Win the How To Cook Everything iPhone App (and a conversation with Mark Bittman)

Just a year ago, I was the only kid at the SXSW Interactive conference without a smart phone; I wasn’t on Twitter; I rode a rusty bike to get around (at least until the chain broke), and I didn’t bother to bring my six-year-old PC laptop with me there, or anywhere, because it didn’t work unless it was plugged directly into an outlet. My philosophy was, “If it ain’t broke don’t replace it,” and my pride, making the best of what was already available. I was a “minimalist,” both in and outside the kitchen. Well, the times are changing, but that moniker still has significance. Because longtime food writer and author of my absolute favorite column, Mark Bittman, has teamed up with Culinate and Wiley & Sons to release an electronic application of Bittman’s classic cookbook, How to Cook Everything. I have it on my iPhone now. And soon, five of you can too, for free, by answering a question below.

If you’d like to receive a free download of How to Cook Everything, just come up with a creative answer to this question in a comment on this post: What would you like to see a new food-related app for? I’ll select five winners at random.

And now, a few questions for Mr. Bittman himself. Thanks to Culinate for helping set up our phone interview. Also, you can hear us chat more when Mark Bittman joins me live in the studio on Let’s Eat In on Monday, May 3th. So don’t forget to tune in for that! For now, let’s hear what Mark had to say about this app, the future of the cookbook, and his next projects in store.

Me: So this iPhone app is really a milestone in food literature, or technology, as it were.

MB: Do you think so? I haven’t been following the app world, I knew it was a huge deal to get HTCE in an electronic searchable form, and Culinate was really great at developing the shopping lists, timers, etc., but I didn’t really know until this week that it was sort of groundbreaking. So it’s really exciting, it’s really useful.

Me: Do you think it’s more practical than the cookbook?

MB: I think the app’s strengths… while it’s not harmful in the kitchen, its strengths are going to be in the supermarket, or in the subway, in the bathroom —

Me: Well that’s where I do most of my cooking anyway!

MB: (laughs) Well, when you’re thinking, what should I make? And suddenly, you have a database with 1,500 or more recipes, then you can take that to the supermarket and go shopping. You can cook from the iPhone app, but I’d still rather cook from the book.

Me: So maybe it’s a good device for beginners? Who are just starting to cook more. A lot of people ask me, how do I know what to cook with X?

MB: Yeah, that’s true. I think for me, I might say, I want to make a pasta with… I don’t know, artichokes, and, what am I forgetting? Oh yeah, I have to have some butter. Or, here’s some nice artichokes at the market, and on the spot look up recipes to make with them.

mmm… artichokes

Me: So since this app is really groundbreaking, would you consider yourself a pioneer in the food world?

MB: Certainly not in the electronic food world. The short answer is no, I don’t. But when it came out ten years ago, How to Cook Everything was the first sort of modern, ground-up, basic, comprehensive cookbook that really took international flavors into it — maybe ever. There were international cookbooks before, but they didn’t incorporate standard American aesthetics and ingredients, and what you can find in average supermarkets. Supermarkets have a lot of international foods now, and that was not the case before.

Among the biggest changes in American eating in the last twenty years is that maybe we’ll no longer think of European food as superior to Asian food. We were a largely European country for 200 years, and now, really, we’re not. I think the beauty of Asian cuisine in a non-specific Asian cookbook is a large part of its contribution, and I’m proud of that.

Me: I know you must have learned how to cook many things after publishing How to Cook Everything. What are some of the foods or techniques you’ve discovered since?

MB: I think if you look at HTCE and Food Matters, you can sort of see a general shift in style between less-meatarian cooking, I think it describes a lot of what I’m doing now, which is very vegetarian and vegan-friendly — there’s a lot of vegetarian recipes, that’s an overall trend in my cooking and I expect it will continue. I feel like I learned something and I do something new every day — I often wake up, like today, and I know I’m not home for lunch or dinner, so what I did was I looked around in my kitchen and saw some tomatoes on the counter, and had some baby artichokes and made a kind of artichoke and tomato stew. It’s about 8-10 baby artichokes, garlic and tomatoes. I don’t recall having made that before. And I’m really happy about that. It’s not revolutionary cooking, but I’ll probably blog about it, that’s the nice thing about blogging is that you can just do this, as I’m sure you know.

let’s grow, tomatoes!

Me: So do you prefer blogging, or electronic to print media? Are books dead?

MB: I don’t think print is dead, there’s still a role for cookbooks in the kitchen, and if more people end up using iPads, it’s not that far from print. It can’t be free and there’s a whole discussion about that. I don’t think that good work by good people is going to be free, and we all should be able to discern between people who are just throwing stuff up there and those who are talented and hardworking and experienced, and is really worth something. This is not strictly a cooking question but a journalism question, it’s the same in the arts or anything — anyone can claim to be a painter, but presumably the cream rises to the top.

