During the first few weeks of my freshman year at the University of Pennsylvania, a constellation of events got me thinking critically about food for the first time. We kicked off the semester with a class-wide discussion of Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, which introduced me to America’s “national eating disorder”: Americans, who once relied on native wisdom to tell them what is best to eat, are now confused and anxious about what to have for dinner. Soon, I noticed America’s eating disorder getting played out at the dining hall. The combination of poor quality food and too many options baffled most of my peers; my hallmates would load bizarre combinations, like French fries, Cap’n Crunch, and a slice of pizza, onto their trays. These “meals” shocked me because I never found eating confusing myself. By the end of September, I realized that my interest in eating well and enjoying it, too, was not the norm in this land of fro-yo dinners. But, I also discovered a group of critical eaters who were writing about their encounters with everything from dorm room cooking to top-notch Philly restaurants and packaging it up on glossy, appetizing pages. They were the staff of Penn Appétit, Penn’s student-run food magazine, which had just published its first issue when I landed on campus.
It was for Penn Appétit that I took my first stab at writing about food issues, submitting a review of Pollan’s In Defense of Food for their blog. Over the years, I worked on the magazine’s editorial board, tweaking stories and watching as the country’s oldest college food magazine (six years old this year!) grew into the ahead-of-the-foodie-trend, innovative read it is today. I am super proud of Penn Appétit and happy to have contributed to its latest issue in the form of a Q&A about my Fulbright year of food with staff writer (and former writing center colleague) Krystal Bonner. Check out the interview on page 40 and flip back for the feature on red meat.