Gastropod

By Cynthia Graber and Nicola Twilley

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Category: Food

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Subscribers: 3558
Reviews: 15

Marcus
 Apr 4, 2021
Not everything racist is white. I don't listen to a food podcast to be preached to about racism. Get over yourselves.

Harold
 Sep 12, 2020
These women are unbelievably stupid. Ignore the annoying style of tag-teaming every sentence and overly emphasized diction, and notice how many facts they get wrong. I love cooking and food science, but this podcast is unbearable.


 Aug 2, 2020

javier
 Apr 16, 2020
Great podcast, excellent stories and production. Well researched, accurately and engagingly narrated. And I am a crop and food scientist!Always looking for the next one.


 Feb 4, 2020

Description

Food with a side of science and history. Every other week, co-hosts Cynthia Graber and Nicola Twilley serve up a brand new episode exploring the hidden history and surprising science behind a different food- or farming-related topic, from aquaculture to ancient feasts, from cutlery to chile peppers, and from microbes to Malbec. We interview experts, visit labs, fields, and archaeological digs, and generally have lots of fun while discovering new ways to think about and understand the world through food. Find us online at gastropod.com, follow us on Twitter @gastropodcast, and like us on Facebook at facebook.com/gastropodcast.

Episode Date
Are Plant- and Fungus-Based Meats Really Better than the Real Thing?
3355
Move over, beef: there’s a new burger in town. Plant-based meats are sizzling hot right now; in 2020 alone, the alternative meat industry saw a record $3.1 billion in investment, with 112 new plant-based brands launching in supermarkets. These juicy, savory, chewy fake burgers are a far cry from the dry, weird-tasting veggie patties of the past. This episode, we visit the Impossible Foods labs to swig some of the animal-free molecule that makes their meatless meat bleed, try fungal food start-up Meati's prototype "chicken" cutlet, and speak to the scientists and historians who can help us compare these new fake meats to their predecessors—and to real meat! Can a plant-based sausage roll be considered kosher or halal? Are plant-based meats actually better for you and for the environment? And how might a mysterious protein-powerhouse fungus named Rosita help feed the world? Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Nov 24, 2021
Guest Episode: The Doorbell by Nice Try!
2799
This week we're bringing you an episode from Nice Try! Nice Try’s second season, Interior, is all about the lifestyle products that have been sold to us over and over, and the promises of self improvement they have made, kept, and broken. Their foray into the private utopia of the home starts with the doorbell. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Nov 17, 2021
Balls *and* Brains: The Science and History of Offal
3072
It’s pretty rare to find organ meat on the dinner table in most American households today, but 90 years ago, the earliest editions of The Joy of Cooking contained dozens of recipes for liver, sweetbreads, and even testicles. For much of history, offal (as organ meat is called) was considered the best part of the animal—so what happened? Why are brains banned in the UK and lungs illegal to sell in the US, and why are Scottish haggis-makers up in arms about it? And the question we’re sure you’ve all been pondering: What do testicles taste like? With the help of Jonathan Reisman, author of the new book The Unseen Body: A Doctor's Journey Through the Hidden Wonders of the Human Anatomy, we explore how the vital functions of various animal organs affect their flavor and taste. Jon’s wife, Anna Wexler, also an academic and a writer, joins us to impart the wisdom she’s gained from years as a judge at the World Testicle Cooking Championship (aka Test Fest). We learn about the culinary history of offal from cookbook author Jennifer McLagan, and butcher Sam Garwin comes over to help us prepare up a massive organ meat feast: a Norwegian heart and lung pate (yes, we scored some lung!); a Georgian testicle stew; rabbit, chicken, and beef liver and onions; and breaded, fried lamb brains. Listen to find out which one we liked best, and which ones were just plain offal! (Sorry, we couldn’t resist.) Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Nov 09, 2021
Trick or Treat: Soul Cakes, Candy Corn, and Sugar Skulls Galore!
3114
If you live in the U.S., chances are, your first hint of fall isn’t a russet-colored leaf landing on the sidewalk—it’s the orange-wrappered candies taking over the aisles of your local grocery and convenience stores. Forget decorative gourds: it’s officially Halloween candy season! But how did a 2,000-year-old Celtic festival marking the sun's death and the beginning of winter morph into a family-friendly sugar-fest? With the help of Heather Cox Richardson and Joanne Freeman, historians and hosts of the Vox Media Podcast Network show Now & Then, we explore the surprisingly recent introduction of trick-or-treating, and the all-American invention of Halloween as the ultimate candy-permissive, religion-free Frankenholiday. Plus, why do so many cultures around the world celebrate deathy things at this time of year—and why do so many of them involve sugar? All this, plus a rigorous candy corn tasting bravely undertaken by your indefatigable hosts! Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Oct 26, 2021
Buried Treasure: Weeds, Seeds, and Zombies
2976
If you’ve ever engaged in mortal combat with a patch of ragweed, dandelion, or crabgrass in your garden, you might understand the twin emotions of rage and begrudging admiration when it comes to weeds: They. Just. Won’t. Die. When it comes to commercial agriculture, weeds pose a more existential threat—globally, the proportion of our harvest that is lost to weed infiltration is enough to feed millions, and, even with advanced herbicides, weeds cost farmers in North America an estimated $33 billion in lost yield each year. No matter what we throw at them, weeds just seem to get stronger. This episode, we follow a group of scientists along on a 149-year-old quest to see just how long weeds can survive—and, along the way, figure out what we can learn from weeds, what we really ought to thank them for, and what is a weed, anyhow? Listen in now for zombie seeds, a midnight treasure hunt, and the wild ways that weeds have outwitted us for millennia. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Oct 11, 2021
The Barrel That Could Save A Forest
3061
Bourbon has to be aged in barrels, by law; whiskey usually spends years in barrels, by custom; and between 20-30 percent of wine spends some time in one. And almost all of those wooden vessels are made from just two kinds of tree: American white oak and French oak. This episode, we tell the story—and try the whiskey—of the distiller and the barrel-maker who, together, are figuring out how to use the huge, elegant, native oak of the Pacific Northwest to create new flavor, and, in the process, restore an ecosystem that has nearly vanished. Along the way, we figure out the science behind how a barrel affects the taste of what you sip, and we trace the trajectory of barrels from their pinnacle, as the go-to container for everything from fish to petroleum, to their current niche status. Finally, we explore why oak became the default wood for barrel-making—and meet the coopers experimenting with different woods, and an entirely new flavor universe for booze. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Sep 28, 2021
