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June 6, 2024 58 mins

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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.

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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.

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Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Speaker 1 (00:00):
What is up?
Plant people it's time oncemore for the Plantthropology
podcast, the show where we diveinto the lives and careers of
some very cool plant people tofigure out why they do what they
do and what keeps them comingback for more.
I'm Vikram Baliga, your hostand your humble guide in this
journey through the sciences and, as always, my friends, I am so
excited to be with you todayand I'm especially excited for
this episode because it's onethat we recorded a couple of ago

and I've been not sitting on.
That's not right, but I've hada whole bunch of other stuff
going on, a bunch of differentepisodes coming out, but I so
much enjoyed this one and it'skind of fun getting to go back
after a couple of months as I'mediting and hear the
conversation again, because myguest for today, dr Sarah Dugnan
, is just the coolest, just thecoolest.

So Sarah is the host of theAnthroDish podcast and all the
other things, the writing thatgoes with it, and she has a sub
stack and all kinds of otherthings.
But she has a background ineverything from medical
anthropology to archaeology, towater and food and everything
else, everything else.
She knows so much and has doneso much in the food and food

anthropology space and food as acultural thing and food as a
health thing and all the thingsthat really itch that part of my
brain that wants to know abouthow we interact with food and
how we interact with plants andthe world around us.
And it was just such a funconversation, sarah is
delightful and just a wealth ofknowledge and so smart and so

fun and I think you're reallygoing to enjoy this episode.
I know that I enjoyed it when Igot to talk to her and I
enjoyed it again, all over againas I edited it and it's just
So if you're interested in howwe culturally approach food and
how food interacts with ourday-to-day lives and our

politics and our well-being andeverything in between, this is
the episode for you.
So, without any other delay, mydearest friends, here is
episode 109 of thePlanthropology podcast, food is
knowledge, eating equitably anddigital literacy with Dr Sarah
Dugnan of the AnthroDish podcast.

Well, sarah, I am so excited toget to talk to you today.

We've been kind of followingeach other and interacting on
social media for a while and,like we were kind of chatting
before the interview, it'sexciting just to get to have
this FaceTime a little bit.

Speaker 2 (02:45):
Yeah, thank you, I'm so excited to be here.

Speaker 1 (02:47):
Good, how's your day going so far?

Speaker 2 (02:49):
It's going all right.
I'm up in Ontario so it's verygray.
It's kind of that wintry kindof fall-spring-winter mood, so

Speaker 1 (03:00):
I understand that for sure.
Now I say I understand that NowI'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 70Fahrenheit, which is I can't do
the math quick enough in my head, but it's warm and sunny Very
nice, well.

Again, thanks for agreeing to beon.
I'm excited to get to chatabout what you do in your
podcast and about food andeverything else, but why don't
you introduce yourself a littlebit more, tell us where you're
from, what you do and how yougot there?

Speaker 2 (03:34):
Sure, so my name is Sarah Duggan.
I am currently living in Guelph, ontario.
I'm from Peterborough orNagojuan, ontario.
I'm from Peterborough orNagojouan, ontario, and I am a
food podcaster, but I'm also amedical anthropologist, which I
feel like when people hearmedical anthro they don't
necessarily think about food,but to me it's all related.

I think growing up inparticularly in Ontario, in more
small town communities, justbeing exposed to the natural
world a lot more, allowed for areally good connection between
myself and you know, beingoutside, being aware of, like,
how many beautiful freshwaterlakes we have and all the

natural world around that, so itjust kind of was a part of me
from a very early age.
And I'd also like to credit youknow I went to a pretty hippie
university for my undergrad, sothat definitely.
So I went to Trent Universityand it's very environmentally
It's very much looking at howcan we create, you know, local,

locally and sustainably sourcedfood pathways for people, even
university students.
So I think you know it was.
It was always there, it wasalways kind of an underlying
And then, as I took the jumpinto grad school and worked
within, I went to University ofManitoba for my master's and
then McMaster University for myPhD.
I'd started out in archaeology,so it was kind of a gradual

transition, which I don't oftentalk about, but yeah.
So somehow I managed to movefrom archaeology into more
community-based health within myPhD work.

Speaker 1 (05:18):
That's really fascinating and at least in my
mind and you say that maybe itdoesn't track or that you don't
talk about it much, but it makessome sense to me because I
think food and the way that weeat and the way that we grow
things is this than I do.
But uh, and and and so much ofit was like what did they grow,

how did they cook it, what didthey eat, what's?
How did their society revolvearound that?
And that it makes sense thatthe more you learn about old
cultures, that's such a pivotalpart Like it.
For me at least, it tracks.
I think that's such a coolprogression too.

Speaker 2 (06:00):
Oh, thanks, yeah, it, it definitely tracks for me too
and that it's, you know, Ithink, working.
I'd worked a lot on likeskeletal populations and
excavations relating to that Um,and in my master's I was
looking at like Danishpopulations moving through um,
the little ice age and theglobal warming period, and so I
was looking at, you know, howdid their diets change, how did
they move during climate changeand you know, bubonic plague and

things like that, and it wasreally understanding like, oh,
food has a huge role in terms ofthe health outcomes.
You can see that in theskeletal evidence.
And then it prompted a much, Idon't know, a pretty natural
transition for me of, well, howdo we think about the world
today in terms of how we eat,how is our health informed both
by our food and our water andour ability to source that, or

the political and socialstructures that limit that as

Speaker 1 (06:48):
Yeah, it's fascinating and I'm trying to
think how I want to phrase myquestion.
There is so much of you knowyou talked about the political
structures that influence foodand influence water especially.
You know you have a great paperyou wrote I guess I guess this
was on your PhD research right,looking at water insecurity

among First Nations anddifferent peoples.
How did like?
Again, I've worked in water fora lot of my career and I've
looked at the way that peoplerelate to water and how they see
water as a resource and all ofthat.
Could you talk a little bitmore about some of the research
you did and how you got intothat, specifically Because I

think that's a sort of afascinating facet of food and
society as well.