Me: On that topic, what’s the story with this new site relaunch?

MB: I haven’t thought about any sort of official launch publicity, hopefully it’ll be launched next Monday, on the day of your radio show, or the next, next Monday. But it will be much more dynamic and not a static site, with myself a bunch of other people blogging hopefully two to three posts per day, and not only food writers, but activists, farmers, producers, economists, anyone with something interesting to say in the world of food. It’ll sort of follow the salon type of blog, or a slog, where people can say what they want and meet and hopefully it’ll be a little more interactive. But we’ll see, I’m approaching it with great optimism and also great caution. We have a lot of exciting people who have decided to contribute. When I started, I didn’t know how popular it would be. It’s a tough world like with so many other sites, but I saw that there was a great need out there in the food world and I wasn’t doing what I should or could be doing for it, and I wanted to give this a chance, and to try it out.

Me: Well I’m very excited about it. Thanks for sharing!

64 Responses

  1. Julie

    Great! I’d like to see an app for how to use leftovers in your fridge to create a new meal. Like, enter in some of the contents of your fridge and have the app generate ideas for a meal to make.

  2. GE

    How about one that teaches my wife to enjoy cooking so I can get the night off once in a while? Thanks!

  3. Jess

    I’d like to see a food app that convinces you to eat those things that often lose out when you’re craving burgers, fries, pizza, etc. It took me two weeks to eat a container of greek yogurt with fruit because it kept seeming so much less appetizing than all the take-out around me…I need an application that, in a Barry White voice, will croon to me about the cool crisp cucumbers, velvety-soft spinach, and lusciously juicy tomatoes in my salad. The sexier the healthy food sounds, the less I’ll want the unwieldy, drippy mess of a burrito.

  4. Zach Kalas

    The next culinary App: An iphone app that acts as a thermometer when you take a photo of something cooking. Whether it be grilling a steak or cooking a burger the app. will provide the internal temp. along with desired temp. cooking time.

  5. Amanda

    I’d like to see an app that allows you to find the local foods that are best for the area you’re currently in. You’d put the month “April” and the area, say “Ft. Myers, FL” and you’d find out that “Oh hey! Stone crab claws are the seasonal thing to eat right now.” I’d find it useful because I travel for work and I’m always wondering what’s the right season for things in different parts of the country.

  6. JWS

    I’d really love an iphone app which was a sort of guide/companion through a cookbook (for the people crazy/ambitious enough to say cook through The French Laundry cookbook) . Throw in little videos for technique, allow others with the app to add comments or tips to recipes, it’d bring a little bit of community to a cooking style or chef’s repertoire

  7. Steve Elliott

    I’d love to see an app that would clean up the kitchen.

  8. jenene

    my idea: world potluck.
    i think a cool app (which might already exist)
    would connect foodies in a social networking way – like foursquare but for (home) cooks. it would include a ‘check in’ when you are cooking and what you are cooking and who for, and then a map would be created that shows what people are cooking and where. where is it popular today to cook thai?
    you could also send the recipe out and rate how you think you did and how long it took and also how local it is like your rating system.

  9. Lisa

    I’m always amazed at the people we choose to emulate. By his own admission (I attended a live cooking class led by him), Mark Bittman has never worked in a restaurant or attended culinary school. He has no more cooking credentials than anyone walking the street (you know what I mean). During the class I attended, he double dipped numerous times into pots and pans from which the assembled class was later to eat, and blew his nose without then washing his hands. It was, to say the least, a big turn-off. Many attendees were horrified. At this point, Mr. Bittman already had a column in the Times (how did that happen?) and had already written at least one of his now famous books. The books are pedestrian. They’re made for the same people who need a book to be a parent, to be happy, to learn how to run, to figure out what color to paint their apartment. I will give credit where it’s due; Mr. Bittman has, I’m sure, learned quite a bit over the years since I took this class, from the likes of all the trained and talented chefs with whom he’s been privileged to pal around. I believe Mr. Bittman’s cojones and chutzpah are significantly more sizable than his culinary talents and expertise. And now he’s got an iPhone app. Shocking! And what a bargain at only $1.99 (for a limited time only). He’s hoping this will give more people (not those who most need it, but those who can afford an iPhone) the opportunity to become interested in and learn about what to put in their mouths and how to cook it. I believe he, like so many out there, is more interested in how much he can put in his pocket. And why not? We who buy into all this are most responsible.

  10. Brad D

    I would like to see an app that shows ingredient substitutes. Like if you don’t have whole milk, what would be a good substitution for that.

  11. Patrick

    I’d be interested to see a recipe generator that takes into account seasonality and location (with respect to ingredients) to help me decide what to cook. I think pieces of this exist across a few apps, but it’d be particularly powerful in one app.

