Streaming Saturdays With Earshot Jazz

Want to feel the energy and emotion of live music while you’re stuck behind closed doors? In collaboration with Earshot Jazz, Town Hall is streaming live Saturday jazz concerts at the end of March and the first three weeks of April, directly from our stages! 

What about the virus?

On March 23, Governor Inslee issued a shelter-in-place order for all individuals, with the exception of essential workforce. That description of essential workforce includes allowances for “artists and musicians providing services through streaming,” provided guidelines around safe assembly are also followed. No more than 10 artists and technicians will be present at these events, and social distancing and enhanced hygienic measures will be employed. 

Town Hall and Earshot Jazz agree that music is essential to surviving, even thriving, during this health crisis–and we’re committed to offering live music that supports the health of our local artists, even as it fills your heart and moves your spirit. Whatever else you feel like moving, too.  

Who’s Onstage?

3/28 Alex Dugdale Quartet
Seattle’s favorite tap-dancing saxophonist takes the stage backed by a hard swinging trio of piano, bass, and drums.

4/4 Marina Albero Group
This Barcelona transplant brings Spanish inflections to stunning jazz piano technique and a fascinating approach to the hammer dulcimer.

4/11 Jacqueline Tabor
Award-winning vocalist Jacqueline Tabor showcases signature bluesy vocals—and unveils a new ensemble of Seattle jazz masters.

4/18 Kate Olson Ensemble
Joined by a fluid and inventive quartet, saxophonist Kate Olson brings her distinctive energy to Town Hall.

4/25 Tarik Abouzied with Erskine, Tindall, and Heyer
The veteran drummer of celebrated Seattle projects Happy Orchestra and McTuff brings together talented West Coast musicians for an energetic, uplifting concert.

5/2 Remembering Lee Konitz
Four powerhouse jazz performers come together to affirm the legacy of the peerless alto saxophonist Lee Konitz, who passed away on April 15 from the Coronavirus.

Add some groove to your Saturday nights with weekly concerts from Town Hall and Earshot Jazz!

Connecting Across the Social Distance with Eric Liu

At a time when quarantines are keeping us isolated from our neighbors, it’s more important than ever to help us maintain connections with our community and stay engaged as citizens. Eric Liu, co-founder of Citizen University, hosts regular Civic Saturday gatherings in Seattle to help us reflect, connect, and cultivate the kind of healthy civic traditions we need during this difficult time.

Town Hall and Citizen University are presenting a Virtual Civic Saturday on 3/28 to give civic-minded Seattleites a place to gather—even if it’s not in person. To preface this livestreamed event, Liu sat down with Town Hall’s Alexander Eby for a conversation about community health.

AE: During this time of social distancing, what are some ways we can maintain engagement with our community and feel that we’re still contributing to our society, even if we can’t do it in person?

EL: There are so many ways! Create a contact sheet for you and your neighbors—it’s a good chance to check on elders and introduce yourself (from an appropriate distance) to folks you don’t know yet. Read and subscribe to the Seattle Times—we in this area are unlucky to be an epicenter of the virus but we are exceedingly lucky to have an independent daily newspaper with such talented and dedicated staff. Circulate your time, talent, and treasure at any scale using any platform available.

AE: When health concerns are making people feel alienated from their neighbors, it’s important to remember that we’re all in this together. Right now, in what ways is Seattle (and our nation) most united?

EL: We are all realizing that when it comes to a pandemic there is no such thing as someone else’s problem. Our community is only as healthy as its least healthy members. That’s always true but most of the time society forgets it. There is no avoiding that truth now.

AE: What agencies and sectors would you encourage people to support right now? Who should we donate to? Who should we patronize?

EL: We should first make sure we help those who help us: health care workers, grocery workers, delivery workers. We can help them by pushing our policymakers and big employers to do right by all of them: living wages, paid sick leave, safer workplaces. Second, we should all get better at asking for help. Epidemiologically and economically, things are going to get worse before they get better. So it’s not so much “who should we donate to” as it is a matter of practicing mutual aid and figuring out how we can help each other.

AE: Many people are finding themselves stuck in their homes with an abundance of free time—the perfect opportunity to buff up our civic education! What are some texts at the top of your “civics required reading” list that you recommend people read during this time? Why do they resonate with you?