Speaker 2 (07:38):
Yeah, definitely.
I mean, I agree and I'm alwayshappy to nerd out on water stuff
I think an important piece thatI want to note is when I was
growing up, I was in a schoolthat had a lot of First Nations
educators and I think it wouldhave been about grade four,
grade five.
You start learning aboutCanadian history and you start
learning about Indigenous andsettler relationships and it's

very much within this boundtextbook of particular
And during that time there wasa water crisis in Kosheshuan
First Nation, which is up inNorthern Ontario.
So a lot of the teachers that Ihad at that point started
pulling resources together andended up helping with the
evacuation of Kosheshuanstudents and youth to

So at the time, I'm likereading about these
relationships that you know forsettlers had with indigenous
people and it's not lining upwith how you know the reality
was in.
I can't remember what year Iwas in grade four, but knowing
that all these people didn'thave access to water, um, and we
were living in Ontario and wekept being told this is, you

know, this is a country ofprivileges and affordances and
we all have this ability toaccess clean water.
It just you know, even at thatyoung age it very much didn't
line up.
So that really shaped how Ithought about relationships
between settlers and Indigenouspeoples across Canada from a
young age.

So I feel lucky in that senseto have had that awareness.
And then, in terms of theresearch itself, quite frankly,
there was an Indigenous scholarin our department who had
started this huge project andshe and her team reached out to
me and I was really interestedin looking at health, reached

out to me and I was reallyinterested in looking at health
but, um, I'd been going down adifferent 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 thisproject.
Um, and really kind of situateit was interesting because it
was very interdisciplinary.
So there were lots of engineersand biologists, um, and I don't
know how frequently you'veworked with them, but they can

be a little less sensitive tokind of human behaviors.

Speaker 1 (09:54):
Yeah, no, I absolutely yes.

Speaker 2 (09:57):
So it was a lot of translatingbetween, okay, um, you know,
getting acquainted with um sixnations first nation and and the
people there, and how can Iwork with them and kind of
translate what they'reexperiencing to engineers and
biologists and then vice versa,how can I bring the engineer
biologist research in a way thatyou know makes sense and is

useful for communities?
So that's kind of the longwinded story of that.
No, it's interesting.
That's kind of the long-windedstory of that.

Speaker 1 (10:23):
No, it's interesting and again, I like the story.
You tell a little bit about howwe chase opportunities where
they come up and we chase themwhere they are meaningful and
edifying and all of those things.
But sometimes it's like here'sa project, do you want to work
on it?
And it's like, okay, sure, Idid my master's degree in olive

I studied water use in olivesin South Texas, near the Mexican
border, and I had going in zerointerest in olives Like at all.
My background is actually inlandscape design and water
conservation and things likethat.
When I applied to my master'sprogram I was like, yeah, I'm

really interested in landscape.
And they were like, well, wehave funding for a project in
olives and I was like, great,let's learn about olives.
But some of those opportunitiesso much drive the way that our
career goes and our academiclife goes that it's fun to have
the opportunity sometimes tochase something a little bit

Speaker 2 (11:27):
Yeah, I agree, and I find sometimes too, with
particularly thinking throughanthropological work, I feel a
little uncomfortable in certaincircumstances in terms of being
that kind of helicopterresearcher, of just going into a
community and being like weknow what's best for you.
So having the opportunity towork with someone who's from the
community, who offered thatspot up, it just felt like a

much more natural fit thantrying to like squish myself
into something that just didn'tfit either.

Speaker 1 (11:55):
That's really, yeah, that's really interesting.
Um, and so you know I I want totalk more about your podcast
and some of your outreach stuffyou do, maybe towards the end of
this interview or a little bitlater in this interview, but I'm
curious now, reading throughsome of your articles you write
on Substack and just some of theother work you do, it seems

like you have found a reallycool connection point between
all of the different thingsanthropology and environment,
and food and culture and all ofthis and for me it's such a cool
like collaboration of all ofthese different fields.
Um, and we've been kind ofchatting about it a little bit,
but can you give me yourthoughts on and I know this is

not a small question, so I'mgoing to try to keep it as maybe
as digestible, consumable,whatever is possible.
But how did you come to thispoint where you've studied water
, you've studied anthropology.
Obviously you're interested inthe environment and the climate.
How did you find sort of yourniche?

Because I think that sometimes,as people are trying to decide
what to do with their lives, youknow 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 stilldon't know Really, like finding
where they maybe belongprofessionally 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 foryou.
Like how did you get there?
Because I think that's a great.

Speaker 2 (13:30):
Yeah, again, easy, small questions, um, but I think
that's a good thing for peopleto hear to what you're saying,
um, but I find it's one of thosethings where I've always had,
um, I've always had an interestin maintaining a kind of
holistic approach to things.

