food | August 03, 2015

Mark Schatzker, Author of The Dorito Effect, on Putting Pleasure Back into Food

This week, food speaker Mark Schatzker was featured in two high-profile interviews—on TVO’s The Agenda and in Vox—to talk about his new book The Dorito Effect. Schatzker reminds us that the key to healthy eating is in re-establishing the important and surprising link between flavor and nutrition. “It’s all about flavor,” he says. “We go for where the pleasure is; that’s how we’re wired. So what we need to do is get the pleasure back into real food if we want people to eat it” (The Agenda). 

In his interviews, Schatzker describes how natural foods have been leeched of both flavor and nutritional value. At one point, fruits and vegetables (and even meat) tasted much different—and much better—than they do today. “As we selected crops for agronomic traits like yield, shelf life and disease resistance,” he explains, “we never selected for flavor. And we lost flavor as a result” (Vox). As foods got bigger, more uniform, but ultimately blander, new chemical flavorings made things palatable—and “these flavored foods deliver deliciousness and calories, but they don’t deliver a diversity of nutrients.” 

With such a divorce between taste and nutrition, it’s clear to him why obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and other diet-related ailments are so common in North America. Why eat a tasteless blueberry when you could drink an artificial blueberry drink, exploding with flavor? “Put that blueberry flavor in sugar water, and suddenly it’s a delicious fruit drink that a child can’t resist, and he’s getting too many calories.”
So how do we cultivate healthy diets when the most tasty, irresistible foods are often so devoid of nutrition? To Schatzker, “we’re looking at this all wrong” (The Agenda). “Our campaigns against fat, against carbs, against sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and gluten have all been total disasters” because they’ve relied on eating bland food and denying ourselves the natural pleasures of flavor. “If that food doesn’t taste good, people aren’t going to eat it. The truth is, we don’t all have ironclad wills and can somehow will ourselves into eating. It’s like preaching abstinence in sex. It doesn’t really work.”

Getting people to eat better thus requires a concerted effort to re-inject pleasure into healthy foods. In order to “get the pleasure back into real food if we want people to eat it … It’s essential that we make the right food delicious.” According to scientific research, this is definitely possible: “we can get the flavor back into modern varieties of produce and still keep modern-day yields, disease resistance, and shelf life. We just need to care about flavor” (Vox). For the average shopper, this means realizing that whole foods can taste amazing—if we look hard enough to find them. We should be approaching food like “passionate Italian chefs,” he says, but more concerned about whether the flavors in our foods are coming from natural or unnatural sources. “If you start to see the words ‘artificial flavor’ or ‘natural flavor,’ to me it’s the indicator of junk food. Don’t worry about calories or carbs or fat—the best indicator of junk food is the addition of flavorings.”

As author of both The Dorito Effect: The Surprising New Truth About Food and Flavor and Steak: One Man’s Search for the World’s Tastiest Piece of Beef (2011), Schatzker provides funny, illuminating, and thought-provoking talks on our current health crisis—and how restoring a link between taste and nutrition could be our best route to healthier societies.

To book Mark Schatzker as the keynote speaker for your next event, contact The Lavin Agency Speakers Bureau.

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