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Writing About Food Is a Thrill Like None Other
Musings with Bee Wilson, writer extraordinaire
“Writing about food is the biggest privilege, the biggest thrill in the world, because food is everything. Food connects to everything.”
I adore cooking, obviously, and I like cookbooks and recipes, but — as you know — I’ve become convinced that looking at the bigger picture of food is what’s important, and I’ve come to admire my fellow food writers who look at that picture from, let’s say, less traditional angles.
One of my favorites among what might be called the new generation of food writers — or at least of the generation after mine — is today’s guest on Food with Mark Bittman, Bee Wilson, a British writer who I encounter most frequently in the Guardian and the London Review of Books.
In my conversation with Bee, we talked about her evolution from a food writer who looked at unusual but smaller subjects, like bees, and the history of fake ingredients, to one who considered the history of technology in food, reminding us that the simplest utensils are products of technology just as much as the food processor is.
Bee’s work took a more global turn a few years ago, when she wrote First Bite: How We Learn to Eat, and from there, she moved to The Way We Eat Now: How the Food Revolution Has Transformed Our Lives, Our Bodies, and Our World, a book that closely parallels my own, somewhat later, Animal, Vegetable, Junk, and which made me start to think of Bee as a kind of kindred spirit.
You’ll hear more conversation between two people who agree about a lot, and have a lot in common, and less of an interview here — and I hope you find that enjoyable.
Please listen, subscribe, and review. And we’d love to hear your food-related questions, as we’d like to start doing live Q&A: Email us: firstname.lastname@example.org. The recipe featured in today’s episode — Linguine with Raw Tomato Sauce — is below.
Thank you, as always. — Mark
Linguine with Raw Tomato Sauce
Makes: About 4 servings
Time: About 30 minutes
A few guidelines: You can use good-quality canned plum tomatoes, as long as you drain them thoroughly first; it won’t be the same, but it won’t be bad. Do not, however, use dried basil, here or anywhere else. And don’t smash the garlic too much or you’ll have trouble removing it before serving.
You can use this sauce on top of soft polenta, as a savory omelet filling, or anywhere you’d use a raw salsa or relish.
2 cups chopped fresh tomatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, lightly smashed
1/4–1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
1 pound linguine or other long pasta
Grated parmesan cheese (optional)
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it. Put the tomatoes, oil, garlic, and half the basil in a broad-bottomed bowl. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Mash together well, using a fork or potato masher, but do not purée. (You can make the sauce an hour or 2 before you’re ready to eat and let it rest at room temperature.)
2. When the water boils, add the pasta. Stir occasionally, and start tasting after 5 minutes. Cook the pasta until tender but not mushy. Ladle some of the cooking water into the sauce to thin it out a bit and warm it up. Drain the pasta. Remove the garlic from the sauce. Toss the pasta with the sauce and top with the remaining basil; pass grated parmesan at the table, if you’d like.
— Recipe from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian