Author and New York Times columnist Mark Bittman has a thing for California. It doesn't matter that everything about him screams New York, from his accent to his pleasantly blunt manner of speaking— California (and Berkeley, especially) has sunk its Meyer lemon-tinged claws into him.
Initially, Bittman made his way out West this past January, for a semester-long gig lecturing with the Berkeley Food Institute, speaking to students across academic lines, from economics to law. Now he's decided to stay on for another year, teaching at the Journalism school and continuing to work on his new online video project, California Matters.
The series premieres today, June 8, focusing on the regions, people and ideas that are integral parts of the food system in California, intended to lend an approachable angle to academic ideas through talking with the people involved. Not limited to the Bay Area, the stories take place all over California and are part of a greater conversation about food that should resonate across the country. The videos range from "serious and scary" insights into the dangerous effects of pesticides on farmworkers (and consumers) to foraging urban landscapes to labor laws in Los Angeles.
When asked about his favorite places to eat in the Bay Area, Bittman chose local farmer's markets as his favorite and most frequent food-related destination. "I cook at home a lot," he said. "It's just so easy with the kind of produce out here." However, when he's not creating some idyllic Berkeley feast, he has a few East Bay favorites including Camino, Ippuku and Los Cilantros. And in a true embrace of California food, he says he's become a regular at his "neighborhood spot," Chez Panisse.