My Brain (Was) on Guacamole


Food and the beauty of food are two things that are constantly on my mind. Naturally, when it came time for our first Echo editorial meeting to happen, I wanted to pitch an article that was somehow related to food. Without a concrete plan or anything I was really attached to, I informed my editorial classmates that I wanted to write a food story.


Sharon—our fearless leader and professor extraordinaire—just so happened to show us a one-page dissection feature in a copy of Wired. “What if you did a food dissection piece? What if you did, I don’t know, something like ‘Your Brain on Guacamole’?” she asked. We hashed the idea out some more, and the consensus was that a food dissection with a neurological element would be a strong pitch. We dubbed it, literally, “Your Brain on Guacamole.”

A part of me genuinely enjoys neurology, psychology and everything there is to learn about the human mind. It’s so complex; it has so many nooks and crannies full of inner-working systems that keep us standing upright day in and day out. So, from there, I started researching appropriate psychological and neurological sources that could help me further dissect what happens in our brains while eating guacamole. Once a couple of science folks responded to my interview requests and agreed to help me out, it was time to dive right in. Looking back on this now, I probably should’ve prepared myself with some basic brain logistics so as to keep up with the scholars I’d be chatting with. In the moment, though, my journalistic senses were at peak curiousness and I wanted these neurologists to explain to me what was up, hoping that they would speak in the most plebeian terms possible.

I embarked on my first phone call. This first source requested that I read a book before our interview—Neurogastronomy: How the Brain Creates Flavor and Why It Matters by Gordon Shepherd, published in 2012, paperback, 288 pages—so logically I went to Google Books and Amazon and peeped at the highest amount of free pages I could see without actually purchasing the book. Upon calling up my guy, he kept referencing this book and was not giving me enough neurological information. He was a food scientist, so his answers were more food focused than brain focused. And I needed both! The second interview I had was with a UCLA neurologist. Long story short, he had an extremely thick accent to the point where I was unable to understand him, and I was not as prepared as he expected me to be. These two people were two of three that actually got back to me for this piece. The rest of my 15 or 20 sent emails must still be out there, floating around in some neuroscientist’s inbox.

Lesson learned: always be prepared, read up before you call and don’t limit yourself to only guacamole. Aside from this, however, your guac is limitless.

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