Deb Duchon Interview: Part I

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    In February, 2003, I sat down with Deborah Duchon in her office at Georgia State University in downtown Atlanta, Georgia. Good Eats fans know her best as the Nutritional Anthropologist where AB usually "introduces" her by saying that he's not a nutritional anthropologist, but you are. She is not a character but an actual expert. She's employed in the anthropology department at Georgia State University and specializes in, you guessed it, Nutritional Anthropology.
    With us was my fellow Good Eats fan and GSU student, Cassie Carter, and Ms. Duchon's fellow co-worker, Tina Evans. (Tina was working on the other side of the cubicle but would occasionally chime in.) After arriving a little late (I left the questions in my car), we got settled in. I turned on the tape recorders and we had a nice 1-1/2 hour chat.

Mike Menninger: Ms. Duchon  ...

Deborah Duchon: Yes, sir.

MM: ... I am not a journalist ...

DD: Okay.

MM: ... and I don't purport to be one. I've only done this twice before with
       Widdi Turner and Alton Brown.

DD: Okay.

MM: So, I don't know how to be a journalist so I'm just going to ask you questions
       and ...

DD: You have a journalist here.

MM: [to CC] Are you a journalist?

Cassie Carter: Journalism major.

MM: Okay. You can correct me.

[Tina Evans enters]

DD: [to TE] You want to sit in?

MM: You might learn something new.

TE: I might.

DD: She's watched Good Eats all of once.

TE: Twice.

DD: Oh, twice. Yeah. [tongue in cheek] These are big fans.

MM: I'll try and not ask too personal questions. I'll start with your background
       then your education and then how you got on Good Eats because there are
       lot of people out there who want to know ...

DD: Probably wonder who's this person and what's she doing there.

MM: What's a nutritional anthropologist ... other than a character on the

DD: I'm not a character.

MM: [standing corrected] No you're not. No you're not.

DD: Actually, that's one of my pet peeves with the show is that Alton mixes
       fiction and non-fiction so seamlessly. Like the time he created a daughter
       for me.

MM: Right. I want to get to that.

CC: Yeah. Everybody always asks about that.

MM: I want to get to that. Well, what can you tell us about Deborah Duchon?
       Where does she come from and ...

DD: I'm from Ohio, Cleveland, Ohio. I went to Ohio University. And I went into
       business. My family was kind of working class and it was like, "You have to
       get a job." I went into the business world. So I had 20 years of business
       experience when I went back to school to get an advanced degree in
       anthropology. And by then I owned a business, I owned a house, I had a life
       here, I was in Atlanta. The only choice was Georgia State University which
       is why a lot of people come here. And ... um ...

MM: [at this point I start the chronograph on my watch]

DD: Am I boring you already? [chuckles]

MM: No, I have to turn the tapes over in 45 minutes.

DD: Oh, okay. [laughs] I start talking and he watches his watch. "Uh, oh."

MM: [chuckling] No. No. I want to make sure I get it all.

DD: Um ... what was I saying? Okay. So, I came to school in anthropology. My
       real interest at that point was ethnobotany, how people use plants ... which
       includes food. Because what got me into ethno-botany was when I was in
       college I got in the whole Euell Gibbons thing and I was eating wild plants.
       And I was teaching wild plants and writing about it and giving talks and all
       that kind of thing.

CC: [CC's phone goes off with the Good Eats theme] That was my phone. [grabs
       it and turns it off, chuckles]

DD: [chuckles] You ARE a fan.

CC: Hey, his [MM] does the same thing.

DD: You're kidding.

[they both laugh]

DD: Ok – ay! It's just a show, folks! [still laughing]

MM: You're right.

CC: You're right. It is.

