Food Studies Student Spotlight: Jordan Werner Barry

NYU Steinhardt News

Food Studies Student Spotlight: Jordan Werner Barry

We recently spoke with Jordan Werner Barry, who is currently pursuing her MA in Food Studies, about what brought her to the NYU Steinhardt, how the program gave her the opportunity to pursue a career in food media, and her expertise in a sometimes confusing beverage: cider.

What brought you to NYU Steinhardt? Were you always interested in studying food?

I have always been interested in food studies, but before this program it was in roundabout ways. I graduated from the University of Vermont with a degree in Animal Science, and immediately decided I’d rather be a writer than a veterinarian. I balanced jobs in the specialty food industry (Lake Champlain Chocolates in Burlington, VT and Blue Spoon Coffee in lower Manhattan) with writing about homes and gardens for Vermont Magazine. The food studies program was my opportunity to finally put food and writing together.

Can you tell us a little about how you got involved with the Heritage Radio Network?

I was the Julia Child Foundation Fellow at Heritage Radio Network (HRN) for Spring 2018. The fellowship was a turning point for me, because it allowed me to quit my service job and focus my energy on building a career in food media. At HRN, I work with an incredible team (led by Executive Director and NYU food studies grad Caity Moseman Wadler) supporting the network’s 35+ weekly shows. Writing for radio is like solving puzzles, and this experience has opened my eyes to the wide variety of things that a career in food media can be. I have worked on episodes of HRN Happy Hour (including an interview about hotdogs with Amy Lipman, a current food studies graduate student), HRN On Tour (at the RAW Wine Fair, the Just Food Conference, and on a cider-fueled dream trip toShacksbury Cider in Vermont), Fresh Pickings (a branded podcast for HRN’s flagship sponsor Bob’s Red Mill), and Like Farmer, Like Dog (a podcast about urban farmers in NYC and their canine companions). My biggest, proudest project so far has been producing Modernist BreadCrumbs, a collaboration with Modernist Cuisine. I interviewed bakers, yeast scientists, grain growers, millers, and all kinds of ‘bread heads’ from around the world for this in-depth series all about bread. Stay tuned for season two!

How did you become interested in cider? How long have you been interested in it, and can you share a few facts about it that most people wouldn't know?

I have always been a divergent drinker—trying something new and weird every chance I get—and I drank plenty of cider while I was still living in Vermont. When I started the food studies program, my early research about the Vermont brand brought me back to the cidermakers I had met, and the way that the story of cider is tied to the history and landscape of the state. Cider is a booming part of the beverage market, and talking to these producers made me realize that there was a lot of work to be done on the subject. Focusing on cider lets me answer questions of culture, agriculture, terroir, history, identity, and—with my Research Applications project—language development. I am engaging with an industry that is growing and changing, and the research is delicious!

Cider is confusing to many consumers—is it like wine, or like beer? I’d like everyone to know that it doesn’t have to taste like the super sweet alcopop you see on tap at dive bars. Cider can be complex, it can show the influence of terroir, and it definitely deserves a spot on the dinner table. Ciders in the “heritage” category, which are orchard-based and made from bitter, tannic apples, can totally surprise someone who has only tried the sweet stuff.

How do you think your time in the program and at NYU has changed your career interests?

I have studied the cider cultures of Ireland and France during Steinhardt Global programs, coordinated events with industry experts for the Food Studies Graduate Society, and even dreamed up plans for an urban orchard in an abandoned lot in Brooklyn. I never expected to be so involved in the world of cider, but the food studies program has given me a reason and a platform to dive into that industry.