Around the Table: Food Stories from Science to Everyday Life
By Dr. Tess Bird and Prof. Stanley Ulijaszek
Around the Table is a podcast from Stanley Ulijaszek, Professor of Human Ecology at the University of Oxford and Director of UBVO, and Dr. Tess Bird, an anthropologist of household uncertainty and wellbeing. We interview nutrition, food, and health experts as well as everyday households from around the world, filling in some of the gaps between scientific knowledge and everyday practice.
In this episode, Stanley interviews Professor Marion Nestle about her two latest books, Unsavory Truth: How Food Companies Skew the Science of What We Eat (2018) and Let’s Ask Marion: What You Need to Know about the Politics of Food, Nutrition, and Health (with Kerry Trueman) (2020). Prof. Nestle describes the various ways that food industries influence research, pay for their own experts, and avoid regulation, often following the infamous tobacco industry playbook. If you want to learn more, check out Prof. Nestle's regular blog (which we love) at https://www.foodpolitics.com/ and find her on Twitter @marionnestle.
Marion Nestle is Paulette Goddard Professor, of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health, Emerita, at New York University, which she chaired from 1988-2003 and from which she officially retired in September 2017. She is also Visiting Professor of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell. She earned a Ph.D. in molecular biology and an M.P.H. in public health nutrition from the University of California, Berkeley, and has been awarded honorary degrees from Transylvania University in Kentucky (2012) and from the City University of New York’s Macaulay Honors College (2016).
In this interview with Tess, sociologist Prof. Anthony Hatch explains why the problem of sugar is much greater than just being bad for our bodies. As a colonial commodity, sugar carries a legacy of slavery and racism that is still with us today. He describes sugar's relationship to black bodies, metabolic syndrome, and global trade, calling for political action: a boycott of sugar. This podcast is an eye-opening take on sugar from an environmental, ecological, and social perspective. (Listeners take note: we had some sound tech issues with this one, so we hope you can forgive the clicking sound!)
Listener's may also be interested in Madeleine Power's discussion of food justice in the UK, Esther González-Padilla's description of sugar and micronutrient dilution, and Michael Goran and Emily Ventura's latest book on how to help children eat less sugar.
Anthony Ryan Hatch, Ph.D., is a sociologist and Associate Professor and Chair of the Science in Society Program at Wesleyan University where is he is also affiliated faculty in the Department of African American Studies, the College of the Environment, and the Department of Sociology. Dr. Hatch is an expert in health systems, medical technology, and social inequalities. He recently appeared in the PBS documentary Blood Sugar Rising and is the author of Silent Cells: The Secret Drugging of Captive America (2019) and Blood Sugar: Racial Pharmacology and Food Justice in Black America. He also mentions his co-authored article, “Sugar Ecologies and their Metabolic and Racial Effects” in the podcast.
Dr. Madeleine Power is an expert in UK food aid and food insecurity, in particular its relationship with wider economic and ethnic inequalities. In this interview with Stanley, she discusses her research into food insecurity amongst Pakistani, Muslim, and white British groups in Bradford, UK. Dr. Power describes the variations of food insecurity amongst these groups (it's more complicated than you might think, and different than in the US!) she then talks about the York Food Justice Alliance, which was started as a network to ally local organizations concerned about hunger in York and the Independent Food Aid Network is a national UK network that represents independent food banks around the UK.
Dr. Power is Wellcome Fellow in the Department of Health Sciences at the University of York, where she works on poverty and inequalities in access to food. She is Co-Chair of the Independent Food Aid Network, a representative body of independent food aid providers, and founder and former Chair of the York Food Justice Alliance, a cross-sector partnership addressing food insecurity at the local level. She is a regular commentator on food inequalities and food aid on local and national media. She has published widely on poverty and food, inequalities in food access according to ethnicity and gender, and food aid, including food banks.
In this interview with Stanley, Professor Lotte Holm explains why a sociological understanding of different people’s experiences around food, body-weight, and income is vital for implementing better policies around food. Much of her research focuses on populations in Denmark and the European Union, but understanding everyday struggles around food is a huge component of our global food and healthcare system.
Prof. Holm is a sociologist at the Department of Food and Resource Economics (IFRO) at the University of Copenhagen. Two of her recent publications include:
Gronow, J. & Holm, L. (Eds.), Everyday eating in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden. London, New York: Bloomsbury Academic.
Holm, L., Nielsen, A., & Lund, T. B. (2020). Adapting to financial pressure on household food budgets in Denmark: associations with life satisfaction and dietary health. Acta Sociologica, 63(2), 191–208".