EL: Rebecca Solnit’s A Paradise Built in Hell is about how people come together in times of disaster and form the kind of communities that we all yearn for—and she argues that the yearning means that we shouldn’t let that feeling evaporate after the worst passes. We need to pay close attention now, during the crisis, to how we practice kindness and civic love and civic responsibility so that we can keep up those practices after the crisis.

AE: What’s a message you would want all of Seattle to hear and meditate on in the coming weeks?

EL: Society becomes how you behave.

Join Eric Liu online on 3/28 for a Virtual Civic Saturday, or check out Citizen University to explore Civic Sermons from past gatherings

Getting Animated with Gustafer Yellowgold

A pancake smackdown, gravy bats, a little yellow man from the sun who loves to go on adventures—Morgan Taylor’s creations have been delighting kids and parents alike since 2005. With colorful animations and lively music that The New York Times has called “A cross between ‘Yellow Submarine’ and Dr. Seuss,” Taylor is a fan favorite on Town Hall’s stages. 

Taylor recently sat down with Town Hall’s Alexander Eby to discuss the origins of his beloved character Gustafer Yellowgold, sources of musical inspiration, and ideas for having fun while stuck inside.

AE: Can you tell me a bit about Gustafer? What inspired the character?

MT: What eventually became Gustafer started out as a doodle on a Dayton, Ohio record store marker board in the 90’s. I would draw this yellow, pointy-headed cat-faced creature on the new releases board each week. I put him in absurd situations, like frying up a box of turtles and frogs on the stovetop. He existed mostly on bar napkins until years later when I’d moved to New York City and started a children’s book and music project. I had some fictional short story-songs sung in first person, so when I first drew them out, I used the yellow guy. Coincidentally I already had a song called “I’m From The Sun,” and realized—hey, this is this guy’s story! It was a happy accident really. I put the Sun concept with this character and the whole world sprang forth.

AE: Why choose Minnesota as the setting to introduce an alien to Earth?

MT: Kind of in the same way that Stan Lee put Spider-Man/Peter Parker (and all his fictional heroes) in New York. The fantastic superhero premise has a more grounded, tangible quality when it’s in an actual geographic location. (As opposed to Metropolis or Gotham).

I have a list of Minneapolis bands that inspired me growing up, so I guess that had something to do with it. When I first was conceiving the fictional premise I had Gustafer land on Earth and living in a town called Butterburg. Having him in Minnesota is funnier and gets a good reaction.

AE: Why do kids connect so well with your music? What about parents? 

MT: I’ve always seen it as a “nobody excluded” rather than saying it’s specifically for children. Children are easier to entertain. It’s getting the folks to equally enjoy it that I find the most fun. I think the visual has always played a vital role in how the songs are conveyed. There’s a little magic in the silliness/emotionality combination that seems to work on all ages. 

AE: Which came first for you, the music or the animation? What gave you the idea to combine them?

MT: Always music first. Sometimes a concept will inspire the music, but I always have to have the song before I can start to make the visual. Like, I knew I wanted to write a song called “I Jump On Cake” and the general image the title itself conjures, helped me know what the lyrics should be.

AE: Lots of listeners have said they enjoy the mellow energy of your songs. Why choose to keep the pace slow?

MT: I don’t know. It wasn’t on purpose. Maybe growing up listening to so much soft rock has something to do with it. My live shows are 85% uptempo. And when the songs are mellow, they have the funniest visuals. So they don’t have a sleepy slowness. If your love ballad is sung by an eel or a pterodactyl it almost is better that it’s tender musically.

AE: Which of your songs would you recommend for first time listeners? Do you have any favorites?

MT: It never hurts to start from the beginning. “Wide Wild World” from 2007. That one has a scrappy charm and the songs are each unique to each other. I’m proud of it all. My albums are all short. My first few I barely cracked 30 minutes. 

AE: What are some of your favorite bands? How have they influenced your music?

MT: Beatles are kings of songwriting. Bread are the kings of soft rock style. But, my inner 9-year-old still lives in a room plastered with Kiss posters. After pre-teen years with Van Halen, Journey and Pat Benatar, I grew musically with R.E.M., The Replacements, and especially Minneapolis’ Trip Shakespeare.