Tofu for You: Meet the Cult Leader, the Spy, and the Pioneering Woman Chinese Doctor Who Brought Tofu to the West
3073
For a lot of Americans, tofu conjures up images of bland, squishy cubes: a sorry alternative to meat. Even in Asia, where tofu was born, the soybean was initially seen as unappetizing, not to mention flatulence inducing. This episode, we tell the story of how people in what's now northeastern China figured out how to turn this legume of last resort into an array of nutritious, delicious foods, from slippery beancurd skins to silken puddings, and chewy soy crumbles to funky, fermented hairy tofu. Then we introduce the parade of unlikely figures—including Ben Franklin and a 1970s acid casualty who believed he could communicate telepathically with animals—who finally brought this "soybean cheese" to the Western masses. And, finally, we meet the twenty-first century immigrant entrepreneur trying to rebrand tofu from virtuous but boring into something much more delicious and desirable. Listen in now for all that plus Camembert tofu, anarchist zines, and the curious origins of that Thanksgiving favorite, Tofurkey. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Sep 14, 2021
The Great Gastropod Pudding Off (encore)
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Four bakers, one evening, and one challenge: Who can steam the best spotted dick? On this week’s action-packed episode, Tom Gilliford, Selasi Gbormittah, and Yan Tsou of Great British Bake-Off fame, along with honorary Gastropod member (and Cynthia’s partner) Tim Buntel, compete to see who can master this most classic of British puddings for the first-ever Great Gastropod Pudding Off! But what in the world is spotted dick? “It’s got nostalgia, mystery, horror, and comedy—it’s a perfect British dish,” explained British food designer and jellymonger Sam Bompas, who joined us to judge the competition. Listen in as Tom tries to beat his rival Selasi, Yan revives the flavor combination that robbed her of a Bake Off victory, and Tim tests out his Yankee-style pudding on the Brits. While the four bakers duke it out in the kitchen, we dive into the history and science of British pudding to find out what makes a pudding a pudding, the secret ingredient that will give your pud a lovely light texture, and why anyone would name a dessert “spotted dick.”  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Aug 30, 2021
It's All Going to Pot: the Science and Economics of Edibles
3719
If you thought it was high time for us to get into the weeds with cannabis science and economics, then you’re in the right place: Welcome back to part two of our miniseries on cannabis edibles! This episode, we meet with leading cannabis researcher Adie Rae to figure out the biology behind the difference between inhaling and eating weed, as well as what we do and don't know about the potential health benefits and harms of cannabis. Can THC help you sleep? Is all this trendy CBD-infused everything on supermarket shelves actually doing anything? All that, plus we get into the surprising challenges facing a business that is still federally illegal, and talk to the entrepreneurs, farmers, and lawyers who are helping craft policy to make sure this new green gold rush benefits the communities most harmed by cannabis prohibition. And, of course, there's the biggest question of all: Will Cynthia get high for the first time ever? Listen in to find out! Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Aug 17, 2021
Baked: How Pot Brownies and Pate de Fruits Fueled an Edible Cannabis Revolution
3413
Edible cannabis products are hot right now: Snoop's got some, Willie Nelson's got some—even Martha Stewart's making fancy French-style gummies. In states where it’s legal, you can buy everything from marshmallows to macarons, all laden with THC, the psychoactive compound in cannabis. This commercial boom may be recent, but the history of edibles goes way, way back to the origins of the plant thousands of years ago in the Himalayas—in fact, people were eating (and drinking) cannabis long before they were inhaling it. So when did cannabis start being smoked instead—and how did it find itself not only banned, but classified as more dangerous than both opium and meth? With the help of the woman whose family ran America's first edibles empire, we also discover why the pot brownie is America’s quintessential edible, and how this humble, slightly mulchy baked good helped make weed legal again. Plus: How today's cannabis chefs are upping the ante and taking weed recipes to new—ahem—highs (please allow us just this one pun). Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Aug 03, 2021
The Bottle vs. Tap Battle Finale: Alkaline H2O, Lead Pipes, and, Yes, Water Sommeliers
2945
As promised, it's time for the final splashdown in the battle of bottled vs. tap water. When we left off last episode, bottled water had staged a miraculous comeback thanks to Nike, yuppies, and Orson Welles. Today, it's America's favorite liquid refreshment: we buy more bottled water by volume than any other packaged beverage, even though you can get its less glamorous cousin, tap, delivered directly to your home for mere pennies. So, is bottled water somehow better than tap? Is it safer, or even just nicer tasting? This episode, we dive into the science behind the taste of water (spoiler: it has to do with spit) and explore the fine art of bottled water appreciation, before sharing the secret to making your own DIY Pellegrino. Meanwhile, we've all heard the water horror story unfolding in Flint, Michigan: should we be worried about lead or other chemicals in our tap water—or in the bottles on grocery store shelves? All that, plus our very own water taste test, as we declare the ultimate victor in this war of the waters. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Jul 20, 2021
Bottled Vs. Tap: The Battle to Quench Our Thirst
2691
Today, bottled water is ubiquitous and cheap: every single second of every single day, more than a thousand people buy and drink a plastic bottle of water in the U.S.. But it wasn’t always so. In this episode, we trace a centuries-old power struggle as bottled water went from hip to lame to hot again. Why did doctors prescribe the waters from specific springs for everything from hemorrhoids to hypochondria, and how did whaling ships and a golf course help kick off the first bottled water frenzy in America? How did a swimming pool chemical help tap water fight back, and what did Nike, yuppies, and Orson Welles have to do with bottled water's reincarnation from the dead? And what's up with all these oxygen- or electrolyte-enhanced, alkaline, and even magical waters on supermarket shelves today? Listen in now for the first in our two-part deep dive into this battle of the ages: bottled vs. tap. We'll be back in a week with part two, including the science behind the taste of water, the specialist sommeliers who pair water and food, and the secret to making DIY Pellegrino at home. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Jul 06, 2021
