Thursday, January 27, 2011

A sad goodbye to The Minimalist.

I woke up this morning to a flurry of links on my food blogroll pointing to the final post of Mark Bittman's Minimalist column in the New York Times. It was not a pleasant way to wake up. Even I am surprised by how sentimental I'm getting, as I think back to the effect that this single column has had on my cooking history.

The Minimalist was originally called Bitten, and this I started reading when I first started cooking in Australia. They plopped me in the country, gave me a kitchen, and for guidance, I had two resources: the internet and my mother, and my mother was far away. Before I even knew who Mark Bittman was, even before I could cook much of anything at all, I learned from him how to make things like kielbasa and cabbage, cumin-spiced lentils, and roasted eggplant. His recipes were less like recipes and more like outlines, full of opportunities for variation and personal flair. His videos were witty and unpretentious, and stressed the simplicity of the process. The first thing that I ever learned about cooking was that all you need for a good meal are just a few good ingredients, a basic knowledge of what heat does to those ingredients, and a grasp on how tastes and textures blend together. (And above all else, use garlic liberally.)

No exaggeration, it was this blog alone that taught me, crucially, how to cook, not what to cook. A person can follow a million recipes with success, but still fail to understand why, for example, you drizzle sesame oil last or why you shouldn't crowd the pan when browning or why you do one particular step before another.

Sure, I eventually accumulated a dozen more food blogs that I continue to skim every day, but over the years, Bitten (and then The Minimalist) remained the only blog whose every post I would read faithfully and carefully, and that is because of the way it encouraged me to think about food and cooking in holistic and not just functional ways.

I know it's sappy, but I'm going to miss reading the column like I'd miss a friend. Anxiously awaiting something new from Mr. Bittman.

1 comment:

Lexie, Little Boat said...

i know this feeling ...

kathryn and i used to read a blog called fops and dandies, but when she went way to law school (in 2008), she quit blogging. we STILL talk about how much we miss her. she was witty and honest and had a very adventurous sense of style.

it's funny how we become so attached to people through the internet.