In the 90’s it was T. Rex and Guided By Voices (my hometown Dayton, OH buds) and my adult Kiss resurgence. After I moved to New York City I finally found my love of Neil Young, Stevie Wonder, Nick Drake and all the solo songwriter legends like that. As far as influence, I just strive to have my own voice like they all did. The Kiss thing; I had a chance meeting with Gene Simmons a couple of years ago and told him it was no coincidence that I ended up combining pop-rock and fantasy characters.

AE: Lots of kids and parents are cooped up at home right now—what would you suggest for ways to keep from getting bored indoors?

MT: Go outside and run around in the fresh air. Read. Get into new music. Find fun podcasts. Listen to audiobooks! Don’t spend all your time looking at screens. And most of all—create!

Morgan Taylor makes regular stops at Town Hall as part of our Saturday Family Concerts series. Check out all the catchy Gustafer Yellowgold songs on his YouTube page or listen to his latest audiobook.

 

Can You Help Migrating Birds By Turning Off Your Lights?

Every year, millions of birds migrate along the Pacific Flyway—the migratory path that stretches over 4,000 miles from the coast of Mexico to the Arctic Circle. And each year, light pollution from populated areas can disorient and disrupt the rhythms of these birds. This can confuse, exhaust, and even endanger migrating birds—a 2014 study estimated that between 365 and 988 million birds collide with buildings in the US every year!

To explore the massive world of migration, listen to the full recording of our 2/19 panel discussion on The Pacific Flyway. And to learn more about light, energy, and sustainability in the Pacific Northwest, take a look at the resources offered by Puget Sound Energy. 

Town Hall is proud to announce our Powerful Partnership with Puget Sound Energy! With their support, we’re continuing our Town Green series, combining activist perspectives and policy-oriented programs with cutting edge research from climate studies and environmental sciences. 

For more community conversations focused on sustainability, check out Town Hall’s Town Green series. And to learn about simple energy-saving steps you can take in your home, check in with our Powerful Partners at PSE.

Turn off the lights to help save the earth—and a few birds!

Happy Birthday, Town Hall Seattle

On this day, in 1999, we opened to the public. It was 21 years ago today that we started a community here. It’s something we continue to do: building our community with wide open doors (though the pandemic has stymied us of late) and radically affordable tickets and stages, where everyone can take part, be inspired, and use their voice to shape our future. We believe that everyone deserves access to fresh ideas and artistic expression. We believe in an equitable Town Hall that belongs to all of us. We believe that, together, we can model the kind of society we want to share. All this is to say, this isn’t a day to celebrate Town Hall, it’s a day to celebrate us all. We can’t do it without you. If you’d like to give your financial support, please do. You can learn more about how to make an impact here.

Back on that first night of programming, Town Hall presented a free celebration of “Seattle’s Favorite Poems,” hosted by Robert Pinsky, Poet Laureate of the United States. Others who read poems that night included local luminaries like Tom Skerritt, Speight Jenkins, Mike Lowry, Charley Royer, and others.

Robert Pinsky’s poem that he wrote for the occasion:

THE HALL

The hero travels homeward and outward at once,
Master of circumstance and slave to chance.
A spirit old and young, man, woman–each life
A spurt of knowing. The hero is the wife
Stitching all day a story unstitched at night
And also the son who calls the Council to meet
In the beamed Hall where the old ones used to gather.
Differing there, each regards all and each other.
A solitary old chief, the hero grieves
His dead companions, a nation full of lives.
The bird in cold and darkness buffeted in
Briefly through the bright warm hall and out again.
All nations wither Chief Seattle said,
And yet they are not powerless, the dead.
The shifting hero wanders alien places,
Through customs of cities and histories of races,
Their arts and evils, their goods, odd works and treasures.
Provincial, cosmopolitan, the hero embroiders,
Recollects, travels and summons together all
Manners of the dead and living, in the great Hall.

When Town Hall reopened recently, after it’s multi-million dollar renovation, we commissioned a work by Suzan-Lori Parks, celebrating our 20th anniversary.  It is below in its entirety.

BEGINNER
a “forever” play by Suzan-Lori Parks

The action of this play starts right here right now.

