Meet my new best friend, Mark Bittman

At my six week check-up with Karen, my midwife, my red blood cells were up but not quite high enough to satisfy Karen. And since I’m not planning on visiting another doctor anytime soon to check those levels again, Chad and I decided to bite the bullet and buy a nearly $40 bottle of Floradix Floravital Iron + Herbs at the health food store. I’m taking two doses a day, plus working on increasing my iron intake in a myriad of other ways as listed here. Good thing I love liver; while 3 ounces of beef has 3 mg of iron, 3 ounces of liver has 25 mg! Incidentally, Guiness beer (don’t get me wrong, I love Guiness) only has .3 mg per glass…(Note the decimal point, Tiff!) I think my energy levels are increasing.

That plus the fact that my boss seems to be avoiding meeting me to discuss when I can start working at home, leaves me with time and energy in the kitchen and luckily I’ve just been introduced to a great cooking companion. My friend, Maya (aka Flavorgirl), has been raving about Mark Bittman’s cookbooks for a while now – in fact, these days when I call her for kitchen advice, she most often says, Wait, let me see what Mark Bittman says…

So when I finally saw the books in person at her house (How to Cook Everything and The Best Recipes in the World), I decided I needed those books in my hot little hands as soon as possible. My husband, the good librarian, accommodated me immediately so I didn’t need to dip into our grocery funds.

Now besides carrying an 11-pound baby everywhere, I can also be seen hoisting an 800-page cookbook up and down the stairs as well. It alarms Chad a bit, I think, to see a hardcover, dictionary-size book hovering over the yet undeveloped skull of his new pal Christian, but I don’t want to lose one single nursing session opportunity to read Bittman’s recipes.

I was incredulous when I heard Maya say that she likes to read Bittman’s cookbooks cover to cover, but now I am full of understanding. Right now I am in the process of reading every recipe in The Best Recipes in the World. Mark Bittman, some of you may know him as the Minimalist recipe writer for the New York Times, writes engaging prose and concise, well-informed recipes. Reading his recipes is like having an extremely knowledgeable companion travel with you around the world and tell you what’s in all your favorite dishes, not just in the restaurants, but on the streets as well. Additionally he groups things by main ingredient, so you learn how different cultures deal with the potato or chicken – and how just a minor tweak can completely change the ethnic identity of a recipe. This method of organization also makes it useful for when you have a large quantity of (insert food name here) and you don’t know what to make that you haven’t already made one million times before. I know, I’m gushing, but I really am having fun reading his book.

His recipes are also straightforward and astoundingly simple. For example, Lemongrass Chicken from Southeast Asia requires making a paste of lemongrass, shallots, garlic, chile, and fish sauce to press into the chicken flesh under the skin. The chicken is briefly browned on the stovetop and then cooked under the broiler until the skin is crisp. Oooooh. I can’t wait to try it. And Kung Pao Chicken! I’ve been waiting a long time for somebody to show me the way to Kung Pao chicken at home.

I think Bittman’s cookbooks would also make great gifts. My father-in-law definitely needs a Bittman cookbook.

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