Jack Avens Q&A

Sep 162007
Authors: Laurel Berch

Doctor Jack Avens dons the big, yellow hat and sits down with the Collegian as we try to understand why his students call him “Crazy Jack.” Avens is a professor in the department of food science and human nutrition. He has been at CSU for over thirty years and currently teaches food and nutrition in health; food from farm to table; food safety; brewing science and technology; and a graduate level seminar on college teaching.

Q. What is your favorite class to teach?

A. That is so hard to answer because I love to teach them all. I guess I would have to say food and nutrition in health. In no ways does that mean that I don’t like teaching the others.

Q. How long has the brewing class been offered on campus?

A. This fall is the third semester.

Q. Do you brew your own beer outside of the classroom?

A. No, I’m not a hobbyist brewer. I’m a food scientist. But I have a brewer that works with me in the class – a graduate student (Jeff Callaway).

Q. How do you evaluate the beers that are brewed in class?

A. It’s [based on] flavor, which involves taste, aroma and color.it’s not drinking. Drinking beer is entirely different than tasting. (Tasting) is a very scientific, very complicated, combination of how it appears to the eye, first, and the aroma, and then the taste. (Students) learn how to critically evaluate flavor.

Q. What are some of your interests and hobbies?

A. I’m a little embarrassed by the fact that I don’t really have a hobby. I like to hike and I like to ski and I like to ride around in my Miata yellow convertible with the top down. But this is stuff that everybody likes to do. It’s not a hobby really. I really don’t need a weekend or a vacation to go and do a “hobby” to have fun because I have fun all the time in everything I do. What I really like to do is read books.

Q. What kinds of books do you like to read?

A. All kinds. Right now I’m reading the last Harry Potter book, and I’m reading a Stephen King novel called “Cell.” And I usually keep three or four books going at a time. I don’t have a lot of time to sit back and read so I don’t finish them very fast.

Q. What is your most embarrassing moment?

A. I’m pretty thick skinned so I don’t really get embarrassed by lots of things other people would, but there have been some. I’m always in a rush, and I’ve always got my mind on other things so I’m often not looking exactly where I’m going. I was going into the food court in the student center before my next class. There are these two doors and they’re always open when you are walking into the food court. And there’s this gray post (that the doors lock into), and I was in a rush and looking at a person that I knew through the glass windows and I walked right into that post. I hit right on my forehead and my glasses (were askew on my face). I gashed my eyebrow, and it was bleeding and I didn’t even know it at first.and what was embarrassing was that I didn’t want to look un-cool so. Nobody really saw it. so I just put my glasses back on, (got in line) at Carl’s (Jr.).While I was at Carl’s, drops of blood start coming down on the counter from my forehead. I still didn’t want to admit it so I just (stopped the bleeding, cleaned the counter), ordered lunch and sat down.

Q. So you were eating lunch at Carl’s Jr. and you’re a nutrition teacher?

A. My students in my nutrition class are going to have a fit. They always do when they see me in line at McDonald’s or Carl’s. (I talk about fast food) in my nutrition class, and there’s nothing inherently unhealthy – you can get healthy food at a fast food place, but most people don’t. I’m not particularly in to health food. I’m in to variety, balance and moderation of all foods, and that’s what I try to teach in my class. I’m a convenience freak. I’m not going to pack a lunch in the morning. Also, I’m cheap. I don’t want to pay more than $3 for a lunch.

Q. Do you cook a lot?

A. Yeah, my cat doesn’t know how to cook! My kids are all grown and I live by myself with my cat.but yeah I have to cook because I don’t know anybody else that’s going to cook for me.

Q. What are your goals for the future?

A. Staying healthy and doing fun things. Health is so important. I live pretty much in the present. You have to plan a little bit for the future, but I take up an awful lot of time and thoughts with what I’m doing currently.

Q. What is your favorite color?

A. Orange.

Q. I notice the rings on your fingers. Do those have significance?

A. Hardly. The reason they’re on these fingers is because these are the only fingers that they’ll fit. Two are from rock shops in Fort Collins. This one I got in the county of Kyrgyzstan

Q. What were you doing in Kyrgyzstan?

A. I have worked in nine developing countries on short-term assignments working with their farmers. I helped them develop food processing to market their farm products.

Q. Your students describe you as crazy. How would you describe yourself?

A. I’ll give you two other words: weird and unusual. I take it as a compliment because it means I’m different, and who wants to be the same? But I am myself. I don’t play something that I’m not.

Q. Anything else you’d like to add?

A. Show up, participate and be a life long learner.

If you’d like to get some questions answered, then let us know who you’d put the big, yellow hat on by contacting staff writer Laurel Berch at news@collegian.com.

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