This year, General Mills and Andrew Zimmern came together to host The Munchies: People’s Choice Food Awards. We sat down with Zimmern, host of Travel Channel’s Bizarre Foods and the 2013 winner of the James Beard Award for Outstanding TV Personality/Host, to unlock some little-known info about the fearless gastronaut.
1. There’s one thing he won’t eat.
Even though he’s chowed down on horse (“I love it!”) and dog (“I’ve tried it several times, but it’s just not for me.”), don’t dream of getting him to crunch on that innocuous little edible seed bursting with healthy omega-3 fatty acids: Walnuts. “I just won’t eat ’em!”
2. He’s a fan of Meatless Mondays.
Though famous for his adventurous eating habits (Cricket stew, anyone?), Andrew Zimmern shared that he’s a huge proponent of the movement to make Mondays meat-free. “No matter what, you can do a Meatless Monday. If everyone in America did, that would be incredible. Even if you can just do a meatless meal a week, it’s one less commodity chicken or feedlot piece of cattle in the system, and that’s enough to make a very sizable dent.” Believe it or not with his omnivorous palate, he’s even gone vegetarian for a few days straight.
3. He cares deeply about fixing our food system.
“Over the last 100 years ago in America we’ve concentrated our food choices into a very narrow range. We always used to eat seasonally and locally [but as a result of stopping this], we’re now running into problems like obesity, diabetes and allergies. Not only will turning to alternative protein sources make us healthier but it will also honor cultural and economic sustainability.” Zimmern adds, “It’s not practical for people in Kansas to eat seafood the way coastal communities can. But people in the midwest can do so much with lake fish, goat, and game.” Consider your local resources and producers to make informed food choices. For instance, Zimmern explains, “My friends on the east coast can go into a store and get delicious bycatch like sea robins and porgies; options that won’t even make it to the midwest. By the same token, I can go to several local stores in the midwest and support local producers by picking up rabbit, pheasant and goat…all readily available and sustainable animals for that region.”
And we’re making progress: “We have chefs on shows like Chopped with foods more commonly seen on Bizarre Foods now showing up in their mystery baskets. It’s a big change and it’s very cool!” The trend is spreading from the tube to our tables: “Things like goat are now at restaurants—you don’t have to be in an ethnic dining experience to see — it’s in white table cloth spots and neighborhood bistros. It’s the best thing that can happen to our food system.”
Bottom line: “I don’t want to dismantle Big Ag. I want to restore the family farm and regionalism to our food system, and if we do that, Big Ag will shrink to its right size. I don’t pretend to know what size that is. I think that inspires argument. I’m more interested in the civics discourse about solving the problem. Let’s work with Big Ag and Big Food to develop products that [we can feel good about feeding our kids.]. Coca Cola is not going away.
4. He’s a proud food truck owner.
…and it may just be coming to a town near you. “It’s gonna get bigger!” After a test run at Target Field where “the goat burger was wildly successful,” they’ve got plans to expand to stadiums and more. Learn more about AZ Canteen here. And get your Cabrito (goat) Sausage, Crispy Pork Belly and Griddled Veal Tongue Sliders while they’re hot!
5. He wants you to think local.
“We want food that’s good, cheap and fast. You can’t have all three. Our system is broken. The easiest way to fix that is to support people locally who are doing the right thing. It’s the single biggest step people can take to fix the system.”
6. “At our house, we eat meat as the accent.”
Though it may surprise you, at his own table, Zimmern’s family puts three or four vegetables on the table and eats meat in the Asian style— “more as the accent to a dish instead of a 14-ounce steak. It’s present in lesser forms.”
Learn more at AndrewZimmern.com.