In this interview with Stanley, Prof. Lars Holm discusses the importance of protein in our diet as we age. As we get older, our sensitivity to amino acids begins to deteriorate, which prevents us from absorbing as much protein as we could earlier in life. He also explains why the uptake of amino acids is better when the protein is eaten with meals and how protein relates to exercise.
Lars Holm is Professor at the School of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences, University of Birmingham, UK.
In this episode, Tess interviews Ashley Chard Dinella, a Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner and food marketing specialist. Ashley tells a story about not being able to diagnosis an illness as a child and finally turning to a nutrition expert who located the culprits. The subsequent twenty years of knowledge acquisition and experimentation eventually led her to intuitive, healthy eating as an overarching principle of her lifestyle. She also has a few tidbits of real-world advice for our listeners.
Ashley runs Zoetic Wellness Consulting, which designs corporate and personal wellness solutions.
The Mediterranean diet has risen in popularity around the world. In this informative and inspiring episode, Stanley talks to Dr. Anna Bach-Faig, a leading scholar on the Mediterranean diet in Spain. As Prof. Bach-Faig explains, this diet is considered one of the healthiest diets out there, with strong evidence showing its role in preventing “cardiodiabesity,” or cardiovascular diseases, obesity, and type II diabetes. It’s also a unique diet because it tackles two key aspects of food: what-we-eat as well as the how-we-eat. She explains how the pleasure of preparing and sharing meals with significant people is associated with health promoting effects, such as contributing to less over-eating. The diet also is linked to brain function and the cognitive decline associated with aging. To top it all off, the Mediterranean diet is a very sustainable diet, with a significantly lower environmental impact than the standard Western diet.
Dr. Bach-Faig is Professor at the Health Sciences Faculty at Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC). She is a former Mediterranean Diet Foundation research group director for the Institute for Catalan Studies' Catalan Nutrition Centre (CCNIEC) and currently forms part of FoodLab, the UOC's food, nutrition, society and health interdisciplinary research group. You can follow Prof. Bach-Faig on Twitter at @Bach_Faig.
Dr. Cristina Giuliani discusses the physiology of taste in this episode with Stanley. As Dr. Guiliana explains, taste is way more complicated than you think: "it's a sort of sensory modality to evaluate food toxicity, to select high energy foods, and to prepare the body to extract energy from foods." Taste receptors are actually located in many different areas of our body, far beyond the tongue. For instance, one bitter receptor (TAS2R38) is not only located in the oral cavity but in the upper respiratory airways. These receptors play a far greater role in sensing our environments than we've previously known.
This is pretty cool stuff, but it may take a close listen. If you're interested in learning more, check out Dr. Guiliani's publication with Stanley Ulijaszek and other colleagues in Advances in Nutrition entitled, Ecological Sensing Through Taste and Chemosensation Mediates Inflammation: A Biological Anthropological Approach.
Dr. Cristina Giuliani is a biological anthropologist and senior assistant professor at the University of Bologna and Research Affiliate of Oxford University. For an overview of her research team and the activities they perform, visit the Molecular Anthropology Lab at the University of Bologna.
In this fascinating episode about Nauru, an island country in the central Pacific, anthropologist Dr. Amy McLennan discusses what it means to redefine the medical notion of "lifestyle" in a locally-contextualized way. In her own words: “In the world of medicine, lifestyle is often distilled into what you eat, what exercise you do, whether you sleep or not, if you smoke, and if you drink alcohol. [But] when you work with people on the ground in communities, “lifestyle” means something very different. It means who you’re related to and who you spend time with, what you like to do, where you learn, the habits you have, and the habits and social practices you have in your community. It’s the political leadership, it’s the economy, it’s the geography and the place that you live, and it’s your history. And all of these things really matter…” Listen to learn more about Nauru, its people, and their food.
Dr. McLennan is a Research Fellow at the Australian National University's 3A Institute (3Ai), where she works at the intersections of technology, society and wellbeing.
You can also listen to Dr. McLennan talk about the meat industry during the Covid-19 global lock down in our first series, Lock Down Food.
Sabine Parrish (www.sabine.coffee), a doctoral candidate and anthropologist at the University of Oxford, describes how an unsavory gendered comment while working as a barista triggered her research into coffee and coffee shops. She discusses coffee in relation to sociality and gender, nutrition, and coffee competitions in the US and Brazil. She also co-owns a coffee shop in Cardiff, Wales. Check it out at www.mec.coffee and follow @sabine.coffee and @mec.coffee on Instagram and @sabinebeans and @meccoffeeltd on Twitter!
