The only thing better than reading Mark Bittman's Minimalist columns every Wednesday is watching his step-by-step video footage on the New York Times website. And the only thing better than watching from the computer is watching from the air. Yup, ever since Jet Blue and the New York Times shook hands in August, the airline has added a Times on Air station to those mini DirecTV screens. And it’s exactly what it sounds like—the paper (mostly the Arts and Style sections) in television form.
In addition to spotlighting other columnists, the station shows Bittman with his subject matter (the kitchen). Over Thanksgiving weekend, and all of November for that matter, he was whipping up tomato paella in a five-minute how-to video. Recognize that one? It's his September 5 column, where he gets all didactic about the Spanish dish. Paella doesn't have to be a "meat-and-fish-laden affair” (hence his tomato-loving version). No special frying pans necessary (normal ones will do). And that glorified yellowish powder saffron? The real stuff will cost you a pretty penny ($30 to 40 an ounce).
How delightful to see Bittman on my mini screen, and on many around me. Since August, Times on Air has shown him preparing Laid-Back Risotto with Mario Batali (his May 2 column), and currant scones from San Francisco’s Tartine Bakery. Video footage comes straight from the Times's website and Bittman's new show, The Best Recipes in the World. (Find your regional station here) It'll be interesting to see what they spotlight next, especially with so much content uploaded and available already. Essentially, the work is already done for them. Pretty brilliant business plan.
Over the course of my five-hour bicoastal flight, the paella video replayed about five times. A pretty serious salivation attack ensued. Luckily, JetBlue's on-hand signature blue chips did the trick.
About the author: Erin Zimmer, Serious Eats's Washington, D.C., correspondent, is a just-graduated Georgetown gal following her nose about town as Washingtonian magazine's Dining intern and Best Bites blogger. She got her start as the Hoya campus paper's food columnist, and since entering "real person-hood" has ached for her dining hall's omelet station.