Um, you know, how can we, howcan we, look at this in
different angles?
And you know, I don't, I know Ijust 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 nuancedsolutions.
Um, but I think, in terms ofwhere I came to with it, it was

really a reflection of, likelife crashing into work.
Um, so, um, you know, I was, Iwas going through my PhD, I was
being a teaching assistant, butI was also, um, single parenting
and I was working at arestaurant and it just was kind
of an unavoidable nexus ofsitting through these classrooms
and sitting through, you know,listening through undergraduate

lectures that I had heard timeand time again and not really
feeling like voices were beingrepresented in a way that was
comprehensive, like it just feltlike it was again just one
particular narrator shapingthese perspectives on food, and
then I was looking at therestaurant industry in Toronto
and this would be in the 2010sand thinking about all the

different people that I knewthere doing really creative,
interesting work and struggling,and I think ultimately, you
know it just felt like there wassuch a huge disconnect and I
was interested in looking at howcan we kind of bridge those
gaps a little bit more.
Um, but in terms of, yeah, howit's kind of come into my food
writing in place, I think itjust comes from more

conversations with people Um, ithas allowed me to kind of stop
and reflect a bit more on how Isee food and, again, I think
being in a position of servingin Toronto, when you are like a
broke grad student and you'reserving these like huge plates
of food that you can't actuallyafford it, just it completely

shapes your perspective and forme, I always end up just asking
more questions and that kind ofguides the writing and the
social media work that I did aswell.

Speaker 1 (15:48):
That's really really fascinating.
Some of the work that I havedone professionally and maybe
I'm getting into academicallyI've spent a lot of time as,
like, a community educator andthings like that, and I've
worked in that quite a bit, buta lot of that was in food and
food supply and we've done likecommunity gardens and work in
those kinds of things.
You wrote an article, I think,back in November on your

Substack, talking aboutaffordable and accessible food,
and that's something that'sreally close to my heart and I
know that culturally andpolitically there are quite a
few between like where I am andwhere you are.
But, but, reading some of yourwork, it seems like, though,
some of these core problemsabout access to food and food

security are not so different.
Maybe these are more universalproblems, just based on the way
that our societies are built.
Can you talk about that articleand what like um kind of drove
you to talking about, like foodaccess and all of those things?

Speaker 2 (16:51):
Yeah, that's a great question.
I think, um, in terms ofthinking about food access as a
writing point, um, for me, it ittends to be a constant
frustration, especially, youknow, post 2020 onward.
Um, I've found the food system,like looking at our food system
in real time has been a reallyfascinating exploration into,

you know, what led us to thispoint.
Why are we at this point where,um, you know, within the
context of of Canadian foodsystems, um and I'm sure you
could speak to it um, in Americaand in Texas, but the food
prices here are justskyrocketing to a point where
people can't afford them.
Food bank use is increasing andsetting like record-breaking

highs and we don't in Canadahave any sort of like food
support network or socialsupport network for it.
We don't have school lunchprograms, we don't have like
nationally mandated foodprograms and obviously there's
there's issues and limitationswithin those two, but there's no
like social support or safetynet for those sorts of things.

And I think, just seeing itagain play it in real time,
seeing, you know, the groceryshop budgets having to increase
week by week, and there's beensome really interesting kind of
elements with different CanadianCEOs of different grocery
stores getting involved in, likefood pricing scandals and

things like that.
So it felt like a really goodplace to explore how all of our
social, political and culturalstructures, particularly in
Canada right now, are at thisinteresting juncture of being
challenged and kind of hittingthat point where they're
fracturing, based on, you know,all of these different things

But I think to ultimately likeI like to look back at the idea
of food access in the States andin Canada as being intentional.
I think a lot of the again, alot of the sort of legislature
and policy around food is notnecessarily reflective of, like

the realities that people face.
And so when we see it startingto crumble and we see it not
being sustainable for people tobe able to access food, um, then
you start to look at differentpolicies and and bills and like
the history of that and howthat's kind of shaped, how we
come to think about access toJosh, yeah, and that is.

Speaker 1 (19:33):
I mean, it's such a big issue and it is something
certainly that we face here.
And you know, maybe we havesome systems in place.
You'd mentioned school lunchesand things like that.
So we do have some kind ofsocial safety net in terms of
food supply, but it's inadequateoverall.
Right, like yes, it's, it helps, but it's almost like I don't
know, trying to drink soup witha fork.

You know you get a little bitbut you don't get it all.
And that's something wecertainly saw, you know, through
shutdowns in 2020.
And through, you know, we hadin California and parts of Texas
where labor became such a hugeissue in terms of our food
system because most of it'smigrant labor and seasonal labor

and those people couldn't comeinto the country, they couldn't
get into the fields and therewere hundreds of thousands of
tons of food produce that rottedin the field because no one
could harvest it.
And when that sort of startshitting, I think we realize the
fragility of our food systemsometimes and how much we need
that, that safety net and andthose regional and sort of more

localized food systems and stufflike that.
So it is, it is such a bigthing, but I think the more
people who talk about it thebetter, especially from an
informed and sort of likeknowledgeable standpoint.

Speaker 2 (20:53):
Yeah, I agree and I think, like again, when, when I
think about the idea of the foodsystem kind of being
intentionally structured thisway, I think a lot about, like,
industrial agriculture.
Um, not that I want to likesick all the industrial
agricultural people on us forhaving this conversation, but,
um, you know, even thinkingabout the Canadian food guide
itself is like a political textwhere it's been long informed by

So, um, milk and dairylobbyists, uh, meat lobbyists
and different, um, differentlike big egg companies have
spent a lot of money lobbying sothat, particularly during the
1950s to 1990s, you would seemore dairy bread, juice, meats

being recommended, because therewas money behind that.
And it was only in the 2020restructure for the food guide
where they actually had, likenutritional scientists come in
and say, hey, this isn't exactlythe most like nourishing plate,
so maybe let's bring somescience to it and see what
happens with that.