Chocpocalypse Now! Quarantine and the Future of Food
3057
We’ve dropped hints and left clues—and now, at long last, Gastropod’s very own Nicola Twilley has published her first book! Co-written with her husband Geoff Manaugh, Until Proven Safe: The History and Future of Quarantine is a captivating chronicle of quarantine across time, space, and species (and yes, they started writing the book long before 2020). Just for you, dear Gastropod listeners, we have a special episode in which, for the first time ever, your intrepid hosts sit on opposite sides of the (virtual) table, as Cynthia interviews Nicky and Geoff about the quarantines that protect our food. Why do 75 billion bees get stopped in the dusty California desert every spring, and why does every single cacao plant that gets shipped around the world have to pass through one town in England? What are sentinel plots, and how are they protecting our wheat supply? And why on earth did Nicky and Geoff get naked, put on Crocs and Tyvek suits, and burn their notes on a reporting trip? All this, plus a video game for quarantine inspectors, in your feeds now! Quarantine: boring to live through, fascinating to listen to—and read about! Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Jun 22, 2021
Guest Episode: Immune Boosting, Is It a Bust? | Science Vs
2109
Internet influencers have been pushing “immune boosters” during the pandemic — claiming they’ve got just the pill, berry, or brew to rev up our body’s defenses. But is there really a way to boost our immune system? Science Vs is finding out whether these vitamins and supplements truly work as a shield against colds and viruses. Science Vs takes on fads, trends, and the opinionated mob to find out what's fact, what's not, and what's somewhere in between.  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Jun 08, 2021
Guest Episode: How Much Water Do You Actually Need a Day?
2169
Guest Episode: Body Stuff with Dr. Jen Gunter. Think you know how your body works? Think again! Dr. Jen Gunter is here to shake up everything you thought you knew — from how much water you need to drink to how often you need to poop and everything in between. Join us weekly for this TED original series that will tell you the truth about what's *really* going on inside you.  This episode: You know the old rule that you need to drink eight glasses of water every day? It's simply a myth, says Dr. Gunter. She explains the amazing way your kidneys keep your system in balance — and how you can really tell if you're dehydrated. Want to hear more from Dr. Gunter? Check out her podcast Body Stuff, from the TED Audio Collective. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Jun 01, 2021
First Class Fare
2769
Like most people around the world, you probably didn’t do much flying this past year. Maybe you miss the bustle of airports and the joy of seeing friends in far-off places—but chances are, you probably don’t miss the food handed out on planes: those sad little tinfoil-covered trays of rubbery chicken breasts, tired lettuce, and frozen cherry tomatoes. They’re a far cry from airline meals decades ago, in the golden age of flying, when lobster thermidor and rack of lamb were served on real china. So what happened? How did a zany Henry VIII look-alike revolutionize airline food, and why were stewardesses serving flaming cherries jubilee onboard? What does the tradition of serving nuts on a flight have to do with NASA? How does sitting in the pressurized cabin of a plane roaring 36,000 feet above sea level affect our taste buds, and how are airlines trying to use sensory science to make food taste better? Plus: A grisly tale to explain why both pilots can never eat the same meal! Buckle up, and enjoy the ride. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
May 25, 2021
Guest Episode: How To Save a Planet
2878
Guest Episode: Does climate change freak you out? Want to know what we, collectively, can do about it? Us too. How to Save a Planet is a podcast that asks the big questions: what do we need to do to solve the climate crisis, and how do we get it done? Join us, journalist Alex Blumberg and scientist and policy nerd Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, as we scour the Earth for solutions, talk to people who are making a difference, ask hard questions, crack dumb jokes and — episode by episode — figure out how to build the future we want. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
May 18, 2021
You're Wrong About Prohibition
3113
For most of us, Prohibition seems like a peculiar American experiment—a doomed attempt by straight-laced religious conservatives to ban alcohol, and, with it, fun. But as it turns out, we've got it all wrong: Prohibition was actually a progressive struggle that united powerless and oppressed people around the world—Leo Tolstoy, Frederick Douglass, Mahatma Gandhi, and Chief Little Turtle, among others—against a system designed to exploit them. Listen in now as historian Mark Schrad reveals the real reasons that Prohibition became "the most popular, most influential, and longest-lived international social-reform movement in the history of the world"—and historian Lisa Lindquist-Dorr tells us about the rum-runners, Cuban entrepreneurs, and corrupt judges who kept booze flowing during those dry years. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
May 11, 2021
So Hot Right Now: Why We Love the Chile Pepper
2852
Perhaps no other plant is as entwined with pain and pleasure as the chile pepper. But why does it burn—and why on earth do we crave that uncomfortable sensation? How did capsaicin's fungus-fighting, digestion-enhancing, and adrenaline-triggering powers convince early hunter gatherers in South America to fall in love with the chile's tiny berry ancestors, and then European colonists to spread chiles around the world? Plus, new insights into the rise of the “superhots,” chilehead competitions, and a murder-by-Carolina-Reaper attempt right here on team Gastropod. Who survived to tell the tale? Listen in to find out! Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Apr 27, 2021
Easy A: The SuperRad Story of Home Economics
3035
If you grew up in the U.S., you might remember home economics class as the source of deflated muffins and horrifically distorted sewing projects. You might, like Jonah Hill’s character in Superbad, have thought of home ec as “a joke” that everyone takes “to get an A.” But it wasn’t always so—and, in fact, the field of home economics began as a surprisingly radical endeavor. This episode, we talk with Danielle Dreilinger, author of the new book The Secret History of Home Economics: How Trailblazing Women Harnessed the Power of Home and Changed the Way We Live. How did women a century ago use home economics as a backdoor to build careers as scientists? How did home ec trailblazers electrify rural towns, design the modern kitchen, and create the first nutritional guidelines? And what does Sputnik have to do with the field's decline? Can today's home ec once again meet the lofty goals set by its founders? Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Apr 13, 2021
Where There's Smoke, There's ... Whiskey, Fish, and Barbecue!