  12. Dustin

    A social network for food, recipes, and restaurants! Similar to goodreads, a social network around books.

  13. Alicia

    I would like a comprehensive app like this-but for each recipe have healthier alternatives (like subbing cauliflower for potatoes when you have a craving for mashed taters!).

  14. Caroline

    I would like to see an application you can use to find out what you can use to substitute for certain ingredients. Sometimes I have something on my shopping list while I’m at the grocery store (ex. a certain kind of dried chile) for a recipe but I can’t find that particular one. At that point it would be useful to know what other kinds are good substitutes.

  15. Diana

    So, there are apps that let you take a picture of an item’s barcode and find the price range at other retailers? What if there was an app like that for fresh produce? It’d be hard to produce and you’d want it to focus on local markets, but I think it’d be handy.

  16. christian

    I’d like to see an app that integrates a meal planner, your recipes, and map function that searches for grocery stores and markets that sell an ingredient that you are looking for in a recipe.

  17. frank patrick

    Most food apps do what I already need them to do. If the question is “What would you like to see a new food-related app for?”, I’d like a new food-related app for free.


    Maybe something that aggregates links to recipes featured on weekly TV food shows.

  18. Christina Davis


    Ohhhh ahhhhh- I love Bittman.

    Hands down I would like to see a food-app for the food allergic. Let me clarify, there are food allergy apps out there going to restaurants/buying processed food but I don’t know if I know of one which helps people cook with substitutions (not for baking but cooking).

    My 15 month old son is allergic to soy, dairy, tree nuts & peanuts. We have an allergen-free home, so I would like an app that will help me QUICKLY figure out a substitute for “flavors” of various cheeses and sauces like soy sauce (or contains soy sauce/ peanut or walnut oil).

    Sometime I don’t remember where in my cookbooks I saw a substitution idea so I would love a quick app. to give me suggestions.

    Looking forward to that interview on May 3rd!

  19. Leigh

    I would like to see a green market locater food app and a local beer/brewery app.

  20. Leigh

    I would like to see a green market locater app and a local beer/brewery app.

  21. nicole

    i wish lidia bastianich had a cooking app. it’d be the equivalent of having my nonni in the kitchen with me (but mark bittman can serve as her electronic replacement too)!

  22. mary

    Seasonal produce guide.

  23. Katie Lagerstrom

    I’d like to see an app to use at the farmers market. I could choose a fresh ingredient and be directed to some ideas or recipes. This would make me more likely to try something new.

  24. Jennette

    Is there an app that is a “Pantry Plotter?” That’s what I’d love to see. I could enter everything I like to have on hand in my pantry and track when items are running out, what I need to buy in order to make recipes from what I have, what I could make from the ingredients I have on hand, etc.

  25. […] Not Eating Out in New York » Win the How To Cook Everything iPhone App (and a conversation with Mar…. […]

  26. Brian R

    There are apps where you can take a photo of just about anything and the app will come back with information about that photo. I would love to see a food app where I am strolling in the produce department, I take a photo of a particular fruit or vegetable and it would retrieve recipes based on the photo I just took.

  27. Ann

    I’m very excited about this Bittman app! HTCE is one of my favorite cookbooks. I’d like to see an app for making emergency substitutions in recipes–to help me figure out what to use if I have only egg whites and no whole eggs. Or how to improvise baking powder if I’ve run out.

  28. Mac

    With “How to Cook Everything” on my iPod Touch I’m not sure that any other food-related app would really be necessary…..I have Mark’s book “How to Cook Everything” and it’s my “go to” kitchen reference…..but a version of the “How to Cook Everything” app optimized for the large-screen iPad with additional multi-media features would be way cool……

  29. Dave

    I’d love to see something akin to the Flavor Bible done as an iPhone app. Pick a food/flavoring/cuisine type, and see what works well with it. Tap one of the items shown, and the program pulls up some ideas for ways to use the combination.

  30. Whitney

    Ok, here’s my entry:

    I’m an American living in a small town in Switzerland. And in small Swiss towns, the supermarket closes at 6:30 pm. I have just enough time to leave work at 6:00, walk to the train station and catch the train at precisely 6:11, arriving back in my town at 6:17, dash to the supermarket, wander aimlessly through the supermarket, hungry and indecisive, and finally grab a jar of tomato sauce and some spaghetti just 18:30 before I’m promptly thrown out. One false step, and it’s yet another Turkish falafel for me. You see, I’m doomed!

    I could really use the app for those brief 6 minutes in the train to figure out something slightly healthier and more appetizing than spaghetti or falafel.

  31. Tracy B.

    I think that a food app that helped me discern what foods are in season currently for my area would be awesome. If it were then paired up with suggested recipes so that I could go to the grocery, farmers market, etc and pick out seasonal, fresh food.

  32. ruth parson

    I would love to see and have a food app that would offer information about using food to address health issues.