In this episode, Tess talks with Dr. Emily Ventura, co-author of the new book Sugarproof: The Hidden Dangers of Sugar That Are Putting Your Child’s Health at Risk and What You Can Do, and a mother and daughter in Washington state who have tested out some of the Sugarproof techniques and recipes.
This episode follows Thursday's, where Stanley interviews Prof. Michael Goran and Dr. Emily Ventura about Sugarproof. If you haven't listened in, start there!
For more info, visit: www.sugarproofkids.com and www.goranlab.com. You can also follow them on Instagram @sugarproofkids; Facebook @sugarproofkids; and Prof. Goran on Twitter: @michaelgoran
In this episode, Stanley talks with Prof. Michael Goran and Dr. Emily Ventura, PhD, MPH, about their new book Sugarproof: The Hidden Dangers of Sugar That Are Putting Your Child’s Health at Risk and What You Can Do. They give a comprehensive overview of some of the risks of sugar consumption in childhood as well as practical tips and techniques for reducing sugar consumption in the family. Stay tuned for a follow-up episode, released over the weekend, where Tess and Dr. Emily Ventura interview a mother and daughter in Washington state who tried some of the Sugarproof techniques and recipes.
Dr. Goran is one of the world's most widely recognized experts in childhood nutrition and obesity research, with more than 30 years of experience as a researcher, mentor, and educator. He is a Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Southern California, Keck School of Medicine, Co-Director of the USC Diabetes and Obesity Research Institute and leads the Program in Diabetes and Obesity at the Children's Hospital of Los Angeles. Dr. Ventura is an experienced nutrition educator, public health advocate, writer, and cook. After working in writing and public relations in the arenas of environmental protection and food, she completed her Master's in Public Health and Doctorate of Philosophy in Health Behavior Research at the University of Southern California.
For more info, visit: www.sugarproofkids.com and www.goranlab.com. You can also follow them on Instagram @sugarproofkids; Facebook @sugarproofkids; and Prof. Goran on Twitter: @michaelgoran
Dr. Esther González-Padilla is a nutritional epidemiologist at Lund University in Sweden. In this interview with Stanley, she talks about sugar and micronutrient dilution, i.e. "the displacement of the intake of nutrient-dense foods by the overconsumption of energy-dense foods (rich in fat and sugar and poor in nutrients)" (learn more). She also explains why nutrition research can be so complex, especially when studies rely on participants self-reporting their diets. This is Dr. González-Padilla's second podcast with us. You can listen to the first one here.
Anne Katrine Kleberg Hansen, a medical historian and food-lover in Copenhagen, Denmark, talks to Tess about how the New Nordic food movement has changed how she eats in her everyday life, how those around her eat, and how it has impacted her neighborhood. This episode is paired with one from Anders Kristian Munk, another Dane who has written about the New Nordic movement.
Anders Kristian Munk is an ethnologist and computational social scientist interested in cultural phenomena in Europe. He uses computational methods to study patterns in large amounts of data. In this interview with Stanley, Munk discusses one cultural phenomenon that he has been following for over 15 years: the New Nordic food movement. The New Nordic food movement was made famous by the restaurant Noma in Copenhagen, Denmark, which focuses on fresh, local, seasonal foods and traditional cuisine re-made in new ways. The movement has since spread around the world. Munk talks about how New Nordic food compares to other local diets, such as the Mediterranean Diet, and speaks to the potential for food innovation present in Scandinavia. This recording is truly embedded in the local: you can hear the birds chirping throughout.
Stay tuned for a follow-up "Household Dynamics" podcast hosted by Tess about eating and experiencing New Nordic cuisine!
Giles Yeo is a neuroendocrinologist at the University of Cambridge with over 20 years experience researching brain control and body-weight (learn more). He speaks in this episode about the relationship between Covid-19 and obesity. As this research is unfolding, Yeo gives us some potential hypotheses and explains what data is still needed. He also points to the socioeconomic inequalities evident in the pandemic. [Note that this episode was recorded on May 29, 2020]
Stanley interviews Claude Fischler, a French social scientist, Senior Investigator Emeritus with CNRS, the French National Science Center, and a former director of the Interdisciplinary Institute for Contemporary Anthropology in Paris. In this episode, he talks about the importance of food to humans, beginning with why he decided to pursue the study of food. He defines commensality, explaining where this word comes from and how it manifests today. He also discusses the contemporary eating habits of the French and how they compare to other countries.
