Planthropology

109. Food as Knowledge, Eating Equitably, and Digital Literacy w/ Dr. Sarah Duignan

June 06, 2024 Vikram Baliga, PhD Episode 109
109. Food as Knowledge, Eating Equitably, and Digital Literacy w/ Dr. Sarah Duignan
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Planthropology
109. Food as Knowledge, Eating Equitably, and Digital Literacy w/ Dr. Sarah Duignan
Jun 06, 2024 Episode 109
Vikram Baliga, PhD

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What's up, Plant People? Join us as we welcome Dr. Sarah Duignan, the host of the AnthroDish podcast and a medical anthropologist, on a remarkable journey navigating food anthropology and community health. From her roots in Ontario, where a deep connection with nature began shaping her career, Sarah takes us through her academic route via Trent University, the University of Manitoba, and McMaster University. Discover how her passion transitioned from the study of ancient skeletal populations to a focus on modern community-based health, revealing the profound connections between food, culture, and everyday wellness.

Our conversation uncovers the personal trials and triumphs of balancing a career in anthropology with roles in water studies and food systems. Sarah candidly shares her experiences as a single parent and a PhD student, illuminating the universal challenges of food access and security in Canada and the United States. We tackle pressing issues like skyrocketing food prices and increasing reliance on food banks, emphasizing the need for a holistic approach to understanding environment and climate in the post-2020 world.

As we delve deeper, Sarah offers insightful perspectives on food ethics, community initiatives, and the cultural significance of food. Hear about the power of grassroots movements, the evolving landscape of food guidelines, and the influence of digital platforms like TikTok in shaping food knowledge. This episode is a rich tapestry of academic insights and personal stories, promising listeners a thought-provoking exploration of how food intersects with identity, culture, and societal structures.

Sarah's Links
AnthroDish
Substack
Instagram
TikTok
Twitter
Threads
YouTube
Facebook

Support the Show.

As always, thanks so much for listening! Subscribe, rate, and review Planthropology on your favorite podcast app. It helps the show keep growing and reaching more people! As a bonus, if you review Planthropology on Apple Podcasts or Podchaser and send me a screenshot of it, I'll send you an awesome sticker pack!

Planthropology is written, hosted, and produced by Vikram Baliga. Our theme song is "If You Want to Love Me, Babe, by the talented and award-winning composer, Nick Scout.

Listen in on Apple, Spotify, Stitcher, Castbox, or wherever else you like to get your podcasts.

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Send us a Text Message.

What's up, Plant People? Join us as we welcome Dr. Sarah Duignan, the host of the AnthroDish podcast and a medical anthropologist, on a remarkable journey navigating food anthropology and community health. From her roots in Ontario, where a deep connection with nature began shaping her career, Sarah takes us through her academic route via Trent University, the University of Manitoba, and McMaster University. Discover how her passion transitioned from the study of ancient skeletal populations to a focus on modern community-based health, revealing the profound connections between food, culture, and everyday wellness.

Our conversation uncovers the personal trials and triumphs of balancing a career in anthropology with roles in water studies and food systems. Sarah candidly shares her experiences as a single parent and a PhD student, illuminating the universal challenges of food access and security in Canada and the United States. We tackle pressing issues like skyrocketing food prices and increasing reliance on food banks, emphasizing the need for a holistic approach to understanding environment and climate in the post-2020 world.

As we delve deeper, Sarah offers insightful perspectives on food ethics, community initiatives, and the cultural significance of food. Hear about the power of grassroots movements, the evolving landscape of food guidelines, and the influence of digital platforms like TikTok in shaping food knowledge. This episode is a rich tapestry of academic insights and personal stories, promising listeners a thought-provoking exploration of how food intersects with identity, culture, and societal structures.

Sarah's Links
AnthroDish
Substack
Instagram
TikTok
Twitter
Threads
YouTube
Facebook

Support the Show.

As always, thanks so much for listening! Subscribe, rate, and review Planthropology on your favorite podcast app. It helps the show keep growing and reaching more people! As a bonus, if you review Planthropology on Apple Podcasts or Podchaser and send me a screenshot of it, I'll send you an awesome sticker pack!

Planthropology is written, hosted, and produced by Vikram Baliga. Our theme song is "If You Want to Love Me, Babe, by the talented and award-winning composer, Nick Scout.

Listen in on Apple, Spotify, Stitcher, Castbox, or wherever else you like to get your podcasts.

Speaker 1:

What is up? Plant people it's time once more for the Plantthropology podcast, the show where we dive into the lives and careers of some very cool plant people to figure out why they do what they do and what keeps them coming back for more. I'm Vikram Baliga, your host and your humble guide in this journey through the sciences and, as always, my friends, I am so excited to be with you today and I'm especially excited for this episode because it's one that we recorded a couple of ago and I've been not sitting on. That's not right, but I've had a whole bunch of other stuff going on, a bunch of different episodes coming out, but I so much enjoyed this one and it's kind of fun getting to go back after a couple of months as I'm editing and hear the conversation again, because my guest for today, dr Sarah Dugnan, is just the coolest, just the coolest.

Speaker 1:

So Sarah is the host of the AnthroDish podcast and all the other things, the writing that goes with it, and she has a sub stack and all kinds of other things. But she has a background in everything from medical anthropology to archaeology, to water and food and everything else, everything else. She knows so much and has done so much in the food and food anthropology space and food as a cultural thing and food as a health thing and all the things that really itch that part of my brain that wants to know about how we interact with food and how we interact with plants and the world around us. And it was just such a fun conversation, sarah is delightful and just a wealth of knowledge and so smart and so fun and I think you're really going to enjoy this episode. I know that I enjoyed it when I got to talk to her and I enjoyed it again, all over again as I edited it and it's just great.

Speaker 1:

So if you're interested in how we culturally approach food and how food interacts with our day-to-day lives and our politics and our well-being and everything in between, this is the episode for you. So, without any other delay, my dearest friends, here is episode 109 of the Planthropology podcast, food is knowledge, eating equitably and digital literacy with Dr Sarah Dugnan of the AnthroDish podcast. Well, sarah, I am so excited to get to talk to you today. We've been kind of following each other and interacting on social media for a while and, like we were kind of chatting before the interview, it's exciting just to get to have this FaceTime a little bit.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, thank you, I'm so excited to be here.

