—by Alyssa Novak
On Tuesday I attended the lunchtime seminar, Cooking Up Hunger Solutions: A Conversation with Andrew Zimmern of Bizarre Foods America.
Food served included an array of fresh raw vegetables (including jicama!) with hummus, Minnesota wild rice hotdish, and bison tacos.
Andrew Zimmern, the main speaker, is a Minnesota TV personality known for his series, Bizarre Foods, on the Travel Channel. In the series, Zimmern travels the world eating foods that many Americans would probably deem revolting. During the talk, Zimmern opened up to the audience about his troubled past of alcohol and drug abuse, which led him to homelessness on the streets of New York City. After attending rehab at Hazelden, he decided to stay in Minnesota to rebuild his life.
Zimmern spoke about how he uses his show, Bizarre Foods, as a platform to inspire change. He hopes that by watching his series, viewers will see the common threads of humanity shared in the rituals that surround food. He also hopes that his extreme eating will broaden his viewers’ palates and get them to try foods they wouldn’t ordinarily eat.
Zimmern believes that America’s food issues will be addressed by a social movement that comes from the ground up. He is a big believer in public-private partnerships and finding entrepreneurial solutions to problems, due in part to his experience working with students in the Lewis Institute at Babson College. Some of the ideas he proposed to lawmakers for addressing America’s hunger problem included the removal of red tape that prevents food from being salvaged and redistributed to those in need, and the installation of re-circulating aquaculture systems in schools as both a teaching tool and source for food.
After the session, I had the great honor of meeting Andrew Zimmern in person to get an autographed copy of his book, Andrew Zimmern’s Field Guide to Exceptionally Weird, Wild, and Wonderful Foods. I can’t wait to start cooking from it!