About The Good Eater
With each meal, we make choices that help or harm the planet. What shall I eat today? is a very deep question.
—Thich Nhat Hanh
Welcome, enthusiasts of good food and good living!
My name is Nina, and I am a food writer living in Berkeley, California. In this newsletter, you’ll find reflections on the basic question—What does it mean to be a “good eater”?
When I was growing up in my Russian Jewish immigrant family, my parents and grandparents would constantly repeat, “kushai horosho”—be a “good eater.” For them, being a good eater meant eating heartily, fully, and essentially, not being picky. But as I grew up, my own idea of what it meant to be a good eater evolved to something distinctly, though not entirely, different from what my family originally intended.
For me, good eating came to mean not only eating heartily, and deliciously, but also, being conscious about the complex food chain that leads up to the moment we sit down in front of a meal, as well as the consequences of our food choices. I still enjoy eating heartily and well, but for me a good meal is also one that ponders deeper questions about the kind of world we want to live in.
Many years later, I came to learn that when the English woodworker Donald Watson tried to coin a new term to describe his own vision of eating well, he considered “beaumangeur”, which means “good eater” in French. He eventually chose the term “vegan”, an identity I also embrace, but for me, that identity does not fully capture the entire spectrum of issues we inevitably bring to the table.
For me, veganism is part of the way in which I practice alignment with my spiritual values, especially my reverence for the beauty of nature and the interconnectedness of all things. Aside from air, the food we eat is no better teacher of that continuity. Each spoonful we take in makes us who we are, literally and figuratively. But it’s a starting point, rather than an endpoint, of a conversation about how to eat.
This newsletter is my meditation on what a truly just and healthful future of food could look like, and my exploration of what it would take to build a food system that is more equitable, just, and nourishing for all.
I hope you’ll join me on this reflective, deep, and most of all, delicious journey!
Learn more on my website.
If you like, please share the newsletter with friends!
About Nina Guilbeault, PhD
Nina Guilbeault received her PhD in the cultural sociology of food from Harvard University. For her dissertation, she conducted a multi-year ethnographic project about the rise of the vegan movement around the world, including in North America, Europe, and the Middle East. Nina interviewed over 150 entrepreneurs, investors, researchers, activists, doctors, and other pioneers, as well as conducted a year of fieldwork in three languages.
After Harvard, Nina became a Postdoctoral Scholar at UC Berkeley Haas’ Sustainable Food Initiative, where she co-founded Plant Futures, a non-profit innovating entrepreneurial education and promoting a plant-rich food system. Nina is currently Director of Partnerships at Plant Futures.
Nina has been an expert consultant for major food brands, spoken at various universities (including Harvard Business School, the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs & the Center for European Studies at Harvard University, UC Berkeley Haas, and UC Santa Barbara), and has been a research assistant for the celebrated food writer Michael Pollan.
Nina’s work has been featured in The Atlantic, The Telegraph, and Refinery29, and she serves on the award committee for the Greg Steltenpohl Pragmatic Visionary Award. She holds a Certificate of Plant-Based Nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies.
Nina is also a passionate cook, food stylist, photographer, and mindfulness teacher with an emphasis on intentional eating. She lives in Berkeley, California but is passionate about traveling the world in search of culinary adventures.
Nina’s first book—The Good Eater: A Vegan's Search for the Future of Food—will be published by Bloomsbury USA in November 2023.