Episode #1 – Exploring Gastronomic Matters with Joe Murray



Joe started farming with his family from the time of his birth and in his adolescence he became involved in the international Slow Food movement. Now as an adult he likens the work of restauranteurs to that of food educators and he seeks to help people illuminate their understanding of what they enjoy.

Lionel: Welcome to Food Journeys. We are what we eat and we all choose to eat different things for different reasons. My name is Lionel Peter Church and I am joined today by my friend and fellow food journeyer Joseph Murray to explore gastronomic matters. Now Joe, I’m interested in your food journey in part because you’ve been influenced by this extraordinary family of yours. Will you tell us about your family and their food philosophy?

Joe: I would love to. Thank you for having me, first of all. It is really cool to be able to tell my story and I have a very unique food story. I was raised on an organic vegetable farm and we also grow a little bit of herbs. Literally since I was an infant I have been growing food, picking food, processing food and I tell the story that I’ve been picking basil since I was two years old. To this day I can pick a pound of basil by feel, without even measuring it. It’s just totally in my blood. My parents run an organic farm down in north San Diego County. It’s called the Edge of Urban Farm and they actually have 12 acres that they are cultivating down there, and thousands upon thousands of plants — bell peppers, tomatoes, etcetera. They’re working with a Turkish grafting specialist, so they’re playing with an amazing varieties of plants. This has been an evolution in the Murray family for about 35 years now. My dad started growing organic food in Santa Cruz back in the mid-70′s, and he has been deeply involved in the organic growing movement ever since. Then when he met my mom they began to collaborate and then for about 8 years now my mom has worked for California Certified Organic Farmers, which is one of the large certification companies. She is an inspector, so she travels around the region doing inspections on organic farms. Then I work in the restaurant industry so that is my arena; I love to play on that end of the food cycle and that is where I have the most professional experience. Other than that, I absolutely love to cook, and that is something else that my family taught us. You know almost every meal started with an onion in the pan, and we’ve all grown up with our hands in the dirt.

Lionel: You talked about the “food cycle” and [referred to] ‘this is where I work on the food cycle.’ Where does that idea come from?

Joe: Well, I’m a student of food systems and so I love learning all of the pieces in what would be called the food cycle or the food system. Everything from production to… no, even before that. Everything from solar radiation transferred as energy through photosynthesis into plants and into our bodies and through propagation of plants, specifically agricultural propagation of plants. We chose plants which are best suited to nourish us and then there is harvesting and then processing of foods and then there is consumption of foods that happens in a home or restaurant. Then there is the other end which is farther down the cycle where the, shall we say the metabolism and recycling of nutrients back into the system by way of decay and all that kind of stuff. So I choose to play in the restaurant part of that food cycle. It is a fascinating place to be, in a restaurant. I treat it like a psychological lab almost. I love to learn about people by serving them and I also love to facilitate a food experience, or a ‘gastronomic experience.’

One reason I resonate so with the idea of the food journey is because I think that every person is in a specific place on their food journey or on their food path. And that might look like “I don’t like mushrooms,” “I don’t like coconuts,” “I don’t like blah blah blah.” Or “I’m allergic to this, that and the other.” Or “I’m totally obsessed with pizza and beer.” And I think that is okay. I think the first level of interaction with food is enjoyment. If you’re enjoying Doritos, I don’t agree with a lot of what Doritos stands for, but you’re enjoying food and I think that’s the first place to start. That is why gastronomy is about the whole experience, multi-sensory experience, as well as looking at the economics of food and that kind of thing. So the restaurant is where I get to play and explore food journeys with people.

Lionel: That is awesome because most people… I’ve rarely heard, actually I don’t know that I’ve ever heard someone talk about a restaurant as a place where people are engaging in their food journey. So often people think of restaurant jobs as that thing actors and actresses get before they actually land a ‘real job,’ and what you’re talking about is an entirely different paradigm of thinking about it.

