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Taking An Ethnographic Approach To Food Consumption With David Moscow

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When was the last time you reflected on the food you are eating? David Moscow has decided to answer this question using an ethnographic approach. He joins Corinna Bellizzi to share the highlights of his book, From Scratch. David discusses how he became closer and more appreciative of food by immersing himself in different cultures. He visited numerous countries to study how they prepare, cook, and consume all kinds of animals and plants. David explains how studying food and its connection to human lives around the world can help build a better future, adopt a healthier diet, and preserve animal welfare. David also talks about his potato adventures in Peru, his insights about the impact of the South China Sea dispute on fishing rights, and the US food industry falling into the jaws of capitalism.


About David Moscow

David Moscow is the creator, executive producer, and host of From Scratch. David made his feature film debut at age thirteen in Big, starring as the young Tom Hanks. Over a thirty-five-year career, he has appeared in dozens of films, television shows, and theater productions. Most recently, David founded the production company UnLTD Pictures. He has executive produced over twenty feature films, including Under the Silver Lake, To Dust, Strawberry Mansion, and Wild Nights with Emily. He also


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Show Notes

0:00 – Introduction

9:39 – Potato Adventures in Peru

21:33 – Meat Consumption and Animal Slaughter

28:42 – Ocean, Fishing Rights, and the South China Sea

35:11 – The Future of Food

42:15 – Food Certifying Bodies

50:06 – From Scratch

56:19 – Conclusion


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Taking An Ethnographic Approach To Food Consumption With David Moscow

We’re going on a global adventure as we connect with an actor, a producer, a sustainable food advocate, and an author David Moscow. David is the creator, executive producer, and host of From Scratch. He made his featured film debut at the young age of thirteen in Big, starring as a young Tom Hanks. Soon after, he starred with Christian Bale in Newsies. He’s appeared in dozens of films, television shows, and theater productions over the years.

He founded the production company UnLTD Pictures. He has executive produced more than 25 feature films, including Under the Silver Lake, To Dust, Strawberry Mansion, and Wild Nights with Emily. He also directed the thriller Desolation. He currently lives in LA with his wife and son and develops mixed-income, sustainably green apartment buildings in New York City. I’m going to want to hear about that too. David Moscow, welcome to the show.

Thank you, Corinna.

As it stands, I’ve been doing some livestreams and press events and getting in person with some interesting founders. I’m encouraged that we’re starting to open the doors and get back out there. I imagine you are also starting to get out there, not only with From Scratch, the book, but filming new episodes of the show as well.

We’re in prep for season three, which is wild because I’m still on a book tour, and we’re still doing press on the book. It is a juggling act. I have a little boy and now a little girl. My son comes in. He’s like, “We should go to Mongolia.” I’m like, “What do you want to do in Mongolia?” It’s nice. I have new teammates who are going to go along on the ride with me. I certainly don’t want to go around the world in 2023 and leave my family at home. I’m going to try and see how we can get them with me as much as possible.

My son keeps asking to go to China now, but I did have a little bit of that FOMO, jealousy, or a bridge of the two going and perusing some of your content online and seeing some of the places you’ve been.

You’re not the only one. There’s a lot of envy out there.

I was reminded of my episode with Chris Kilham, the medicine hunter, and some of the stories that he was telling about interacting with people in less developed parts of the world where the connection to food is more like the childhood that I had where I would go and pick the blackberries from the rim of my horse pasture and get the eggs for my chicken coop. In the world we live in now, so few of us have that experience anymore.

That’s one of the reasons why the book started. There were two things going on when the show and the book germinated. One was we had an election a couple of elections ago where people were targeting Central Americans, Mexicans in particular. Mexicans happen to be the backbone of the US food industry. They produce, serve, and cook most of the meals that we eat.

They’re prejudices. People are freer with how they speak negatively about this entire sector of our society.

It was a bubble that burst. I wanted to go and make a documentary series or a documentary film about how you make a taco and a margarita because I feel like food is inarguable. I also thought that the hard work and the expertise it takes to produce food and bring it to our plates connect the community. That’s what happened. We decided that it would not only be about tacos and margaritas, but we would jump week-to-week to different food cultures around the world to show our hard work and expertise.

That was one side of it. The other side of it is that I had grown distant from the food that I was consuming, and I was unconsciously consuming. I felt like that did a disservice to the animals that I was eating. We did a thumbnail sketch of how many animals. If I ate two a day since I was a kid, there are probably around 35,000 animals that I had eaten. I had never seen them. I hadn’t killed them myself. There was no relationship to that. Not only is it bad for the animals that I was eating but also for the greater environment.

