I have a little list

I LOVE Mark Bittman, I do. I get a lot of good ideas from reading his articles and cookbooks, and if I ever find myself needing to follow an actual recipe, his are unfailingly clear, reliable and—more important—delicious. In the kitchen according the Bittman, the axiom “good, fast, cheap: pick two” does not seem to apply.

In short, I am a a believer. So I was happy to give up my e-mail address to markbittman.com. Mark says that  in signing on, you are not just agreeing to receive e-mail messages from him, you are making “a commitment to yourself to reduce your consumption of meat, dairy, over-processed carbohydrates, and junk food.” OK, whatever. I signed on and was immediately rewarded with “Bittman’s Seven-Day Meal Plan.”

Sign up yourself and you’ll see… looks pretty tasty, right? But there’s one problem.

Even leaving out the staples, the spices, the fridge-door standbys (soy sauce, honey, worcestershire, etc.), all the “optional” ingredients, even after making a few substitutions (who needs cilantro when I got parsley?), I came up with a shopping list of 80 ingredients for a week’s worth of meals. 

000_0638This is my NYC kitchen. All of it. There is no off-camera cupboard; what you see is what you get. I’m not complaining. I’ve always managed just fine, but after contemplating the list I finally get why some New Yorkers just throw up their hands, keep takeout menus where the cutlery should be, and use the oven for shoe storage.  Even if I had a walk-in closet to convert to a pantry, I can’t imagine shopping for all this stuff and lugging it home! And don’t suggest FreshDirect; besides the fact that I like to personally sniff my melons and feel up my tomatoes, I don’t imagine that pointing and clicking my way to 80 different items would be very good for my wrists.

So what gives? Does the steak-with-roquefort-butter set really need to be dazzled by a panoply of ingredients to give up their unsustainable ways? Or is it possible to have it all—delicious, nutritious, sustainable, convenient, inexpensive—with a more realistic, or shall I say minimalist, shopping list? I think it can be done, and without becoming repetitive. I mean, if I can do this and this and this and this  and this with nothing more than potatoes, eggs and some weeds, surely I can feed myself interestingly for a week without a ridiculous shopping list. But first, I need to finish the big batch of lentils I made yesterday…. stay tuned.

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