Patricia Sheridan's Breakfast With ... Andrew Zimmern
Andrew Zimmern: "Giant agri-businesses ... are killing the health and wellness of our children and in an effort to make pretty cheap food, they are killing us."
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The Travel Channel's Andrew Zimmern is known for his penchant for bizarre foods, but the 50-year-old once had a taste for even less savory things. He had a serious addiction to drugs and alcohol that left him homeless. He conquered his demons at a rehab center in Minnesota and later became a James Beard Award winner for outstanding TV personality.
He's also a food writer and teacher. He will be serving up "Bizarre Foods America" starting tonight on the Travel Channel at 10 p.m.
People generally agree food and culture are inseparable. The fear is globalization is diluting the differences, yet Americans of different origins seem to have maintained their culinary heritage.
You raise a very fascinating bigger picture issue. Food is an inseparable part of culture. I mean, food in many ways is one of the touchstones of a culture in terms of how we express ourselves and define ourselves as different from someone else. Globalization is happening. The world is flattening. The fact that very rare Thai river herbs can be found in restaurants in New York City, London and Buenos Aires just speaks from a food standpoint, of the flattening of that part of our culture. I don't think you can stop globalization in the same way that we can't go back the days of the horse and buggy.
If you are serious about wanting to take a look at food and culture and you want to travel as short a distance as possible and still globe trot, arguably the best place to do that is the United States. I can visit 30 countries in about an hour in Queens if I took the right route. The great thing about immigration is that it's the people who come from another part of the world in wave after wave that keep the food honest and authentic. That doesn't necessarily make it good. Honesty and authenticity is a canard that way.
How do you see our relationship with the environment and the food that comes out of it evolving?
Well, everything used to be local, everything. You know, until Clarence Birdseye genetically mutated broccoli and started icing it down in crates and railroading it all over the country. In our country, we went from thousands of family farms, each one supplying a small percentage of our produce, to five or six giant agri-businesses supplying 75 percent of what we consume in the fruit and vegetable, grain and farinaceous food departments. That causes nothing but trouble. These people are growing food in order to keep it cheap.
First Published 2012-02-09 20:02:27