Me, I'm often surprised by how much I disagree with Bittman when it comes to food politics. I do strongly believe that veggie-as-main-dish, meat-as-side-dish is the best way to eat, for health and sanity reasons as much as anything else, and I'm as anti-farm subsidy as you can get. But I don't think that food advertising is magical brainwashing, I'm not convinced that local food is the be-all and end-all of responsible eating, (though I do believe that it, and its partner seasonality, is the beginning of fun and delicious eating), I'm not exactly a global warming evangelist, and I don't think that there's a strong justification for tax-based social engineering aimed at modifying our diets. (For one thing, no, junk food isn't cheaper. Note the byline, and be amused.)
None of that stops me for having tremendous respect in, and appreciation for, the man's food philosophy. Because he and How to Cook Everything very much have one, and I admire that in a cookbook.
How to Cook Everything is part reference book, and part sermon on the fundamentals of cooking. Its focus is on simple ingredients, simple techniques, and improvisational cooking, and on mastery of certain core recipes that form the foundations of a varied repertoire. When I want to cook an ingredient I've never used before, and need to know how to store it, how long it'll keep, and what the best way to prepare it is, this is where I go.
It fits my cooking style, and my cooking needs. I've done a lot of cooking in the past year and a half, since coming into possession of a food budget for the first time my senior year of college, and into the responsibility of running a single-person household now that I'm out of it, but I'm constantly struck by how little I still know about cooking. I know far more than my generational peers, sure, but I've still never baked a pie, roasted a turkey, or cooked broccoli. My repertoire of dependable, look-ma-no-hands staple recipes has only recently required more than two hands of fingers to count.
Building that repertoire is really what I'm focused on right now, and How to Cook Everything is an excellent tool. It's organized around the basic, fast, easy recipes that Mark Bittman believes should form the foundation of everyday cooking (and, for the most part, I agree with him), and since it's so focused on building blocks and variation (many recipes include several similar but alternative preparations, and the discussion of every ingredient notes acceptable substitutes), every new recipe I learn from the book expands the true number of dishes I can prepare several fold.