Food for the Brain


Architect and food urbanist Carolyn Steel shows how modern cities have been shaped by food.
Malcolm Gladwell tells you why spaghetti sauce is a metaphor for happiness.
Self-proclaimed anti-foodie Fred Kaufman explores the extremes and excesses of our love affair with our stomachs.

It’s a far cry from the Food Network.

If you’re not already watching online lectures, you are in for a treat. Every aspect of food is dissected, studied, discussed, and celebrated by some of the world’s most inspired thinkers, writers, creators, performers, and policy makers. If you’re already a fan, I’ll point you toward the best of what’s out there.

As foodies, we are distinguished by our seemingly limitless capacity for all things food. We are curious, nostalgic, and hedonistic. We reflect on past meals and anticipate those in the future—and can do so while we are enjoying the current meal.

The range of online resources suits our appetites: there are food lectures on topics of sustainability, science, politics, health and nutrition, economics, and cultural issues. There is entertainment value and scholarliness. It’s all out there; so dig in.

Some of the best:

How about a 14-session kitchen chemistry course that uses Harold McGee’s On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen as its accompanying text? It’s available through the MIT Open Courseware project.

Judith Jones, Julia Child’s longtime publisher and editor, lets you know what Julia would have thought of Meryl Streep’s portrayal of her on film. The talk took place at this year’s Boston Book Festival.

Cookbook author and New York Times columnist Mark Bittman gives us a good talking to in a TED Talk, telling us what’s wrong with what we eat.

The historical significance of the potato, the ethics of selling dairy products in contemporary China; it’s all covered in the Edible History of Humanity.

Kosher Hollywood is a smart and entertaining lecture, with (heavy on Woody Allen) film clips, that looks at screen portrayals of the food-centered Jews.

You’ll find more lectures on a variety of food-related topics that they don’t go near on television:

TED Talks are always edgy, thought-provoking, and forward-leaning. Everyone from Michael Pollan to Jamie Oliver to Ann Cooper, the renegade lunch lady, has stepped up to the TED podium.

Free University Lectures Online has links to thousands of classroom lectures that are posted online. goes beyond academia to stream talks from book tours, museums, and public lecture series.


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One Response to Food for the Brain

  1. Monet says:

    Yes! I’m always looking for new lectures to download online, and you know I love all things food related. I’m sending this to my husband so we can pick out a few to listen together tomorrow! Thank you so much for sharing. I hope you have a lovely Friday!

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