DD: So, anyway. So, I was interested in how people use plants, specifically in
       eating them. Once I got my masters, I came to work here [at GSU]. Mainly
       what my job is is to come up with project ideas and I write grants and do
       the projects. It's a pretty cool job. And early on I got a nice contract with
       USCA that I've had for 8 years now that develops and disseminates culturally
       appropriate nutrition education for refugees and immigrants. And it's through
       that that I've become what you call a nutritional anthropologist.
             So I didn't study to become a nutritional anthropologist. I just have a
       Masters in anthropology from Georgia State. But what happened was ... I
       mean, I am a member of the Council of Nutritional Anthropology. You know,
       once you become educated enough you just learn yourself how to become
       good at something, right?
             So I'm just here working away one day and the phone call
       came in from somebody wanting to find a food anthropologist. They just
       called the Department of Anthropology. And it was somebody who was
       working for Alton when Alton was first coming up with the idea for the
       show. So they referred her to me and we spoke for a few minutes about
       what I do. And she said, "Okay. Let me just tell Alton to see if he's
             And Alton called back and we talked and he told me that when he was
       in culinary school anthropology was his favorite subject. And so he wanted
       to do this show and he wanted to be sure that anthropology was part of it.
       So we got together and we clicked and he asked me if I would do the pilot.
       And so I was in the pilot which was the first potato show.

MM: The potato show, right. Walking down a road ... where was that?

DD: Up in Cherokee County somewhere. Somewhere beyond Canton. I don't
       know if I could ever find it again. It took forever to do that. But it was fun.
       Anyway, we kind of clicked. And when the show clicked and when the Food
       Channel picked it up and he called me back, I've been on it ever since
       except for the fourth season.

MM: Are you going to be in this next season [7]?

DD: Yeah, we're shooting now. I had a shoot last Thursday (2.13.2003) as a
       matter of fact.

MM: What are some things that led you to be interested in botany and food?
       Was there something in your childhood that steered you in that

DD: Not really. I thought botany must be the most boring topic in the world when
       I was a kid. I think it was when I got into college and I was poor and I was in
       an Appalachian area, Ohio University. I knew the people were eating wild
       plants and it kind of opened up this idea to me, of why did we domesticate
       some plants and we eat them as regular food like spinach and broccoli and
       why are there other very good foods that we just never domesticated. In
       fact, we call them weeds. Just the whole thought of that, I just found as a
       fascinating concept. Just how do you pick and choose? How did our
       ancestors pick and choose? And that's really kind of locked us into what we
       eat now.

CC: I was in the library earlier going through your dissertation ...

DD: The Hmong?

CC: Yeah. How did you decide to go with the whole ‘black-nightshade' thing?
       Was that the same sort of idea that you were ...

DD: Right. It was fascinating to me. I knew black-nightshade because, as
       somebody who eats wild foods, I knew it was a poisonous plant. And so
       when I was out with m friend, Jua, and she's picking the stuff. And I'm ...
       "you can't eat that." And she's saying, "It's good." [to MM] I don't know.
       Do you know about the black-nightshade thing?

MM: I know what you've said on the potato show.

DD: Oh, okay. Well, my research has been a lot with Hmong refugees. The
       Hmong are a people from Laos. And because there was no ethno-botanist
       here, I had to do my dissertation, my thesis actually, as an economic
       point-of-view. Which is fun. I like economics. I have a business background.
             One day we took a break from interviewing my friend Jua and I ... that
       was actually how I met the Hmong was out in the woods. They couldn't
       speak English but they knew what to use in the woods, which I thought was
       pretty interesting. And so I got friendly with a family and their oldest
       daughter became my interpreter. We went around doing interviews.
             One day we took a break and we were in this sort-of empty lot just
       picking wild plant and she came to this big stand of black-nightshade and
       she goes, "Oooo, zhoa ia." And she starts picking it like crazy. And I said,
       "You can't get that. It's poisonous." And she said, "Nooo. This is zhoa ia.
       It's good." And I said, "It's black-nightshade and it's bad." And she said,
       "Nooo. Debbie, you so silly." And she picked it and we took it back to her
       house and we asked her grandmother who was the family herbalist who
       said, "Yes, this is zhoa ia and it's good." And so I took some of it to a
       botanist friend and he said, "This is black-nightshade and it's poisonous."
       [laughs] So, I did a lot of research on that. How can one plant be
       ... the same food, same plant ... be poisonous to some people and edible
       to another. So, it took me a lot ... a lot of time I spent on that one. That
       was pretty interesting.