3014
As anyone who’s spent time by a crackling campfire or a barbecue pit can attest, the scent of smoke is unmistakable—and surprisingly mysterious. Smoke clings to clothing but vanishes in the breeze. You see it, but you can’t hold it. It’s fantastic in whiskey and terrible in toast. So what exactly is smoke—and what does it do to our food and drinks? What’s the difference between cold and hot smoked salmon—and what's a red herring? Is Liquid Smoke made from real smoke? And how did barbecue— smoked meat, cooked low and slow—become a uniquely American tradition? Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Mar 30, 2021
Phage Against the Machine
2867
If you thought food poisoning was just a matter of the occasional stomach upset from a dodgy shrimp or two, the CDC has some unsettling numbers for you: foodborne bacteria is responsible for at least 48 million cases of illness, more than 130,000 hospitalizations, and 3,000 deaths a year in the U.S. alone. And those numbers aren't going down. But wait: a new fighter has entered the ring! Say hello to the bacteriophage, a small-but-mighty bacteria-busting virus that can wipe out entire colonies of harmful pathogens—and that is starting to be sprayed on packages of cold cuts near you. While most Americans haven’t heard of phages (as they’re commonly called), they’ve been saving lives in the former Soviet Union for decades now. So why has it taken so long for the U.S. to get on board? How do these teeny-tiny bacteria fighters work, and what’s their connection to Elizabeth Taylor and chlorinated chicken? Should we—and could we—get our food systems on the phage train? Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Mar 16, 2021
Guest Episode: Mission: ImPASTAble from The Sporkful
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Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Mar 09, 2021
Why Thai?
2552
It’s hard to imagine the American restaurant landscape without Thai food: Tom yum and pad see ew are practically household names, and pad thai is the ultimate quarantine comfort food. (It's apparently zombie apocalypse comfort food, too, as shown on the Walking Dead.) According to the Thai Embassy, more than 50 percent of all Thai restaurants abroad are located in the United States and Canada. So why did the U.S.—and Los Angeles in particular—become the epicenter of Thai food’s global rise? How did Cold War politics and a shortage of ingredients lead to the creation of shrimp curry recipes made with anchovy paste and sour cream—as well as the jackfruit industry in Mexico? What does this all have to do with one street kid from Bangkok? Listen in now for these stories and more: it's a vacation for your tastebuds! Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Mar 02, 2021
Hot Tips
3196
If you live in the United States, you’re familiar with a curious mathematical ritual that takes place at the end of every restaurant meal—it’s time to tip, with all the stress the process entails. How much should you leave? Who's getting that money? Is it enough? (And will you look like an idiot if you start counting on your fingers?) Unlike many other countries, where people tip by rounding up to the nearest ringgit or krona—or don’t even tip at all—it’s become standard in the U.S. to leave an extra 20 percent of the bill's total for your server. But how did we get here? How did tipping, a practice with roots in feudal Europe, become so ubiquitous in the United States while nearly disappearing from its home continent? And what does the abolition of slavery in the U.S.—and Herman Cain—have to do with the sub-minimum tipped wage of $2.13 today? Is tipping fair—and is there anything we can do about it? Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Feb 16, 2021
TV Dinners
3070
Cue the dramatic music, it’s quiz time: Can you identify the people behind these catchphrases? “Yum-O!” “Pukka!” “Bam!” “Peace, love, and taco grease!” The answers are below—but if you’ve already caught on, then you’re well aware of how entrenched TV chefs are in mainstream pop culture. But how did a medium where you can’t actually smell or taste the food get so popular? What was the very first food TV show, and how has food TV changed—and changed us? Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Feb 03, 2021
The Brightest Bulb
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Imagine, for a moment, a world without garlic: garlic-free garlic bread, tzatziki sans Allium sativum, a chili crisp defanged. If this sounds like the makings of a horror story to you, you’re not alone. Garlic consumption in the U.S. has quadrupled since 1980, and people around the world have been enjoying the stuff for thousands of years. But alliums smell like sulfur, and sulfur is something humans are born *not* liking—so why did we start adding garlic, onions, and their kin to our food? This episode, we join microbiologist Rob Dunn and food safety specialist Ben Chapman to follow along as they conduct the world's first experiment designed to figure out whether alliums started out as a food safety additive designed to keep our lamb stew safe for longer, and only later turned into a flavor we crave. Plus, why did the British government send garlic to the trenches in WWI? What do fetal sniffing, Egyptian fertility tests, Korean mythology, and the world’s first-recorded labor strike have to do with the stinking rose? Listen in now for all this and more! Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Dec 22, 2020
Like Water in the Desert
3157
Over the past century, we've transformed the arid lands of the American west into year-round, well-irrigated agricultural powerhouses. Today, fruits, nuts, and nearly all of our leafy greens are grown in the desert, using water diverted, stored, and supplied at taxpayer expense. This intense irrigation is having an impact: Reservoir levels are dropping, rivers are drying up, and the state of Arizona is literally sinking. With the help of agroecologist Gary Nabhan, farmers Ramona and Terry Button, and others in the region, we ask the big questions: Should we be farming in the desert? What would a water-saving system even look like? And does a tiny bean that smells like desert rain hold the secret to survival in a hotter, drier world? Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Dec 08, 2020
The Magic Cube
2910