Speaker 1 (21:56):
Well, that's kind of a big deal, right?
Yeah, I think having thescientific backing you know, and
I think about the old foodpyramid that we, or at least you
know I don't know if it's thesame food pyramid, but similar

Speaker 2 (22:09):
Yeah, okay.

Speaker 1 (22:11):
Same idea of that we grew up with oh, this is what we
should eat.
And then you really dive intoit.
It's like, well, you know.
So there are certainly someissues there.
But what has been encouragingfor me and I'd be curious to
hear what you have seen sort ofin your area is how many people
are going back to and trying tostart like grassroots,

community-led operations to plugsome of these gaps in the
Like we have community gardens,we have our local food bank
actually has a farm, we have afood bank farm and they have an
apple orchard and they havegreenhouses and high tunnels I
think it's about seven acres ofland.
And then they have a CSAprogram and they donate to the

food bank or run some of itthrough the food bank.
It was really coolcommunity-led efforts that are
trying to make sure people havefood to eat.
Are you seeing that where youare?
Are there those types ofefforts going into place?

Speaker 2 (23:11):
There definitely are.
There's been some reallyinteresting conversations again,
really starting in 2020 onwards.
There's a lot of really greatnot-for-profits here that are
community-driven, so I'mforgetting the name of it now
Toronto Food.
I'll have to send it to you?
No, that's fine, but there are afew different food initiatives

in Toronto.
There's Sundance Harvest.
There's also CSA Farms acrosssouthern Ontario that I know a
little bit better than acrossCanada.
But then we also have a lot ofuniversity researchers teaming
up with farmers and agriculturalspecialists.
Agricultural specialists DrTamara Soma is someone who's

doing that out in BC Justfantastic job really looking at
like food landscapes and foodplanning to create systems that
are a bit less wasteful.
There's also people who arelooking at, you know, reusing
imperfect process or produce.
So taking that from grocerystores who have, you know, the
ones that have like blemishes onthem or they're starting to
look a little funky, I'd argue.

This day and age we have a lotof rotting produce.
So I'm not sure if thoseinitiatives are as fast or as
able these days, but therecertainly are a lot of community
initiatives, I think there'salso a lot of barriers to
accessing those.
So it's like an interestingconnection, right Like there's.
I think Sundance Harvest is oneof those places where they're

offering youth the opportunityto learn how to farm and to um
to create community through foodin an accessible way.
Um, and, I know, throughdifferent First Nations reserves
there's, there's thosemovements as well, but, um, I
think you know, if you live inmore urban spaces, that's still
quite a challenge, especiallyfor youth who might not

necessarily know where to startor where to connect.
That would be the biggest shift, like thinking Toronto

Speaker 1 (25:01):
Sure, no, that's, and that's really interesting.
And I just ask because I, youknow, I think we get so siloed
sometimes in our areas and it'shard to see sort of the big
global picture of, you know, Iknow, us and Canada.
We're still over here in ourlittle you know, but but but
still like, I think, hearingmore perspectives on how we as

people try to take care ofpeople.
You know there's there's largeprograms and there's there's
government programs or not, andthen there's, you know, social
programs or not.
But I think what has encouragedme and has given me so much
hope through all this is thosegrassroots community efforts.
I think that is just such acool thing to hear about and
learn about how it worksdifferent places.

So that's actually a good segue, I think.
And we'll take a quick break.
But when we come back I want totalk about your podcast and how
you got into that, because youknow, as I started listening to
it I was like this is like thishits all the buttons for me,
like that scratches that itch inmy brain of the anthropology

side and the food side andeverything else.
So we'll take a quick break.
When we come back we'll talkabout AnthroDish and the
communication work that you do.
Well, hey there, welcome to themid-roll.
How's it going so far?
Are you enjoying the episode?
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Yeah, wonderful.
Tell your house plants.
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It's great, you'll love it.
Stick around and let's do itall.
Right, we are back, so let'stalk about your podcast, anthro
dish, which is wonderful, by theway.
Uh, I have.
I was actually really excitedto have a big backlog to listen
It's fun.
When I find a new show andsometimes there's like 10

episodes, I'm like well, but nowI have to like wait, you know,
that's terrible.
I've gotten so used to like youknow, netflix dropping an
entire season of something atonce 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 quitea while, right Since 2018.


Speaker 2 (29:35):
Yeah, it doesn't feel that long, but when you say it,
it does yeah.

Speaker 1 (29:39):
So what was the inspiration for that?

Speaker 2 (29:45):
I mean, I assume just a lot of what we've been
talking about.
Yeah, it was really again likethere was one particular class,
and I love telling the storybecause I was TAing for someone
who was just not rubbing me theright way.
We've all been there, yeahexactly, yeah, um and just it
was very um.
I mean, anyone that haslistened to my show knows that
I'm very like hypercriticalabout, um, the idea of infusing,

like wellness as a be all andend all in food.
Um, and so within this classthat was happening quite a bit
and to a group of students whoare pretty young, like these are
these are people in their 19 to25 age bracket can be pretty
impressionable, and I was justgetting so frustrated sitting
there Um, it was like Mondaynights between seven and 10 PM

super snowy, super dark, likejust the worst.
That's brutal, my goodness,truly like the worst time slot
for any sort of course and I wasseeing the students falling
asleep or starting to becomereally worried that you know
they had a lot of anxiety aroundwhat foods they were able to
eat and you know food oruniversity students can be

really food insecure.
Oh yeah to eat and you know foodor university students can be
really food insecure, um.
So just watching all that happenand feeling like there weren't
alternative voices for people toto listen to and to hear from,
um, I just kind of feltcompelled to to start having.
You know, I was having theseconversations with people again,
like working at restaurants, um, seeing all these different
people linking to food indifferent ways.