Speaker 1:

Good, how's your day going so far?

Speaker 2:

It's going all right. I'm up in Ontario so it's very gray. It's kind of that wintry kind of fall-spring-winter mood, so yeah.

Speaker 1:

I understand that for sure. Now I say I understand that Now I'm in Texas and so it was that way over the weekend cold, dreary, rainy, and then today I think it's supposed to be 70 Fahrenheit, which is I can't do the math quick enough in my head, but it's warm and sunny Very nice, well.

Speaker 1:

Again, thanks for agreeing to be on. I'm excited to get to chat about what you do in your podcast and about food and everything else, but why don't you introduce yourself a little bit more, tell us where you're from, what you do and how you got there?

Speaker 2:

Sure, so my name is Sarah Duggan. I am currently living in Guelph, ontario. I'm from Peterborough or Nagojuan, ontario. I'm from Peterborough or Nagojouan, ontario, and I am a food podcaster, but I'm also a medical anthropologist, which I feel like when people hear medical anthro they don't necessarily think about food, but to me it's all related.

Speaker 2:

I think growing up in particularly in Ontario, in more small town communities, just being exposed to the natural world a lot more, allowed for a really good connection between myself and you know, being outside, being aware of, like, how many beautiful freshwater lakes we have and all the natural world around that, so it just kind of was a part of me from a very early age.

Speaker 2:

And I'd also like to credit you know I went to a pretty hippie university for my undergrad, so that definitely. So I went to Trent University and it's very environmentally focused. It's very much looking at how can we create, you know, local, locally and sustainably sourced food pathways for people, even university students. So I think you know it was. It was always there, it was always kind of an underlying message. And then, as I took the jump into grad school and worked within, I went to University of Manitoba for my master's and then McMaster University for my PhD. I'd started out in archaeology, so it was kind of a gradual transition, which I don't often talk about, but yeah. So somehow I managed to move from archaeology into more community-based health within my PhD work.

Speaker 1:

That's really fascinating and at least in my mind and you say that maybe it doesn't track or that you don't talk about it much, but it makes some sense to me because I think food and the way that we eat and the way that we grow things is this than I do. But uh, and and and so much of it was like what did they grow, how did they cook it, what did they eat, what's? How did their society revolve around that? And that it makes sense that the more you learn about old cultures, that's such a pivotal part Like it. For me at least, it tracks. I think that's such a cool progression too.

Speaker 2:

Oh, thanks, yeah, it, it definitely tracks for me too and that it's, you know, I think, working. I'd worked a lot on like skeletal populations and excavations relating to that Um, and in my master's I was looking at like Danish populations moving through um, the little ice age and the global warming period, and so I was looking at, you know, how did their diets change, how did they move during climate change and you know, bubonic plague and things like that, and it was really understanding like, oh, food has a huge role in terms of the health outcomes. You can see that in the skeletal evidence. And then it prompted a much, I don't know, a pretty natural transition for me of, well, how do we think about the world today in terms of how we eat, how is our health informed both by our food and our water and our ability to source that, or the political and social structures that limit that as well?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, it's fascinating and I'm trying to think how I want to phrase my question. There is so much of you know you talked about the political structures that influence food and influence water especially. You know you have a great paper you wrote I guess I guess this was on your PhD research right, looking at water insecurity among First Nations and different peoples. How did like? Again, I've worked in water for a lot of my career and I've looked at the way that people relate to water and how they see water as a resource and all of that. Could you talk a little bit more about some of the research you did and how you got into that, specifically Because I think that's a sort of a fascinating facet of food and society as well.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, definitely. I mean, I agree and I'm always happy to nerd out on water stuff. I think an important piece that I want to note is when I was growing up, I was in a school that had a lot of First Nations educators and I think it would have been about grade four, grade five. You start learning about Canadian history and you start learning about Indigenous and settler relationships and it's very much within this bound textbook of particular expectations. And during that time there was a water crisis in Kosheshuan First Nation, which is up in Northern Ontario. So a lot of the teachers that I had at that point started pulling resources together and ended up helping with the evacuation of Kosheshuan students and youth to Peterborough. So at the time, I'm like reading about these relationships that you know for settlers had with indigenous people and it's not lining up with how you know the reality was in. I can't remember what year I was in grade four, but knowing that all these people didn't have access to water, um, and we were living in Ontario and we kept being told this is, you know, this is a country of privileges and affordances and we all have this ability to access clean water. It just you know, even at that young age it very much didn't line up. So that really shaped how I thought about relationships between settlers and Indigenous peoples across Canada from a young age. So I feel lucky in that sense to have had that awareness.

Speaker 2:

And then, in terms of the research itself, quite frankly, there was an Indigenous scholar in our department who had started this huge project and she and her team reached out to me and I was really interested in looking at health, reached out to me and I was really interested in looking at health but, um, I'd been going down a different Avenue in my early PhD and when she reached out, um, dr Don Don Martin Hill, uh, it just it felt like a no brainer, like yeah, of course I can use my skills to help out with this project. Um, and really kind of situate it was interesting because it was very interdisciplinary. So there were lots of engineers and biologists, um, and I don't know how frequently you've worked with them, but they can be a little less sensitive to kind of human behaviors.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, no, I absolutely yes.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. So it was a lot of translating between, okay, um, you know, getting acquainted with um six nations first nation and and the people there, and how can I work with them and kind of translate what they're experiencing to engineers and biologists and then vice versa, how can I bring the engineer biologist research in a way that you know makes sense and is useful for communities? So that's kind of the long winded story of that. No, it's interesting. That's kind of the long-winded story of that.

Speaker 1:

No, it's interesting and again, I like the story. You tell a little bit about how we chase opportunities where they come up and we chase them where they are meaningful and edifying and all of those things. But sometimes it's like here's a project, do you want to work on it? And it's like, okay, sure, I did my master's degree in olive production. I studied water use in olives in South Texas, near the Mexican border, and I had going in zero interest in olives Like at all. My background is actually in landscape design and water conservation and things like that. When I applied to my master's program I was like, yeah, I'm really interested in landscape. And they were like, well, we have funding for a project in olives and I was like, great, let's learn about olives.

