On “Food Talk with Dani Nierenberg,” Washington Post columnist and James Beard Award–winning writer Tamar Haspel talks about the uncomfortable public discourse that inspires her unconventional writing. “We should try to get more comfortable with discomfort. If we’re talking about an issue on the ground, about agriculture, about feeding people, why should that be uncomfortable? It should be productive, it should be interesting. But it has to be kind,” says Haspel.
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Haspel’s column Unearthed attempts to cut through divisive food-policy debates, creating a platform for people to not only express their opinions, but also learn from experts on biotech, pesticides, antibiotics, nutrition, and more. However, Haspel notes she has seen the discourse around these topics change over her 20–year career. “People are retiring to their ‘camps,’ putting themselves amongst like-minded people, and not only just pushing their own agendas, but lashing out at the people against them. The conversation in this sphere is a little bit disturbing,” says Haspel. “If we can’t talk to each other about how to feed people, what hope is there for public discourse?”
As a writer and life-long learner, Haspel looks forward to participating in these divisive debates, even in dialogue with dissenting readers. “One of the biggest reasons this is important for me on a personal level is that it helps me examine my own bias,” says Haspel. “When somebody persuades me that I am wrong, I owe them a tremendous debt of gratitude […] So I actively go out and look for occasions to change my mind,” explains Haspel.
Haspel hopes young leaders and journalists will seek out occasions for change, cutting across camps of thought and using disagreement as a tool for productivity in agriculture and nutrition. “The more we are exposed to people who disagree with us and the more we have people in the room who aren’t in our tribe, the more opportunity we have to change our minds,” says Haspel.
Photo courtesy of Tamar Haspel.