Um, it just felt like it was aninjustice to not share those
So it really like it started,you know me having conversations
with friends at my kitchentable, 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'vealways made it a virtual

conversation, similar to whatyou're doing, and it allows you
to just connect to people acrossthe world that you wouldn't
otherwise, and you know it wouldbe 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 otherpeople and you build this
community and, yeah, I've, I'venever looked back Like it's just
It's been such a like fun,joyful community to build and to
to be able to meet peoplethrough it uh, like yourself as

Speaker 1 (32:10):
Yeah, it's super cool , super cool.
So, like what?
What kind of topics have youcovered on the show?
I know that you've had a lot ofepisodes, so I understand, but,
like, what types of things doyou try to focus on?
Is it just?
I have gotten to the point overthe years.
You know I've done this since Istarted in November of 2019,

which was such a weird time tostart something new like this
right before, like, we left forspring break in March of 2020
and didn't come back.
You know, I was like see you inAugust maybe, and at the time I
was trying to finish mydissertation and didn't want to.

Speaker 2 (32:50):
So I started a podcast, so we did the same
Yeah, I just.
So I started a podcast, so wedid the same thing.
Yeah, I just, I'm a glutton forpunishment or something.

Speaker 1 (32:57):
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 tohave and these are the types of.
And then at some point I waslike anyone who will talk to me
has so much cool stuff to bring.
You know what I mean.
Anyone who will talk to me hasso much cool stuff to bring.
You know what I mean.
So, like, what types of thingsdo you try to to focus on?

Speaker 2 (33:18):
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'lltalk to anyone.
But I've gotten a bit morerestrictive in recent years and
I'll explain why.
But for me it's always beenthinking about the idea of food
as knowledge and not beingrestricted to like the ivory
So I absolutely have, like,researchers, academics, come on

and share their research,because that's important to you
know, put that past a paywalland talk about it in a way
that's not going to makepeople's eyes dry over.
But I also think it's reallyimportant to value different
forms of food knowledge.
So, you know, I I always say inthe beginning it's this show
that explores, like food,identity and culture and, um, I

see food as a very open-endedsubject.
So I've had people on talkingabout um substance use, um
alcohol, water, CBD beverages,stuff like that, Um, because
that's still food, that's stillsomething that you ingest.
Um, I think where I putrestrictions, um is around like
food products.
I've I've definitely had peoplein the past Um, and I find I

struggle a bit more with thosesorts of stories because it's
some of them have interestingstories behind them, but quite
often I think I hit that youknow, middle or 20 to 30
something, white woman wellnessrealm a little bit sometimes.
And yeah, there is.
I mean, there is oneconversation I had with a

wellness product that theKardashians ended up campaigning
for and that was kind of theline for me of like I don't feel
comfortable with that.

Speaker 1 (34:57):
I can see that, though, because I feel like the
whole tone of your show is verymuch making food accessible,
making it equitable, andsometimes some of those things
are just not.
They're just not and they'renot more than that.
Things are just not, they'rejust not and they're not more
than that.
They're not, they're notintended to be, and I think that

, yeah, and I also reallyappreciate and think it's really
cool that you protect yourspace 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, reallyfascinating conversations and
perspectives, and protectingthat is important, and so that's

that's admirable, I think.

Speaker 2 (35:42):
Thanks, yeah, it was.
It was not an easy choice.
It was, honestly, I think itwas around the pandemic point,
where that, that was kind ofwhere I was getting, you know,
pitches from people or from PRagents that were selling, like
peanut butter or honey orcertain things that were just
pancakes, um, that were reallyexpensive, and and thinking, you
know, particularly to the factthat you know, if I'm getting

sent these boxes of pancakes orhoney or whatever and I can't
actually afford them, why wouldI, why would I be talking about
them on the show?
And I think, you know, wellnessis a really important part of
looking at food and thinkingabout health in a way that's
like culturally, um, founded andculturally accessible, um, but

that type of wellness, as yousaid, it's, it's just not, it's
not an accessible form of it andit can do a lot of damage, um,
kind of not to go down thatrabbit hole, yeah, um, but yeah,
I do.
I do find like those sorts ofthings, um, it was an
interesting time because it wasit was looking at using
different food products asmedicine, which is really

important in certain culturalspheres, um, but it was also
coming up against a time wherethere was a lot of people who
were, um, you know, kind ofskeptical around vaccines and
around everything to do withCOVID, which, um, yeah, I just
wanted to kind of be in a placeof uh having these, having the
ability to have like nuancedconversations around it, but not

saying like you should only usehoney to cure your you know, um
strep, right.

Speaker 1 (37:16):
Right, no, and that's a and that is a.
That's a hard line to tread andand kind of, like you said,
like I'll get pitches frompeople, sometimes for an episode
and for one.
You know, I'm just kind ofsponsored by my university.
I do this sort of as part of myjob and so I have to be careful
about conflicts of interest andthose kinds of things.
But like I also like want tomake sure I'm putting good

science out there, that I'mputting, yeah, good, true,
factual information.
So sometimes I'll get a pitchand I'm just like, like this
would be a cool guest and I justcan't do it.
I just can't do it becausethere's there's a line there
that I don't.
I don't know that.
I know what the hard line is inmy brain, but it's like I know
it when I see it, if that makessense.

Like if your brain curdles alittle bit, yeah, it's like oh,
or, you know, thinking about thepeople that listen, Like the
last thing I would want to do iscause harm, right, and I think
that that's again ascommunicators, as scientists, as
educators, like spices fromaround the world but they were

very much white owned companyfrom the States, Um, and I think

Speaker 2 (38:40):
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 Idon't want to, I don't want to
kind of guide them off a placeof curiosity, but I think it's

it's also as educators, likestill your responsibility to to
make sure that you're you'resharing good science, good
stories that are founded in likeI don't know more grassroots,
for lack of a better term,Absolutely.

