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Food For Thought 

Written by Storyteller: Tamar Burris   Comments: 1


Carolyn Brown thought of her family as “simple eaters.” Carolyn’s mom was always very active and health conscious, but after her own childhood experiences of having to sneak the family dog her leftovers before she could leave the table, she promised she would never force her children to eat anything they didn’t want to. Carolyn’s father was a foodie, always experimenting with new recipes in the kitchen and into learning about wines. Carolyn was his permanent sous-chef, helping to use every utensil possible and being sure to make a complete mess in the kitchen. However, neither the health consciousness nor the experimental eating traits seemed to pass down the genetic line. Carolyn, her sisters, and her brother were finicky, instead choosing chicken fingers, pasta, and pizza any day over gourmet delights whipped up by Dad. Other than that, though, the kids were healthy and happy, so both Carolyn’s parents respected their picky preferences. It was not until a boat trip around the world in her college years that Carolyn opened her mind--and her stomach--to new culinary temptations. It was then when she truly started her evolution into One Smart Brownie”.


Like many college kids, Carolyn wanted to study abroad. Deciding to go for the gusto instead of choosing just one city, she signed up for Semester at Sea with her best friend. For approximately 100 days, Carolyn would be absent from the Tulane University campus where she normally attended class and instead would enjoy life aboard a cruise ship filled with other globetrotting coeds. They’d be exploring near a dozen countries, learning about their culture, histories, and other unique features all while attending classes aboard the boat en route to each destination, where they’d get firsthand opportunities to experience what they’d been studying. The trip promised to be exciting, adventurous, and life changing, especially for a picky eater like Carolyn.



“From the moment Semester at Sea got underway, it was clear that chicken fingers were not going to be on this globally inspired menu.”



From the moment Semester at Sea got underway, it was clear that chicken fingers were not going to be on this globally inspired menu. As Carolyn’s best friend and then-boyfriend kept telling her, this was a once in a lifetime experience, it was time to embrace and enjoy new things! All through her trip, particularly at meal times, Carolyn repeated the mantra to herself. It didn’t take very long before Carolyn’s palate became adventurous. She tried Indian food, Chinese food (which she quickly realized was very different from that in the US), and even sushi.


“Everywhere we went, I felt like I had to give local foods a try. In Vietnam I thought to myself, ‘I’d better try Pho, (noodle soup), because I may never get a chance to do it in this truly authentic fashion again. I tried curry for the first time in Myanmar. And I ate raw shrimp in Japan. I think I’d tried fish once before in my entire life and now I was eating it raw!”


From that eye-opening experience, Carolyn’s entire view of food began to change. When she returned home she found herself more and more intrigued with food and nutrition. Needing a few more credits before graduation, she took an exercise nutrition class at Tulane that opened her mind even more.


“The teacher was a real fanatic, talking about how she wouldn’t even eat foods that had touched plastic because there are carcinogens in it. It made me curious.”


Bouncing around after college, Carolyn moved to Boulder, Colorado, where her best childhood friend lived. An animal rights activist, her friend got Carolyn thinking about the implications of her meat-eating ways. After reading a few books, Carolyn soon became a vegetarian. After that, she quit eating animal products all together. The chicken finger-eater was now a full-fledged vegan!


Eventually Carolyn moved to New York to pursue her masters in nutrition at New York University. Her curiosity and interest in food, it seemed, was leading her down a true career path. Although Carolyn found it pretty easy to be a vegan in NYC, she came to realize she was no longer very much fun to eat meals with.  And, it didn’t 100% fit with everything she was learning about at school.


“Being vegan made eating out stressful for both myself and the people around me. It seemed like everything was topped in cheese or made with eggs or butter. It made me very aware of where food comes from and ingredients, but I wasn’t happy. I couldn’t go out to dinner—anywhere! There was nothing for me to eat. I was also learning about vitamins and protein intake, and I realized I was forcing myself to follow dietary restrictions that no longer fit my lifestyle. I started eating dairy, and then fish again, slowly. I remember having my first bite of Gouda cheese and thinking, ‘this tastes so good, what have I been doing for the past year?’” 