To sustain that amount of animals per person around the world does a lot of damage. Economically, cheap meat does harm people. The people who raise the food don’t get paid enough. I wanted to dive in and look at how I was eating and look at how the world was eating. I felt like it would be an anthropological experiment. We look at the history of food, the future of food, and where we are now. That’s where this show and book came about.

You’re speaking to my heart here. I studied in my undergrad Archeology and Physical Anthropology and did a deep dive into Zooarcheology. I performed a dig in France that was an hour north of Paris in this tiny village called Lagny-Sur-Marne. It was this hunter-gatherer site from the Magdalenian period. It’s 12,500 years old. As we dug into the Earth, what we were unveiling was a butcher camp where they would intercept the migratory path of the reindeer that were crossing the Oise River, and because the Oise River had these gently sloping banks, the water each year would slowly flood and put a layer of silt over everything that had been left behind.

It’s incredibly preserved. The site had been dug at the time I was there every year since 1976 in the middle of this wheat field. We would get down to the level. It looked like these hunter-gatherers left. They just got out of here. You could see where they had prepared the animal meats. You could find jewelry works stations, herds, fire pits, and things like that.

Part of my quest has always been to get back to this more direct relationship with food. I grew up on a somewhat hippie-ish commune in two households next door to one another for my first few formative years. We had animals. After we moved from that location to another one, my dad still raised rabbits and chickens for food. We had asparagus, strawberries, and some other fruiting plants and vegetables that I can recall but not necessarily name. One of them was rhubarb. It might have been chard.

There were all these things that we did to stay closely connected to food and also probably save money while being able to live a little differently. For me, that was such a great service from my parents, but now, I struggle to help my children engage with food the same way. Your book is inspiring me to want to get out there with my kids and help them explore food.

You talk about the potato and bring it from Peru to Utah. The reason I wanted to touch on that is I always envisioned, “There are 30 or more different types of potato that all originate in Peru. It’s not the most nutrient-dense food, but there are some potatoes that are better for you than others.” I didn’t expect the story to land me in Utah. Can you talk about that a little bit?

There are 4,000, and 2,500 of those are from Peru. They are the genetic basis for the majority of the others. We have developed another 1,500 potatoes based on the original 2,500 from Peru. There is a separate species in the Southwest US. It probably came from Central America. I worked with the Navajo or the Dine. That’s what they call themselves. The Navajo is what the Spanish called them. This was a fundamental food for them.

When they were forced off their land and onto reservations, this food was taken from them but what’s interesting about it is there was a great restaurant in Utah called Utah. It’s at this neat hotel called the Lodge at Blue Sky. We went up there to work with this chef, Galen Zamarra, who wants to use local products in his meals. We did this trout piscator and then harvested acorns to make acorn bread. He was like, “This would pair well with this potato that the Dine is growing, but that had disappeared for a while.”

I went down and met with the Dine and a couple of professors from the University of Utah who had, in essence, all rediscovered this potato. Similar to your story in France, there is a site in Escalante Valley that has been lived in and around for 70,000 years at various times by different groups. It’s at the base of a cliff. They were digging it out. They found these metates, which are grinding stones. On it, they found carbohydrates, which they thought were going to be seeds or seed base, but it turned out that it was a starch.

The professor was like, “What is this?” They did eat acorns in Utah. This is something else I learned when I was making acorn bread. If you took all of the foods humans have eaten across time, put them on the table, and piled them in relation to each other, acorns would by far be the largest pile of food on that table. That’s what has sustained humanity more than any other individual ingredient.

[bctt tweet=”If you take all of the food humans have eaten across time and put them on a table according to their relation to each other, acorns would have the largest pile.” via=”no”]

They don’t taste great. I’ve never gotten to the point of making the cakes, but I’ve seen the preparation.

It’s time-consuming. It’s a pain in the butt, but not if you have an acorn party and get everybody to help you.

That’s how people make tamales. They do a tamale party.

There are pasteles on the East Coast. What I wanted to do was get an acorn. I can’t do it on my show. I just do it by myself, which is sad. In this case, the two professors are married to each other. Elizabeth was the one who was looking at the site. Her husband, Bruce, was walking around and hanging out while she was doing her work. Not 100 yards from where the metates were, he passed this little ground-covered plant. He was like, “That’s a potato.”