Speaker 1 (39:14):
No, I totally, totally agree with that.
Yeah, um, so a couple that thiskind of brings a couple of
questions to my mind.
Um, and and maybe this one isspecific, and if it's not
something you really want todive into, we don't have to but,
like when you cook at home,like what kinds of things do you

Speaker 2 (39:35):
Oh, that's a fun question to ask right now.
So, for context, I'm currentlyI'm seven months pregnant and I
cannot stand cooking.

Speaker 1 (39:44):
Fair enough, ok, when you're not seven months
pregnant when the idea of it isnot terrible to you, the idea of
it is not terrible to you?

Speaker 2 (39:52):
Um, it's still a funny question because I find um
I guess that's like anundercurrent in my show that, um
, I, I had a long struggle withfood and my relationship with it
, which I'm pretty open about.
Um, I tend to, you know, atleast once a season, have
someone come on that speaks tolike disordered eating
experiences, just to getdifferent.
You know different voicesaround that.

Um, so for me, like I spent alot of time thinking about food
as fuel as an athlete, like what, what can I put into my body
that has, like the most optimaloutput?
Um, and so learning how to cookwas like a something I didn't
really do until I was in mytwenties.
Um, I was vegetarian for a longtime.
So I think, like you know, Ialways come back to like bowl

based food what sort of grain,be it like rice or, or buckwheat
or things like that, um, andthen like beans, vegetables,
stuff like that.
Um yeah, that's kind of.
That's kind of where I I tendto go to.
Okay, I just, I don't know, no,it's just an interesting like

Speaker 1 (40:51):
It's an interesting thing because I think we all
have again differentrelationships with food in the
way like I grew up, I grew upcooking with my mom, so we like
it was just me and her for a lotof my childhood and so she has
always cooked very intuitivelyand just like she's.
So I'm first generationAmerican.

My family immigrated from Indiain the 70s and so like the kind
of the suite of spices andthings that we use growing up
were so different than, like youknow, anything else, and so
like I've always like just triedstuff and sometimes that turns
out real well and sometimes lessso stuff and sometimes that

turns out real well andsometimes less so, and so I
don't know.
I'm always just curious whenpeople are sort of in the food
and into some of theseconversations, just like how
they process that and thinkthrough it.
So I appreciate yourtransparency on that, just
because it's an interesting atleast in my mind an interesting
kind of thing.

Speaker 2 (41:48):
Yeah, and I always love like that's something.
It's interesting that you saythat about growing up and being
able to cook with your mom,because you know, when I talk to
people on the show quite oftenthat's like a central experience
is that you grew up watchingyour mom being able to cook
something that's like specificto your family and I grew up
with like shake and bake andmeatloaf, so which was fine and

it, you know, it served thepurpose of that us and yeah, I
always it served the purpose offetus and um, yeah, I always
find it really interesting, Ithink.
I think my relationship withfood has made me more curious to
keep asking questions about it,because it took me so much
longer to get to that point ofhaving a good relationship with

Speaker 1 (42:25):
Sure, that's, that's really interesting.
Um, so again you're what?
Maybe a hundred episodes inmore than a hundred episodes in
your show, I don't rememberexactly.

Speaker 2 (42:34):
Less than you, Cause I was looking at how many
episodes I think I'm I'm puttinga one 23 tomorrow, yeah.

Speaker 1 (42:42):
Okay, uh, so I kind of around the same same spot.
I uh, for a while I was likeI'm going to put out a ton of
content, and then I quicklyburned out and took a break.

Speaker 2 (42:52):
Fair yeah.

Speaker 1 (42:53):

Speaker 2 (42:53):
That was a wild amount in that amount of time it
was, it was a lot, and so Ihave gone to every other week.

Speaker 1 (42:58):
now Is your show weekly, weekly ish.

Speaker 2 (43:02):
Yeah it's, it's weekly but seasonal.
So I had similarly done thething of like I'm going to put
one out every single weekbecause that's what the you know
Put one out every single weekbecause that's what the you know
YouTubers that podcast told meto do when I started out.
Um, I like to kind of align itwith, like, the school semester.
Um, even though I'm notteaching or a student at this

point, there's something aboutit that just feels right to me.
So usually, yeah, seasons startin September and then I'm kind
of in the process of wrapping upand having episodes wrap by
like end of April, early Mayokay, that's really cool.

Speaker 1 (43:37):
I should think about.
My problem is I've tried to dothat like last June.
I was like I'm gonna take thesummer off and I took the rest
of the year off.
I was like, oh, that was maybea little bit like a little bit
much, and so I have to.
I have to at least keep someconsistency, or I find other
things to fill that like blockof time with, and then my brain

is just like, no, but we'realready doing the other thing.

Speaker 2 (44:00):
It's hard, I find it.
I think I did a similar thing.
Well, I ended up transitioningof academia, but I was still
like I was teaching andconsulting at the same time, and
so I, similarly, I took a breakand then I it ended up being a
year, um, which was like thelongest amount of time away from
podcasting, and there'ssomething about like, if you
haven't done an interview for awhile, I find I just get so much

more nervous to just get thatmomentum going again.

Speaker 1 (44:25):
Oh I oh, my first interview this year, uh, as I
was getting back, so I did asolo episode jumping back into
it and it was okay.
And then I did an interview andI was like I don't remember how
to talk to people.
Like I know I've talked topeople in the last six months
but apparently I don't know howto do that right now.
Yep, it is such a like a skilland like a muscle you have to
like train over time.