Speaker 1:

But some of those opportunities so much drive the way that our career goes and our academic life goes that it's fun to have the opportunity sometimes to chase something a little bit different.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I agree, and I find sometimes too, with particularly thinking through anthropological work, I feel a little uncomfortable in certain circumstances in terms of being that kind of helicopter researcher, of just going into a community and being like we know what's best for you. So having the opportunity to work with someone who's from the community, who offered that spot up, it just felt like a much more natural fit than trying to like squish myself into something that just didn't fit either.

Speaker 1:

That's really, yeah, that's really interesting. Um, and so you know I I want to talk more about your podcast and some of your outreach stuff you do, maybe towards the end of this interview or a little bit later in this interview, but I'm curious now, reading through some of your articles you write on Substack and just some of the other work you do, it seems like you have found a really cool connection point between all of the different things anthropology and environment, and food and culture and all of this and for me it's such a cool like collaboration of all of these different fields. Um, and we've been kind of chatting about it a little bit, but can you give me your thoughts on and I know this is not a small question, so I'm going to try to keep it as maybe as digestible, consumable, whatever is possible. But how did you come to this point where you've studied water, you've studied anthropology.

Speaker 1:

Obviously you're interested in the environment and the climate. How did you find sort of your niche? Because I think that sometimes, as people are trying to decide what to do with their lives, you know and you know what they want to be when they grow up, which I'll let you know if I ever figured that out, I still don't know Really, like finding where they maybe belong professionally and academically is really hard and just you know, hearing you talk on your podcast and reading your work, it feels like you've really found like that sweet spot for you.

Speaker 1:

Like how did you get there? Because I think that's a great.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, again, easy, small questions, um, but I think that's a good thing for people to hear to what you're saying, um, but I find it's one of those things where I've always had, um, I've always had an interest in maintaining a kind of holistic approach to things. Um, you know, how can we, how can we, look at this in different angles? And you know, I don't, I know I just have one perspective and and that can come into, you know, a bigger conversation with different perspectives to make, you know, make more sustainable solutions or more nuanced solutions. Um, but I think, in terms of where I came to with it, it was really a reflection of, like life crashing into work. Um, so, um, you know, I was, I was going through my PhD, I was being a teaching assistant, but I was also, um, single parenting and I was working at a restaurant and it just was kind of an unavoidable nexus of sitting through these classrooms and sitting through, you know, listening through undergraduate lectures that I had heard time and time again and not really feeling like voices were being represented in a way that was comprehensive, like it just felt like it was again just one particular narrator shaping these perspectives on food, and then I was looking at the restaurant industry in Toronto and this would be in the 2010s and thinking about all the different people that I knew there doing really creative, interesting work and struggling, and I think ultimately, you know it just felt like there was such a huge disconnect and I was interested in looking at how can we kind of bridge those gaps a little bit more.

Speaker 2:

Um, but in terms of, yeah, how it's kind of come into my food writing in place, I think it just comes from more conversations with people Um, it has allowed me to kind of stop and reflect a bit more on how I see food and, again, I think being in a position of serving in Toronto, when you are like a broke grad student and you're serving these like huge plates of food that you can't actually afford it, just it completely shapes your perspective and for me, I always end up just asking more questions and that kind of guides the writing and the social media work that I did as well.

Speaker 1:

That's really really fascinating. Some of the work that I have done professionally and maybe I'm getting into academically I've spent a lot of time as, like, a community educator and things like that, and I've worked in that quite a bit, but a lot of that was in food and food supply and we've done like community gardens and work in those kinds of things. You wrote an article, I think, back in November on your Substack, talking about affordable and accessible food, and that's something that's really close to my heart and I know that culturally and politically there are quite a few between like where I am and where you are. But, but, reading some of your work, it seems like, though, some of these core problems about access to food and food security are not so different. Maybe these are more universal problems, just based on the way that our societies are built. Can you talk about that article and what like um kind of drove you to talking about, like food access and all of those things?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, that's a great question. I think, um, in terms of thinking about food access as a writing point, um, for me, it it tends to be a constant frustration, especially, you know, post 2020 onward. Um, I've found the food system, like looking at our food system in real time has been a really fascinating exploration into, you know, what led us to this point. Why are we at this point where, um, you know, within the context of of Canadian food systems, um and I'm sure you could speak to it um, in America and in Texas, but the food prices here are just skyrocketing to a point where people can't afford them. Food bank use is increasing and setting like record-breaking highs and we don't in Canada have any sort of like food support network or social support network for it. We don't have school lunch programs, we don't have like nationally mandated food programs and obviously there's there's issues and limitations within those two, but there's no like social support or safety net for those sorts of things.

Speaker 2:

And I think, just seeing it again play it in real time, seeing, you know, the grocery shop budgets having to increase week by week, and there's been some really interesting kind of elements with different Canadian CEOs of different grocery stores getting involved in, like food pricing scandals and things like that.

Speaker 2:

So it felt like a really good place to explore how all of our social, political and cultural structures, particularly in Canada right now, are at this interesting juncture of being challenged and kind of hitting that point where they're fracturing, based on, you know, all of these different things happening. But I think to ultimately like I like to look back at the idea of food access in the States and in Canada as being intentional. I think a lot of the again, a lot of the sort of legislature and policy around food is not necessarily reflective of, like the realities that people face. And so when we see it starting to crumble and we see it not being sustainable for people to be able to access food, um, then you start to look at different policies and and bills and like the history of that and how that's kind of shaped, how we come to think about access to Josh, yeah, and that is.

Speaker 1:

I mean, it's such a big issue and it is something certainly that we face here. And you know, maybe we have some systems in place. You'd mentioned school lunches and things like that. So we do have some kind of social safety net in terms of food supply, but it's inadequate overall. Right, like yes, it's, it helps, but it's almost like I don't know, trying to drink soup with a fork. You know you get a little bit but you don't get it all.

