Episode 39: Edible Insects and Human Evolution with Dr. Julie Lesnik

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Why do some cultures get squeamish at the idea of eating bugs when other cultures use them as dietary staples? There are a lot of biases, particularly for Western folks, about what animals are and are not edible, and my guest this week, Dr. Julie Lesnik, is here to unpack these cultural attitudes around edible insects!

Julie is from Wayne State University in Detroit Michigan and researches the evolution of the human diet. She focuses particularly on the role of insects as food. She is the author of the book Edible Insects and Human Evolution and recently launched a fabulous and fun science communication channel on YouTube called Octopus & Ape.  The show brings Julie’s love of all things life-science outside of the classroom and to the broader public in a fun and informative way.

I’ll admit going into this interview, I had a lot of biases around the idea of edible insects because of growing up as a Westerner, and Julie is great at pushing folks to think more about the powerful cultural, political, social, environmental dimensions to eating bugs. We also explore what she describes as the ugly history that Westerners have when it comes to their relationships with bugs, and she unpacks some of the harmful ways colonialism has influenced not just our own perspectives on edible insects, but negatively impacted other cultures to present day.

Check out the full episode in the player above, or download on any major podcasting platform!

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Episode 38: Food Security and Health for LGBTQ+ Communities with James Gibb

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Food security is a topic that’s very close to my heart, in part because of how complex and varied experiences of food access, affordability, and availability can be. This week, we’re breaking down food security amongst LGBTQ+ communities with James Gibb. James is currently a human biology graduate student at the University of Toronto, whose research focuses on the biocultural forces affecting health and wellbeing for sexual and gender minorities.

In this interview, we explore the ways in which food and diet impact health outcomes for sexual and gender minorities. Nutrition is an important factor that influences individual risk for a number of non-communicable diseases, specifically in preventing morbidity and premature mortality. Despite food insecurity being linked to a number of physical and mental health outcomes, James has found that there is little research hon the nature of nutritional health for SGMs. We explore some of the reasons that these gaps in research and health programming exist, and James makes some suggestions about how we can start to connect nutrition, health, and the social processes of stigma, isolation, and discrimination for SGM communities.

Enjoy the episode in the web player above, or download on any major podcasting platform!

Get Social with James:

Twitter

Episode 37: Indigenous Food Transitions and Health in Rural Guatemala with William Lucas

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What really happens when a community undergoes a dietary transition, or shift? When speaking about Indigenous communities and their health, we often think of nutritional transitions as linear, and uncomplicated. But is this really a fair assessment of reality? 

This week I’m speaking with William Lucas, a medical anthropology PhD student at the University of South Florida. His research has explored issues of Latino community health topics such as food and nutrition, diabetes, HIV, and Hepatitis C. His current doctoral work integrates these through syndemics research, where he analyzes the interactions between nutrition, disease, and other social and cultural factors in Guatemala, a country which experiences some of the highest rates of childhood stunting worldwide. Originally from Los Angeles, California, William developed his anthropological interests through his exposure to food deserts and swamps, issues of community violence, and other social determinants of health, as well as an interest in how overall health is implicated in all these areas of research.

In our interview, we explore his work with a remote Q’eqchi’ Maya community in Guatemala. We explore nutritional transitions and the internal and external mechanisms that influence community attitudes about what constitutes healthy or unhealthy food, and how Western-style processed foods are perceived. William’s work is very unique in that there are some interesting attitudes around the idea of what healthy food looks like, and how this plays out for other health conditions for the Q’eqchi’.  

Resources

Episode 36: FEAST - Exploring Canadian Identities through Food with Lindsay Anderson and Dana VanVeller

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A topic that I feel we haven’t REALLY explored the way I’d like to is Canada’s food identity. And that’s something that my guests this week, Lindsay Anderson and Dana VanVeller know an awful lot about!

Lindsay and Dana are authors and freelance food writers based in Vancouver, British Columbia. Their award-winning culinary travel blog, edibleroadtrip.com launched in 2013 and went on to win a Saveur Best Food Blog Award. In 2017, they published their debut cookbook, Feast: Recipes and Stories from a Canadian Road Trip through Appetite by Random House. It quickly became a bestseller, and was awarded the Taste Canada Gold Award for Regional and Cultural Cookbooks. Their latest project saw them travelling to Nunavut as consultants on a country food cookbook with the Department of Fisheries and Sealing.

 In our interview, they speak to what makes the foods and cuisines in Canada just so diverse and complex, and they highlight some of their experiences during their road trip and cookbook writing process. They even explore their more recent project working in Nunavut a bit and share the ways in which their connections with food have grown through time.

