Food started me on this journey. If it's not a major source of joy, community, and connection, the opportunity is there to make it so. Marion Nestle does it. She returned after recently launching her book Let's Ask Marion, which I consider her most accessible. I read What To Eat, around 500 pages, and loved it, but Let's Ask Marion is under 200, with quick chapters, though still comprehensive in covering her most important topics. Our conversation covers background not in the book of her and her co-author, Kerry Trueman, who researched the questions, asked them, and planned with Marion the book's structure and content. Since her first appearance on this podcast, I sat in on her class at NYU---one of the benefits of teaching there myself---so got to know her work and history in more depth. She helped found the field of food research. I was glad to get some of that personal touch at the end---the plants Marion grows and her attitude to them. She wrote in the book that her top consideration about food is that it's delicious. It's personal. We can grow it. I hope that connection to our food came out in our conversation and that we can increase it. Most Americans seem to view food, exercise, and the environment with horror, sources of guilt, shame, confusion, and uncertainty. Marion lives the opposite. I think I do too. Knowing all about food and our food systems may seem like work, but it leads to delicious joy, community, and connection.
Marion Nestle is a hero for me. Food may be the greatest interest that got me into acting on my environmental action. Avoiding packaged food emerged from avoiding fiber-removed foods, which emerged from reading Diet for a Small Planet in the 80s, which also motivated her. She, her books, and blog, Food Politics, are voices of sense in a crowded field. Her most recent book is The Unsavory Truth: How the Food Companies Skew the Science of What We Eat. I've read most of it and seeing her present on it led to meeting her in person. I recommend it. Her other books include What to Eat, Food Politics, Why Calories Count, Soda Politics: Taking on Big Soda, and Safe Food. I've read about half of each of the first three, expecting to finish all, and recommend any to start---whether your interests include food, the environment, acting on your values, health, or nearly anything, really. There's a big overlap between food and the environment regarding leadership, which she and I talk about. This conversation covers the path toward leadership I expect many listeners are on, but that she has experience in since the 70s. Leadership often means starting with no obvious light at the end of the tunnel, only that you care about changing yourself and culture. I see her as a role model for acting in such situations, which probably feel familiar to listeners. I wanted to bring vision that perseverance pays off, to take the long view. We can all learn from her experience. Read the transcript.