Speaker 1:

And that's something we certainly saw, you know, through shutdowns in 2020. And through, you know, we had in California and parts of Texas where labor became such a huge issue in terms of our food system because most of it's migrant labor and seasonal labor and those people couldn't come into the country, they couldn't get into the fields and there were hundreds of thousands of tons of food produce that rotted in the field because no one could harvest it. And when that sort of starts hitting, I think we realize the fragility of our food system sometimes and how much we need that, that safety net and and those regional and sort of more localized food systems and stuff like that. So it is, it is such a big thing, but I think the more people who talk about it the better, especially from an informed and sort of like knowledgeable standpoint.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I agree and I think, like again, when, when I think about the idea of the food system kind of being intentionally structured this way, I think a lot about, like, industrial agriculture. Um, not that I want to like sick all the industrial agricultural people on us for having this conversation, but, um, you know, even thinking about the Canadian food guide itself is like a political text where it's been long informed by lobbyists. So, um, milk and dairy lobbyists, uh, meat lobbyists and different, um, different like big egg companies have spent a lot of money lobbying so that, particularly during the 1950s to 1990s, you would see more dairy bread, juice, meats being recommended, because there was money behind that. And it was only in the 2020 restructure for the food guide where they actually had, like nutritional scientists come in and say, hey, this isn't exactly the most like nourishing plate, so maybe let's bring some science to it and see what happens with that.

Speaker 1:

Well, that's kind of a big deal, right? Yeah, I think having the scientific backing you know, and I think about the old food pyramid that we, or at least you know I don't know if it's the same food pyramid, but similar Rainbow.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, okay.

Speaker 1:

Same idea of that we grew up with oh, this is what we should eat. And then you really dive into it. It's like, well, you know. So there are certainly some issues there. But what has been encouraging for me and I'd be curious to hear what you have seen sort of in your area is how many people are going back to and trying to start like grassroots, community-led operations to plug some of these gaps in the system. Like we have community gardens, we have our local food bank actually has a farm, we have a food bank farm and they have an apple orchard and they have greenhouses and high tunnels I think it's about seven acres of land. And then they have a CSA program and they donate to the food bank or run some of it through the food bank. It was really cool community-led efforts that are trying to make sure people have food to eat. Are you seeing that where you are? Are there those types of efforts going into place?

Speaker 2:

There definitely are. There's been some really interesting conversations again, really starting in 2020 onwards. There's a lot of really great not-for-profits here that are community-driven, so I'm forgetting the name of it now Toronto Food. I'll have to send it to you?

Speaker 2:

No, that's fine, but there are a few different food initiatives in Toronto. There's Sundance Harvest. There's also CSA Farms across southern Ontario that I know a little bit better than across Canada. But then we also have a lot of university researchers teaming up with farmers and agricultural specialists. Agricultural specialists Dr Tamara Soma is someone who's doing that out in BC Just fantastic job really looking at like food landscapes and food planning to create systems that are a bit less wasteful. There's also people who are looking at, you know, reusing imperfect process or produce. So taking that from grocery stores who have, you know, the ones that have like blemishes on them or they're starting to look a little funky, I'd argue. This day and age we have a lot of rotting produce. So I'm not sure if those initiatives are as fast or as able these days, but there certainly are a lot of community initiatives, I think there's also a lot of barriers to accessing those.

Speaker 2:

So it's like an interesting connection, right Like there's. I think Sundance Harvest is one of those places where they're offering youth the opportunity to learn how to farm and to um to create community through food in an accessible way. Um, and, I know, through different First Nations reserves there's, there's those movements as well, but, um, I think you know, if you live in more urban spaces, that's still quite a challenge, especially for youth who might not necessarily know where to start or where to connect. That would be the biggest shift, like thinking Toronto specifically.

Speaker 1:

Sure, no, that's, and that's really interesting. And I just ask because I, you know, I think we get so siloed sometimes in our areas and it's hard to see sort of the big global picture of, you know, I know, us and Canada. We're still over here in our little you know, but but but still like, I think, hearing more perspectives on how we as people try to take care of people. You know there's there's large programs and there's there's government programs or not, and then there's, you know, social programs or not. But I think what has encouraged me and has given me so much hope through all this is those grassroots community efforts. I think that is just such a cool thing to hear about and learn about how it works different places. So that's actually a good segue, I think. And we'll take a quick break. But when we come back I want to talk about your podcast and how you got into that, because you know, as I started listening to it I was like this is like this hits all the buttons for me, like that scratches that itch in my brain of the anthropology side and the food side and everything else. So we'll take a quick break. When we come back we'll talk about AnthroDish and the communication work that you do.

Speaker 1:

Well, hey there, welcome to the mid-roll. How's it going so far? Are you enjoying the episode? Do you love Sarah as much as I did? Yeah, wonderful. Tell your house plants. I said hi, by the way. I know they miss me when we're not together. Thanks so much to the Texas Tech Department of Plant and Soil Science for letting me do the show and for supporting it and for not firing me. For doing that, I really appreciate it. But most of all, thanks to you, the listener. I do this for you and I love to hear from you.

Speaker 1:

So if you have feedback, if you have comments, you can leave those for me in a lot of different ways. First, hit me up on social media. I am Plantthropology, all the places. I am the plant prof, all the places. I'm working on getting more of these up on YouTube. I know, I know I've been talking about it for months and it's hard. Okay, okay, it's hard, but if you want to follow along on any of your favorite podcast players, do that. If you want to follow on YouTube, you can do that as well. You can also email me at planthropologypod at gmailcom If you have any feedback, ideas for future guests or anything in between.

Speaker 1:

Also, if you are the review leaving type, you could leave me a review. I don't know when you're listening to this episode, but my birthday is in about a month and what I've really been wanting and if you could hook me up with this is a brand new five-star review. I wear a size five star, like I said, so if you want to leave me one of those, I would appreciate it forever. You can do that on Spotify or Apple Podcasts or Podchaser or about a dozen other places. If you want to support the show, the best way to do that is still to tell a friend about Planthropology, because word of mouth is still the best way to get podcasts around. But also you could head to planthropologypodcastcom and pick up some merch and find old episodes. You can go to buymeacoffeecom slash planthropology and for the price of a cup of coffee, you could buy me a cup of coffee. I drink a lot of coffee and it's important to me. A friend of mine once said that I died years ago and it's all the caffeine in my system keeping me animated. Yes, my friends, I am a caffeine zombie, and if you would like this caffeine zombie to keep making this podcast. I would appreciate your support.