Joe: Totally! And yet, that’s the other side of it. The restaurant industry is so good in that way. Because you do have high turnover rates in the restaurant industry, and in a lot of ways it is an easy job for cash that works for students, for aspiring actors, as the story goes, and for any manner of people. Not to mention, there is a whole lifestyle that goes with working in the restaurants because you’re sort of on a different timescale. Like bakers, you know are up at un-godly hour of the morning because they have to start their bread. Or my friend just got hired as a night time ER paramedic and so he does ambulance runs and works at the ER. So he’s going to become a ‘day sleeper,’ right? Which is just such a foreign concept to me. So restaurant industry isn’t that crazy, but a lot of people work at night and are up really late and there is a whole lifestyle that goes along with it. So it’s that job that a lot of people treat as the means to an end, but I look at it as an end in and of itself.

Lionel: Yeah, it sounds like you see yourself as actually providing someone a distinct value by guiding someone through that gastronomic food journey.

Joe: Oh, and it’s so much fun Lionel! It’s so much fun to facilitate these experiences. The example that works best in this context is one of the early places I practiced this. At Stone Brewing Company, where I was working as a server/trainer. Stone is a beer company which focuses on beer that they like to drink. Not what is popular to drink. And they also put such a small amount of their resources into advertising. It is fascinating, and I’ve learned to look at advertising in a different way working at Stone Brewing Company, specially for the beer industry, and alcohol in general. Driving down the highway you see vodka ads, you see beer ads, you see any number of alcoholic beverage ads, and there is so much money which goes into selling those products and making you think you want to drink them. And then there is the associated sexuality to it and ‘cool factor’ and all that stuff. Stone doesn’t bother. In fact they are so arrogant in their marketing that they say “you’re not worthy.” That is one of the tag-lines of their beers. The Arrogant Bastard Beer “You’re Not Worthy”, and yet it’s brilliant marketing scheme because they have developed such a loyal advocacy group and clientele at the same time. So learning about how Stone does it and then working at a restaurant where we serve Stone beer, we don’t serve Blue Moon, because that doesn’t fall in line with the beer philosophy of Stone Brewing Company. So people would come in ordering a hefeweisen or a Blue Moon or something and then I got the opportunity to greet them where they were on their path of experiencing beer and say “oh, you like Belgiun witbiers,” that is what Blue Moon is. “Well, I have a Belgiun witbier but I don’t have Blue Moon. You should try this Belgiun witbier… Oh, you don’t like that? Well, you may enjoy this.” So I got to, as the server and the beer expert, receive an input, if you will. I ask a person, “What do you usually like to drink?” And then I sort of compute and process that information based on what I know of my menu and based on what I know I can offer them. Then my purpose is to pair them with a beer, like you would pair wine and beer with food. My purpose was to pair a person with a beer. When I got it right it was such a good experience! And when I got it wrong it further taught me how to get it right, so there was no getting it wrong really. It was just like, “Oh, I made a mistake. You didn’t like that beer. Let’s find you something else.” That was my philosophy at Stone as a server lead. So it is the idea of meeting people where they are, and this food journeys focus is a brilliant way to look at where people are in their experience of food, and I think it relates to a lot of other arenas.

Lionel: You’re the one who gets to bring them further down the path…

Joe: As though a mentor or a teacher, but not with a superiority standpoint. I think the most powerful mentors and teachers are people who relate to us first as people and then relate their wisdom in a way that helps us grow. So it is not about antagonistic or competition based relationship. It is about mutual growth.

Lionel: Another question I have for you is simply what do you choose to eat now?

Joe: What do I choose to eat now?

Lionel: I see you going ‘Oh my goodness” and racking my brain, “What DO I eat now?’

Joe: Okay, this is a really fascinating question, especially considering the prevalence of labels that people give themselves to describe their dietary choices. I have a lot of friends who identify as vegetarian, or vegan, or not, or whatever. I think it is really important that we are conscious of how we identify and what we identify. I’m very focused on words, so that is why I’m kind of prefacing. My dad has so far produced my favorite word to answer this question: Opportunivore. You’re familiar with the idea of an omnivore, and it is this sort of blanket ‘I will eat anything,’ or there is an openness to meat and veggies. You know, it’s not taking it as far as a rat does. But as an opportunivore — and it is just a fun turn of phrase for which I credit Scott Murray totally. As an opportunivore I consciously engage with my food.

