.  My personal mission is to help people realize that it is not hard or time consuming to cook healthy meals.  I think Mark Bittman is on the same path.  I did buy the cookbook because it is chock full of innovative simple meal ideas.  In fact, he took a picture of the couple in front of me while I was in line to get the book signed, and I made it onto the website!  (I’m in the second photo) I would love to hear from my readers:  what are some obstacles to cooking real food that you experience?  What are some solutions that you’ve found?  What do you think about vegetarianism or sustainable agriculture?

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