When I saw it, I was like, “How the heck?” He got down there and unearthed it. We know the russet and the big Idaho potatoes. These are tiny marbles of nuggets of flavor. They don’t cook them. It’s a lot to cook them down. They feel some give there. He went back to her and said, “This is your starch.” Like good scientists, they sat there and argued all through the night over a glass of wine. In the morning, they agreed that this was likely what that starch was.

Once they realized it might have been a potato, they looked back through the history of the valley and realized that around the Civil War, soldiers were calling it Potato Valley. Prior to that, there were records not written down but tall tales told by Mormon settlers there. They survived on potatoes. Going back and meeting with the Dine, the elders and the grandparents have rumors that their grandparents talked about a potato. That potato is likely older than the Peruvian potato. They’re not related. They grew separately. It is likely the oldest domesticated plant in the United States.

It’s such a mind-blowing moment for me because understanding what it takes to figure out what plant something was from this historical perspective, they look at the patina or the finish on a stone tool or the mortar and pestle style thing that you’re talking about where they would grind it right into the rock using some other hand implement. You end up seeing these depressions of the stone that don’t look quite natural but might if water had been there or if there had been an eddy or something carving something for a long time. It’s created by using it like a mortar and pestle.

They can determine certain things from that. If they’re able to get any sequence off of it at all, they can tell that a starch might have been there, but they won’t be able to necessarily pinpoint it unless they were somehow able to find it preserved. Doing that with something like a potato is not going to happen. I don’t know of any archeological record that has been able to unearth a potato from 12,000 years ago.

In this case, it was because 100 yards from the site, they found the plant.

It’s growing there.

The universe was shining down on them. Talking to them about it, what a joyous moment it was for them. They knew that they had made a real discovery. I couldn’t harvest from that site because it’s an important area. They took me to another site. This is where the domesticated aspect comes in. There are lots of plants that were used but to move with the plant and plant it someplace else means that is now domesticated. It looks like the Dine we’re bringing it up from New Mexico and Arizona and planting it in Utah, Colorado and Nevada. Thus, it was domesticated, which was incredible. We made this wonderful meal.

What does this potato taste like?

It’s nutty. Potato is a hard taste to describe because it’s potato. Some things may taste like potatoes, but potatoes don’t taste like anything else unless you add a lot of butter and salt.

It’s a texture and sometimes more than a flavor too.

In this case, there is a little nuttiness to it because it is tight. It doesn’t get mushy. It’s got a nice pop to it when you bite into it. It can be roasted closer to being a bean or a nut. The Dine is now harvesting and growing it. It’s back. They’re selling it to fancy restaurants, but you can also purchase it online. When I got back home, I bought a bunch and planted them in my mother-in-law’s garden. We cook them now.

I highly recommend them with some salt. You should cook them in clay. This is another thing that’s very interesting about potatoes. Wild potatoes are borderline poisonous. Historically, in Peru, when you cooked wild potatoes, you would wrap them in edible clay and put them on the fire. When they came out, you would eat it that way and ingest some of the clay as well, which was good for your digestion.

CMBB 122 | Ethnographic Approach
Ethnographic Approach: Historically, when cooking wild potatoes in Peru, you would wrap them in edible clay and put them in the fire. When they come out, you would eat it directly, with the clay helping digestion.

You’re talking about an unfinished clay pot.

You took choco clay in Peru. We did this when we were in Peru working with potatoes as well because we were using Incan varieties that were 500 to 600 years old. We would wrap them in this digestible clay. You cook it almost like a ball of clay in the fire. You take it out, knock off the clay, and eat it, but some of the clay sticks to it. I don’t know the science behind this, but I imagine we evolved alongside this. That clay is now healthy for us to digest.

Bentonite clay, which is often used in filtration processes, is a very fine clay. It can bind to heavy metals and things like that to remove them from your system. I could see why. It’s similar to why some people would consume charcoal if they’re concerned with something in their gut that’s not doing well, if they’re feeling ill or something like that.

What’s cool is that not only did it happen in Peru, but at the same time, the Native Americans were not wrapping these potatoes in clay because they were too small. They were cooking them in clay pots. The potato chapter is one of my favorites. Being able to go to cook with Virgilio Martinez. His restaurant Central won the second-best restaurant in the world in 2021. He does a tasting menu that has seventeen courses. It’s altitudinal. It starts in Peru. The first meal is on the coast. He goes up 1,000 feet into the Andes. For the next one, there are another 1,000. He goes up to the top of the Andes and goes back down to the Amazon on the other side. Each little taste is a magical and crazy dish.