You could call it the Swiss Army knife of the kitchen: bouillon is a handy ingredient, whether it comes as bottled brown gloop, or a cube wrapped up in shiny foil like a tiny present. Today, cooks around the world rely on this secret ingredient to add depth, flavor, and umami to their cooking. It wasn’t always so; like many of today’s packaged shortcuts, condensed bouillon got its start in the 1800s, when nutrition science was just taking off. How did the (mistaken) discoveries of a German chemist pave the way for these umami bombs—and what is umami anyway? How did bouillon brands like Maggi and Knorr become part of national dishes as far afield as Nigeria, India, and Mexico? And how did the invention of these early "essences of meat" lead to the creation of the love-it-or-hate-it spreads Marmite and Vegemite? Listen in now for all that, plus a matriarchal subterranean master race with electrical superpowers! Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Nov 24, 2020
The Big Apple Episode
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There’s nothing more American than apple pie—or is there? We might prescribe an apple a day and call our largest city the Big Apple, but this legendary fruit originally hails from the mountains of Kazakhstan. This episode, Michael Pollan (something of a legend himself) tells us how apples become so important on the American frontier, and what cider (the alcoholic kind) had to do with it. We talk to apple fan Amy Traverso and apple detective Dan Bussey to figure out how many thousands of apple varieties used to grow in America, and why are there only a handful—including the notorious Red Delicious, which, while red, is far from delicious—in supermarkets today? All that, plus we get out in the orchard with Soham Bhatt to learn about the cider renaissance that's sweeping the nation. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Nov 10, 2020
The Hangover: Part Gastropod
2672
Morning fog. Gallon-distemper. Busthead. These are all names for alcohol's age-old after-party: the hangover. But, aside from being a physical (and painful) manifestation of regret, what exactly is a hangover? What's happening in our bodies—and specifically in our livers—and can science do anything about it? Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Oct 27, 2020
Snack Attack!
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To snack or not to snack? And what counts as a snack, anyhow? Plus the great meal vs. snack smackdown: is grazing good, or does eating between meals lead to waistline expansion? We’re asking deep questions about not-so-substantial foods in this crispy, crunchy, and highly craveable episode. Along the way, we uncover snacking’s early connections to pirate’s booty, reveal which of your favorite snacks started their lives as cattle feed, and tell the shocking, true story of the woman who never snacks. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Oct 13, 2020
This Spud's For You
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Fried, roasted, mashed, steamed: it's hard to imagine life without the crispy, fluffy comfort blanket of potatoes. But until the late 1500s, no one outside the Americas had ever encountered this terrific tuber, and initially Europeans, particularly peasant farmers, didn't trust it at all. Or did they? This episode, we tell the story of the potato's rise to global dominance once it set sail from its native Andean home—and the stories behind that story! From tax evasion and population explosions to soup kitchens and potato bling, listen in now as Rebecca Earle, author of the new book, Feeding the People, helps us uncover the delightful myths and even more incredible true history of the spud. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Sep 29, 2020
Moo-Dunnit: How Beef Replaced Bison on the American Plains—and Plate
2637
Saddle up, folks: Today’s episode involves the cowboys' lullabies and meat riots that helped make beef an American birthright. With the help of Joshua Specht, author of Red Meat Republic, we tell the story of how and why the 30 million bison that roamed the Plains were replaced with 30 million cows. You'll never look at a Porterhouse steak—the first cut of beef invented in America—the same way again. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Sep 15, 2020
What the Shell? Cracking the Lobster's Mysteries
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Consider the lobster roll: tender chunks of lobster bathed in butter or mayo, sandwiched between two slices of a squishy bread roll… Have we caught your attention yet? Lobster is a summertime staple in New England, a fixture on casino and cruise ship buffets, and a steady partner for steak in the classic surf 'n' turf. Today, the American lobster industry is the single most valuable fishery in the country—but it wasn’t always so. This episode, we're cracking the lobster's many mysteries, including how it went from prison fare to fancy food. There's also the question of what lobster eyes have to do with both the International Space Station and the belief in Intelligent Design, plus the rollicking tale of why it took scientists so long to locate the lobster penis—and what makes lobster sex so, well, steamy? Listen in now for the lobster lore you never knew you needed to know! Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Aug 31, 2020
Guest Episode: Rocky Road with Science Diction
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This episode, Gastropod is bringing you a guest: Science Diction, a bite-sized podcast about words, and the science stories behind them. They answer questions like: what does the word “meme” have to do with evolutionary biology? And why do we call it the Spanish flu when it wasn’t from Spain? Science Diction is doing a series on food words, and this episode is all about Rocky Road. Grab a spoon and enjoy! We’ll be back in just one week with our regularly scheduled Gastropod episode. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Aug 25, 2020
Shatter-Proof: How Glass Took Over the Kitchen—and Ended Child Labor
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Cheers! The lively clink of glass on glass is a must for any festive gathering, whether you’re sipping champagne in a flute or lemonade in a tumbler. We rely on glass in the kitchen—for baking perfectly browned pies, preserving jams and pickles, and so much more. But glass wasn’t always so cheap and ubiquitous: to ancient Egyptians and Romans, this was precious stuff—it was high fashion to own a clear wine goblet in ancient Rome. Later, Venetians so prized their glass know-how that they imprisoned their glassmakers on an island. So how did glass go from fragile and precious tabletop ornament to an oven-ready kitchen workhorse? How did the inventions of a glassmaker in Toledo, Ohio, transform the peanut butter and ketchup industries, as well as put an end to child labor? And are we running out of sand to make glass? Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Aug 17, 2020