X: Where do I begin?
Y: Why are you asking?
X: Just curious.
Y: All of a sudden you’re “just curious”?
X: I’ve been curious for – for a long time, but I never thought that the question I asked you was
a question one should ask, really. Because it’s a question that has an answer that could, oh,
idunno, start a fight. Or a party. Or a parade. Or a war. Or a famine. Or a wedding. Or a
healing. Or a fissure. Or a series. Or a portal. Or a race.
Y: A race?
X: You heard me.
Just then, hundreds of PEOPLE, thousands, really, “race” across the stage. As if every single
person in Seattle, Washington, and everywhere too, right, were, right at this very moment,
“racing” out of doors, or “racing” to the gym, or to the job, or to the school, or “racing” as part
of a sport, or late for a bus or a train or a boat or a plane, or trying to cross a river or a border or
a sea. Everybody “racing,” everybody “running” and everybody running on something or
toward something or from something and, also right, everybody running something. Yeah,
we’re all running something aren’t we? And we’re all on some kind of path, a path that takes us
all, in body and/or in mind and/ or in spirit, right in this exact instant, right across this very stage
and also right across the stage in your head. Where this play also is being performed. And each
person, is carrying a FLOWER – what kind of flower? Well, if you’re lucky, it’s the flower of your
own choosing. And as we see the PEOPLE “racing” by, know that, from this moment, for you,
things are going to be better. Because they’re all on the road to recovery and you don’t have to
run cause you’re already there. The ACTION of this PLAY takes place over and over and
FOREVER which means that this is a FOREVER PLAY. Am I getting off the subject? Am I getting
off the path? Not at all. Yay. Back to our play.
X
Y
X
Y
Y: The Human Race!
X: Exactly.
(rest)
You’ve got something to teach me. I can smell it. Go on.
Y: Right, ok, well,
We know that there is no ”I” in “TEAM,”
But did you know that there is a “me” in “ENEMY?”
X: Well done.
Y: Thank you.
(rest)
Did you come all this way to learn that?
X: No, but you came all this way to tell it to me.
Y: Ok. How do you do that?
X: Do what?
Y: Get under the surface of – me. Get inside my head.
X: You open the door and let me in. You flew me into town and opened the door and let me in
and so here I am. I’m here. And I’m in your head. Deeply curled up in there. Giving you a
healing hug.
Y: Mmmmmm. Thank you.
X: That’s what I do. Pretty much. That’s like the – common thread running through my output.
Y: Wow. Deep. What was your question?
X: Which one?
Y: The one up there at the top of the page, or back there, in the past. The question you had
about –
X: Where do I begin?
I have never told an actor how to say a line but it would be really great if they could say it as
close to the same way that they said it the first time (at the start of the PLAY).
X: Where do I begin?
Y: Exactly.
X: Where do I end?
Y: Good questions.
X: And what about the Others?
Y: What Others? Where?
X: Over there.
Y: Oh, they’re you.
X: They don’t look like me.
Y: No?
X: Not at all. They’ve got NNNNNN where I’ve got YAYAYAYAYAY. They’ve got SCRUNNNNCH
where I’ve got HURRRRRRRK. I’m all waaah waaah and they’re woo woo.
Y: They’re you. There you are. Right here. Right there. And over there too.
X: Couldn’t be.
Y: It’s true.
X: So, Everything is part of Everything? One thing expressing itself in an infinite variety?
Y: Bingo.
X: Should I ask “What Else Is There?”
Y: No. Don’t ask.
X: And that’s the whole Game of Life. In One Moment.
Y: Yep. Should we sing a song?
X: Let’s.
We sing “Beginner.”
…we’re going around and around and around and around and around and around again
we’re going around and around and around and around…

Thank you, everyone, for going around and around and around with us.

A Suggestion While in Self Isolation: Read a Book.

“That’s the thing about books. They let you travel without moving your feet.” – Jhumpa Lahiri, The Namesake

“Books are the plane, and the train, and the road. They are the destination, and the journey. They are home.” – Anna Quindlen, How Reading Changed My Life

Don’t leave your house. Stay home. Stay healthy and keep others healthy. Do you need some suggestions for what to do in your home? Buy a book and read it.

Books are a life blood of Town Hall. We bring in authors and speakers from around the corner to around the world to inform, enlighten, and inspire all of us. The recent pandemic has hampered those efforts. There are deep fears in our literary community about how the coronavirus could damage the longevity of some of our most beloved bookstores.

