by: Barbara DeMarco-Barrett
BDB: How did you become involved in radio at KUCI?
JH: It was those kids and that darned crazy music. One morning I was dragging myself to my wretched corporate job and happened to catch two half-asleep DJ's talking electronica on 88.9 FM. They were mumbling, cackling, horsing around and playing some good stuff. It sounded like radio had busted out of its room at the Clear Channel asylum and was running about mad in the streets. Pretty soon I was listening all the time, then I heard about the training class.
BDB: Why Politics of Food, a show about food?
JH: About 4% of the population votes. But everybody eats. Food being one of our basest needs, it's one of the most fundamental ways we give away power - but can also get it back.
BDB: Do you have strong opinions as regards food or is it a passing fancy?
JH: A couple of years ago I found a hand-made diary I had kept from when I was 11 years old. I thumbed through it expecting to find details of the boys I had crushes on or the girls I was afraid didn't like me. Instead I mostly wrote about dinner. "Tonight we had spaghetti!!!" or "Uncle Pete brought over Neapolitan ice cream!!!" Not much has changed.
BDB: Who've been some of your guests/subject matter?
JH: One of my first guests, poet Tom Hunley asked, "What is this show and why am I here again?" Food writer Jon Mooallem suggested that sliced apples are the first step on the road to humans being fed directly through tubes. Ok actually I suggested it, but he gave me the idea. Nutritionist British physician Malcolm Kendrick said the cholesterol-heart disease hypothesis is rubbish; he also said, "Not now, honey, I'm on the phone to A-MER-eeca!" when his 12-year-old son walked in the door from school. We asked anthropologist Jason Godesky why we eat what we do; historian Carol Rogers talked about not eating anything at all. We've covered organic standards, livestock labeling, grassroots seed saving, and the hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay. We've heard Sylvia Plath read a poem about mushrooms, and recently the Swedish Chef made an appearance.
BDB: Any food-related shows you especially like, on radio? On TV?
JH: When Americans took Billy Graham's advice in 1992 and stopped having sex, they simply switched to food porn. Me, I'd rather have my own dinner than watch someone else's.
BDB: I've seen articles of yours in OC Weekly. I like your style. Talk about your writing and how that works in concert with your show.
In writing, we talk about "voice," that enigma that arises from an "authentic" core, that you're supposed to dig through 8 feet of dirt and 3 years of graduate school to find. In radio you just open your mouth and there it is. Twenty years of bad posture and low lung capacity, your third generation Norwegian accent that you thought you'd lostů your ego, your nerves, it's all there falling out of your head. Writing for radio I find I have to step aside a bit more, worry less about my own voice and more about listening and flow.
On paper you're essentially having a conversation with yourself; you have time alone to ask questions and sort out what you think are the answers; you can edit, choose the very best and biggest word. Radio is a much more frightening proposition simply because there are other people involved - there is only so much that can be choreographed, which leaves a lot more room for surprises.
And for a reader of the written word, the space between the end of one thought and the beginning of the next is always the same, even if in real time it took the author two hours to connect them. There's a built-in delay. But in radio there are no pardons for mental defect. That is why god invented background music.
BDB: Any plans for a book?
JH: For now I'm corralling some of my more rabid ideas on food at my blog, hereticfig.com. I don't have the attention span for a whole book. But if I did, could I be on Writers on Writing?
BDB: Of course you can! Any shows, music or PA, that inspire you?
JH: My radio soul was formed in college, listening to shows like BBC news, Canada's As It Happens, This American Life, and Terry Gross. I like stories - sometimes they're a more direct way to get at an idea than blandly reporting facts.
BDB: What do you do with downtime?
JH: I obsess about radio. And eat. Often at the same time. I wind up with an excess of calories that must be burned off in fits of biking and climbing. I have an art studio that's feeling neglected now that the Politics of Food has been born, but I hope I can get back to it soon.
BDB: What do you hope listeners glean from your show?
JH: Get that out of your mouth! You have no idea where it's been.
Barbara DeMarco-Barrett is host of "Writers on Writing," Thursdays at 5 p.m. She is also author of Pen on Fire: A Busy Woman's Guide to Igniting the Writer Within (Harcourt, 2004).