Mark Bittman has a new column in The New York Times. It's about food, but also it's about the way we eat in these trying food times. "The moderate, conscious eater — the flexitarian — knows where the goal lies: a diet that’s higher in plants and lower in both animal products and hyperprocessed foods, the stuff that makes up something like three-quarters of what’s sold in supermarkets," he writes: "That’s the kind of cooking and eating I’ll be exploring in this monthly column," which is named The Flexitarian. He hopes to "marry the burning question 'What should I be eating?' with another: 'How do I cook it?'”
Flexitarian eating is not dieting, it's a way of life, he explains, and this will be an eating—not a diet—column. But what is this word flexitarian, which sounds like it was made up for comedic purposes? (It is in the dictionary: "one whose normally meatless diet occasionally includes meat or fish"; or more generally, one who eats flexibly.) Bittman explains that he picked the word in particular over omnivore for several reasons, including because it "suggests a regimen that includes more whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables than the Standard American Diet." Flexitarian has a healthier connotation, maybe, and we all want to eat "better." If calling ourselves flexitarian helps, so be it. And, he says, "at least the word flexitarian hasn’t been perverted, as has vegetarian," with offshoots like pescetarians or chicken-eating vegetarians (pollotarians), or people who eat chicken and fish but call themselves vegetarians anyway.