Sometimes, I will admit, that means eating food that I don’t believe is the best choice on many levels. There are many places that I choose to patronize because of what I know about what they do. Like the Chipotle company I think is a really progressive and amazing food company especially, because of what they are doing. They have a large scale and they are also really conscious of and connected to the food producers. I think they are doing a really good job of that middle path of scale and quality. Their tag-line is “food with integrity” and I really love that idea.

In my personal day to day choices right now are pretty economically based. I have what income I do have coming in and I have what choices I do. In the Bay Area, especially in the East Bay Area, we have incredible choices and I think that we are privileged to have an amazing supply chain, because of what has been building in the Bay Area for decades. I would argue that part of that has been influenced by Chez Panisse and Alice Waters that sort of Northern California cuisine history. So there are times when I eat In-N-Out and I would say that to me, I could rationalize it as being like the lesser or two evils. As far as fast food companies go, meh, In-N-Out is pretty… mediocre, yeah, but better than some, right? Then on the other end of it, one of the other reasons I work in the restaurant industry is because as a server we get to taste incredible food. That is part of our compensation. That is part of our benefits package, if you will. At the restaurant I’m working at now, Gather, down the street here, there is a staff meal at the end of every shift. So yesterday it was confit potatoes with camelized onions and herbs and incredible scrabbled eggs with bacon and scallions — just this fantastic, highest quality staff meal. I was telling my wife Luna that this is like the highest end dinner food I could have ever gotten. That was the level of it. Based on what these cooks can do at Gather, this was nothing for them. This is like elementary. So it runs the gamut and I love to commit my money to the best quality food possible when I have the resources to do so. That looks like going out to meals quite often, and I am also really interested in shifting that to balance buying more food from groceries and cooking, because I love to cook. So to finish the question, or to finish the answer, I eat mostly vegetables, I choose the meat that I do consume wisely, and I like to drink beer. I think beer is a salubrious beverage among alcoholic drinks, a healthful beverage among alcoholic drinks being not very healthful (dehydrating, etcetera). Beer actually has calories and enzymes that are relatively healthy, considering your options of what you could drink, you know? That is the other thing: I love craft beer and I love the economies that are behind that the culture and all that. So I eat mostly veggies. I eat meat like maybe three times a week, and that is a conscious thing as well. I don’t want to eat three meals of meat a day and I choose to drink beer. Is that specific enough for you?

Lionel: Yeah, it is really interesting to hear your own process. What have been some of the milestones along your journey getting there?

Joe: Well, meeting people who choose differently has really been a huge influencing factor. Meeting you and you have your own complex and amazing and beautiful food journey that I would love to hear more about, and being around people who choose to not eat meat or not eat dairy. Personally I love the experience of eating meat and dairy and that is just a personal preference. I have gotten to a place of personal confidence that I can say that and not feel rude because I really have this desire not to be judgmental of peoples food choices. It is comparable to being judgmental of someone who drives an excursion. I don’t agree with what they are doing and yet… pardon me, a Ford Excursion is this gigantic behemoth of a gas guzzling car. I choose not to drive a car that gets 12 miles to the gallon or whatever it is, and yet I still choose to drive. It is comparable to me. I choose not to eat beef that is produced on CAFOs, that is mass produced beef. Essentially it is a meat factory — it’s a giant feedlot where there are thousands upon thousands of cows that it is just the absolute worst way to cultivate meat. It is just terrible. But I do eat meat. I eat like Lucky Dog beef at Gather or grass fed. And yes it is the more expensive choice and yes I am privileged to have that choice and yet it comes down to that multi-sensory experience again. I appreciate this experience; I value it so highly, the higher quality meat, and I don’t eat it excessively because I know that is not healthy. And yet I know that I want to support those companies that are doing meat in a better way. I think as far as steps towards a different choice on a larger scale, like an electric car is a step towards a better choice in the car industry, I feel that naturally grown, naturally grown, or whatever other label you want to give it — there are so many different monikers — all those monikers are alluding to the movement in the food industry.