The Most Dangerous Fruit in America
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It's the epitome of summertime: there’s nothing like a cold, juicy slice of red watermelon on a swelteringly hot day. But, once upon a time, watermelons were neither red nor sweet—the wild watermelon has white flesh and a bitter taste. This episode, we scour Egyptian tombs, decaying DNA, and ancient literature in search of watermelon's origins. The quest for tasty watermelon continues into modern times, with the rediscovery of a lost (and legendarily sweet) varietal in South Carolina—and the Nigerian musical secret that might help you pick a ripe one. But the fruit's history has often been the opposite of sweet: watermelons have featured in some of the most ubiquitous anti-Black imagery in U.S. history. So how did the watermelon become the most dangerous—and racist—fruit in America? Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Aug 03, 2020
Dig for Victory
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You’ve seen the news: vegetable seeds are selling out. All that quarantine ennui has combined with anxiety about the gaps on supermarket shelves to create a whole new population of city farmers in backyards and windowsills across America. And everyone from the Los Angeles Times to Forbes to CBS has dubbed these brand new beds of beets and broccoli "COVID-19 Victory Gardens." But what war is your pot of basil fighting? This episode, historian Anastasia Day helps us explore the history of urban gardening movements—and shatter some of the nostalgic myths about those original World War II-era Victory Gardens. One thing is true: in 1943, more than 43 percent of the fresh produce eaten by all Americans came from Victory Gardens. So, can a combination of vegetable patches, community gardens, and urban farms help feed cities today? Or is growing food in the city just a feel-good distraction from the bigger problems in our food system? And does the hype about high-tech vertical farms live up to environmental and economic reality? Listen in as farmers and activists Leah Penniman and Tepfirah Rushdan, food writer Tamar Haspel, and researchers Neil Mattson and Raychel Santo help us dig in to the science on urban agriculture, and harvest some answers—as well as a tomato or two. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Jun 16, 2020
Shared Plates: How Eating Together Makes Us Human
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We love eating dinner together with friends and extended family, and we miss it! But why does sharing a meal mean so much—and can we ever recreate that on Zoom? As we wait for the dinner parties, cookouts, and potlucks of our post-pandemic future, join us as we explore the science and history of communal dining. Scientist Ayelet Fishbach shares how and why eating together makes us better able to work together, and evolutionary psychologist Robin Dunbar and archaeologist Brian Hayden demonstrate how it actually made us human—and led to everything from the common cow to the pyramids. Plus we join food writers Nichola Fletcher and Samin Nosrat for the largest in-person banquet of all time, with Parisian waiters on bicycles, as well as the world’s biggest online lasagna party. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Jun 03, 2020
Pizza Pizza!
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At last, an episode on pizza! But that raises a tricky question: what exactly is pizza? As it turns out, the original pizzas from eighteenth-century Naples looked nothing like a standard slice—they were more like a focaccia, topped with oil, herbs, anchovies, or whatever else was on hand. Even after these first pizzas met the tomato, the dish was a local peculiarity—most Italians thought pizza was gross and weird until just a few decades ago. So how did we get from Neapolitan subsistence snack to today's delivery staple? Listen in this episode as we travel with historian Carol Helstosky, author of Pizza: A Global History, and Francisco Migoya, head chef at Modernist Cuisine, from Italy to New York to Brazil and beyond, to tell the story of how pizza conquered the world. All that, plus the tough questions: is Chicago deep dish really pizza? How about bananas on top? What about (gasp) a donut pizza? Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
May 19, 2020
Eating the Wild: Bushmeat, Game, and the Fuzzy Line Between Them
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It's a safe bet that your recent media diet has included the words "wet market," "zoonotic disease," and "pangolin," as experts take a pause from discussing COVID-19's spread and impact to speculate on the virus's origins. This episode, we're digging into the larger story behind those words, that of our relationship to eating wild animals: how and why have our attitudes to wild meat shifted over time? Why is it that deer shot by a hunter in the U.S. is game, but monkey caught in the Democratic Republic of Congo is bushmeat? With the help of Gina Rae La Cerva, author of the new book, Feasting Wild, we explore what we gain and lose by eating wild, from the lost primeval forests of Europe to Robin Hood, and from smoked monkey to bird spit. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
May 05, 2020
Eating the Rainbow: Or, the Mystery of the Orange Oranges, the Red M&Ms, and the Blue Raspberry
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From stripy fuchsia beets to unicorn doughnuts, the foods available today on grocery store shelves and in cafe displays are more brightly colored than ever. But this hasn't always been the case. This episode of Gastropod, we offer three stories that explore the colors of our cuisine: How did a food fight between Florida and California turn oranges (the fruit) that perfect bright orange (the color)? Why did US consumers freak out about the food dye Red #2, and what was the impact on our M&Ms? And finally, who invented the blue raspberry? All that, plus one very sexy indigo-hued blossom. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Apr 21, 2020
A Tale To Warm The Cockles Of Your Heart