MM: And how was it since I didn't know the outcome?

DD: Um, well, the next day I went back to their house and they had cooked it
       up. And they asked me to stay to lunch and they offered me some. And
       based on what I knew I wanted to say, "no." But also based on what I know
       as a anthropologist I know I had to say, "yes," because I would ... they
       wouldn't trust me if I didn't trust them.

MM: Exactly.

DD: So, I ate a little bit and it was good. Yeah, a full serving, about half a cup.
       And then we went out and did our interviews. And about 4 hours later I got
       so sleepy. I could not hold my eyes open. We stopped for coffee. And, you
       know, I don't usually get sleepy around 4 in the afternoon. But I said, "Jua,
       we've just got to stop for the day." So here we are, rush hour, I was driving
       home. Like, have you ever driven at 3 in the morning and your eyes are just
       falling asleep? I had the radio on. I had the air-conditioning on. Everything
       up full blast. Windows open. Singing at the top of my lungs. Hitting myself.
       Doing everything to stay awake. And went home and it was like 5 o'clock in
       the afternoon. And I went home and fell asleep until almost noon the next

CC: When I read that I was really shocked.

[DD and CC laugh]

DD: Because what it does, it has two effects. One thing that's interesting about
       it is there are different individual tolerances. So it's not something like
       arsenic: take it, you die. This is something some people can tolerate better
       than others. Nobody knows why. It can work on your central nervous system,
       which is what it did with me. And it can also work anywhere along your
       gastrointestinal tract. Which it didn't. I can eat it and feel fine except that I
       get really sleepy. In a sense, that's what it does. It lowers your central
       nervous system, your heart beats slower, your blood pressure goes down, you
       get a really good sleep out of it.
            But the upshot of it was, I started studying how do the Hmong eat it? Is
       it because of the way they cook it? Well, the answer was no because they
       eat it raw, they eat it boiled ... It is the same poison that's in potato leaves.
       Potato leaves are poisonous and we don't eat them. But one thing the
       Hmong do is they consider it a food for older people not for children. Not
       that it's bad for children, it's just that children don't like it and they don't
       need it. It's good for older people. And in a sense, it is. A lot of older
       people are on digitalis and lowering blood pressure medication. It has that
       kind of effect.
             And the children ... it's interesting because the children just go,
       "ewww." Just like they do with spinach or broccoli or any other thing. And
       it's kind of interesting that green vegetables, children just universally do not
       like. I mean, it's like all over the world. It's like something we evolved that
       way that children just don't want vegetables. And so I kind of think, well,
       maybe we shouldn't be pushing them. On the other hand, children love fruit
       and fruits and vegetables have a lot of the same nutrients. So, I got into the
       area of toxicology with that. Again, it still didn't answer the question, "how
       can they eat it and we can't?"
             So I studied a little more and in toxicology one of the most interesting
       concepts is that of induction. And what the means is that your liver, which
       manufactures the enzymes to digest food, can make over 2,000 enzymes. It
       doesn't need that many. So why waste a lot energy making enzymes you're
       never going to be needing. So what it does is it waits for something, a food,
       to be introduced which ‘inducts' it to do it. And so that's why when you
       eat a new food you have a tendency to nibble it. That's an instinctive
       behavior. That you nibble your food, you're sending a message to your liver
       saying, "Okay ... what enzyme do I need? Is it in inventory right now? Or is
       it something you're going to have to make that's new?" Like sesame seeds.
       Sesame seeds need a specific enzyme. That's all the enzyme is used for is
       sesame seeds. So if you've never had sesame seeds before, your liver
       would have to do it. So this is the same thing with the nightshade. So you
       can train your liver to create the enzyme to handle it.

MM: So once you get it digested, it doesn't affect your nervous system or you
       gastro system as much?

DD: After awhile ...

CC: You build up a tolerance for it.

DD: You build up a tolerance. And what I found is that some Hmong women use it
       as an herb. So the kids think they're not eating it but they're getting tiny
       little amounts. So when they develop that taste as adults, they can just start
       eating it.