It used to be that our ancestors just ate food, and then we started doing this crazy thing where we modified all this food and now we have to label food as ‘real food.’ That is one of the scariest things that I have ever seen. You go through a standard grocery store and you see on whatever product “Made with real cheese!” What?! Why do you have to modify the word ‘food’ with the word ‘real’? That just is… it doesn’t make sense to me, and it is disturbing.

So we have these food products, or what is the word?

Lionel: Food-like products.

Joe: Yeah, food-like products! *laughter* There is something seriously wrong with that word.

I have also been heavily influenced by particular writers, like Michael Pollan, who writes with brilliant eloquence about food. It is kind of cool that I live in Berkeley and he is down the street. I got to serve him one time at a restaurant and he is just one of my heroes. He has published a bunch of books about food, and what he does is brilliant. He looks at things in a way that is nonjudgemental and yet presents facts and information that are really compelling about the situation of food. And then another huge influence on my food choices has been the slow food movement and my involvement in the slow food movement. The brief history of Slow Food, as a story goes that I’ve heard and it could be wrong, is that in 1989 a man named Carlo Petrini was watching a McDonalds go in in the Trevi square next to the Trevi Fountain in Rome. This wildly popular historical location and McDonalds was going in. That just didn’t sit right with him, as I think it shouldn’t have. Subsequently the slow food movement has become essentially the antithesis of the fast food movement. There is lots more to say there about that but… I have been privileged to participate in many volunteer events. I actually went to Turin, Italy, for the 2004 Tierra Madre conference put on by Slow Food where there were thousands of people from all over the world to share their food journeys, essentially. I got to see his royal highness Prince Charles speak. The brilliant physicist and food activist Vandana Shiva spoke. The brilliant food activist Alice Waters spoke at this conference, among countless others, and I actually got to film them because the family we went along as the sponsored group for our local Slow Food chapter. They sponsored our entire family to go. My dad at the time was a board member and then he subsequently become the president of that particular chapter. So we decided to make a short film and my brother and I had been making skateboarding videos, so we had experience with basic videography and basic video editing. So at the age of 12 I was making a very basic documentary about our trip through Italy to Tierra Madre food event. We have footage of Prince Charles speaking about his garden. Did you know he has phenomenal organic garden and that he is well known around the world for being an organic gardener?

Lionel: I did not know that. Wow!

Joe: The Prince of Whales. The Prince of Whales.

Lionel: Representing organic food. Alriiiiight!

Joe: Yeah! Anyway, so this was a huge influence in my life and I have been involved in Slow Food sort of sporadically for over a decade now. I got to meet so many amazing people and I got to have that experience of being in Italy and seeing all of those people speak, and that really marked the shift for me in my food journey to seeing it in the light of gastronomy. Gastronomy as this expanding field of study that focuses not just on the economics of food or the science of food or the cold numbers of food but on the sensory experience of food, as well as the social aspects of food and all of that. Gastronomy is about your visceral experience of food and that starts with taste, and that is why I come back to this idea that we should be loving what we are eating. I absolutely believe that we should be loving our experience of eating. And it is brilliant that my wife is such an effusive enjoyer of food. My wife has orgasmic experiences with food. That is just what it comes down to. Ask anyone who has seen her eat. She will quite often moan while she is taking a first bite of something. And besides the overt sexuality, that is brilliant! What better way to engage with something that is going to nourish you and exemplifies a juncture in a complex economic, social, environmental system. We get to experience that as pleasure? That is brilliant! That is brilliant. It is gastronomic hedonism.

Lionel: To take deep enjoyment in the gastronomic experience, and to honor the food and everything it has gone through by enjoying it fully, deeply and completely.

Joe: Exactly. So, yeah, Slow Food has been huge in influencing that and learning why people make the choices they do. Learning why you choose to eat the way you do. Learning why my dad chooses to eat the way he does. You know, sometimes it surprises me what my dad does. You know as an organic farmer and, in my opinion, he is a giant in the San Diego organic food scene and his network reflects that fact. And sometimes I have seen my dad eat at Jack-In-The-Box. And so I look at that I think “He’s busy. He’s on the fly from one meeting to another. He needs calories,” and somehow that is an okay choice for him. Dad, apparently I’m outing you on this. And I respect that choice and it is not mine. I have chosen differently, but I have done the same thing. However, watching him while I was growing up, it seemed a little incongruous: “Okay, here is my dad who is doing these things in the world and then he eats at Jack-In-The-Box.” Yet it was instructive and it brought me to the point of thinking about my choices more deeply.

