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'Minimalist' Mark Bittman Serves Last Column

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'Minimalist' Mark Bittman Serves Last Column

Food

'Minimalist' Mark Bittman Serves Last Column

'Minimalist' Mark Bittman Serves Last Column

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For more than 13 years, New York Times food writer Mark Bittman has championed the merits of simple cooking and good eating in his column, The Minimalist. Host Liane Hansen talks with Bittman, who is retiring The Minimalist after more than 700 columns.

LIANE HANSEN, host:

For more than 13 years, New York Times food writer Mark Bittman has championed the merits of simple cooking and good eating in his column, The Minimalist. He quickly became known - and revered - for his uncanny ability to turn a handful of ingredients into bold, flavorful feasts. Now, almost 700 columns later, Bittman is retiring The Minimalist. It had its final run in this past week's paper. Mark Bittman joins us on the line from New York.

Welcome to the program, Mark.

Mr. MARK BITTMAN (Food Writer, New York Times): Well, thanks. It's great to be here.

HANSEN: All right. The Minimalist makes its exit. Why are you stopping?

Mr. BITTMAN: The Minimalist dies.

HANSEN: No.

Mr. BITTMAN: I'm not, you know, I'm staying at the Times. I have an opportunity to do probably the most exciting gig I could have imagined, and that is a combination of opinion columns and then magazine columns, which are going to be bigger food pieces with more latitude, more flexibility. No one's ever going to say to me, as so many editors have, is this a Minimalist recipe? They'll just say is it a good recipe, and the answer will be, presumably, yes. And I won't have to sit around thinking, could I make this shorter; could I make this faster; could I make this easier? I can just do more normal, you know, not so pigeonholed. It felt a little pigeonholed.

And 13 years, to me, 13 years doing one column - very narrowly defined, really - is enough.

HANSEN: Yeah, you picked 25 of your favorites from the 1,000-plus recipes you featured over the years to run in this past week's column, and I have to ask you about one of them: Stir Fry Chicken and Ketchup.

Mr. BITTMAN: The long and the short of it was: it's a basic stir fry but you make a sauce out of ketchup cooked with garlic and oil and chilies. And as a foundation of a sauce like that, the ketchup is amazing. And actually that dish inspired a column that we did entirely about ketchup and different uses of ketchup in good cooking, which was really fun. I can't remember any of them except for that stir fry, so maybe there aren't that many but it was a cool idea.

HANSEN: I have to ask: did you make the champagne cocktail that you featured on your last column?

Mr. BITTMAN: I did. I got together with Jim Meehan, who's a friend of mine and a bartender downtown here in Manhattan. And, you know, I don't really know that much about mixing drinks so I thought it's safer to be at a bar with a guy who did. And we made about 10 champagne cocktails and I thought, I'm not drinking this stuff, but, you know, I had to taste everything and I did kind of wobble out of there.

Anyway, I liked that champagne. The maple syrup instead of the sugar cube is, you know, it's accessible because you don't need the sugar cube, which is not something most people have around. But it also had a nice depth of flavor and I have to say it also increased my appreciation of bitters, which was nice.

HANSEN: What a nice way to say goodbye, huh?

(Soundbite of laughter)

HANSEN: Mark Bittman is the author of "How to Cook Everything" and "Food Matters." His New York Times column, The Minimalist, ended its run this past week. Mark, thanks and cheers.

Mr. BITTMAN: Thanks, Liane. Take care.

(Soundbite of music)

HANSEN: This is NPR News.

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