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You might have heard of Molly Malone, selling cockles from a wheelbarrow in Dublin, or of Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary, with her cockle shells and pretty maids all in a row—but the chances are most Gastropod listeners have never actually tasted a cockle. And, apparently, you're missing out! For the Native American tribes in the Puget Sound, where cockles used to be abundant, they're a treasured treat: meatier, sweeter, and richer-tasting than other shellfish. But they're also disappearing, and no one knows why—or how to save them. This episode, we join the team of intrepid marine biologists and tribal leaders on a mission to restore the cockle, on a journey that involves cockle viagra, a cockle vampire, and some carefully choreographed simultaneous spawning. Listen in now for a story of shellfish science and cultural history that will warm the cockles of your heart—and perhaps inspire the revival of other indigenous foods. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Apr 07, 2020
White vs. Wheat: The Food Fight of the Centuries
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White or whole wheat: while today the question is most frequently asked at the sandwich counter, the debate over the correct answer goes back literally thousands of years. In the past century, though, as white flour and thus white bread became more accessible, the debate became increasingly heated: "Science finds that white bread develops criminals,” reported newspapers in the 1920s, while anti-white bread activists at the time claimed that eating too many slices would causing blindness and facial deformity. But whole-wheat bashers had their retorts ready: "Whiteness and purity go hand in hand," proclaimed health writer Dr. Woods Hutchinson. "The whitest possible of white bread" is "not only much more appetizing, but ... more nutritious and more wholesome than any black, brown or brindled staff of life." White vs. wholewheat: this episode, we dive into the world's longest-running, highest-stakes food fight. Along the way: the invention of sliced bread, the science behind Wonder Bread's curious bounce, and a light dusting of eugenics. Listen in now as Aaron Bobrow-Strain, author of White Bread: A Social History of the Store-bought Loaf, unpacks the anxieties and values underlying the bread wars, while wheat breeder Steve Jones introduces us to the "approachable" loaf that he hopes will win the battle for once and for all. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Mar 24, 2020
Licorice: A Dark and Salty Stranger
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Licorice is a polarizing candy: there are those who pick out the black jelly beans, those who think Twizzlers are better than Red Vines, and those who won't travel without a supply of salty dark lozenges. The dark and chewy treat begins life as a plant root that is more than fifty times as sweet as sugar. This episode, we tell the story of how a traditional remedy become England's first branded candy, and we get to the bottom of a medical mystery (licorice poisoning!) in a tale that involves both Tutankhamun and Henry VIII.  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Mar 10, 2020
To Fight Climate Change, Bank on Soil
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Our glaciers are melting, our forests are on fire, our harvests are increasingly decimated by either floods and drought. We are in a climate emergency that threatens our very survival, and it is, frankly, incredibly depressing. But this episode, we’ve got the story of one of the most exciting, seemingly feasible efforts to reduce atmospheric carbon—by storing it in the soil. The solution involves refreshing beer, crusty bread, and sweet, crunchy broccoli—and a complete reinvention of modern agriculture, including domesticating entirely new crops. And the impact could be huge: because a third of Earth’s ice-free surface is farmland, scientists say that banking just a tiny bit more carbon beneath our fields would help remove billions of tons of CO2 from the atmosphere. Join us this episode on our quest to discover how switching to no-till, regenerative agriculture and breeding brand new perennial crops can help restock soil carbon, produce delicious grains and greens, and—maybe—save the world. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Feb 25, 2020
Move Over Gin, We’ve Got Tonic Fever
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Just a few decades ago, gin & tonics were considered rather stodgy and boring, the drink of suburbanites at the golf club. Today, the century-old drink is hot again. In part, that’s due to a boom in craft gin distilling—a ginaissance! But there’s also been a new wave of experimentation with gin’s life partner, tonic water. This episode, we focus on the tonic side of the equation. Which genius came up with the idea of combining quinine, a malaria drug, with soda water and sugar in order to create this refreshing beverage? How did the bark of a South American tree end up in everything from hair-restoring shampoo to cocktails? And is it true that the G&T began life as a pleasant way for the Anglo-Indian elite to take their anti-malarials? This episode, we take a sip of tonic’s history with Kim Walker and Mark Nesbitt, authors of the new book Just the Tonic: A Natural History of Tonic Water. Listen in for all that, plus beef-infused tonic wines, Aperol spritzes, and the gin & tonic’s true origin story. Cheers! Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Feb 11, 2020
The United States of McDonald’s
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McDonald’s is mind-boggling. According to Adam Chandler, author of the recent book, Drive-Thru Dreams, it sells roughly 75 burgers every second and serves 68 million people every day—equivalent to 1 percent of the entire world’s population. “The golden arches are thought to be, according to an independent survey, more recognizable as a symbol than the Christian cross is around the world,” Chandler told us. This episode, we tell the story of McDonald’s—but more importantly, we explore what it has to say about who we are. To do that, we’re also joined by historian Marcia Chatelain, author of the new book Franchise: The Golden Arches in Black America, who helps us unpack the troubled but fascinating relationship between McDonald’s and African Americans. Why did taxpayers end up funding the spread of McDonald’s into the inner city “food deserts” it now dominates? Who invented the hamburger and how did it become America’s national cuisine? From a bustling barbecue stand in San Bernardino to Ray Kroc’s location-scouting airplane rides, and from the McNugget to the McJob, this episode we figure out how McDonald’s became so ubiquitous, and what that means for America. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Jan 28, 2020
Dinner Plate Invasion: Lionfish, Tiger Shrimp, and Feral Pigs, Oh My!