I’m jealous again. I decided to get a Guinea pig documentary to watch with my children. It all of a sudden goes to South America and starts talking about how Guinea pigs are a food source. The next clip is a Guinea pig roasted on a stick. My child’s eyes got big. I’m sure he was momentarily traumatized. I’m having to say, “Honey, some animals were first raised for food and then would become pets. A lot of it depends on the region that you’re in.”

“You need something that’s a protein source that isn’t going to require a lot of nutrition when you’re at these high elevations. They have evolved alongside humans the way dogs have evolved alongside humans. We don’t eat dogs, at least not in this culture.” He’s like, “People in some other cultures eat dogs?” I said, “Let’s not talk about this.”

I am a matacuy. A cuy is a Guinea pig in Peru. Mata is the person who kills them. I had to make a meal with Guinea pigs. I ate a lot of Guinea pigs while I was there, particularly because it’s a way that people show you respect and honor when you come and visit their home. They slaughter their Guinea pigs, and you have a big feast. Anytime I was working with subsistence farmers like quinoa farmers or potato farmers, they would bring me into their house, and we would eat Guinea pigs. For a meal at a restaurant there, cuy was on the menu. I like your kids had a Guinea pig as a child. It was a pet. This was a traumatizing moment for me as well. Probably the hardest animal slaughter I had to do on the episode of the season was that poor Guinea pig up in Peru.

Kudos to you for doing it. I’ve never had to by my hand kill an animal. That would be very hard. My father and my family raised rabbits for food. They weren’t nice cuddly rabbits. They were in the cages outside. If you tried to pet them, they would bite you, and it would hurt a lot.

You were okay with them eating those rabbits.

I never saw it. They were dispatched. Suddenly, they were now part of the enchiladas we would have or the stew. My mom’s favorite thing to make with them was enchiladas. Being someone who studied French, traveled to France, and did an archeology dig there, a regional food there is rabbit. They aren’t that different from Guinea pigs. I imagine they taste the same though I’ve never eaten one.

A rabbit is a little better than a Guinea pig.

You’re speaking from experience.

Do you still eat meat?

I still eat some.

Across the two seasons that we have done, I feel like it’s an important thing for our people, not to be hypocritical, to slaughter an animal if you’re going to be eating meat because it’s important. In the face of that, I have reduced my consumption of meat an incredible amount knowing the end of that is a living being that has sentience and language. We killed a pig, and pigs are the smartest farm animal. That was a tough thing.

[bctt tweet=”For people not to be hypocritical, they must experience how to actually slaughter an animal if they are eating meat.” via=”no”]

Bringing this new consciousness back into my home, meat is now not at the center of every meal. It wasn’t dinner unless there was an animal on the plate before. Now, it’s different in my house. We eat meat rarely. It’s a special event. My kid and his friends at school decided they were going to be vegan. That’s because of the Disneyfication of animals. He doesn’t want to eat piglets now. We’re trying that for him.

My older son is eight. He says he’s a vegan, but then he will be eating pork and say, “This is vegan.”

He doesn’t quite understand it yet.

This is an important discussion that we all need to have because our relationship with food has become so divorced. Getting a little closer to it, whether it be fishing, raising animals, or being involved in their dispatch in some way, is healthy. It’s personally not something I have sought out. I have been present for the sacrificial-style dispatching of a goat that was spit-roasted at a Pow Wow that was multiple days up in the Oregon forests when I grew up there.

At a formative age, witnessing this whole thing from start to finish is probably somewhat reminiscent of some of your journeys where you’re preparing an animal in a more traditional way. In this case, it was very much a celebration. It was the summer solstice. It was around this time when everyone was coming together and sharing in this celebration, but I also did find it somewhat traumatizing at six years old.

That’s important.

It’s important to respect where it comes from.

There’s a reason why Americans in particular have moved away from butcher shops where the animals are hanging in the windows. We want our meat wrapped in plastic, so we don’t have to deal with this. The companies want you to have your meat wrapped in plastic because they don’t want you to question whether you’re going to eat it or not. They want you to drive up to the drive-through window, take the paper bag out, put that in your mouth and not think about what this is.

In the larger way, conscious consumption of our food in the face of everyone wanting us to eat more all the time so we can keep this economy going is a huge thing for us. In the end, when you start peeling the onion of the questions around food, at the heart of it is, “Will humanity survive?” Unless we consciously consume and turn this boat around in some way, the answer is no.

