Why is this interesting? - The Monday Media Diet with Danielle Nierenberg

On Dakar, murder mysteries, and the politics of food

Danielle Nierenberg (DN) was introduced to us by a recent MMD interview and WITI contributor, Justin Kalifowitz. She runs Food Tank, a think tank for food, highlighting stories of hope and success in the food system. Their podcast is here. In their words, “We offer solutions and environmentally sustainable ways of alleviating hunger, obesity, and poverty by creating a network of connections and information for all of us to consume and share.” Here, she shares recent inspirations, and we’re thankful to have her with us this Monday morning. -Colin (CJN)

Tell us about yourself. 

I'm a nerdy agriculture and food-obsessed 40 something who thinks about what she's going to eat for dinner at lunch. I love interviewing smart folks, including farmers, celebrity chefs, economists, youth leaders, and everyone in between, and hear the ways they're thinking about fixing our global food systems. Listening to those experts has kept me sane over the last year because I'm reminded again and again that the solutions are out there--they just need more attention, more research, and more investment.

Describe your media diet.

A mish-mash of news, like Bloomberg, NYT, WSJ, and The Economist (both the websites and the magazines), food sites like Serious Eats, and pop culture and murder podcasts like My Favorite Murder (even ag nerds need a vice). And don't tell anyone, but I love anything on Bravo. Literally anything. Andy Cohen is my spirit animal. 

What’s the last great book you read? 

Perilous Bounty by Mother Jones journalist Tom Philpott. Tom is one of those smart people I get to interview and listen to and his assessment of the U.S. food system is super scary, but also hopeful. 

What are you reading now?

For fun, The Best of Me by David Sedaris. I mean, I need to laugh and no one makes me giggle or cringe like David Sedaris. I read an interview of him during COVID-19 and I appreciate that he's as anxious to get back on the road as I am. 

What’s your reading strategy when you pick up a print copy of your favorite publication?

To flip through the whole magazine on my kitchen counter skimming for interesting headlines and dog-earing pages (which drives my husband crazy). I know some people read in their bathrooms, but I think the kitchen is my sacred throne for digesting news ;-).

Who should everyone be reading that they’re not? 

Nutritionist and food expert, Dr. Marion Nestle. Everyone should know more about the politics of food. She is a good teacher, but not in a preachy way. More like your no-nonsense aunt who says "this is the way it is and here's what you need to do." And I appreciate that she is rocking it out in her 80s, still writing books and her blog, and appearing on podcasts. 

What is the best non-famous app you love on your phone? 

I love my August app. I forget my keys all of the time so being able to open the door is best. My second favorite is my Peloton #lovesquad. I used to go to the gym, but I don't think I'll ever go back even once the pandemic is over. 

Plane or train? 

Plane! I have dreams about being back on planes--I'd go anywhere right now, anywhere. In the Before Times, I traveled about 200 days a year with my notebook interviewing farmers and other experts all over the world. I even miss dirty laundry and sub-standard hotels. 

I like nothing more than a long layover somewhere like Heathrow, Hong Kong, or Amsterdam before heading to Africa, Asia, or Australia. And I definitely have favorite lounges in different cities--props to the AA lounge in Dallas with good snacks and bevies--I can spend hours there. 

What is one place everyone should visit? 

Dakar, Senegal. Music, food, great smells, mind-blowing history, and friendly people. The calls to prayer every day are magical there--you definitely see how the old mixes with the new. 

Tell us the story of a rabbit hole you fell deep into. 

This year, I was the recipient of the Julia Child Award and I hadn't watched her shows since I was a kid living in Defiance, Missouri without cable TV. I've watched as many as possible now and it reminds me how unusual she was for the time--a woman hosting her own fine cooking show. That was a world dominated by male chefs then and to some extent still is, and she was totally ahead of her time. 

I remember when I was 10, I wanted to make her roast chicken recipe for my parent's anniversary. I tried to and my parents were very kind, but I doubt it was anything like Julia's. And now that I'm an annoying vegan, I've even tried to recreate some of her dishes without meat. The most successful has been boeuf bourguignon sans the boeuf--lots of mushrooms and savory baked tofu made that even my carnivorous husband scrape his plate clean. (DN)

Thanks for reading,

Noah (NRB) & Colin (CJN) & Danielle 

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