MM: So the Hmong person who didn't have that growing up and started eating
       it ...

DD: It would have the same effect we do.

MM: ... same effect as you did. And do they have the reverse effect in this
       country? Eating things that they're not used to?

DD: I think a lot of refugees and immigrants do. I've heard Chinese people say ...
       you know how we say about Chinese food? It's great but after an hour you're
       hungry? Chinese people say the same thing about our food. [laughs] It's all
       what your body's used to.

MM: Back to your growing up: are you a foodie or did you enjoy eating and

DD: Yeah, I loved eating and cooking.

MM: Do you still do that? Do you have a favorite classification of food or style
       of food you like to cook?

DD: Oh, gee ... um, I like to grill. I like making sauces.

MM: Do you have any influences in your life, a mother or grandmother or father?

DD: My mother was a really good cook. She still is. My mom's a great cook. She's
       the type that will spend all day making dinner. I grew up making cakes and
       cookies and pies and all other kind of things from scratch.

MM: Do you experiment with new recipes ...

DD: All the time.

MM: ... because of your research with ethnic foods?

DD: All the time. We like to go to different ethnic ... oh, a couple of months
       ago we had a little research and development day for our crew here,
       everybody who's on the nutrition project. And we went to ... [to TE] How
       many different restaurants did we go to that day? About six?

TE: Yeah.

DD: [laughs]

MM: There's a lot here in Atlanta.

DD: Yeah, there is. We went up and down Buford Highway.

CC: Oh, yeah.

DD: We had breakfast at a Korean place and ended up with a late afternoon
       snack at the Chinese bakery on Chamblee-Dunwoody. It was fun.

MM: Yeah, that would be a nice tour of Atlanta.

CC: We could do that. Do a culinary tour of Atlanta.

DD: Well, actually, that was how we got the idea. It wasn't my idea. It was
       Erin's who works for me. She's our project coordinator. And she had gone
       to New York to visit her sister who lives up there. And they have culinary
       tours of New York. And she said, "Let's do a culinary tour of Atlanta for
       ourselves." So, that's what we did. It was fun.

MM: Do you find Atlanta growing more and more with [people from] other

DD: Oh, yeah. When I moved here 30 years ago, there were only 4 Chinese
       restaurants here in the 5 counties. Now there's over 400. And that's just
       Chinese. I mean, it's amazing.

MM: Do you have a new recent one that you've been to that you like?

DD: Mmm ... I can't really say that I have. The Buford Highway's Farmers market
       ... have you ever been there? That's my new toy.

CC: I live right close to there.

DD: Do you? That's my new toy, the Buford Highway Farmers Market. It has the
       best fish section in Atlanta. No smell. I mean I've never been to such a clean
       Farmers Market. Amazing.

CC: Very nice.

DD: What were you saying Tina?

CC: They have a new one over in Union City.

DD: Oh, that's convenient. [laughs]

MM: Doing a little web research, I found that you started something called the
       Wild Foods Newsletter. Can you tell us about that?

DD: The Wild Foods Forum? That was an outgrowth in my interest in wild foods.
       In fact, people were always asking me to come up and teach and all that
       kind of thing. And I was in grad school at the time and I thought it would be
       fun to start a newsletter. It was just for fun. I'm real proud that it's still
       going but I don't have that much to do with it anymore. I get it.

MM: That's fine.

DD: But from that I started doing a lot of freelance writing which is nice: Mother
       Earth News and things like that.

MM: [to CC] Do you have any other background questions you'd like to ask?

CC: Nope.

MM: Well, let's move to some of your education. You've already talked about
       your dissertation ...

DD: It's really a thesis.

CC: Thesis. I always say that incorrectly when I don't think about it.

MM: ... you went to Ohio University ...

DD: Ohio University in Athens, Ohio.

MM: ... in Athens, Ohio.

DD: And Georgia State.

MM: Well, some people would like to know what a Nutritional Anthropologist
       is. Can you put that into one sentence or a few words and define it?