We were talking before we started this about the oceans. You come from the fish world, the seafood world, or as my mother likes to call it, the sea life world. She thinks if we change how we frame the animals in the ocean, we shouldn’t call them seafood, but we should call them sea life. That might change the way we view them if we’re down to save them. A couple of the chapters in our book, and I see it all the time on the show, are about the total collapse of the oceans. I was in the Mediterranean going after a shellfish there. The Mediterranean was never a fertile sea.

It’s beautiful.

I’m in the middle of watching White Lotus on HBO. I want to go to Sicily. We were down there diving for scallops. In Istria, we were harvesting clams. It was never a very fertile sea. It doesn’t have any major rivers that go into it that renew it. It has been hammered by 28 countries for 10,000 years. It’s the tragedy of the commons. A couple of years ago, Italy said, “We’re overfishing the Adriatic side. Let’s pull back.” Croatia was like, “Italy is pulling back. We will jump in there.” In the next twenty years, the Mediterranean is going to be empty.

A similar thing is going on in the South China Sea. We went to the Philippines. I was making patis, which is a fish sauce. It’s a fundamental ingredient in Filipino cooking. We were using it to make a Philippine ceviche called kilawin. I went out on a boat or this bangka, which is a famous outrigger with two canoes on the side and a thin metal boat in the middle.

We went out all night far and didn’t catch anything. In my mind, I was like, “I don’t have fish to bring back for my chef to make this for the episode,” but I asked the fisherman, “Was this common?” He said that his grandfather used to get a ton of fish, and then his dad got a couple of hundred pounds of fish. He goes out longer and further and sometimes comes back with nothing.

When we dove into the research around this, it turns out that 1/3 of the fishing boats in the world are in the South China Sea. It has lost 70% of its fish in the last few years. There is a territorial dispute among the 8 or 9 countries that are there about whose rights this sea is. China is building islands close to the Philippines so that they can call all of this their territory. It’s all for fish.

[bctt tweet=”One-third of the fishing boats in the world is in the South China Sea. However, it has lost 70% of its fish in the last 20 years.” via=”no”]

The hard thing is that because everybody is disputing the territories and everyone’s hackles are raised, and World War III could break out there over ocean territory, nobody was able to reach across the dispute and say, “I know you think this is your ocean. I think this is my ocean, but unless we work together collaboratively to save this ocean, there’s not going to be anything for anybody.”

It’s done.

There are positive things coming out of it. This relates to something that I heard in your opening, which was how we and our wallets could affect change. The Philippines and other places in the world have been working with marine protected areas where they designate a certain area that you can’t fish in. When the fish reproduce enough and then overflow outside of that, you can fish the outside. About 30% of the oceans would need to be marine protected for this to work. Now we’re at about 1%. We’ve got a long way to go.

CMBB 122 | Ethnographic Approach
Ethnographic Approach: Only 30% of the world’s oceans must be protected from fishing and dedicated to reproduction. But right now, only about 1% is being covered.

To that point, they need 30% of the waters that could potentially flourish too, not just, “We will set aside the 30% that are dead seas at this point anyway.”

I feel like it’s not only that they need to designate it, but it needs to not just be on paper. There needs to be government backing. There need to be protections. The local peoples need to have buy-in on that. That means that you need to have economics. You need to pay people not to fish for a little while. You need to make sure that they have alternative careers that you can start.

One of the positive things about a marine protected area is that it can become a tourist destination. The corals come back. Governments need to get behind this. The Philippines is starting to. The reason why is the EU has voted that they will only purchase sustainably caught fish. The Philippines wants to sell to the EU. The Philippines is developing marine protected areas in consort with universities and nonprofit organizations. Local governments would buy from local people so they could sell sustainable fish to Europeans.

As Americans who consume the most of any country on the planet, if we can push for sustainably raised foods, humanely raised foods, and foods that are produced by paying people a living wage, we can have a real effect on how things are grown and consumed. The Philippines is a possible solution to the problem that we see everywhere.

To your point, as we look at this overall picture, what we do see is places where people are following Michael Pollan’s recommendation mostly plants, and then start to look at proteins from animals as a side dish or something small. If you think about Asian cuisine, it’s something that’s mixed into the stir fry but it’s not the primary portion. To change and adapt how we think about our food sources, there have been movements even to do things like look at crickets as a protein source because they can be humanely dispatched simply by freezing them.

They automatically go into their slumber, and moments later, they’re dead. It’s quite simple, but I don’t know many people who have tried crickets or even the cricket proteins that have been on the market. We aren’t as likely to want to go to them as food sources, at least automatically. If we are to consider the future of food when we aren’t looking to the ocean, I have a couple of things to say about that. I spent ten years working in the fish oil industry.

