Bitty vs. The Oscars, Plus: Reruns are Fun!
David Sedaris, environmentally friendly coffee, and amatriciana
Hey, friends. It’s Wednesday, which means it’s Food with Mark Bittman day, and we thought it’d be fun to rerun one of our all-time most popular episodes, which is, unsurprisingly, with adored writer funnyman David Sedaris.
“When I cook, I want to put everything in the oven, and then I want to take a bath for half an hour, and then when I get out of the tub I want everything to be ready.” — David Sedaris
Our interview with Sedaris was a while back, and since some of you may have missed it — or want to revisit it — and because David has since published a book, last year, Happy-Go-Lucky, which has a terrifying cover, by the way, we thought we'd revisit his episode.
Sedaris and I talked about bathing while cooking (him), growing up with a dad who came to the dinner table basically naked every night (him), and the do's and don'ts of Jell-O (also him). It's a beaut.
Please listen and subscribe, and please review on Apple if you’re so inclined. Thanks for listening — and read on for this week’s links.
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*** This article from the Washington Post is headed, “Single-use coffee pods have surprising environmental benefits over other brewing methods.” Well, not surprising, because they barely have any coffee in them. I wrote a piece for one of our earlier newsletter forms that noted that if you want to get good coffee out of a pod, you have to use two pods per cup. I learned this strategy while spending my time at the Times, which had those odd envelope coffee machines; two envelopes make much better coffee than one. Just as two teabags are better than one, unless you like weak tea.
This Post article notes that instant coffee may be the most environmentally friendly. Actually, the best part of the piece was the original sub-head: “Less coffee = fewer emissions.” Since they changed the sub-head, I guess some editor understood that this is the kind of thinking that leads people to become breatharians, or to argue that the world would be a better place without humans. This might be true, but think of all the beauty (and the coffee!) we’d miss.
*** I don’t want you to read this link – it’s about an internet shitstorm in which yet another extremely flawed analysis of food quality was propelled by a combination of ignorance, malevolence, and naivete into a center stage “example” of how nutrition “experts” are getting it wrong and how government is trying to sabotage our diet. Which, don’t get me wrong, is true enough – they do get it wrong, and they do sabotage our diet — but that’s not the point. The point is that whenever you see a nutrition system, the best thing to do is to avert your gaze and study something else. Oh, a tree! A poem! A child! A hockey game! You will learn more about life from any of those than from a system of nutritional analysis.
Nutrients matter, of course, but not as much as the answer to the question “Is It Food?” If it’s food, which is most easily defined as “stuff they ate before the twentieth century,” or “stuff you can grow yourself, or you can make with things that other people grow without first altering them much,” then it’s probably good for you, at least in moderate quantities. If it’s junk, or ultraprocessed food, or an “edible food-like substance,” then just don’t do it. (Of course almost all of us have cravings, but these must be somehow controlled.) Thus Lucky Charms may contain more nutrients than a banana, but we all know which is the better food.
I could go on. But the federal government has never gotten food recommendations right because half of USDA’s mission is to sell the stuff that American farmers grow, and the other half is to tell us what a good diet is. And the stuff that American farmers grow is often processed into junk. So to the naked eye it appears that USDA is confused, or evil, but it’s just doing its job. Its sister agency, the FDA, is responsible for food labeling, but is so busy trying to if not please than at least not piss off its corporate friends (it is an agency linked to the corporate world by one big revolving door) that it can’t simply print on the labels of ultraprocessed food, “Consider buying a bunch of grapes or some rice or really anything that’s actual food instead of this.” Which would be the honest way to go about it, instead of saying “Honey Nut Cheerios have more nutrients than broccoli … draw your own conclusions.” Which is just about the message we get.
All of this, except the recent brouhaha, is discussed in greater detail in my book, Animal, Vegetable, Junk, which many people found worth reading. (Here’s the Times review.)
*** I like this piece very much: No one is safe until everyone is safe. It’s by a former archbishop of Canterbury, FWIW.
For the first time in a little while, I cooked for myself exactly once this week. Sunday I was traveling, and my kind and wonderful and talented partner