Mark Bittman: Analyzed Mark Bittman, a food journalist, 30-year author, and writer for “The Minimalist”, a column in the New York Times, explains his views on obesity and other food related issues in his article, “Why Take Food Seriously? Because Your Life Depends on It”. In the article, Bittman uses specific examples such as personal shout-outs to famous chefs, morbid descriptions, harsh facts, and shocking comparisons between “then and now” in the food world, emphasizing people’s ignorance along the way to show the way he believes to be wrong. He does this, hoping to guilt readers to correctly grow, distribute, prepare, and ultimately change the way we eat it. Bittman uses the examples of exotic dishes losing their authenticity in his argument to help the reader relate certain topics in order to enlighten the reader to the extinction of the once meaningful meals, forcing guilt. He lists different cuisines that have been introduced to America through immigration and gives examples such as “Tibetan, Cambodian, Ethiopian, and Ecuadorian” (Bittman 780). He does this so people understand where some of these “exotic” recipes and concoctions come from exactly. He also gives examples of people who have made these “exotic” dishes accessible to even amateurs, such as, “Julia Child, Marcella Hazan, and Julie Sahni” (Bittman 780). Bittman refers to these people and places to give the reader an idea of who actually mastered these cuisines and where they’re from so it makes his claim more valid and establishes his authority, which is needed in a good argument—the author must be trustworthy. Once again, he uses specific examples when he writes shout-outs to people who prove his points. For example, Bittman writes, “European chefs in the United States embraced Asian ingredients (thank you, Jean-Georges Vongerichten)” (Bittman 781). He does this to prove to the audience that he does know a lot about his claim, which establishes credibility. In Bittman’s writing, he successfully uses descriptions and details such as uninviting images that catch the reader’s attention to try and relate their behavior to unappealing personas. At one point, he says, “until the horrible global slop… came to dominate the scene” (Bittman 780). This “horrible global slop” he refers to, paints a picture in the reader’s head, and ultimately affects the way he/she thinks about that food, by describing it so gruesomely. He also describes “us” as Americans if we conform to these eating habits by saying, “just before we all turn into the shake-sucking fatties…” (Bittman 780). Again, Bittman wants us, the readers, to understand what his claim is, so he uses morbid description to sway us. He refers to us as these “fatties” for a reason—he wants us to picture ourselves as one of these “fatties”, knowing that we will not like the image. He hopes that when we, the readers, read that line, we think, “Man I don’t want to be like that”, and it will be enough to sway our views and persuade us to agree. Using these grossly-descriptive terms is also a way to catch the reader’s attention and generate an emotional appeal. When a reader reads over this article and sees that Bittman has thus far been credible and is describing these people that do the very things he’s arguing against as “shake-sucking fatties”, he/she will more likely than not picture him/herself as one of them and in turn, will stir up an emotional response, which will affect views and/or decisions in the way Bittman wants. Another tactic used to persuade the audience in Bittman’s artile is his use of facts such as statistics about the truth of what’s happening with this pastime of meaningful cuisines. People will not only listen to someone who is knowledgeable, but they will believe the knowledgeable person to be correct. Bittman uses his facts as scare tactics to literally scare the reader into believing him. He writes, “Obesity and its associated lifestyle diseases became news, as did acute illnesses like salmonella and mad cow” (Bittman 781). Bittman says this because he knows that nobody wants salmonella or mad cow, so he slyly combines those diseases with obesity in a way that makes it sound like if you are one of these people who are naive to food and think of it as a fuel source instead of a luxury, then you won’t just suffer from obesity, you could possibly suffer from salmonella or mad cow as well. He also uses these harsh facts to instigate and emotional appeal. For example, he at states, “It also became clear to everyone who took the time to think that our overconsumption of meat was contributing to the hunger of nearly one billion fellow earthlings” (Bittman 782). By saying this, he generates emotional appeal by making those who “over consume” feel badly because their overconsumption is ultimately leading to the hunger of one billion other humans. Nobody wants that weight on their shoulders, so those readers that “over consume” will probably think twice about having five meals a day. Bittman persuades us to side with him by utilizing the shocking comparisons such as comparing the people who are the targets of this argument to unappealing images of people who think about food way too much in order to draw an emotional reaction from the reader, hoping he/she doesn’t want to be compared to such awful things and will change his/her actions. When Bittman compares something related to overeating or food to something awful or gross, that immediately triggers a response from the reader. Why would we want to be associated with something that compares to something awful and gross? Exactly, we wouldn’t. Bittman does this because he knows that when someone realizes they are doing something that can be compared with something terrible or disastrous, more often than not, that person will stop doing that something. At another point, Bittman declares, “This has led many Americans to think as much about food as they do about Survivor or the N. F. L. ” (Bittman 782). Bittman knows that there are people out there that live to watch every football game or buy every season of Survivor on DVD, so by him saying that people think about food as much as they think about those two things, people will realize that they think about food ENTIRELY too much, leading to a change of habit or even just an agreement with Bittman. He also compares the cooking and eating life of the 1950’s to that of now, showing that instead of having one predominant person staying around the house to cook, we now consistently go “out to eat”. According to the latest statistic on obesity, more than one third of the population is either overweight or obese. Bittman constitutes that one result of eating fast food and eating at “casual dining” chains is a rise in obesity levels, and that we are in an era where traditional cuisines are a dying pastime and that those traditions are pertinent to us as a people. So, putting these facts together, and listening to Bittman’s comparisons, descriptions, and harsh facts, we can derive that either we, as Americans, need to eat less fast food, or change the way we eat. WORKS CITED Works Cited Lunsford, Andrea A. , John J. Ruszkiewicz, and Keith Walters. “Why Take Food Seriously? Because Your Life Depends on It. ” Everything’s an Argument: with Readings. 5th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martins, 2010. 779-82. Print. “WikiAnswers – How Many People in the US Are Obese. ” WikiAnswers – The Q Wiki. Answers. com. Web. 12 Sept. 2010. . Works Cited “WikiAnswers – How Many People in the US Are Obese. ” WikiAnswers – The Q Wiki. Answers. com. Web. 12 Sept. 2010. .
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