These women are such talented storytellers and they made me really think about what Canadian cuisines are and how that shapes our identities.

Listen to the episode in the player above, or download on iTunes, Spotify, or Stitcher

Resources

Website: www.edibleroadtrip.com

Instagram: @feast_on

Facebook

Twitter

 

Episode 35: Mental Health and Wellbeing in the Food Industry with Hassel Aviles

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As someone who’s worked in the food industry and has a partner and many friends that still work in the industry, the topic of mental wellbeing in these intense environments is of great importance to me and a topic I’m always keen to explore on the show.

 My guest this week is someone who has done a terrific job creating a space in these environments for conversations around mental health and addictions. I’m speaking Hassel Aviles, a Toronto native with over 20 years of culinary experience in the food and beverage industry, specifically focused on restaurants, events, and entrepreneurship.

 Hassel founded the Toronto Underground Market (or TUM) in 2011, which is a community festival turned incubator designed for food entrepreneurs, chefs, and home cooks. TUM was attended by thousands each month, and produced enormous tourism for Toronto, birthing over three dozen food brands in the GTA (including restaurants, celebrity chefs, food trucks, and catering companies). She leveraged TUM to launch and co-found the successful and delicious La Carnita, which is now a global restaurant franchises.

In addition, Hassel is the co-founder of Not 9 to 5 with Chef Ariel Coplan. Not 9 to 5 is a Canadian non-profit focused on normalizing the mental health and addiction conversations while providing connections to resources for those working in the food and beverage industry. In our interview, we explore her experiences creating and growing Not 9 to 5, and discuss the reasons that this particular food industry culture is such an important place to tackle conversations around mental health and addictions. Here is my interview with Hassel.

Listen in the player above or download on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, Googly Play, or iheartradio!

Not 9 to 5

Episode 34: Exploring Food and Stress at the Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site with David Ebert & Dr. Amy Scott

This week’s episode is extra special, as we have TWO phenomenal guests on: Dr. David Ebert and Dr. Amy Scott are here to talk about life and food at the Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia! This episode runs a bit longer than most, because I wanted to weave together multiple ways of looking at and celebrating the past, and the role that the past plays for contemporary Canadians. Louisbourg is truly one of the most magical places I’ve been to, and Amy and David play a huge role in why I love the Fortress so much.

In the first part of the episode, I speak with David Ebert, who is part of the management team for Parks Canada’s Cape Breton team and the Fortress of Louisbourg. We explore the history of the Fortress, and he discusses what makes it such a fascinating part of Canadian and French history. David paints a vivid picture of what food and life were life for residents of the fortress during the 1700s, and the ways food is used now to make modern visits to the Fortress sensorial and interactive (aka super fun!)

During the second part, I speak with Dr. Amy Scott, an anthropology professor from the University of New Brunswick, and the project director of the bioarchaelogy field school at the Fortress. Dr. Scott has teamed up with Parks Canada for a long-term rescue archaeology project designed to document and protect the burial grounds out at Rochefort Point, where the shoreline has retreated about 90m in the past 300 years. I speak with Amy about the bioarchaeology side of things – we look at how we can learn about individual lives, stresses, health, mobility and diet just from their skeletal remains and burial context!

Parks Canada creates such an immersive experience and Amy’s UNB team does a fabulous job connecting with the public and engaging in dialogues about climate change in Canada and how it impacts not only our present but our past. It was such an honour to speak with these two about their work because they’re both so passionate and engaging!

Check out the episode in the player above, or download on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, Google Play, or iHeartRadio!

Resources      

Fortress of Louisbourg Association

Parks Canada Website

UNB Bioarch Website

Field School on Facebook and Instagram

Aerial shot of the Fortress, used with permission from Parks Canada.

Aerial shot of the Fortress, used with permission from Parks Canada.

David Ebert of Parks Canada (Image used with permission from Parks Canada)

David Ebert of Parks Canada (Image used with permission from Parks Canada)

Dr. Scott works with a field assistant at the excavation site.

Dr. Scott works with a field assistant at the excavation site.

CultureFete at the Fortress of Louisbourg

CultureFete at the Fortress of Louisbourg

PS! Since we’re on the topic of food… Louisburger has without a doubt the best burgers you’ll find!  I spend the better part of my year daydreaming about Bobby’s veggie burgers.

PS! Since we’re on the topic of food… Louisburger has without a doubt the best burgers you’ll find!

I spend the better part of my year daydreaming about Bobby’s veggie burgers.