I am not sure who you would say is the father of the food movement. Wendell Berry, perhaps, for long being a voice for sustainable agriculture, as well as a poet who eloquently links agriculture to our culture at large. Or perhaps Michael Pollan for introducing so many to the questions of what’s on our table and what kind of food system are we supporting by buying, cooking and eating certain foods. No doubt Omnivore’s Dilemma captured the attention of many young intellectuals as well as the nation when it came out ten years ago.
Mark Bittman should also stand as one of the founding fathers of the modern food movement. From 1997 to 2011 he wrote The Minimalist, a column in the New York Times sharing a wide variety of recipes all made easy for the home cook. In 2003 he published How to Cook Everything, a wide breadth of recipes and techniques empowering home cooks to branch out and make new foods—from homemade pasta to multifruit soup to crispy skin salmon, to name just a few.
After spending so much time writing about the preparation of food, Mark Bittman then shifted gears and wrote a column about food and agriculture in the New York Times opinion pages for four years—one of the only of columns of its kind. During that tenure he helped change the way many of us think about food by candidly writing about issues in the food system both big and small and capturing our attention with his humor, sarcasm and wit. I was already thinking about how to influence public policy regarding our food system, but reading his article Let’s Make Food Issues Real galvanized me into creating this organization.
In my neighborhood, as well as throughout the country, volunteers for local, statewide and even presidential campaigns are knocking on doors talking to voters. In my part of Cambridge, MA we have a heated race for the Democratic primary for state representative. No shock that Cambridge is solidly blue so whoever wins on September 8th will also win on November 8th.
While the incumbent, Tim Toomey, has a lot of support and I have found many leaflets for him at my door, I haven't been able to speak to someone from his campaign. On the other hand, I was able to speak to two volunteers as well as the candidate, Mike Connolly, himself. All three times I asked about food issues. The volunteers were appropriately non-committal. They reiterated Mike Connolly's commitment to progressive issues like advocating for a living wage. When I was able to speak to Mike, he told me about when he was a law student elected to contribute two articles to a prestigious law journal. Initially he wanted to write about food insecurity in the United States, but was steered away from this topic by the professor advisors.
As I have stated elsewhere on this website and on my last post, I started Eat the Vote, back in June because I was concerned none of the existing food organizations in the so-called food movement where doing enough to elevate the political conversation around food topics. The biggest manifestation of this worry was the near monopoly web based petitions had on food systems advocacy. As I said before, I was motivated by Mark Bittman's Op-Ed voicing a similar frustration.
Two weeks ago, I received an e-mail from Food Policy Action introducing their new collaboration Plate of the Union. I fully admit, I was really excited to read the following sentence:
"...we have an opportunity change that in 2016. Reforming our food system must be a top priority in the upcoming presidential campaign -- and we need your help."
Mark Bittman, the cookbook writer known for writing The Minimalist column in the New York Times and "How To Cook Everything" and its various spin-offs has become a leading voice in what some may call the "Food Movement", "Good Food Movement" or "Alternative Food Movement". In addition to his cookbooks and recipes, he has been speaking out on a number of issues, mostly food, agribusiness and the environment as a contributor to the Times Opinion page. Facing his own health issues, he wrote Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating in 2008 where he eschews processed foods and shared his approach to eating nutrient dense foods.
Last month A Bone to Pick: The Good and Bad News About Food, With Wisdom, Insights, and Advice on Diets, Food Safety, Gmos, Farming, and More was published. While I highly recommend the book, the most important argument is the central one of Eat The Vote: the food movement needs to be stronger, louder and more political. To read a shorter version of Bittman making this point read his Op-Ed: Let's Make Food Issues Real.
"I’ll believe there’s a food movement when Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush are forced to talk directly about food issues." -Mark Bittman, Let's Make Food Issues Real, May 6, 2015, New York Times