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It would be a massive understatement to say we’re living in a time of extraordinary political and cultural change. As a feminist columnist and author, it’s something I think — and write! — about a lot. But there’s only so much you can say in a column.

When we talk or write about the activists and thinkers who are shaping America right now, there’s a flattening that happens — we don’t see them as full people outside of their work or public profiles. Especially now, when so much of the national conversation happens online.

Now, food is far from apolitical, but there is something humanizing about sitting down at a meal with someone. You get to know them in a more intimate way; you see them as more than the sum of their tweets or political actions. And that’s what Eating Out Loud does: It looks at the way that food fuels and defines the people who are changing politics and culture.

If you take anything from this series, I hope you all get to know the people I spoke with — some who might be new to you, some not — in a different and fuller way. We all have stories to tell — and the ones here are pretty incredible. — Jessica Valenti