    For example, I am attempting to reduce nerve pain by focusing on anti-inflammatory foods. Sometimes I can’t remember which side of the inflammatory line a food rests. If there is a less common food available to me, I would love to be able to check its properties.

    I am also working with food to reduce the symptoms of hypothyroid disease, by eliminating cruciferous foods. While avoiding these foods, I am missing out on some great cancer-fighters. When it comes to dark leafy greens, there is a fine line. I’d love to be able to have at hand a guide to cancer-fighters that are not cruciferous.

  33. mslater

    I agree with Mark that it would be especially useful for shopping because it makes it so easy to track necessary ingredients. That leads right into what I’d like to see in an app like this which is a list of alternative ingredients because my wife can’t tolerate garlic, yet so many contemporary recipes use garlic as a mainstay of their approach to a dish. As a novice cook who’d like to shop and then try new recipes I’m gripped with indecision when it comes to looking for an optional choice, and an app that included such options would be very helpful.

  34. Miko Marye


    I think that people would enjoy an application that inspires with new daily menus/recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks for calorie conscious vegetarians and omnivores daily…coupled with an online sample sale of fresh/wonderful ingredients…always looking for great olive oils as I live in Hawaii…just a thought.

  35. Kim

    I would like to see a greenmarket driven food app. One where it listed what was available in the greenmarket this week and then listed possible recipes you could make, using, of course, mostly local foods. Perhaps, however, this already exists!?!

  36. Jessica

    I would use an app designed to organize photos taken of the food I eat. It’s been shown to be a good weight loss tool, to help you monitor the food you eat. I think it would also be helpful for anyone trying to eat more healthfully in general, or trying to eat more foods prepared at home.

  37. Ellie

    HowNGOs about an app that converts recipes to “serves 1” because I can’t always use leftovers.

  38. Joel

    Great article and fun interview Cathy…

    A far as an app, I`d love to see a sustainability compass for strangers… just came back from Holiday, would be fantastic to have a guide (could be a wiki-type platform) that points travellers to sustainable or slow items in a city – markets, events, restaurants, gardens or even people. 🙂 Just a thought on an early Monday morning… 🙂

  39. Lois Beedle

    I would like to see a new food-related app that would allow me to enter the item and container (can, bunch, bag) size (pounds, ounces) into a recipe and obtain the number of containers required for the number of servings the recipe produces.

  40. David

    I’d love to see a more functional method of linkage between explaining concepts relating to a recipe and videos for it. there are a variety of apps out there that are basically pretty interfaces onto a database of recipes, but often i’ve got questions relating to a specific recipe and the site has a video that i can’t find related to it….so i end up avoiding that step.

    making a pie crust, for example – some sort of link between the video on the website and the recipe, so you can answer the question you have, right there, when you have it.

  41. Kristen

    An app for ingredient substitutions — not just how to sub baking powder for baking soda either. It would be great to be at the market, find that they have no parsley, and easily look up a similar herb on my phone.

  42. kate

    i could use an app that tells you how to choose foods at the market (e.g., look for berries that are smaller and firmer/broccoli florets that are small and tightly packed, etc)….

  43. Jill

    I think an app that gave good replacement suggestions for ingredients you might not have or might not like. Type in Cilantro…the app tell you parsley or chives.

  44. Melissa

    I’d love to see an app that was geared to seasonal and local eating. What produce is in season in your location, where farmers markets are in your area, and great recipes using seasonal produce that could create a shopping list for you right there.

  45. Joanna

    Personally I would love an app to help with seasonal eating. Maybe it could tie in to local farmers, or maybe it would just make predictions on what fruits and vegetables will be available based on your location and the weather. And it would be tied to recipe ideas!

    Then again, I am fairly out of touch with the app world – there are just SO MANY – so maybe this already exists…

  46. Josh

    I’d like to see an iphone application that allows users to type in what ingredients they have at their house and have the app bring up various recipes that they could make with those ingredients, and possibly a few other simple ingredients. I know they have websites out their like that but not sure if they have the actual applications for phones yet.

    Also a foraging application would be great but I don’t see as many people having a use for this, though I would!

  47. Jon

    I would like an app that allows you to plug in or choose the recipes that you like and it will recommend others. Similar to Netflix or Amazon recommendations.

  48. Sean Crowell

    I’d like to see an application that combines all of the ratings you have on your blog, such as health ratings, green-ness, local consumption, costliness, and so forth. It would also be cool if the app could tell me what sorts of foods are seasonal and local in my area, since many times the stuff at the farmers’ market seems to be VERY nonlocal (e.g. Ethiopia).

  49. Nichelle

    A cupcake app that would list cupcake bakeries in your area with reviews, pictures and maybe even coupons.

  50. Victoria

    I’d love to see a new app on the benefits of different foods and when best to consume them in which season.

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