In this this interview, Carrie Tippen talks with Nico Slate
, professor of history at Carnegie Mellon University, about the intersections between diet, spirituality, health, and politics for one of the world’s most famous nonviolent political activists, Mahatma Gandhi. Dr. Slate, who researches anti-racist activism in the United States and India, researched Gandhi's experiments with vegetarianism and veganism (and vegetarianism again), raw food, nut milks, fasting, and prohibitions against salt, chocolate, coffee, and flavorful foods like ginger and mangoes that might inflame the passions. In Gandhi's Search for the Perfect Diet: Eating with the World in Mind
(University of Washington Press, 2019), Slate explores the ways that Gandhi linked his diet to nonviolent political action through protesting salt taxes, fasting for peace, and abstaining from chocolate produced by slave-like labor. But more importantly, Slate examines the moments when Gandhi's diet turned from purposeful action to unhealthy obsession, as well as the moments when Gandhi humbly changes his diet to accept new information or welcomes cooperation with individuals and groups who cannot share his convictions. This episode brings a new perspective to a familiar figure through an investigation of the archive of diet.
Nico Slate is a professor of history and director of graduate studies at Carnegie Mellon University and founder and director of Bajaj Rural Development Lab and SocialChange101.org.
Carrie Helms Tippen is Assistant Professor of English at Chatham University in Pittsburgh, PA, where she teaches courses in American Literature. Her new book, Inventing Authenticity: How Cookbook Writers Redefine Southern Identity
(University of Arkansas Press), examines the rhetorical strategies that writers use to prove the authenticity of their recipes in the narrative headnotes of contemporary cookbooks. Her academic work has been published in
Food and Foodways,
Southern Quarterly, and
Food, Culture, and Society.