DD: What is Nutritional Anthropology? [stands to get a book by the same title]
       Let's see if they have a nice concise definition, okay?

MM: And you wrote this?

[everyone laughs]

DD: No, no, no. These are some of the big academicians.

MM: Now there are specific degrees in school for nutritional anthropology?
       Or is more just a class or classes?

DD: You have to become an anthropologist and then as a specialty within
       anthropology. It's probably a subspecialty. Like, I'm a medical
       anthropologist. That was my specialty. And nutritional anthropology is a
       subspecialty of medical anthropology.

CC: What field work did you do beyond what you did for your thesis? Did you do
       anything else ...

DD: To get a certificate?

CC: ... to get your certificate?

DD: No, I haven't.

CC: [incredulous] Really! Wow! That just makes me ... yeah!

DD: It's terrible.

CC: It's terrible but you know what? It just gives me hope. [laughs]

DD: It's a new field. And when something's new, they don't have a lot of rules
       about it yet. So like I said, I just started doing the work and then
       I started calling myself a nutritional anthropologist. You know. My area of
       expertise at that point when I got the project was refugees and immigrants
       because I do a lot of work with refugees and immigrants. You can go to one
       of these schools and study with one of these kinds of professors and you'd
       probably be a more qualified nutritional anthropologist than I. And you
       probably would have no interest in going on television and saying those
       stupid lines and all that crazy humor [laughs] because you take yourself very
       seriously ...

[everyone chuckles]

DD: ... what I don't do. [reading] "Learning comes from reading and doing."
       They even say it in here. That's what I do. I read and I do. Let me see if I
       can find a nice little ... "You see, it only came into being as a distinct area
       of inquiry in the 1970's. But anthropologists have always looked at food and

CC: You can't look at a society without looking at their food and nutrition, I think.

DD: Well, the old male anthropologists before women really got into anthropology

CC: Yeah, that's true.

DD: To them, food was trivial. Children were trivial. Women were trivial. All
       they looked at was what the powerful men did.

CC: Yeah.

DD: So if you look at old anthropology, give me a break. Society is much richer
       than that.

CC: Yeah.

DD: Some men were interested in food. They talked about what they ate. But it
       was ...

CC: It wasn't like to the depth that it is now.

MM: How that affects the culture and ...

DD: Right. It's only since the 70's when women got more involved in
       anthropology and there were more opportunities for women to get involved
       in anthropology. Well, I don't see a good ... But it's the study of what
       people eat, why they eat, what they eat what they eat ... "What is the
       role of food in culture." How about that? "The study of the role of food in

Nutritional Anthropology: The study of the role of food in culture.

CC: That's good.

DD: Do you like that?

MM: That'll show up on somebody's search engine.

DD: [gets in real close to the microphone] Do you hear that? "The role of food in

[everyone chuckles]

MM: Are there any schools that specialize in that area, more than others that
       you'd recommend to someone?

DD: No, there are no schools that specialize in it. What you would do if you
       wanted to become a nutritional anthropologist is ... well, you'd first have to
       have a bachelor's in anthropology, probably. You've have to go to grad
       school in anthropology, in medical anthropology, and you'd find an individual
       professor who's doing work in nutritional anthropology you'd want to work
       with. There's not going to be a whole department like this. I guess there's a
       whole department of anthropology and geography and everyone's got their
       own area of interest. So for a grad student to come here, they would find
       somebody who they wanted to work with. You wouldn't find a whole
       department doing just nutritional anthropology.

MM: If someone came here, like Cassie, would she come to you for nutritional
       anthropology? Do you have that ... [showing my ignorance here on how our
       educational system works.]

DD: As I'm not really faculty ... Now she ... [to CC] You could do an internship
       with me.

CC: That's actually ... I've been thinking about doing that.

DD: Okay.

[we all chuckle]

DD: Yeah. Because a lot of times if a student is interested in something I do,
       they can come to me, because I'm qualified here to teach and I do teach.
       It's just that I make more money doing research.

CC: Yeah.

DD: And it's more fun.

CC: Oh, yeah.

