Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Rant: A Beef with Bittmann

I'm sure I'm not the only one who read "The Minimalist" Mark Bittman's relatively stupid column in the New York Times. It's bad enough this guy gets paid to show you how to stir fry a vegetable in oil and garlic. He also has to make you feel bad about not being able to spend the day finding that vegetable at your local farmer's market in season. I share some of his philosophy about simple food from scratch. After all, that's what this blog is all about. I even agree you should stock your pantry, but many of his recommendations are odd, particularly what he thinks you should throw out. The whole point of a pantry is to have stuff you need in a pinch.

He wants you to get rid of your packaged bread crumbs and make your own. Well, sure. If I happen to have a stale loaf of bread, I do in fact make bread crumbs. However, it's pretty likely I'll need bread crumbs more often than I have uneaten bread. Therefore, I always keep a can of unseasoned bread crumbs in the pantry.

Out with canned broth or bouillon cubes? Well, sure, those are worse than water but I've already discussed Better than Bouillon, which, while not better than a fast homemade broth, is in fact a lifesaver - and takes up very little space.

No more canned beans? Again, in principal I would like to use dried beans and save a big pile of money, and I often do. But really, in a pinch (such as the time I added one CAN of chipotle peppers instead of one canned pepper and had to quadruple the recipe), you should always have canned beans.

Bittman says "out with bottled lemon juice." Last time I checked, lemons were up to $1 each and go bad in a couple weeks in the crisper, while lemon juice is $3 for a quart and lasts for a year. Fresh lemons are nice, but when you suddenly want a light salad dressing, lemonade, or whatever, you need a jug of lemon juice in the fridge. Of course, that means I'm more or less with Bittmann on avoiding pre-made salad dressing, except sometimes I'm lazy so I have some of that too. It also keeps for a year.

Mr. Minimalist says dried basil and dried parsley are "worthless." He's absolutely right. But then he says dried dill is great. I've tried it... it's not. I keep some frozen dill in the freezer. It keeps pretty good, and imparts wonderful flavor. As for rosemary and thyme, they are indeed useful dry, but rosemary grows indoors in a pot (albeit in strange shapes) and my thyme is still going strong in the garden.

Out with imitation vanilla? Well sure, just the real vanilla extract for me. But no, Bittmann, I am not buying vanilla pods in bulk.

Out with tomato paste in a can so you can use it in a tube? I'm with the guy in principal - it's a pain opening a can when you only need a tablespoon. But in reality, a can of tomato paste can be had for about $0.33 while those tubes cost $4 for half of what's in a can. You're better off throwing away the rest of the can than using the tube. Better bet though is to freeze tablespoons of tomato paste on a piece of wax paper, then put them in a bag to save.

Okay, rant over. I agree with Bittmann that you should always have real maple syrup, bacon, whole chunks of Parmesan (although Regiano has been a bit steep lately), anchovies (to his "in olive oil, please" I will add, but the ones that are rolled up in the jar, since you can't close those weird cans), and winter squash.

Rant over, back to recipes. I'll have to come up with my own pantry list soon.

1 comment:

Michelle said...

I don't think Mr. Bittmann would be happy with my pantry at all. I can all year long and my pantry is always stocked..very well stocked!