As Carolyn emerged from her period of veganism, she began examining her feelings about food and healthy eating habits. She was solid in her belief that people need to understand where their food is coming from and have an awareness of the additives and other junk in a lot of processed and inexpensive foods. But she also felt that veganism wasn’t something she would actively promote as a healthy eating lifestyle. Food is something that everybody needs, but why does choosing what to eat have to be so difficult? This was the question swirling around in her head when she headed off to Italy on another eating (and of course studying!) excursion.


Traveling with 26 students and two professors, the group somehow managed to get school credits for following the Mediterranean diet and drinking wine. As part of her studies, Carolyn toured a buffalo mozzarella farm and got to see the inner workings of a Parmigiano production plant, among other food adventures. Cookbook author and food journalist Mitchell Davis was one of two professors on the trip.


Everywhere the group went, they ate--and ate well. “I’d been a vegetarian. I’d been a vegan. When I went to Italy I was like, ‘Ah, whatever!’ When in Rome, right?’ I was really surprised that the Mediterranean diet was heavily meat-based. I did eat meat a few times, and I ate so much cheese-- probably too much! I drank wine and fell in love with biscotti. It was a fascinating trip and being with huge foodies, we were definitely not roughing it at all! It was a major, total food immersion.”


Carolyn returned to New York with renewed vigor and zest for food. Looking back, she understood that food, including portion size, nutrition, and environmental implications used to stress her out. But the more she continued to learn about it and the more experiences she had with it as she grew up and matured, the more she changed her views and the less of a struggle eating became.


“Eating healthy does not have to be difficult! It can become a way of life really easily. It’s changing little lifestyle habits. It doesn’t need to be controlling. Eating shouldn’t be stressful!”


Noticing how many people constantly asked for her advice or opinion on what they were eating, or overanalyzed what they saw her eating because she was working towards becoming an expert in nutrition, a seed of an idea sprouted in her head. She was working full-time at her internship at a local hospital, had no real outlet or connection with her other interests, and after being asked many of the same questions by friends and family, she decided to start a blog to share her knowledge about nutrition and connect with the outside world. Food was her passion, and she needed an outlet. It seemed like a perfect fit.



“Eating healthy does not have to be difficult! It can become a way of life really easily. It’s changing little lifestyle habits. It doesn’t need to be controlling. Eating shouldn’t be stressful!”



“I’d like to see a movement from dieting to lifestyle changes; that was sort of why I got involved in this career in the first place. The blog was a way to say that even healthy eating doesn’t have to be a thought. Don’t worry so much! Eating should be fun and food should taste good while being good for you. There are really simple ways to improve your quality of life. I also wanted it to be relatable and funny and to speak to this younger generation of people who are intelligent and passionate and eco-aware but also have pretty short attention spans and a limited amount of time.”


Carolyn started writing “One Smart Brownie” at the end of the summer. She’d been home from Italy for a month or so and it seemed like as good a time as any to get going. From the beginning, the feedback was positive and encouraged her to keep it going. As she continued writing, she took more and more pleasure in it.

“When I started I was really intimidated by the idea that other people were going to read it. The first blog entries were really fact-based. It doesn’t sound like me at all! The more comfortable I got, the more I just started writing the way I talk, like a young 20 something, and incorporating my own experiences, personality and pop culture into it. I try not to censor myself because that’s when people enjoy it the most. It’s been really helpful to learn how to talk to people who don’t have much education in nutrition. I try to keep it simple and straightforward and not make it science-y. Even my grandma reads it!”


Through her blog, Carolyn got a gig writing for a cooking website geared toward 18- through 30-year-olds. Called Glamchef, the site includes recipes, nutrition articles (written by Carolyn), and information about sustainability. Carolyn is also freelancing for OneResult, focused on giving help and guidance to amateur athletes in training, healthy eating and supplementation.


From her frozen pizza beginnings to her new passion for things like fresh biscotti and aged Gouda, Carolyn’s food journey has been a delightfully filling one. And it is just beginning. So, scoot the steak off your plate, shove the veggies a little to the left, and make way for the Brownie!

Thank you Carolyn, for sharing your Story with us.


Our Stories and pictures are the sole copyright of their Authors and may not be reprinted or used without their permission.
© 2010 by Tamar Burris and Story of My Life

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Member Since
Apr 2008
Chuck Stallong said:
posted on Jun 12, 2010

your blog is interesting too, you should talk more about yourself (this story has more about you than it does, from what I'm reading)