Season 2 is here! In this season, we have bite-sized interviews with experts in food and nutrition, and other issues that impact the biological body. We will pepper these with interviews with households on the topics discussed. Write to us! DM us on Instagram @aroundthetablepod or send us a message at anchor.fm/aroundthetablepod
We cover some of the themes that came out through our interviews, from creativity in the kitchen to inequality, obesity, and Covid-19. For those of you that don't know, Stanley is a nutritional anthropologist whose work centers on the evolutionary basis for, and cultural diversity in, nutritional health. This includes both undernutrition and obesity, and the diseases associated with them. Tess asks him a few questions about the future of food and science when it comes to obesity and Covid-19. Just a reminder that all thoughts are preliminary: we put this podcast out to think and muse as things unfold.
Stanley interviews Dr. Amy McLennan, a human scientist and social researcher in Australia, who discusses how Covid-19 has impacted the meat industry, exposing issues of structural violence and inequality. She also discusses the implications for the global meat supply chain, including what it means to live in a society that has aimed to eliminate food storage. Once you give it a listen, here are some additional articles about some of the topics covered, including the US vs. Australian meat industry, a mobile butcher in Germany, how the pandemic is messing with AI models, and the plant-based boom.
Stanley talks to Steph Morphew, a food writer and service industry worker who discusses direct to consumer selling from the restaurant industry during lock down and what our future access to good food might look like.
Tess interviews Lou Chatey, the co-owner of Westford Hill Distillers in Ashford, CT. He talks about how the pandemic has impacted business, including answering the demand for hand sanitizer, as well as his spring forages and cocktail creations.
Stanley interviews with Dr. Heather Hamill, a Sociologist at the University of Oxford and mother of three, who discusses having covid-19 symptoms and a loss of appetite, using up the over-supply of chickpeas at the bottom of the cupboard, and her children's growing confidence in cooking. She ends with an appreciation for neighborly kindness, recalling the reassurance that a loaf of bread left on the doorstep gave her in the early weeks of lock down.
Stanley interviews Dr. Giles Yeo, a Geneticist at the University of Cambridge and author of "Gene Eating: The Story of Human Appetite." He talks about food insecurity during Covid19, concerns for Brexit, and posting his cooking under #bringingchinatownhome, a London campaign to draw positive attention to Chinatown, which was one of the areas most devastated by the lock down. Check out his recipe for crispy aromatic duck, a "high impact, low effort" dish!
Tess interviews a couple in Beirut, Lebanon, who discuss having a baby during the pandemic, how the pandemic came during ongoing political and economic crisis in Lebanon, and the "micro-market of sweets" that's emerged during lockdown.
Stanley speaks with Tim Herdon, an editor at Oxford University Press, who says he's eating healthier in lockdown, and making his kids chicken nuggets from scratch (we're impressed!). This episode makes us wonder, are many of us eating healthier in lockdown?
Tess interviews Jon Bone, the co-owner of Life Bowls in Connecticut, known for its delicious and healthy açaí bowls. He talks about what it's like to run a food business during lockdown, the demand for healthy takeout, plant-based eating, and what the future of the restaurant industry might look like.
Stanley interviews Eden Henderson, a chef at The River Cafe in London. He’s learning to appreciate the simple things about food during lockdown, like "cheese on toast with some obscene topping” (me too, Eden, 100% all about the cheese on sourdough).
Tess interviews Pallavi Laxmikanth, a doctoral candidate at the University of Adelaide who discusses lockdown in Hyderabad, India, and how it has changed her life and the lives of her research participants. She researches metabolic health and food practices, particularly around new food apps, in households in India. "I've been thinking about the difference between restriction and refusal," she tells us, explaining the different ways people relate to both diabetes restrictions and government restrictions during covid-19.
Esther González-Padilla discusses mediterranean eating, "sobremesa," sugar and micronutrient dilution, and why over-snacking is a problem during COVID-19. González-Padilla is a PhD student at the Nutritional Epidemiology Group, Department of Clinical Sciences Malmö, Lund University, Malmö, Sweden. You can read her recent paper on micronutrient dilution on BioMedCentral. She also recommends these food and nutrition tips during self-quarantine (WHO Europe) and "Food for thought: 7 tips on keeping a healthy diet in the face of coronavirus."
Maddalena Borsato, a messy pastry chef and researcher in aesthetics, studies sweetness and taste from a philosophical point of view. She co-created a website, aristortele.it, with where she and Jacopo Giacomoni "philosophize with a spoon" and create thoughtful pastry recipes. She discusses lockdown in Italy, sourdough, and philosophy.