A new Edible Education lecture series at UC Berkeley features notable figureheads in the food industry.
When I was in college, my interest in food was nurtured by a course I took entitled, "Food Performance and Communication." Apart from the professor who was extremely knowledgeable and passionate about the subject, the actual course content played a huge part in illuminating the ethos surrounding food. Relationships, connections, and sentiments humans have to food in both the past and present were examined. So enthralled was I by this curriculum that my senior thesis consisted of 20 pages exploring sourdough bread, which was undoubtedly excruciating to any person reading it who was not as captivated by the tangy San Francisco staple as I was.
Now acutely involved in the natural foods industry, my fascination with food has only grown stronger, and I am hungry (no pun intended) for an ever-deeper understanding of the trade, despite its complicated nuances. So when my twitter feed began lighting up with discussions of Alice Waters’ Edible Education courses, my interest was piqued.
In light of the 40th Anniversary of Chez Panisse (the exemplary restaurant in Berkeley, CA, often credited with igniting the slow food movement) a series of free lectures by notable leaders in the food industry has commenced. The series takes place at the UC Berkeley campus and includes such figureheads as Michael Pollan, Food Politics author Marion Nestle, and Boulder’s own "Renegade Lunch Lady" Ann Cooper, among others.
Don’t live in the sunny confines of California? Some lectures will be broadcast on YouTube. Most recently, Marion Nestle outlined both the politics of food and socioeconomic influences as they relate to current obesity issues.
I believe that a salient glitch in the food industry centers on the distortion of knowledge by irresponsible marketing, particularly when it comes to marketing to children. As Nestle puts it, “Food marketers focusing on children really want to convince kids that they know more about what they should eat than their parents do. They should eat packaged food, food with cartoons on the wrapper. They should eat foods in funny shapes, sizes and colors. They are supposed to eat unidentified food objects. They are not supposed to eat the boring foods that their parents eat.” Simply bringing this knowledge into the spotlight is a step in the right direction.
In retrospect, the mere option of taking a college-level class centered on food is a good sign for the natural foods industry; it's proof that a large part of the population is interested in not only learning about the current legislation, but understanding why it exists in the first place. By focusing on education, the lecture series provides access to some of the best food policy minds in the industry and is fodder for healthy changes in the fundamental ways we relate to food in modern America.