I’ve spent a fair amount of time in Arctic Norway working with people from Scandinavia, where fishing is so endemic in the culture that they can’t picture a world without fish in any way. This is what you do. You consume these fish that are part of the culture. They have fish roe in tubes that look like toothpaste tubes. They have canned fish. They have fish in all these different preparations, whether they’re pickled or dried and then reconstituted like the Spanish bacalao, which is simply dried cod.

It’s salted cod.

It’s salted in the marine air. They don’t even salt it when they set it out to dry. They hang it out on these things that look like skeleton tepees in a way.

There is the idea of crickets as a future food source. In a way, if we don’t change our habits now, that’s something that we will have to look at, but we have the capability. Talking about Scandinavia, Finland, Iceland, and Norway were all at the precipice of wiping out the North Atlantic fish stocks. They figured it out. Iceland knows how to manage its fish stocks in a way that they’re all doing well. That only changed as late as the ’80s. They were wiping out the cod. In the ’70s, they almost wiped out the herring, but they changed it. We have the capability. We’re not at the point yet where we have to eat crickets.

I talk to people who talk, “The population is too much.” Frankly, the West is declining in population and the areas where there is population growth. Africa is very underpopulated compared to many other places in the rest of the world. We have the capability, with the technology and the knowledge that we have now, to feed the planet. The main issue is that we are wasting a ton for capitalism’s sake. Everyone is racing to get as much first.

This is a controversial idea, but part of that waste is our waistlines because we over-consume. We consume more than we need.

America is hurting itself. We are hurting our health with how much we over-consume, but we have the knowledge. If we become more thoughtful about it, we can fix this. That’s one of the things I saw across all twenty episodes. I left the Philippines. The destruction of the South China Sea is putting pressure on the fishing communities in the villages. Those people are then moving to Manila, destabilizing Manila because there are a lot of people there. There are no infrastructure and jobs. There are a lot of poor people moving to Manila. Crime rates go up, like alcoholism and drug use.

Suddenly, you start electing fascists and dictators, destabilizing the country. That’s what we have seen over the last few years in the Philippines. If you go to Iceland instead, Iceland has a different problem. They were able to figure out how to save their fish stocks. That was by giving everybody a catch limit or a permit. Every man, woman, child, and the company has an amount that they’re allowed to fish. The negative that they did was those fish permits could be bought and sold in a marketplace like the stock market, in essence, pun intended.

Those permits drifted up into the pockets of about 8 to 10 families who now own all the fishing rights in all of Iceland, which also emptied the coasts because these families want everything to be concentrated. They don’t want to have fishing villages all over. They were like, “The boats go out here. They come back here. Everything is processed in this one place.” After the economic collapse in ’08, the Icelanders voted to have a new constitution. What’s wild is this was a crowdsourced constitution, which worked.

Part of what they wanted was that the fish stocks would be nationalized again, and they wouldn’t be owned by these eight families. The constitution worked well. An overwhelming majority, or 70% to 80% of the country, voted to ratify the constitution. It was never ratified. It’s still sitting there waiting because congress won’t meet around it because these eight families are still fighting to own the fish rights even though the rest of the country said, “We’re going to change the way we own these.” You can rent from us, but it will still be the property of the state.

No country is politically perfect. Let’s put it that way.

The closest you get is Finland. I have a great chapter in the book about Finland. It’s an amazing place. There are some niggling issues there, but generally, they’re doing things right around food, their society, and how they see nature. It’s a pretty awesome place.

There are companies out there that are certifying specific fish as being sustainably sourced. They will say things like, “Look for the blue label of the Marine Stewardship Council or Friends of the Sea-certified.” I have some reservations about these certifying bodies, especially after spending the time to watch a film called Seaspiracy. I was already aware of some of the challenges.

Is that on Netflix?

It was on Netflix. It did feature the Sea Shepherd, which is no longer affiliated with Captain Paul Watson. Captain Paul Watson has an interesting relationship with the Scandinavian people because he tries to thwart efforts to whale, and they still like to whale. You see in that detail some of the challenges around these certifying bodies because they don’t regulate. They just observe. It’s not like they have patrols out there that are policing whether or not these areas are fished. To your earlier point where you have different countries vying for a particular area, fish stock, or any resource stock, then you will have some piracy.

You will have people coming in illegally and fishing for the fish they’re working to get. You have the situation where the local fishermen are having to go further out and brave bigger oceans and bigger waters to try and find the food source that can feed their families and provide some livelihood. We’re in a position, place, and time where we do need the Captain Paul Watsons who are going to be out there fighting the good fight and putting their vessels out there to police these waters and try to instill some regulatory system to prevent the bad actors from taking hold and then ruining it for everybody.