I agree, yeah, Do you have.
I like to ask this question toother podcasters, especially the
interview people Do you havelike a couple of things that are
like your favorite thingsyou've learned over the process
of doing this podcast?

Speaker 2 (45:08):
I think.
Okay, I will say one of themost interesting lessons I've
ever gotten on the show was withhis name's Andrew Levin, and he
was talking about seafood fraud, and I had no idea about that
concept prior to interviewinghim.
We had met through like somesort of podcast or Facebook
group back in the day, and so hewas talking about how there's

this huge problem, particularlyin the US and Canada, where
seafood is mislabeled.
So you're getting like a reallycheap white fish but it's
labeled as like an expensivefish and the regulations around
Like he dove into that punintended, I guess, and I had no
idea before that.

And so those are the sorts oflessons where you know Um.
That one or another one was um.
A friend of mine works as like aum.
She watches out for wildfiresin Alberta, um, during wildfire
So she was talking about youknow what sorts of foods that
you eat, um, being a lookout atthe fire tower and you know.
Otherwise, I'd never hear thosesorts of stories.

So those are the ones that tendto stick.
That's so cool.

Speaker 1 (46:17):
I've found some like socialmedia videos, tiktok and
Instagram of like fire, lookoutpeople and, like you know,
sitting up in the little I don'tknow 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 thedream yeah, like I want to go
and be alone, for I know wouldget bored.

I'm too much of an extrovertLike I have to, but but for like
a week or two that sounds justamazing.

Speaker 2 (46:46):
Yeah, that also spoken like a true academic
though, having that ability tolike have the two weeks off and
commit to like all the sideprojects we're thinking about

Speaker 1 (46:56):
Or or or literally just stare in the space for,
like, there's days that I'm likeI just want to like unplug my
brain and just sit here and stay, like I kind of ended up doing
that last week during springbreak, and I I find that I am
not feeling guilty about it andpart of me, my academic brain,
feels like I should feel guiltyabout it and I just don't.
So yeah maybe that's freedom, Idon't know.

Speaker 2 (47:19):
Yeah, I think it's necessary.
I've been thinking about that alot lately just in terms of,
like, expanding anthro dish moreinto food writing.
The last year or so, I find Iget so much more, um, like, if I
see a headline relating to food, I'm immediately thinking about
, like, how to write about itand how to think about it, and,
um, you know how to bringanthropology into it, and it's
so exhausting, um, you know, tojust feel like you always have

to have something to say aboutwhat's going on in the world,
and so I think those, thosebreaks are very, very needed

Speaker 1 (47:50):
So, speaking of always having to be on you've,
you've gotten into doing likesocial.
You do social media too, like,uh, and I feel like as
communicators, as sciencecommunicators, as educators,
like we almost have to thesedays, like we go where the
people are and the people are onsocial media.
What has that experience beenlike for you?

Is that something newer, orhave you been doing like the
social media side of it thewhole time?
You've been doing the podcast.

Speaker 2 (48:19):
I've been doing like in terms of Instagram.
Specifically, that's somethingwhere I did like I worked um
doing social media productionfor um for different like field
I had worked for Um and like Iwas always on Instagram in my
twenties, so I was like I mightas well just you know make it
I think where it's been moreinteresting for me is like going

into TikTok and finallyconceding that the algorithm is
more enjoyable there, yeah, andmore addictive.
I guess that is the truth, yeah,but yeah, that was something
that I had kind of started toplay around with it.
I had kind of started to playaround with it and then I ended

up like doing a food assignmentfor students last year where
traditionally they had tocompare a dish at a restaurant
with a dish that they made athome in terms of, like, how it
was prepared and the nutritionalingredients and the cultural
story behind it.
And I changed that so that itwas looking at like TikTok food
trends, which led me to end upbeing on TikTok more, because I
was looking at these food trendslike cacio e pepe or um, what

was it that like Greek, thatTikTok feta pasta thing?

Speaker 1 (49:30):
a few years back, that was really big.
Yeah, oh, I hadn't thoughtabout that, yeah.

Speaker 2 (49:35):
So I ended up realizing, like,like I think for me, through
teaching and through justworking within communities, like
, as you said, you have to gowhere people are and making
TikTok a place where people canthink about you know well,
flattening it for a very generalaudience.
And how can we kind of dig intothat a bit more

Yeah, I always say I entered asan anthropologist into TikTok,
but I feel like that's not thecase anymore.

Speaker 1 (50:10):
But it is such a cool like study into the way we
again we talked about going backto something we talked about at
the beginning of the episodehow food is central to so many
of our cultural experiences andin different cultures it's
related in different ways andhaving it out there for everyone

to see across cultures.
I think there's a lot ofpositives in that and I think
there's a lot of like scaryparts of that too, like
especially if you're the onelike putting those things out

Speaker 2 (50:41):
Yeah, yeah, I agree, and I think for me it comes back
to the idea of, like digitalliteracy within, you know,
within teaching or withinpodcasting.
And social media use too is andI think that's something you do
a fabulous job at on TikTok ofjust being able to kind of stop
people from scrolling for asecond and start to think about,
like you know, who's the sourcethat I'm listening to, why are

they an expert?
What do they have to offer?
What sort of information am Igetting from it?
Um, you know, I, um, I'm tryingto think of like a recent
example, but there's there'squite often so many things just
kind of being thrown at youconstantly.
Oh, I think it was like coldplunges.
I was doing some research onthat and the TikTok rabbit hole

was vastly different from what,you know.
Scientists and educators weresaying as well.
So having that ability to bedigitally literate, I think, is
an invaluable skill goingforward.

