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, and Mellon Fellow at Wesleyan University. 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. Our series begins with Season 1: "Lockdown Food," where we interview food culture experts and households about how food is changing with COVID-19.
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.