Speaker 1:

Go follow Sarah all the places. Her information is in the bio thing. What is that called? The show notes? All her information's in the show notes she talks about at the end. But go follow the AnthroDish podcast. It's wonderful. What else there's another thing? Oh yeah, I wrote a book. It's called Plants to the Rescue. If you have kids, if you have eyes, I think that you would really enjoy this book. So go check out Plants to the Rescue all the places.

Speaker 1:

Go check out Dr Sarah Dugnan and buckle yourself right up for the second half of this episode, where we talk about communication, we talk about anthro dish, we talk about food equity and so many other things. It's great, you'll love it. Stick around and let's do it all. Right, we are back, so let's talk about your podcast, anthro dish, which is wonderful, by the way. Uh, I have. I was actually really excited to have a big backlog to listen to. It's. It's fun. When I find a new show and sometimes there's like 10 episodes, I'm like well, but now I have to like wait, you know, that's terrible. I've gotten so used to like you know, netflix dropping an entire season of something at once that my brain is like what do you mean? I have to wait two weeks. How do I do that? Like so, how did that start? You've been doing it for quite a while, right Since 2018.

Speaker 1:

Wow.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, it doesn't feel that long, but when you say it, it does yeah.

Speaker 1:

So what was the inspiration for that?

Speaker 2:

I mean, I assume just a lot of what we've been talking about. Yeah, it was really again like there was one particular class, and I love telling the story because I was TAing for someone who was just not rubbing me the right way.

Speaker 2:

We've all been there, yeah exactly, yeah, um and just it was very um. I mean, anyone that has listened to my show knows that I'm very like hypercritical about, um, the idea of infusing, like wellness as a be all and end all in food. Um, and so within this class that was happening quite a bit and to a group of students who are pretty young, like these are these are people in their 19 to 25 age bracket can be pretty impressionable, and I was just getting so frustrated sitting there Um, it was like Monday nights between seven and 10 PM super snowy, super dark, like just the worst.

Speaker 2:

That's brutal, my goodness, truly like the worst time slot for any sort of course and I was seeing the students falling asleep or starting to become really worried that you know they had a lot of anxiety around what foods they were able to eat and you know food or university students can be really food insecure.

Speaker 2:

Oh yeah to eat and you know food or university students can be really food insecure, um.

Speaker 2:

So just watching all that happen and feeling like there weren't alternative voices for people to to listen to and to hear from, um, I just kind of felt compelled to to start having.

Speaker 2:

You know, I was having these conversations with people again, like working at restaurants, um, seeing all these different people linking to food in different ways.

Speaker 2:

Um, it just felt like it was an injustice to not share those conversations. So it really like it started, you know me having conversations with friends at my kitchen table, like you can hear the kitchen table creaking episodes, um, which, yeah, I don't, I don't listen to those as often, but, um, and then it kind of grew and, and I think, um, I've always made it a virtual conversation, similar to what you're doing, and it allows you to just connect to people across the world that you wouldn't otherwise, and you know it would be people that um I had spoken with on the show would say, oh, you know, so-and-so does some really cool work, um, out in BC, you should talk to them. Um, and so, gradually, I'm sure, similar to you, you start to build this connection with other people and you build this community and, yeah, I've, I've never looked back Like it's just been. It's been such a like fun, joyful community to build and to to be able to meet people through it uh, like yourself as well.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, it's super cool, super cool. So, like what? What kind of topics have you covered on the show? I know that you've had a lot of episodes, so I understand, but, like, what types of things do you try to focus on? Is it just? I have gotten to the point over the years. You know I've done this since I started in November of 2019, which was such a weird time to start something new like this right before, like, we left for spring break in March of 2020 and didn't come back. You know, I was like see you in August maybe, and at the time I was trying to finish my dissertation and didn't want to.

Speaker 2:

So I started a podcast, so we did the same thing. Yeah, I just. So I started a podcast, so we did the same thing. Yeah, I just, I'm a glutton for punishment or something.

Speaker 1:

But over time it's like, I think when I started, I had sort of a vision of okay, these are the types of conversations we're going to have and these are the types of. And then at some point I was like anyone who will talk to me has so much cool stuff to bring. You know what I mean. Anyone who will talk to me has so much cool stuff to bring. You know what I mean. So, like, what types of things do you try to to focus on?

Speaker 2:

Or is it just kind of the oh, this sounds interesting, let's do it. Oh, it's a good question. I find I'm a little bit of both. Like I want to say it's, I'll talk to anyone. But I've gotten a bit more restrictive in recent years and I'll explain why. But for me it's always been thinking about the idea of food as knowledge and not being restricted to like the ivory tower. So I absolutely have, like, researchers, academics, come on and share their research, because that's important to you know, put that past a paywall and talk about it in a way that's not going to make people's eyes dry over. But I also think it's really important to value different forms of food knowledge. So, you know, I I always say in the beginning it's this show that explores, like food, identity and culture and, um, I see food as a very open-ended subject. So I've had people on talking about um substance use, um alcohol, water, CBD beverages, stuff like that, Um, because that's still food, that's still something that you ingest.

Speaker 2:

Um, I think where I put restrictions, um is around like food products. I've I've definitely had people in the past Um, and I find I struggle a bit more with those sorts of stories because it's some of them have interesting stories behind them, but quite often I think I hit that you know, middle or 20 to 30 something, white woman wellness realm a little bit sometimes.

Speaker 2:

And yeah, there is. I mean, there is one conversation I had with a wellness product that the Kardashians ended up campaigning for and that was kind of the line for me of like I don't feel comfortable with that.

Speaker 1:

I can see that, though, because I feel like the whole tone of your show is very much making food accessible, making it equitable, and sometimes some of those things are just not. They're just not and they're not more than that. Things are just not, they're just not and they're not more than that. They're not, they're not intended to be, and I think that, yeah, and I also really appreciate and think it's really cool that you protect your space well. I think that that's important, because this is like your message, that you're getting out, but you're also platforming a lot of really, really fascinating conversations and perspectives, and protecting that is important, and so that's that's admirable, I think.

