When cookbook author Mark Bittman shows up tonight, October 26th, for a

discussion and book signing at the Skirball Cultural Center, he's likely to be a walking, talking endorsement for his new book, The Food Matters Cookbook: 500 Revolutionary Recipes for Better Living.

Since embracing his less-meat manifesto, Bittman has shed 30 pounds.

“I lost a lot of weight eating this way,” Bittman told us yesterday. “I thought people might like to hear that.”

Bittman has long supported a minimalist cooking approach that's less about food as fetish, more about food as delicious sustenance. That's why the new book's message is more “how to” instead of “why not” or “what if.” We know the if–obesity, diabetes, global warming and more.

The new cookbook is the logical follow-up to his 2009 Food Matters: A Guide

to Conscious Eating, which included 75 recipes. That book opened with the

question, “Could improved health for people and planet be as simple as eating fewer animals, and less junk food and super-refined carbohydrates?” The answer, says Bittman: Yes.

“The original Food Matters was more essay-like and analyzed the intersections between environment and health,” Bittman said. “This book is that, too, but from a more practical approach. The principles are the same, but this is kind of a workbook.”

The recipes are his current favorites and, he says, “among the most interesting I've ever done because…I paid attention to the balance between plants, and plants and animals. And I tried to make them accessible, and hopefully, popular.”

Early feedback points to a few favorites: coconut flan with tofu instead of eggs;

mushroom stew, which he called a “beef stew turned upside-down;” and a plum and chicken salad.

“It's not meatless, but I call it less meatarian,” he said.

Bittman's original Food Matters book found that fruits and vegetables account for barely 10 percent of our daily calories. Given the planet's limited resources and the growing demand for food, especially meat and dairy products, Bittman's goal is to increase the percentage of fruits and vegetable in our diet, maybe to 30 or 40 percent.

Bittman will discuss the book, cooking and his philosophy of both at the Skirball at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday with Evan Kleiman, host of KCRW's “Good Food” and chef and owner of Angeli Cafe.

Tickets, $15, are available at the Skirball, online at www.skirball.org, or by phone at (877) SCC-4TIX.

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