We, at Town Hall, always delight in working with some of the finest bookstores in our city. They could use all of our help right now. Connect with your favorite local bookstore, order a book, read it, and repeat.

Ada’s Technical Books. They’re closed until March 31 at the earliest. They’ve had to lay off employees. You can order books using their online store.

Elliott Bay Book Company. They’re closed until March 31 at the earliest. You can order books online and they are currently offering free shipping.

Phinney Books. As of now, they’re “open,” but for pickup and delivery only. They’ll be in the store for their usual hours, but no browsing will be allowed in the store, and ideally as little customer traffic as possible.

Third Place Books. They’re three locations are still open with reduced hours but are taking it day by day. They are offering free shipping when you order online.

University Bookstore. All locations, with the exception of the Tacoma store (limited hours), are closed until March 30 at the earliest. They are offering free shipping when you order online.

Do what you can to help ensure the vitality of our region. We’re not one of the most literate cities in America for nothing. We appreciate knowledge, and wisdom, and creativity, and the imagination of us all. Find all that, now more than ever, from one of our local bookstores.

A Little Ink on Tattooing

The days when tattoos were most associated with sailors and ex-cons are long gone. Seattle has a diverse and thriving tattoo scene. Gage Academy of Art Artistic Director Gary Faigin moderates a panel of three tattoo artists on March 24 at Town Hall. Tickets are only $5 and free for anyone 22 and under. Update: In-Person programming at Town Hall has been suspended. We hope to have this panel discussion on tattooing to occur in the coming months.

One of those tattoo artists, Heidi Sandhorst of Dark Age Tattoo, sat down with Town Hall’s Jonathan Shipley to discuss a tattoo as a celebration, black and grey tiger faces, and how there are no strange requests.

JS: When did you start appreciating the art of the tattoo? What spoke to you about tattoos?

HS: This seems like such a hard question because tattoos have been such a part of my life for a long time. Tattoos have been in my field of awareness since I was a preteen and when I really started discovering music for myself: punk and riot girl. Most of the people in those bands and those that went to their shows had tattoos. Most of my friends had tattoos. I have always been an artist, have always been creating art and tattoos are just another way to express myself, to shrug off the status quo, to heal, to just enjoy something beautiful, and so many other things. It can mean anything and/or nothing for those who decides to wear them and I love that.

JS: What was the first tattoo you got? How many do you have now?

HS: I got my first tattoo on my 18th birthday, I made the appointment a few weeks before it and I got a black and grey tiger face on my back shoulder. I can’t really say how many I have because I have larger pieces that took many sessions. I still have to tattoo my back and the back of my thighs, but that will be one big piece, and little bits here and there. I will probably never be done!

JS: What tattoo on you means the most to you? Why?

HS: The tattoo that means the most to me is usually the most recent one I got because it’s the one I am the most into at the time. Some people get tattooed for a story; I get tattooed to celebrate the art of artists and people I love. My most recent one is a peony on my knee by an amazing artist, Jamie August. Jamie is also one of the kindest people I have ever had the honor to meet.

JS: When did you start tattooing others? When did you decide to try and make it your job?

HS: I didn’t start tattooing people until I was well into my apprenticeship, so I had already decided to make tattooing my career when I did my first tattoo. 

JS: What tattoo did you do  for someone else are you most proud of?

HS: I strive to be proud of every tattoo I do.  I am proud when I execute a clients idea well, when they are happy, healed, safe, whatever their goal for the tattoo is and I have successfully aided in that process. I am also extra excited about subject matter I enjoy drawing and tattooing. Being given free reign to draw and tattoo it in my style is my favorite! 

JS: What’s the strangest request you’ve had for a tattoo?

HS: There are no strange requests! We are all human and you should never feel judged for being as “weird” as you want to be. I however will not tattoo anything racist/hateful and I deeply strive to not tattoo anything culturally appropriative that is offensive to the culture it was taken from, but I will admit that is a lifelong learning process and I defer to people that come from those cultures and actively seek out information from cultures and perspectives outside my own to be better informed. I know since these perspectives are outside my own I have to commit to always seeking out those voices and I will always be learning and growing.