Speaker 2:

Thanks, yeah, it was. It was not an easy choice. It was, honestly, I think it was around the pandemic point, where that, that was kind of where I was getting, you know, pitches from people or from PR agents that were selling, like peanut butter or honey or certain things that were just pancakes, um, that were really expensive, and and thinking, you know, particularly to the fact that you know, if I'm getting sent these boxes of pancakes or honey or whatever and I can't actually afford them, why would I, why would I be talking about them on the show? And I think, you know, wellness is a really important part of looking at food and thinking about health in a way that's like culturally, um, founded and culturally accessible, um, but that type of wellness, as you said, it's, it's just not, it's not an accessible form of it and it can do a lot of damage, um, kind of not to go down that rabbit hole, yeah, um, but yeah, I do.

Speaker 2:

I do find like those sorts of things, um, it was an interesting time because it was it was looking at using different food products as medicine, which is really important in certain cultural spheres, um, but it was also coming up against a time where there was a lot of people who were, um, you know, kind of skeptical around vaccines and around everything to do with COVID, which, um, yeah, I just wanted to kind of be in a place of uh having these, having the ability to have like nuanced conversations around it, but not saying like you should only use honey to cure your you know, um strep, right.

Speaker 1:

Right, no, and that's a and that is a. That's a hard line to tread and and kind of, like you said, like I'll get pitches from people, sometimes for an episode and for one. You know, I'm just kind of sponsored by my university. I do this sort of as part of my job and so I have to be careful about conflicts of interest and those kinds of things. But like I also like want to make sure I'm putting good science out there, that I'm putting, yeah, good, true, factual information. So sometimes I'll get a pitch and I'm just like, like this would be a cool guest and I just can't do it. I just can't do it because there's there's a line there that I don't. I don't know that. I know what the hard line is in my brain, but it's like I know it when I see it, if that makes sense.

Speaker 1:

Like if your brain curdles a little bit, yeah, it's like oh, or, you know, thinking about the people that listen, Like the last thing I would want to do is cause harm, right, and I think that that's again as communicators, as scientists, as educators, like spices from around the world but they were very much white owned company from the States, Um, and I think it.

Speaker 2:

Those sorts of power dynamics to me are kind of central to my show of looking at, like, who's telling the story? Has that story been told, um, effectively, or have people been able to access that? And I'm sure, similar to you, like, there's a lot of students that listen to my show and I I don't want to, I don't want to kind of guide them off a place of curiosity, but I think it's it's also as educators, like still your responsibility to to make sure that you're you're sharing good science, good stories that are founded in like I don't know more grassroots, for lack of a better term, Absolutely.

Speaker 1:

No, I totally, totally agree with that. Yeah, um, so a couple that this kind of brings a couple of questions to my mind. Um, and and maybe this one is specific, and if it's not something you really want to dive into, we don't have to but, like when you cook at home, like what kinds of things do you like?

Speaker 2:

Oh, that's a fun question to ask right now. So, for context, I'm currently I'm seven months pregnant and I cannot stand cooking.

Speaker 1:

Fair enough, ok, when you're not seven months pregnant when the idea of it is not terrible to you, the idea of it is not terrible to you?

Speaker 2:

Um, it's still a funny question because I find um I guess that's like an undercurrent in my show that, um, I, I had a long struggle with food and my relationship with it, which I'm pretty open about. Um, I tend to, you know, at least once a season, have someone come on that speaks to like disordered eating experiences, just to get different. You know different voices around that. Um, so for me, like I spent a lot of time thinking about food as fuel as an athlete, like what, what can I put into my body that has, like the most optimal output? Um, and so learning how to cook was like a something I didn't really do until I was in my twenties. Um, I was vegetarian for a long time. So I think, like you know, I always come back to like bowl based food what sort of grain, be it like rice or, or buckwheat or things like that, um, and then like beans, vegetables, stuff like that.

Speaker 2:

Um yeah, that's kind of. That's kind of where I I tend to go to. Okay, I just, I don't know, no, it's just an interesting like it's.

Speaker 1:

It's an interesting thing because I think we all have again different relationships with food in the way like I grew up, I grew up cooking with my mom, so we like it was just me and her for a lot of my childhood and so she has always cooked very intuitively and just like she's. So I'm first generation American. My family immigrated from India in the 70s and so like the kind of the suite of spices and things that we use growing up were so different than, like you know, anything else, and so like I've always like just tried stuff and sometimes that turns out real well and sometimes less so stuff and sometimes that turns out real well and sometimes less so, and so I don't know. I'm always just curious when people are sort of in the food and into some of these conversations, just like how they process that and think through it. So I appreciate your transparency on that, just because it's an interesting at least in my mind an interesting kind of thing.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and I always love like that's something. It's interesting that you say that about growing up and being able to cook with your mom, because you know, when I talk to people on the show quite often that's like a central experience is that you grew up watching your mom being able to cook something that's like specific to your family and I grew up with like shake and bake and meatloaf, so which was fine and it, you know, it served the purpose of that us and yeah, I always it served the purpose of fetus and um, yeah, I always find it really interesting, I think. I think my relationship with food has made me more curious to keep asking questions about it, because it took me so much longer to get to that point of having a good relationship with it.

Speaker 1:

Sure, that's, that's really interesting. Um, so again you're what? Maybe a hundred episodes in more than a hundred episodes in your show, I don't remember exactly.

Speaker 2:

Less than you, Cause I was looking at how many episodes I think I'm I'm putting a one 23 tomorrow, yeah.

Speaker 1:

Okay, uh, so I kind of around the same same spot. I uh, for a while I was like I'm going to put out a ton of content, and then I quickly burned out and took a break.

Speaker 2:

Fair yeah.

Speaker 1:

Yeah.

Speaker 2:

That was a wild amount in that amount of time it was, it was a lot, and so I have gone to every other week.

Speaker 1:

now Is your show weekly, weekly ish.