Lionel: Is there anything about food or the food industry that you wish more people knew about?

Joe: Oh boy, yeah, let’s be specific.

Lionel: Or one thing maybe that is particularly meaningful for you and informs your own food choices?

Joe: That is a really well crafted question. Yes, and again this is coming from the education from my father. My dad talks about food literacy and he tells this story about how he was working in this particular continuation high school in North County San Diego, which is awesome. They have a little orchard on the high school campus and he was teaching the kids how to grow vegetables. These kids who have had rough experiences in high school or are delinquent in some way or the other. One day he pulls a carrot out of the ground and this one kid is completely blown away. Never seen a carrot in that context. Never knew that carrots grew below the soil. Maybe this is kid who has had a carrot in his life. I assume he has had, you know, baby carrots in a package. Pre-washed, precut, they’re in that tiny little random mini-cigar shape. That is not what carrots are, but maybe that is what this kids experience of carrots were. So to see dirt on a carrot. To see the carrot top as the thing that is poking out of the ground and then to see this giant orange thing come… you know I just think about that and I think, “that is so obvious to me because of my unique upbringing.” And it is so crucial to have just the barest beginnings of understandings of where our food comes from. Yes, I think it is really important for us to understand food systems in a larger sense, but I think that is sort of like you have to be ready for the answer, or you have to be ready to ask the question to hear the answer. So your level of engagement is reflective of what you are willing to and what you are open to understanding. The food system is very complex, so to begin on a very basic level, on a foundational level, is to understand that potatoes grow under the ground, carrots grow under the ground, almonds come from trees, etcetera. Still to this day there are things that surprise me as I learn about food. I love this game! So peanuts grow above the ground on this little bush and they are legumes and they are this and that… It is just so fascinating to me how we have disassociate foods from their sources. So that is what came to mind as the most basic level of relationship to food. It is a food literacy. And it can extend as far as you want to go, but I think is where I like to start. It extends to the idea that there are thousands of varieties of potatoes and apples and of these things that we have sort of narrowed down as we have artificially selected particular breeds for various reasons. We do this artificial selection thing and have for 10,000 years since the domestication of the first plant. The most recent iteration is like “the orange carrot” or “the Russet potato.” We have narrowed things down to these… when you look in the world at the origin of these types of foods there are thousands of varieties of potatoes. There are blue potatoes, not only red potatoes. There are purple potatoes. And then there is carrots. At one point at my parents tiny farm, our one acre farm, we were growing 10 varieties of carrots in one 130 foot bed. Everything from what is called a cosmic purple carrot that is purple on the outside and purple down the core, to white, to red, to orange, and not to mention 26 varieties of tomatoes, another 10 varieties of peppers, and the list goes on. I love this game! My mom when she went to England years and years ago, she went an visited an apple orchard. It was some sort of a seed storage bank for apples too, like heritage preservation kind of thing. They had thousands of varieties of apples represented there. Thousands! I think that is amazing that there are so many niches being filled. I think that is what it amounts to, it is edible biodiversity, you know? And we know that biodiversity is very healthy. That redundancy and the resilience of an ecosystem is improved by its biodiversity. So I love learning about food origins and then when it comes down to that moment of like “Oh my god, a carrot comes out of the ground?” “Yes!” That is the most pure, beautiful experience.

Lionel: So you would like for people to learn and know about their food ultimately.

Joe: To engage consciously with their food. Yes.

Lionel: To engage consciously with their food.