DD: But I love working with students, too, so you could sign up with me to do an
       internship in nutritional anthropology and you could take a readings course.
       I could give you a lot of reading and you'd write papers. I was thinking of
       going to the Atlanta Culinary School and asking them if they wanted me to
       come teach. But I don't know if they would.

CC: I don't know why they wouldn't.

DD: Well, they might already have somebody.

CC: They might.

DD: But I don't know.

CC: I doubt it though, because that's just a new program that they're developing
       at the French Culinary Institute right now. They're broadening their
       anthropology department.

DD: The French Culinary Institute?

CC: The French Culinary Institute ...

DD: Where's that?

CC: ... in New York ...

DD: Oh.

CC: ... where Bobby Flay and Jacques Torres and Andrea Immer and all those

DD: Okay. Because I knew they had [it] at the New England Culinary Institute
       where Alton went.

MM: What do you do day to day here? You said a little bit [about it] here and
       there. Is there a precise research, study ... or what are you doing right

DD: Right now I'm working on another project—I've got a lot of projects going.
       This a cultural competency project. What I'm doing that you might find
       interesting though, is I'm writing a book. And we're looking for a publisher
       now. I've got an agent looking for a publisher. And the book is about ... the
       working title—which they don't like—and I'm trying to find a better
       one—maybe you have an idea for it—is American Foods That Changed the
       World. And it's about foods that were here in the Americas, before the
       explorers came, that the Indians had developed. And when the explorers
       came, they discovered them and brought them home and then they really
       made huge changes in world cuisine. Those are plants like tomatoes,
       potatoes, maize, chocolate, vanilla, beans—all the green beans and lima
       beans and black beans. Those are all American. Squash. Manioc, which is
       eaten more in tropical areas. It's where tapioca comes from. It's manioc.
       It's the whole story of what were the explorers' reactions when they found
       them. Oh, turkey.

CC: Yeah, I was going to say turkey.

DD: Yeah, turkey.

CC: It's a good title. They need to put that as a subtitle after [the title] to
       explain what the book is about.

DD: Yeah. I'm thinking about making it something like, "The Wild Adventures of
       the Tomato and Other Stories of Foods ..."

CC: Something that's catchy.

DD: Yeah. They want something sexier and when I publish it's usually academic.
       In fact, if people are really interested in a book like that, have them send
       me an email so I can help convince the publisher that there's a market out

CC: You may have just opened yourself up for ... [unintelligible]

DD: I may have.

[We all chuckle.]

MM: You just went to Taiwan?

CC & DD: Thailand.

MM: Thailand. Excuse me. Is that something you can share, why you go there for
       your job?

DD: I went there for a conference on ... It was The World Congress on Medicinal
       and Aromatic Plants for Human Welfare. [she holds up a satchel with the
       title of the conference on the side]

MM: [reading] The Third World Congress on Medicinal and Aromatic Plants for
       Human Welfare in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

DD: In Chiang Mai.

MM: And you got a bag.

DD: I got a bag and a lot of stuff. Here's the program from it. [pulls out a huge

CC: Oh my goodness.

MM: So we're sitting here looking at a ... let's see ...

CC: How many pages is that. That's crazy.

MM: ... a 616 page program. Wow.

CC: That's a lot.

DD: It was a lot. It was a whole lot. It was really intense.

MM: Did you enjoy it?

DD: I loved it. It really changed my point of view on a lot of things. And it was
       just wonderful to be around the most avant-garde research going on in the
       world of herbal and medicinal plants.

MM: You mentioned books. You're going to write one. Is that [book on your shelf
       entitled Nutritional Anthropology] a book for people who want to study up
       on nutritional anthropology? Is that a text book? Or something ...

DD: That's a reader.

MM: Are there any other books that you would recommend?

DD: Not off the top of my head. This is a good one, though. I mean, it kind of
       gives you an idea of what anthropologists do. Because what I do on Good
       Eats, frankly, is more like culinary history. Here's another [book] but it's
       kind of old. So ... it's 1995. It's not that old.