Speaker 2:

Yeah it's, it's weekly but seasonal. So I had similarly done the thing of like I'm going to put one out every single week because that's what the you know. Put one out every single week because that's what the you know YouTubers that podcast told me to do when I started out. Um, I like to kind of align it with, like, the school semester. Um, even though I'm not teaching or a student at this point, there's something about it that just feels right to me. So usually, yeah, seasons start in September and then I'm kind of in the process of wrapping up and having episodes wrap by like end of April, early May okay, that's really cool.

Speaker 1:

I should think about. My problem is I've tried to do that like last June. I was like I'm gonna take the summer off and I took the rest of the year off. I was like, oh, that was maybe a little bit like a little bit much, and so I have to. I have to at least keep some consistency, or I find other things to fill that like block of time with, and then my brain is just like, no, but we're already doing the other thing.

Speaker 2:

It's hard, I find it. I think I did a similar thing. Well, I ended up transitioning of academia, but I was still like I was teaching and consulting at the same time, and so I, similarly, I took a break and then I it ended up being a year, um, which was like the longest amount of time away from podcasting, and there's something about like, if you haven't done an interview for a while, I find I just get so much more nervous to just get that momentum going again.

Speaker 1:

Oh I oh, my first interview this year, uh, as I was getting back, so I did a solo episode jumping back into it and it was okay. And then I did an interview and I was like I don't remember how to talk to people. Like I know I've talked to people in the last six months but apparently I don't know how to do that right now.

Speaker 1:

Yep, it is such a like a skill and like a muscle you have to like train over time. I agree, yeah, Do you have. I like to ask this question to other podcasters, especially the interview people Do you have like a couple of things that are like your favorite things you've learned over the process of doing this podcast?

Speaker 2:

I think. Okay, I will say one of the most interesting lessons I've ever gotten on the show was with his name's Andrew Levin, and he was talking about seafood fraud, and I had no idea about that concept prior to interviewing him. We had met through like some sort of podcast or Facebook group back in the day, and so he was talking about how there's this huge problem, particularly in the US and Canada, where seafood is mislabeled. So you're getting like a really cheap white fish but it's labeled as like an expensive fish and the regulations around it. Like he dove into that pun intended, I guess, and I had no idea before that. And so those are the sorts of lessons where you know Um. That one or another one was um.

Speaker 2:

A friend of mine works as like a um. She watches out for wildfires in Alberta, um, during wildfire season. So she was talking about you know what sorts of foods that you eat, um, being a lookout at the fire tower and you know. Otherwise, I'd never hear those sorts of stories. So those are the ones that tend to stick. That's so cool.

Speaker 1:

I've. I've found some like social media videos, tiktok and Instagram of like fire, lookout people and, like you know, sitting up in the little I don't know I don't cabin on top of a mountain, like by themselves, and there's days that I'm like that's the show, like that's the dream yeah, like I want to go and be alone, for I know would get bored. I'm too much of an extrovert Like I have to, but but for like a week or two that sounds just amazing.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, that also spoken like a true academic though, having that ability to like have the two weeks off and commit to like all the side projects we're thinking about too.

Speaker 1:

Or or or literally just stare in the space for, like, there's days that I'm like I just want to like unplug my brain and just sit here and stay, like I kind of ended up doing that last week during spring break, and I I find that I am not feeling guilty about it and part of me, my academic brain, feels like I should feel guilty about it and I just don't. So yeah maybe that's freedom, I don't know.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I think it's necessary. I've been thinking about that a lot lately just in terms of, like, expanding anthro dish more into food writing. The last year or so, I find I get so much more, um, like, if I see a headline relating to food, I'm immediately thinking about, like, how to write about it and how to think about it, and, um, you know how to bring anthropology into it, and it's so exhausting, um, you know, to just feel like you always have to have something to say about what's going on in the world, and so I think those, those breaks are very, very needed yeah.

Speaker 1:

So, speaking of always having to be on you've, you've gotten into doing like social. You do social media too, like, uh, and I feel like as communicators, as science communicators, as educators, like we almost have to these days, like we go where the people are and the people are on social media. What has that experience been like for you? Is that something newer, or have you been doing like the social media side of it the whole time? You've been doing the podcast.

Speaker 2:

I've been doing like in terms of Instagram. Specifically, that's something where I did like I worked um doing social media production for um for different like field schools. That. I had worked for Um and like I was always on Instagram in my twenties, so I was like I might as well just you know make it useful. I think where it's been more interesting for me is like going into TikTok and finally conceding that the algorithm is more enjoyable there, yeah, and more addictive.

Speaker 2:

I guess that is the truth, yeah, but yeah, that was something that I had kind of started to play around with it. I had kind of started to play around with it and then I ended up like doing a food assignment for students last year where traditionally they had to compare a dish at a restaurant with a dish that they made at home in terms of, like, how it was prepared and the nutritional ingredients and the cultural story behind it. And I changed that so that it was looking at like TikTok food trends, which led me to end up being on TikTok more, because I was looking at these food trends like cacio e pepe or um, what was it that like Greek, that TikTok feta pasta thing?

Speaker 1:

a few years back, that was really big. Yeah, oh, I hadn't thought about that, yeah.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. So I ended up realizing, like, like I think for me, through teaching and through just working within communities, like, as you said, you have to go where people are and making TikTok a place where people can think about you know well, flattening it for a very general audience. And how can we kind of dig into that a bit more anthropologically? Yeah, I always say I entered as an anthropologist into TikTok, but I feel like that's not the case anymore.

Speaker 1:

But it is such a cool like study into the way we again we talked about going back to something we talked about at the beginning of the episode how food is central to so many of our cultural experiences and in different cultures it's related in different ways and having it out there for everyone to see across cultures. I think there's a lot of positives in that and I think there's a lot of like scary parts of that too, like especially if you're the one like putting those things out there.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, yeah, I agree, and I think for me it comes back to the idea of, like digital literacy within, you know, within teaching or within podcasting. And social media use too is and I think that's something you do a fabulous job at on TikTok of just being able to kind of stop people from scrolling for a second and start to think about, like you know, who's the source that I'm listening to, why are they an expert? What do they have to offer? What sort of information am I getting from it? Um, you know, I, um, I'm trying to think of like a recent example, but there's there's quite often so many things just kind of being thrown at you constantly. Oh, I think it was like cold plunges.