Joe: Yeah, and that brings me to another aspect of my food experience most recently and that is conscious gratitude before a meal. I think this is for me a very important part of my food practices. I chose to take a moment before I eat, even if I am eating alone, to simply be grateful for everything that has brought this food to the table, because there are so many things that have brought this food to the table. And it is a tradition that we perpetuate in religious traditions. People say grace. People will invoke before a meal, but I think my particular adaptation of that practice is conscious engagement with my food. I choose to say “I am so grateful for this food that is about to nourish me and all the people whose hands have contributed to its preparation. Every little piece, from the photons leaving the fusion generator that is the sun traveling ninety three million miles to plants to be absorbed by leaves, to be transmuted into…” etcetera, etcetera.

Lionel: Yeah, it seems like also for you deep value in kind of like the majesty and the extraordinary journey that food takes. Growing up on a family farm has given you perspective on just how much goes into the final product that we end up popping our mouths and enjoying for a few seconds.

Joe: It is so beautiful! It is so beautiful…

Now Lionel, I would like to ask you some questions. Would that work for you?

Lionel: Yeah, let’s hear it!

Joe: Would you tell me a little bit about your food journey? In its most recent, a frame of reference, like where are you right now, and we can go into more detail later on.

Lionel: I am glad you asked the question in such a specific way because my food journey has been huge and it has gone in so many directions.

Joe: I well know that.

Lionel: *laughter* Maybe not different directions, but there have been so many major milestones in the last several years. Just in the last 6 months I have become very interested in the calorie density of foods, I have become interested in what is it that makes us feel full. What I ended up learning about what makes us feel full was that it actually has to do with stretch receptors in our stomaches. Previously there have been people who theorized that satiety is the result of what we eat, but research has shown a much stronger correlation with simply the bulk and amount of volume that we eat. So the natural conclusion to that is that if we are to eat less calorie dense, bulkier foods first we are likely to feel more full. So I would encourage people to eat their salad first and then their vegetables and then their heartier stuff like the potatoes and the rice and the beans. This is because you are getting much less calorie density for the same amount of bulk when you are eating lettuce or vegetables. It fills you up and you are able to eat a lot. In my experience it feels great to eat a lot of food! To be full is a tremendously satisfying experience and yet so often people are concerned about how much they are eating. Well, very often we are eating very calorie dense foods, so we do get too much to eat, yet we need that much to eat in order to feel full.

Joe: Fascinating. So I’m hearing you say that there is an experience of satiety, or being satiated, feeling full. So that is psychological, connected directly to your stomach.

Lionel: Biological and psychological.

Joe: Okay, so there are multiple systems involved — and I have heard there are brain connected nerves in our stomach as well.

Lionel: Yeah, there has been new research [finding] neurons in our stomach lining.

Joe: I know, it is like, huh? So what I am hearing you say is that there are two things going on. There is caloric density and there is volume, or mass. Is that what it is kind of coming down to?

Lionel: Yes.

Joe: I find it interesting that you are saying that salads… I get the fact that salad greens are calorically… what is the opposite of dense? Lean or something. Vacant? *laughter*

Lionel: Well, to put it into perspective, on average there are 100 calories per 1 pound (0.45 Kilogram) in lettuce, and there are 200 calories per pound in vegetables.

Joe: Just for clarity, where do you draw the distinction, without getting too detailed, between greens and vegetables?

Lionel: Greens being leafy greens, so kale, chard, beat tops, lettuce.

Joe: Foliage.

Lionel: Foliage, yeah.

Joe: And then vegetables are…

Lionel: You and I would sit down and have squash maybe and carrots and zucchini and we would be having bell peppers and we would be having… you name it.

Joe: Right, okay. Then you get into the distinction between veggies and fruits. Certain things that we think of as vegetables, some of them are actually fruit. Like an avocado is a fruit; that is pretty obvious. But there is that whole distinction thing. You’re saying that leafy greens fall in that lower calorie but bulky range, so you eat them and you are not actually ingesting a lot of calories but you are getting a lot of stuff going into your stomach. Therefor you are beginning to fill the stomach, but you are not filling your caloric need as quickly.

Lionel: Right, so the last thing you put in your self are the more calorie dense foods…

Joe: Which would be like?

Lionel: Well, like you mentioned fruit, which is 300 calories per pound. Potatoes and rice, your starchy foods are on average 500 calories per pound. And then beans/legumes are on average 600 calories per pound.