JS: How long have you been at Dark Age?

HS: I have worked at Dark Age as long as it’s been open. Since 2014. 

JS: Why do you think it took so long for tattoos to make it to the mainstream?

HS: Tattoos have always been “mainstream” for me, so I’m not sure. Perhaps with the rise of Instagram and social media,  the ability to see so many people expressing themselves in so many ways so easily has made it more acceptable to express oneself.

JS: What’s the future hold for you in regards to tattoos?

HS: My future in tattooing is my future in life, to grow and learn always. To always be becoming the best artist, healer, steward of compassion I can be.

What Are People Doing?

Every week the Town Crier blog will look back at Seattle’s near-forgotten Town Crier magazine to see what was happening then and talk about what’s happening now. One of the largest sections of the original Town Crier was “What People Are Doing,” highlighting things like, “Yesterday afternoon an interesting demonstration of Dalcrose Eurhythmics was given by Elsie Hewett McCoy” and, “Dr. Mizra Ahmed Sohrab spoke about the emancipation of Persian women that is currently going on.” In this series we’re revisiting the old column and tying it to our community’s current happenings, asking: “what are people doing?”

Today’s entry…

In the March 6 edition of the Town Crier there was a brief mention of Seattle’s local Composers Society. There was a program that “marked another milestone in the history of this club of talented musicians whose members are doing their part in making the history of music in the Northwest.”

Not to toot our own Town Hall horn too much but we have also done our part in making local music history. Last year, for instance, we were part of a Phillip Glass commission entitled “Perpetulum,” the first piece Glass composed for percussion. Third Coast Percussion gave its Northwest premiere as part of Town Hall’s Town Music Series. “Perpetulum” was nominated for a Grammy Award in the Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance category.

Next up for us on the commission front? Town Hall has commissioned a piece by Judd Greenstein as part of our coming yMusic concert that takes place on Town Hall’s Great Hall on April 8 (tickets are on sale now). Known for his structurally complex, viscerally engaging pieces of music, Greenstein’s compositional voice aligns with the stirring verve of yMusic, who embody the humanity of the music they play. 

The writers of the old Town Crier would undoubtedly be pleased upon hearing that Seattle’s musical history is still being made at Town Hall Seattle.

A Melting Pot of Music

Emily Slider, a local world music aficionado, was in attendance at our most recent Haram Global Rhythms Concert. She was kind enough to send along this review. She’s reviewed Town Hall concerts in the past on the Town Crier and for KEXP.

Photo by Roy Kuraisa

On Sunday, March 1, The Great Hall was a melting pot of Arabic sound. Gordon Grdina was joined by an ensemble of ten musicians, each accomplished in his own right. Unlike previous concerts in the Global Rhythm series, which have included a local and a global performer playing separate and distinct sets, this concert was a collaboration with Gordon Grdina’s ensemble, Haram, featuring Marc Ribot on guitar.

The evening opened with a guitar solo by Ribot, which lured the audience into the captivating sound. On the cue of Grdina, Haram broke into what sounded like a celebratory Klezmer wedding song. The melody tiptoed down descending intervals, dancing its way around the hall. The woodwinds rose in dynamics as every instrument played its own melody or drone, creating a very atonal feel in the midst of this traditional song. To wrap up this first piece, the ensemble quickened its tempo until each instrument was racing the others to the finale of the song. Another song began with Grdina’s ear pressed to the body of his lute as though he were coaxing the precious sound out of its body and sharing a sacred gift with the audience. His fingers flew over the body of the lute, demonstrating his mastery of the instrument.

Each voice in the ensemble had its time to shine on stage, which made for some remarkable solos. The violin, played by Jesse Zubot, opened a piece by dragging the bow lightly across its highest string, creating an eerie atmosphere. He then crept his way up the strings ferociously, creating a string sound reminiscent of Kryzsztof Penderecki’s Polymorphia. During a clarinet solo, Francois Houle, popped his clarinet in half, covering the bottom of the shortened woodwind with his hand. It was as if each player on stage were challenging himself to find every way to evoke the most sound from his instrument. When the group incorporated a call-and-response vocal into the sound, it sounded less like a religious or traditional influence and more like a ska vocal sound. After a traditional Sudanese song, the feedback from an amp was augmented and became a voice onstage. Haram heightened the fuzzy noise until Grdina cut it off and the room fell into silence again.