It’s a big moment in time. I go back. Will humanity exist? We need to be talking about major structural changes. I went down to Costa Rica. Costa Rica is another positive story. What would your country look like if you didn’t have a military or weren’t spending over half of your economy fighting and killing people? What would you do with that? Costa Rica is an amazing example of positive things. It’s the most successful Central American country by far, literacy-wise and health-wise.

There are a lot of ex-pats that are moving down there, including Dr. Paul Saladino, who is trying to put this carnivore diet out there, which is probably the reverse of what either you or I would advocate for.

I don’t know what that is.

It’s a new thing to not consume plants.

Is it like Atkins?

It’s eating organ meats raw from animals and choosing only grass-fed or naturally-fed animals. There’s responsible husbandry in the middle of this thought process.

They’re mostly eating just meat.

It’s healthier meats but mostly meat. There are no vegetables and some fruit or the fruiting bodies of things because we’re intended to eat these but not the types that are considered nightshade. There are no potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants, and all that. Their diet to me seems like one of the most boring things you could consider. They also don’t want you to even use certain spices with the meats like pepper, some other interesting herbs, and things like that. I’m like, “This diet would be the most terrible and most boring.”

I love food.

I love food too.

Why ruin food? As a parent, all I have is food and sleep. Leave me something.

There are things that they will eat outside of that, at least the Paul Saladinos of the world. He’s a medical doctor. He’s reporting all these health outcomes from this. Solving people’s metabolic challenges is at the center of it, and some autoimmune issues, which I’m sure in the short term, would be true, but I’m sure you could also address it in other ways by moving through your diet in a less carnivore-intensive way.

Cut back the over-consumption. Go out and take a walk. We were in Kenya. For the Maasai or nomadic pastoralists, about 50% of their diet is local grasses and plants, and about 50% is blood and dairy. There are no heart attacks, cholesterol problems, and cancer. It’s because of this nomadic pastoralism where they’re walking all day and not over-consuming. They’re not walking around at 70 degrees all the time. In our lives, this goes to a larger discussion. The more we make things easier for ourselves, the worse it is for our bodies. Do you remember the movie WALL-E where everyone is lying around in those things, sucking and floating? That’s where we’re moving toward.

There’s Idiocracy, the film. Those two things are seeming more like reality.

WALL-E is the worst possible thing we can do to ourselves. Turn your thermostat down, stop eating as much, and go out for a walk. We know the answers at this point.

I live and work in this space. I’ve taken a bridge away from fish because of my concern for the health of our oceans and the rising acidity. We could talk more deeply about that on another show I host when I invite you to come on Nutrition Without Compromise because we could dive in there. I am thrilled that your show is getting airtime and that you have this book out there because these are the conversations that we need to be having. We need to be thinking about our relationship with food. I need to take off a few pounds. I’ve been thinking about my consumption of everything from, “If I’m drinking wine, what went into the production of that wine? What waste is the bottle that I’m putting into the recycle bin?”

I’m trying to think through all of these things and get to a space where I am reducing my consumption overall and drinking more water instead of going to Starbucks and picking up something that tastes good. To your point, we need to get more comfortable with discomfort like my daily hikes with my dog and getting outside even if it’s raining and putting a big coat on to enjoy the fact that it’s raining because we’re in California. It doesn’t rain enough here.

Take it in. That’s our one weather change. That’s winter. We get wet. I miss the East Coast and the snow. Anytime it gets cloudy and gray here, I get pretty excited.

I want to give your book my full endorsement. I’m going to read the full title to everybody, From Scratch: Adventures in Harvesting, Hunting, Fishing, and Foraging on a Fragile Planet. I would love to know from you if you could share with our audience the best ways that you want them to find this book, whether it be on your website or whatnot, and also any news you can share about From Scratch the TV show and how they can find it.

CMBB 122 | Ethnographic Approach
From Scratch: Adventures in Harvesting, Hunting, Fishing, and Foraging on a Fragile Planet

You can go to, but it’s also at your local bookstores and on Amazon. We became a national bestseller, which is so exciting. We didn’t expect it. We were the number one travel book in the country when we came out. We got a book deal for a number two. I co-wrote this with my father because he’s a writer on the show with me.