MM: "Anthropology of Food Nutrition" by S. L. Doshi. Okay. And this is other one
       is "Biocultural Perspectives on Food and Nutrition."

DD: Anthropology has a biocultural perspective and what we mean by that is
       humans are, we're biological beings. We're animals. But we have a culture,
       too. So, we study both sides of it. Like with that story about the Hmong and
       black nightshade it was like getting into, "How does your liver work?" and
       "How do people cook it?" So you have to look at the biological and the
       cultural aspects of human behavior to understand it. So what I do on Good
       Eats is more like culinary history, really. It's just one aspect of nutritional

MM: How foods developed.

DD: Mmm, hmm. And if people are interested in that, they could also go from
       the historical standpoint.

MM: Are there any prominent nutritional anthropologists or, someone
       suggested, ethnographers?

DD: No, that's different, ethnography. Ethnography is writing about culture. I
       think Gretchen Pelto and Deborah Crooks and there's one in Florida, the
       University of Florida ... she's real nice ... [looking in a book] I'll see if she's
       in here. These three are actually three of the top. There's Deborah Crooks,
       University of Kentucky, and ... I had something by her up here on my desk
       because I wanted to order something from her. She's put together, actually,
       a reading list and I wanted to get it from her ... that she uses in classes. You
       can check back with me on it. I'll see if I can find it.

MM: Okay. That's all right. The reason I ask some of these questions is that some
       of the people on the fan page are interested in this field ...

DD: That's wonderful. I'm glad to hear it.

MM: ... who want to read up on it ...

DD: I'm glad to hear it. Well, what I'll do is, I'll get that list and I'll send it to you
       so you can post it on the website?

MM: Sure. That'd be great.

DD: Okay.

MM: You're welcome to pop by the message board and you could just post it
       there. I can get it from there or you can send it to me in an email.

DD: Okay.

MM: Folks there would love for you to pop in and say hi.

DD: Oh, really? Okay.

MM: Well, the nice thing about our group—and I think Cassie can testify to this—is
       that we have people who are interested in a lot of things and they're really
       nice. And we've got people who [share their lives like] children being born,
       marriages. It's a really close group. We've got some really funny people on
       there: Chef Mongo, Al.

DD: Holly.

MM: Holly's here in Atlanta and she was in culinary school but had to, uh ...

DD: Drop out.

CC: Yeah, for a bit.

MM: Stop for a bit and make some money. We're following her life. And Joseph
       is also in culinary school. We range from Hawaii to California to Oregon to ...

DD: What's the address again?


DD: I've checked it but I haven't checked it recently and I should have checked
       it before you came and I'm sorry.

MM: That's all right. And on the home page there's [a link] to the message board
       which will take you straight there.

TE: You've got fans?

CC: You have no idea how many people ... when I said I might be able to
       interview Deb Duchon, everyone went, "Ohh! I have a question I want to
       ask!" The list was like this long.

DD: [chuckling] Really?

CC: I mean, it was crazy. Because everyone, if they could meet anybody from
       the show besides Alton, it would be you or Shirley.

DD: Really? Well, that's interesting.

CC: Because you two seem to be the most informative people that, really,
       besides Alton, are there.

DD: Because the others are characters.

CC: Yeah, exactly.

DD: You and Shirley and they had a couple of people from the CDC.

CC: Yeah.

MM: And a couple of other college experts.

DD: Well, I'm glad the people can tell the difference.

MM: Yes. Well, that's why when we saw your ‘daughter' for the first time, he
       passed it off as being your actual daughter, so ...

CC: The Nutritional Anthropologist in Training, I think is what the subtitle said.

DD: Well, the fourth season just got weird for him and I couldn't be on the show.
       I didn't know why. So he did things to keep my character alive and that was
       one of the things he did.

CC: What was her name?

DD: I don't know.

MM: Debbie Duchon.

DD: It was Debbie?

CC: Yeah, it was Debbie, wasn't it?

MM: Like she would name her daughter ...

DD: Like I would really name my daughter after myself? [laughs]

CC: It was a cool little segment when he actually had her sitting there and they
       were doing the scrabble.