Speaker 1 (51:36):
Absolutely, that's really interesting, Really
Well, Sarah, as we kind of wrapup here a little bit, it's
always I don't know.
It's always shocking to me howquickly some of these
conversations go when they're, Imean, we're already 50 minutes
in and it goes quick, so acouple of questions to wrap up.

So where do you see yourselfheaded 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 (52:04):
Ooh, not to feel like anything I say I have to live
up to.

Speaker 1 (52:07):
Oh no, Just or where do you think?
Cause I think that that also inyou know, life changes and
life's complicated and and allof that.
So, no, I'm not trying to marryyou to anything that you say,
I'm just curious what yourthoughts for the future are.

Speaker 2 (52:21):
I think for me, like anthro dish is a thing again,
like I started it when I was inmy early twenties, mid twenties,
and it's kind of started togradually expand.
Like I found being able tointerview people was so
fascinating but I also I waskind of like losing my own voice
within it.

So for me I'm really interestedin building my writing up
through it.
That's something that's beenlike a big goal of mine this
past year is just kind ofgetting back into getting into
public science writing.
You know, finding the placesthat will house the stories that
I want to tell, which you knowI think we're, we kind of
understand like that nexus offood and health and environment

as being so.
You know, you can't reallyuntangle them, but I think
finding finding a space for thatpublicly 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 morepractically within my writing
Super cool.

Speaker 1 (53:25):
No, I love that.
I love that, and I've tried todip my toes into writing
recently as well, andnon-academic writing, I should
say, because that's just likegetting punched in the face a
bunch, yeah same, just likegetting punched in the face a
It's so like I know I think I'mrisking something saying this
I am not, that is not me Like,that is just not my thing, me


Speaker 2 (53:49):
Publishing articles Reviewer number two.

Speaker 1 (53:53):
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 alwayslooking into different ways to
do things that are meaningful,that are still like scholarship,
but maybe not in the.

Speaker 2 (54:08):
I'm going to sit here and send in an article and then
cry about the reviews for awhile, and then you know yeah,
well, especially, you know, Ithink about the review process
in journals and, like I'm, I'mhappy to have done that and to
experience it, but it takes solong 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 thatwas, I want to say, 2015.

And it's only just coming outnow, whereas you have, and not
to like, dump on academia- Istill really much value it, but
I think I think it's reallyimportant, especially when we're
in a place where there's justso much misinformation and
there's, you know, a lot of alot of harm that can come to
that to our communities.
It's really important tocontinue having you know public

outreach, as I again I see it aslike a responsibility of of
academics and educators to tomaintain that when you have so
much knowledge you know it'sit's up to you to like be able
to continue sharing it withothers.

Speaker 1 (55:04):
Yeah, love that.
Um, and and I guess the lastthing 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 apiece of advice, uh, what it
could be about, literally,honestly, anything.
Um, what would that be like?
What do you wish that peoplelistening to this episode knew?

Speaker 2 (55:25):
Oh, that's a good question.
I think for me, the big onethat I always want to hit home
about is that, um, food, as muchas it's, uh, something that can
bring people together to getthem to talk about bigger issues
, it's also, um, it's also atool 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, tokind of generalize it for me
that's the big message is kindof thinking about how is food
being used, be it in yourgrocery store or at your family
dinner table or within yourcommunities at large.
Is it being used to bringpeople together, or are there
people that are using tactics tokind of fracture, fracture

community, and thinking aboutfood is that kind of stepping
stone to look at those biggerissues as well.

Speaker 1 (56:14):
It's fascinating.
Yeah, I think that's such agood thing to keep in mind and
remember for sure.
Yeah, I think that's such agood thing to keep in mind and
remember for sure.
Sarah, again, 50 plus minuteshas gone quick and I've
genuinely a pleasure.
I've so much enjoyed talking toyou and hearing from your
experience and just what you do.
I think it's again veryinspiring and very good and
necessary work.

So thanks for doing it.
I appreciate it.

Speaker 2 (56:38):
Thank you, and likewise it's honestly, it's
such a pleasure to be able toconnect with someone that does
this in in their own way,through plant anthropology as
So it's.

Speaker 1 (56:45):
It's a lot of fun.
Um, where can people find you?
Uh, plug your stuff.

Speaker 2 (56:50):
Considering I asked that to everyone, you'd think
I'd be prepared.
So anthrodishcom is my website.
Um, you can find me on anypodcast platforms, um, at
anthrodish podcast.
Uh, across social media,anthrodish podcast.
And then my newsletter issarahdugnansubstackcom.

Speaker 1 (57:09):
Awesome, and I'll put links to all that stuff in the
show notes.
But thanks again.
I hope you have a wonderfulrest of your week, or I guess
it's only Monday as we recordthis.
So I hope you have a wonderfulweek and just thanks again.
I appreciate it.

Speaker 2 (57:25):
Yeah, likewise.
Thanks, Rick.

Speaker 1 (57:26):
Y'all go follow Sarah all the places.
Is she not the best?
Again, I said it earlier, butshe's the best.
Also, the AnthroDish podcast isfantastic, so go listen to that
Thanks so much for listening tothis episode and all the
episodes of Plantthropology.
You know I do this for you andI appreciate you so much.
Thanks to the Texas TechDepartment of Plant and Soil
Science for supporting the show.

Thanks to the award-winningcomposer, 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 didsuch a good job on it.
And once more, go follow Sarahall the places.
Y'all spend some time thinkingabout the role that food serves

in your life and in yourcommunity 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 willtalk to you very soon.
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