Haram wove free-form jazz into traditional melodies with ease for the entire evening of music. The members onstage represented ensembles that ranged from anarchist punk to concert hall groomed jazz, and to see so many individual players meld into one sound was striking. Marc Ribot played exquisite solos, yet blended beautifully with the sound of Gordon Grdina and his Haram. The night provided a fascinating, unforgettable contrast between traditional and experimental sound.

 

(Literally) Food for Thought: A Discussion about Conscious Eating with Sophie Egan

We face ethical choices every day, like when we stand in the grocery store line. Is this food good for me? Is it good for others? Is it good for the planet? Health, nutrition, and sustainability expert Sophie Egan will be at Town Hall on March 19 with insight from her new book How to Be a Conscious Eater. She’ll be in conversation with environmental author and journalist Tim Egan. Tickets are on sale now.

Sophie Egan recently sat down Town Hall’s Jonathan Shipley to discuss organic foods, the bulk aisle, and how to carry a couple of cucumbers.

JS: What did you eat as a kid? How ingrained are those habits as we become adults?

SE: Pizza. A lot of pizza. My parents told me I was going to turn into a pizza. I was a picky eater and ate what kids eat: chicken nuggets and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. These sorts of foods become our comfort foods as we grow older. Top Ramen for me. They are given a special status for life. They’re called foods of privilege because they were given to us in our formative years when we felt safe, secured, and loved.

It’s actually about exposure. Kids can eat all sorts of things. There’s a program called 100 foods before one. Kids can eat spicier things than you may think—can eat different textures, different flavors, all sorts of things.

JS: When did you start questioning what you were eating from an ethical perspective?

SE: My own habits have been informed by my work. For over five years, I served as the Director of Health and Sustainability Leadership and Editorial Director for the Strategic Initiatives Group at The Culinary Institute of America. I couldn’t help but start thinking about what I was eating in that role.

The food systems were much more opaque before. Now they’re much more transparent. That’s a good thing, but the pace of the issues we have to contend with has accelerated, from the plastics used in food production to slave labor used in our shrimp supply. There is a lot to be cognizant of, and with all these issues making decisions on what we eat is becoming more and more complex. My hope is that my book helps inform those decisions.

JS: Organic food: is it worth it?

SE: There are two good starting points. The dirty dozen are the foods that have the highest pesticide residues. The clean fifteen are the foods with the least.

JS: For those with limited financial means, what do you suggest at the grocery store?

SE: Eating in ways that are good for the planet tends to be good for people. Plant-based food is good for the planet and less expensive. Compare a bag of lentils versus a pork chop, for instance. You want whole grains? Buy a tub of oats. Wild salmon? Buy canned or frozen. Organic produce? Buy frozen. The bulk food section is a great place to get good food at the best price. You can get your granola there without the packaging and without the marketing.

JS: What simple tips can you give someone going to a grocery store wanting to be a conscious eater?

SE: Labels are confusing. Flip the package over. The front of the packaging is nothing but marketing. The information you need is on the back.

Evaluate foods based on what’s in it (is it healthy?), what’s on it (be cognizant of stickers and claims), and the package itself (what will happen to this package when you’re done?).

JS: You don’t need a plastic bag for your cucumber.

SE: Use a reusable grocery bag and reusable produce bags.

JS: What should meat eaters consider?

SE: First—less is more. Less red meat is better. The red meat you buy most often comes from factory farms, which is incredibly harmful to the planet in a wide variety of ways. When you buy your meat, make sure it’s not factory farmed; that it’s more humanely raised; that it’s got grassfed certification. It was raised on a pasture and not in a factory. 

JS: Aside from personal changes in eating, what can people do to help the planet food-wise?

SE: Speak up to local governments to incorporate food solutions when it comes to climate change. Food is often left out of climate change discussions when it’s a key facet of it. Raise your voice to institutional purchasing. Look at your kids’ school, your workplace, your healthcare provider. Are they being ethically conscious about their food choices?

Want to digest more about conscious eating? Join us on March 19 as Sophie Egan takes the stage with Tim Egan. Tickets are $5 and FREE for anyone under the age of 22.

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