Five Questions For: Robyn Metcalfe, Director of Food+City at UT-Austin

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if we did this? Life is much more interesting in that moment of discovery.

This also just made me be really comfortable with risk. If you cross the desert, you could die. Of course you could die. But whatever, you could die walking across the street to the Whole Foods—and what an inglorious way to go.

X: You’ve trained as a butcher, had a farm to promote heritage breeds. You taught European history, are a desert distance runner. What is the common thread among all these endeavors?

RM: Being curious about a whole ton of stuff. All these things that appear to be disconnected are connected in fun and exciting ways. Something that happens in history is connected to something that might happen tomorrow. If you discover how we farmed in the 18th century, you can learn where a lot of the farming knowledge came today. It’s really context that’s the big thing.

I see it all the time, not to denigrate anybody who’s good in any one thing. But you have to give up something. Sometimes it’s learning how to spell, learning how to write, knowing culturally what the backgrounds are you’re working with are. I teach a class, how to think like a food historian. We brought a breakfast taco to the class and took it apart. There are 15 different stories in that one object.

What I’d love to see is more people critically thinking about the world around them. Part of that is both being curious and also being able to draw on a broader understanding of the world. If you’re an engineer and you can manage to study the classics, it makes you a much better engineer, for example. If you read the classics and find by reading “The Meditations of St. Augustine,” all these bits and pieces about leadership and grace and what’s important in life. All of those are qualities of character [that] would enrich an engineer in terms of the interaction with their ideas. You need both art and science in the same breath.

X: What career advice do you give to new college grads?

RM: That whole thing about follow your passion? I’m not going to give that advice. Move forward with some humility. Your life is made up of multiple chapters. You might just decide what you’re going to be for the next moment, or the next year. Don’t fret about it for the rest of your life. You change as a person across so much time, and you make different … Next Page »

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