Mark Schatzker

The key to understanding our complicated relationship with food? It's all about flavor.

Author of The Dorito Effect

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Mark Schatzker | Author of The Dorito Effect
Lavin Exclusive Speaker

Mark Schatzker has found a radical new way to talk about food and health—and it’s all about flavor. In The Dorito Effect (“Illuminating”—The New York Times) he shows how taste and nutrition don’t have to be incompatible; in fact, making healthy food taste great might be the key to curbing our health crisis. An expert voice on food, Schatzker is redefining the politics of biology, marketing, agriculture, well-being, and more. 

“If you think of your DNA as an instruction manual, the biggest chapter is on your flavor-sensing equipment, the nose and mouth,” says Mark Schatzker, author of The Dorito Effect: The Surprising New Truth About Food and Flavor. That system is there for a very important reason. Flavor is how your body senses nutrients. For thousands of years, it worked perfectly. But in recent years, two trends have utterly confounded it. The whole foods we grow are getting blander and blander. As everything from tomatoes and strawberries to chicken and pork get more abundant and cheaper, we keep robbing them of nutrients and flavor. We’ve known for a very long time we need to eat more whole foods. But we’ve made them utterly unpalatable. If that wasn’t bad enough, the very flavors that are being lost onto farm are now being manufactured in factories. We add artificial and “natural” flavorings to a bewildering array of food. It’s high time, Schatzker argues, that we started understanding food through the same lens through which it’s experienced: the way it tastes. 

 

“Mark Schatzker has done something monumental in The Dorito Effect: he has explained how the American food industry has interfered with our body's conversation with itself. The use of flavor to change this conversation is one of the major reasons for the decline in the American diet leading to major health issues. The Dorito Effect is one of the most important health and food books I have read.”

— Dr. David B. Agus, NYT bestselling author of The End of Illness

Exploring subjects ranging from the inner workings of flavor companies to the “nutritional wisdom” of sheep and goats, Schatzker uses entrancing storytelling and wit to illustrate the amazing grip flavor has on our minds. “Food cravings can get the better of even the strongest among us,” says Schatzker, whose own love of strip loins moved him to write Steak: One Man’s Search for the World’s Tastiest Piece of Beef—a journey that first made him aware of the fascinating connection between flavor and nutrition. The New York Times describes The Dorito Effect as “illuminating, even radical.” “After identifying the problem with remarkable clarity,” the Wall Street Journal writes, “the author sets out to find a solution.” And that solution, Schatzker says, is to return flavor to real food. The good news is that scientists have already developed varieties of tomatoes, strawberries and chicken that taste delicious, meet our nutritional needs, and don’t cost a fortune. “What we need to do now,” he says, “is get them into the supermarket.”

 

Schatzker is a columnist for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and the Globe and Mail. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Condé Nast Traveler, and Best American Travel Writing.   

Speech Topics

Food
The Dorito Effect The Surprising New Truth About Food and Flavor
In this talk, Mark Schatzker shows us how our approach to the nation’s number one public health crisis has gotten it wrong. The epidemics of obesity, heart disease, and diabetes are not tied to the overabundance of fat or carbs or any other specific nutrient. Instead, we have been led astray by the growing divide between flavor—the tastes we crave—and the underlying nutrition.

Since the late 1940s, we have been slowly leeching flavor out of the food we grow. Those perfectly round, red tomatoes that grace our supermarket aisles today are mostly water, and the big breasted chickens on our dinner plates grow three times faster than they used to, leaving them dry and tasteless. Simultaneously, we have taken great leaps forward in technology, allowing us to produce in the lab the very flavors that are being lost on the farm. Thanks to this largely invisible epidemic, seemingly healthy food is becoming more like junk food: highly craveable but nutritionally empty. We have unknowingly interfered with an ancient chemical language—flavor—that evolved to guide our nutrition, not destroy it.

We’ve been telling ourselves that our addiction to flavor is the problem, but it is actually the solution, says Schatzker. We are on the cusp of a new revolution in agriculture that will allow us to eat healthier and live longer by enjoying flavor the way nature intended. This lively and important talk proves that the key to reversing North America’s health crisis lies in the overlooked link between nutrition and flavor.