He studied anthropology. That’s his background. He did a lot of research. I’m out on the road. I’ll be like, “We found out about this. Can you dive in?” He would come back. It was a magical experience to write it with my dad. It’s fun to be able to call him up every morning and be like, “You didn’t send me that email that you said last night. Can you please send it to me?” The tables have turned.

It has been an amazing experience. We’re going on this book tour together. We will be in the South. We’re doing Austin, NOLA, Miami, DC, Louisville, and Nashville at the beginning of 2023. You can check it out at your local bookstores, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and There’s a lot of aside from the dire warnings of the end of the world. There are amazing adventures in there.

I hike to the top of the Andes and go into the Amazon to make chocolate. I dive in Iceland for scallops and uni. I hang out with the Maasai across Kenya, making this phenomenal goat dish. There are a lot of fun and interesting people that I meet along the way. One of the things also about the book is I’m not an expert, but I talk to a ton of experts. I let them speak through the pages. There’s a lot to learn there.

I’ve been going page by page. I’m at page 94. I was so tempted to jump ahead to your chapter on Iceland because I work for an Iceland company called VAXA Technologies. I’ve worked to commercialize their omega-3s from algae as Orlo Nutrition. I spent a long time selling fish oil, specifically cod liver oil. That chapter is titled Cod, Scallop, and Salt: Iceland. I will get there by the time I bring you on to Nutrition Without Compromise.

Iceland is a magical place. It’s probably the most dynamic environmentally and weather-wise I’ve ever been. It was wild. There’s a neat history there. A lot of their food and energy choices came from the fact that when the Norse first got there, they chopped down all the trees. There was no energy.

It’s to make all the ships that they might need.

They almost died out. In Greenland, they did die out, but in Iceland, they figured out a way to survive. We dive into that in the book. It has to do with food.

I’m looking forward to it. When you come this way up to Northern California or if I find myself down in your neck of the woods, I’m going to bring my book and have you John-Hancock it in person because this came directly from your PR agents. I’ve so enjoyed it thus far. Thank you for coming to the show.

I would love to hear what you think when you’re done. Let me know.

I’ll write a review for you. This is a note for everybody here too. If you have bought a book that you love, please, for the author, write a review on Goodreads, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. Those three spaces are all critically important for a book’s success, especially if it hasn’t yet reached the bestsellers list like yours have, because otherwise, people won’t discover it.

The more reviews we get, the better the algorithms post us higher on each of those websites.

Suddenly, you can have a book that might not have gotten legs because it didn’t have a ton of press behind it appear in front of somebody who needed to read that information. If you love a book, write a review. I would also say that for the podcasts you listen to. If you love a podcast, write a review on Apple Podcast, Stitcher, wherever you listen, and even Spotify. These days, you can tap on it and give it five stars. That can be its own form of payment. If nothing else that makes the host of the show or the person that’s putting it on feel good. If you like the show, please do that for us too. Thank you so much for joining me, David. Are there any closing thoughts or anything you want to say before we part?

This was lovely. You have the other show that you’ve invited me to. I can’t wait to chat with you there.

That will be amazing.

I’ll give you five stars on Spotify.

I love that too. This has probably been one of my favorite episodes of the show ever. I had intended to ask a couple of more questions to David Moscow about some resources I’ve found over the years, like Ethan Welty’s, but I’m going to go ahead and save those for the next time that we get to connect on Nutrition Without Compromise because as it stands, I could have talked to him for hours. This is such an important topic for all of us to think about as we seek to build a better world.

We want to be connected to food, family, and our love for adventure. We want to be able to explore the world and try new things. I believe that the book From Scratch helps you do that and think about what you might want to do differently. It helps you think about the places you might want to visit and the adventures you might want to inspire for your loved ones, your family, and everybody in your life that you hold in value.

I want to say how much I have appreciated his time and effort. I’m looking for that show. I know it will be available in the coming months in other places beyond simply You can find some clips of him on YouTube. I’ve seen a few other interviews where he tells his stories, and he has so many more to tell. Thank you, readers, now and always for being a part of this show and this community because together, we can do so much more. We can care more, we can be better, and we can even get more connected to our food and create a better future. Thank you.


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  • David Moscow

    David Moscow is the creator, executive producer, and host of From Scratch. David made his feature film debut at age thirteen in Big, starring as the young Tom Hanks. Over a thirty-five-year career, he has appeared in dozens of films, television shows, and theater productions. Most recently, David founded the production company UnLTD Pictures. He has executive produced over twenty feature films, including Under the Silver Lake, To Dust, Strawberry Mansion, and Wild Nights with Emily. He also directed the thriller Desolation.

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