Mark Bittman’s recipes have always been a hit or miss, but there’s no denying his influence on food writing and American cooking. And now, after thirteen years, he’s retiring The Minimalist food column.
The Minimalist first appeared on Sept. 17, 1997. It was the brainchild of Rick Flaste, who created the Dining In/Dining Out section (now the Dining section); Trish Hall, my on-and-off editor; and me. It was conceived as a successor to Pierre Franey’s classic 60-Minute Gourmet column, but with a less French, more modern, less chef-y sensibility. In addition, Rick wanted the recipes to be “smart,” and although I couldn’t quite figure out what that meant, I tried to please him.
As every columnist will tell you, it takes time for a column to find its true identity, and The Minimalist was no different. A year later, the column was at least adolescent, and I described its typical recipes as I do today: nearly all of them use minimal technique, minimal time or minimal ingredients; many recipes meet two of those standards, and quite a few all three.
I could say it more succinctly: The column’s goal, my job, has been to help make home cooking more accessible.
It seems as if the column will be retired as Bittman transitions to writing a once-per-week recipe column for Time Magazine, blogging for the NYT and writing op-eds on the politics of food, as well.