Joe: Fascinating. So you would create a meal with that level of priority, if you will. You would say — greens, veggies, starchy goods and then legumes.

Lionel: I have been testing it out in my life, and enjoying the results. It feels really darn good to eat that way. I have been naturally inclined to eat my salads first for a long time. I will eat a massive helping of salad, followed by a large helping of some sort of a dish with probably has vegetables and either beans or potatoes, and usually beans mixed in their as well. And if dessert is going to happen, very often dessert combines nuts and fruit.

Joe: Okay, okay, but still at the end of your meal.

Lionel: Yeah.

Joe: So again you are having more caloric…

Lionel: Yes, and it actually fits, because nuts are on average 2500 calories per pound.

Joe: Okay, so one more time — leafy greans are 100 calories per pound on average, and then we have veggies at…

Lionel: Veggies are 200.

Joe: Veggies are 200. Fruit is 300. Then you have your starchier dense items like potatoes and such, which are…

Lionel: Potatoes and rice… 500, on average.

Joe: Legumes are 600. And one more time, the last one here.

Lionel: Nuts — 2500 calories per pound.

Joe: *riotus laughter* Wow! That’s quite the jump.

Lionel: Yeah, well, even more dramatic is oil. Olive oil and canola oil, on average — 4000 calories per pound. So oil is sort of the ultimate refined food. You’re taking a food and extracting the fiberous material out of it and you are left behind with just the oil. One component, one piece of what was before a food product… no, what was before food… and it is derived into a food product.

Joe: Nice distinction. Wow.

Lionel: You have an immensely calorie-dense thing. So if you have a bowl of salad, like a soup bowl filled with lettuce, and you used 1/2 tablespoon of oil as part of the salad dressing, you have more than doubled the calories of that salad.

Joe: Just by using 1/2 tablespoon of oil? Wow, that is incredible!

Lionel: It is not something that we often have in our minds eye when we choose to add salad dressing to our salads! *laughter*

Joe: That is funny that you should mention that. It sounds like a subtle subconscious attraction to calorically dense foods.

Lionel: That is right, you got it! It is…

Joe: Interesting… so you are doing this conscious sort of gradation of… you’re distinguishing foods based on their caloric density and you are sort of prioritizing, and you are ordering your food based on an example or an experiment that you are running in your own life, and your own body, for your optimal operation. Is that accurate.

Lionel: Yes, absolutely, and saying brings up for me that it is a struggle some times to eat as I would like to because I live in a world where the food that I have been finding is most supportive to my health is not widely available. Or not widely available in a pre-prepared form. Like going out to a restaurant… there is great availabiliy of foods that rock at grocery stores…

Joe: Especially around here.

Lionel: Absolutely around here in Berkeley. But if get into a period of time where I am working a lot and visiting with people a lot or pursuing studies of some sort, there are times when I am not prioritizing preparing food. And those times when I am not, the availability of the food I want to eat reduces and my choices become murky. I would love to be eating in a particular way, and sometimes going out to a restaurant seems like the best option.

Joe: Okay, so let’s play a game. What would a restaurant that serves you look like?

Lionel: Wow, oh my gosh! *laughter* First of all, it would be SO exciting to go to a restaurant and just open an entire menu of food that I consider perfectly health promoting.

Joe: And attuned to your philosophy of health promotion.

Lionel: Yes, that is right. It would be, oh my gosh, remarkable. It would be all of the same ingredients that we are accustomed to seeing on menus, minus a few, or maybe just… shifted. I have a deep appreciation for well spiced foods. I love India spices. I love the spices that are used from South America and Mexico. I have an extraordinary appreciation for flavorful, flavorful, flavorful, flavorful things. I love foods that are spicy and I like spices of different varieties and types. I love having salsas and just experiencing the great variety with which different chefs put together salsas. Combinging ingredients that are so similar, and yet in different proportions and with different types of tomatoes and different types of peppers.

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  1. I would love to hear from some people who have listened to or read the episode. Who or what has been the most important influence to your own personal food journey?

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