Speaker 2:

I was doing some research on that and the TikTok rabbit hole was vastly different from what, you know. Scientists and educators were saying as well. So having that ability to be digitally literate, I think, is an invaluable skill going forward.

Speaker 1:

Absolutely, that's really interesting, Really interesting. Well, Sarah, as we kind of wrap up here a little bit, it's always I don't know. It's always shocking to me how quickly some of these conversations go when they're, I mean, we're already 50 minutes in and it goes quick, so a couple of questions to wrap up. So where do you see yourself headed in terms of you know, your career, your podcast, whatever else you want to do, Like what's what's next for you?

Speaker 2:

Ooh, not to feel like anything I say I have to live up to.

Speaker 1:

Oh no, Just or where do you think? Cause I think that that also in you know, life changes and life's complicated and and all of that. So, no, I'm not trying to marry you to anything that you say, I'm just curious what your thoughts for the future are.

Speaker 2:

I think for me, like anthro dish is a thing again, like I started it when I was in my early twenties, mid twenties, and it's kind of started to gradually expand. Like I found being able to interview people was so fascinating but I also I was kind of like losing my own voice within it. So for me I'm really interested in building my writing up through it. That's something that's been like a big goal of mine this past year is just kind of getting back into getting into public science writing. You know, finding the places that will house the stories that I want to tell, which you know I think we're, we kind of understand like that nexus of food and health and environment as being so. You know, you can't really untangle them, but I think finding finding a space for that publicly is like where I want to bring AnthroDish. So I still have the interviews, I still get to be able to share these fantastic conversations, but I also get to explore like the food anthro part a bit more practically within my writing too. Super cool.

Speaker 1:

No, I love that. I love that, and I've tried to dip my toes into writing recently as well, and non-academic writing, I should say, because that's just like getting punched in the face a bunch, yeah same, just like getting punched in the face a bunch. It's so like I know I think I'm risking something saying this openly. I am not, that is not me Like, that is just not my thing, me neither.

Speaker 2:

Publishing articles Reviewer number two.

Speaker 1:

I just cannot, like I can do it and I'm not like bad at it, I just don't want to. So, like I'm, I'm always looking into different ways to do things that are meaningful, that are still like scholarship, but maybe not in the.

Speaker 2:

I'm going to sit here and send in an article and then cry about the reviews for a while, and then you know yeah, well, especially, you know, I think about the review process in journals and, like I'm, I'm happy to have done that and to experience it, but it takes so long and I remember, you know, back in the early days of my PhD, I wanted to find some work on like food in Instagram, and that was, I want to say, 2015.

Speaker 2:

And it's only just coming out now, whereas you have, and not to like, dump on academia- I still really much value it, but I think I think it's really important, especially when we're in a place where there's just so much misinformation and there's, you know, a lot of a lot of harm that can come to that to our communities. It's really important to continue having you know public outreach, as I again I see it as like a responsibility of of academics and educators to to maintain that when you have so much knowledge you know it's it's up to you to like be able to continue sharing it with others.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, love that. Um, and and I guess the last thing I want to ask you is is a question I ask all my guests Uh, if you had something you wanted to leave people with, like a piece of advice, uh, what it could be about, literally, honestly, anything. Um, what would that be like? What? What do you wish that people listening to this episode knew?

Speaker 2:

Oh, that's a good question. I think for me, the big one that I always want to hit home about is that, um, food, as much as it's, uh, something that can bring people together to get them to talk about bigger issues, it's also, um, it's also a tool that can be used against community, to break community, and I think, for me, having that ability to balance both lenses, of looking at food as a tool both for good or for bad, to kind of generalize it for me that's the big message is kind of thinking about how is food being used, be it in your grocery store or at your family dinner table or within your communities at large. Is it being used to bring people together, or are there people that are using tactics to kind of fracture, fracture community, and thinking about food is that kind of stepping stone to look at those bigger issues as well.

Speaker 1:

It's fascinating. Yeah, I think that's such a good thing to keep in mind and remember for sure. Yeah, I think that's such a good thing to keep in mind and remember for sure. Sarah, again, 50 plus minutes has gone quick and I've genuinely a pleasure. I've so much enjoyed talking to you and hearing from your experience and just what you do. I think it's again very inspiring and very good and necessary work. So thanks for doing it. I appreciate it.

Speaker 2:

Thank you, and likewise it's honestly, it's such a pleasure to be able to connect with someone that does this in in their own way, through plant anthropology as well. So it's.

Speaker 1:

It's a lot of fun. Um, where can people find you? Uh, plug your stuff.

Speaker 2:

Considering I asked that to everyone, you'd think I'd be prepared. So anthrodishcom is my website. Um, you can find me on any podcast platforms, um, at anthrodish podcast. Uh, across social media, anthrodish podcast. And then my newsletter is sarahdugnansubstackcom.

Speaker 1:

Awesome, and I'll put links to all that stuff in the show notes. But thanks again. I hope you have a wonderful rest of your week, or I guess it's only Monday as we record this. So I hope you have a wonderful week and just thanks again. I appreciate it.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, likewise. Thanks, Rick.

Speaker 1:

Y'all go follow Sarah all the places. Is she not the best? Again, I said it earlier, but she's the best. Also, the AnthroDish podcast is fantastic, so go listen to that too. Thanks so much for listening to this episode and all the episodes of Plantthropology. You know I do this for you and I appreciate you so much. Thanks to the Texas Tech Department of Plant and Soil Science for supporting the show. Thanks to the award-winning composer, nick Scout, for our music If you Want to Love Me, babe, which is just so jangly and fun. I love folk music and he did such a good job on it. And once more, go follow Sarah all the places. Y'all spend some time thinking about the role that food serves in your life and in your community and how you can make that more equitable and better. Keep being kind to one another. If you have not, to this time, been kind to one another, maybe give that a shot. It's pretty cool. Keep being very cool. Plant people. You know I love you and I will talk to you very soon.

Food, Anthropology, and Water Insecurity
Navigating Careers and Food Access
Food Access and Community Initiatives
Exploring Food, Identity, and Culture
Navigating Ethics in Food and Science
Exploring TikTok and Digital Literacy
Exploring Food Anthropology and Writing

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