DD: But you know, he's created fictional characters and relatives for himself too.

MM: Right.

CC: Yeah.

DD: His sister and ...

CC: The brother.

DD: That's right. His evil brother and ...

CC: I have a whole family tree, as well.

DD: Oh, you do?

CC: Yes, he does. It's hilarious. It's absolutely hilarious.

MM: I used deductive reasoning.

DD: That's pretty funny.

CC: Because people will actually ask, "Does he really have a twin brother?"

MM: Oh, when I get that I just say, read the FAQ number ... whatever.

DD: Yeah, so he hasn't done anything to me that he didn't do to himself. But it was
       kind of weird because I hadn't seen the show and [someone] is like, "Oh,
       your daughter did really well." And I was like, "Huh?"

MM: I think I was the first one to inform you because I wrote you ...

DD: I think you were.

MM: ... because I wrote you the first day after it aired I said, "Hey, can you tell
       us about your daughter?"

DD: You were the one. "Tell us about your daughter." I have no daughter! [laughs]

MM: That you know of. [grinning] Wait.

[we all laugh]

DD: I would know. I would know.

MM: Do you have any anthropological influences that have really stuck out in
       the past that you enjoyed reading or influenced you in a certain
       direction? Names?

DD: Oh, Margaret Mead. I think everybody says that. But I used to read Margaret
       Mead's column in Redbook when I was a little kid. People like Gertz ... I
       mean, these are like theorists. So I don't know if they'd really be helpful to

MM: Not for me but just to know you better.

DD: Um, Gertz and Mary Douglas. I love Mary Douglas. What she writes about
       that's so interesting is categories. Now we understand that our brain really
       works that way. We break things down into categories. But she was the one
       that first picked up on that, that we tend to see things in categories. And
       that helped with nutritional anthropology. Like, what is food? What is food
       compared to what isn't food? Remember that one Seinfeld—this is a
       really Mary Douglas thing—where ... are you Seinfeld fans?

MM: Yeah.

DD: I love Seinfeld, because it's so anthropological.

[CC and MM laugh]

DD: There was one where they were at a party and somebody took one bite out
       of an éclair and dropped it in the trash. And it was just sitting there in the
       top of the trash, sitting in the paper ...

CC: [laughs]

MM: Right.

DD: If it had been sitting on the table that way it was fine. But it was sitting in
       the trash that way. And George reached in and he ate it. And everybody
       was horrified by it. He said, "What? It was on top of the paper. It had only
       been in there a minute. It was still clean." And everybody was disgusted.
       Well, that was a Mary Douglas kind of thing. When was something filthy and
       when was something healthy?

CC: [laughing] Like the "5 Second Rule."

DD: Yeah. Exactly, the "5 Second Rule."

CC: If it's on the ground for only 5 seconds ... [laughing]

DD: My brother says, "In my house, it's the 30 second rule."

[CC & MM laugh]

DD: So, I love Mary Douglas for that. I use it a lot of times. For instance, in
       Thailand, a lot of people eat dog. It's a wonderful source of protein. It's
       actually more ... [to CC] See. She's making a face.

CC: Oh, they're not bad.

MM: And they're plentiful. 

DD: And they're plentiful.

[something was said about eating bugs]

DD: But the protein in bugs is actually more digestible than the protein from beef.

CC: Yep.

DD: We probably evolved getting more protein from bugs than from huge animals
       that would be hard to kill. So, you know. And yet in our culture it's
       considered disgusting. It's filth. Eating a cockroach is filthy here.

CC: It's taboo.

MM: I was thinking of maggots and stuff. But a cockroach ...

DD: Maggots are okay.

MM: I know. But I can picture a maggot better than a cockroach.

CC: I've had chocolate covered crickets before.

DD: Yeah. When I used to teach wild edibles, we would do things like eat
       earthworms and ...

MM: What you're saying is that other cultures would probably do very well on
       Fear Factor because they eat weird things.

DD: Oh, do they?

MM: Yeah.

CC: They probably would.

DD: Well, that's what they're doing is they're crossing boundaries.

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Last Edited on 08/27/2010