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Across America, feral pigs are on the rampage, wrecking fields of crops, hunting local wildlife to extinction, and even attacking humans. In the United Kingdom, Japanese knotweed is taking over the landscape: banks deny mortgages to infested properties, and the government regulates its disposal with the same precautions it takes for low-level nuclear waste. Humans are to blame—we introduced invasive species such as these to their new homes. But some conservation biologists and chefs think humans can also be the solution: by eating the invaders. Are we ready for a menu of Asian shore crab and bullfrogs—and can our appetite really make a difference, or might the approach lead to unforeseen consequences? This episode, we forage an invasive menu with chef Bun Lai, and then argue the case with conservation biologists Joe Roman and Sara Kuebbing. Listen in now! Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Jan 13, 2020
Meet the Queen of Kiwi: the 96-Year-Old Woman Who Transformed America’s Produce Aisle
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The produce section of most American supermarkets in the 1950s was minimal to a fault, with only a few dozen fruits and vegetables to choose from: perhaps one kind of apple, one kind of lettuce, a yellow onion, a pile of bananas. Today, grocery stores routinely offer hundreds of different fruits and vegetables, many of which would be unrecognizable to time travelers from a half century ago. What changed, and how did Americans learn to embrace spaghetti squash, sugar snap peas, and kiwi fruit? This episode, we tell the story of the woman behind this transformation: Frieda Caplan, the Queen of Kiwi. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Dec 17, 2019
Are Insect Guts the Secret to the Most Delicious Kimchi?
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This side dish of spicy, bubbly, funky pickled vegetables is such a staple in Korea that no meal is considered complete without it—but, recently, kimchi has found its way into burgers, pasta, grilled cheese, and even tacos. This episode, we trace the behind-the-scenes story of the “kimchi diplomacy” that turned Korea’s favorite fermented cabbage into an international food trend. And then, because we’re Gastropod, we take part in our very own cutting-edge science experiment to understand one of kimchi science’s most mysterious questions: where do the microbes that transform the sugars in cabbage into such tangy, savory flavors actually come from? Is it our hands? The soil? Or could the secret to all that deliciousness actually lie in the stomach of beetles and bugs? Listen in this episode for kimchi secrets, kimchi explosions, and a little bit of kimchi K-pop, too. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Dec 03, 2019
Menu Mind Control
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At its most basic, a menu is simply a way for a restaurant to communicate its offerings and their prices to its customers. But, perhaps even more importantly, says Alison Pearlman, author of a new book on menus called May We Suggest, a menu has to persuade diners that they want what the restaurant is selling. So how do menus do that—and are they somehow subconsciously manipulating our choices? Are there universal principles of effective menu design that savvy diners can identify and outsmart? Listen in this episode as we decode the history and science of the not-so-humble menu. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Nov 18, 2019
Of Ghost Foods and Culinary Extinction
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The earliest humans favored juicy, meaty mammoth at mealtimes. Ancient Romans loved their favorite herb, silphium, so much that they sprinkled it on everything from lamb to melon. In the 19th century United States, passenger pigeon pie was a cherished comfort food, long before chicken pot pie became commonplace. And, for dessert, Americans a century ago might have enjoyed a superlatively buttery Ansault pear, reckoned to be the greatest pear ever grown. What did these foods beloved by previous generations taste like? Well, apart from some written descriptions, we’ll never know: they’re all extinct. Join us this episode as culinary geographer Lenore Newman takes us on a tour of lost foods—and the lessons they can teach us as we fight to save our current favorite foods from disappearing forever. “Shooting wild pigeons in Iowa,” illustration from the 2 July 1867 edition of Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper (vol. XXV, no. 625, p. 8), from “Large-scale live capture of Passenger Pigeons Ectopistes migratorius for sporting purposes: Overlooked illustrated documentation,” by Julian Hume. “This project started because of a bird,” Lenore Newman told Gastropod. “And that bird was Martha.” Newman’s project is a new book titled Lost Feast: Culinary Extinction and the Future of Food; Martha was a passenger pigeon and the last living member of her species—an “endling,” as such lonely creatures are evocatively called. Her death, on September 1st, 1914, represented the first time that humanity watched a species disappear, in full awareness of the concept of extinction and our role in causing this particular one. “There was no denying it was us,” said Newman: somehow, together, we had eaten so many pigeons that we had wiped the most abundant bird in North America off the face of the planet. But the passenger pigeon wasn’t our first culinary extinction. This episode, Newman takes us on a tour through the foods we have eaten to their end, such as the Pleistocene megafauna, which early humans destroyed as our numbers spread around the world, and the leek-flavored silphium that was so valuable its last stalks were hoarded, alongside gold and jewels, by Roman emperors. In each case, we sift through the evidence that points to human appetite as the leading cause of extinction, and unpack the response of a bewildered, bereft humanity. Gold coin from Cyrene, from between 308-250 BC; the tails side depicts silphium. The Romans clung to the belief that their beloved silphium could perhaps spontaneous reappear someday; the idea that that something could be gone forever was simply, at the time, inconceivable. The concept of extinction—along with its mirror, evolution—wasn’t formulated until the end of the eighteenth century, and it finally gave humans a framework within which to understand their actions. But, as Newman describes, the pace of culinary extinctions has only increased since then, with thousands and thousands of varieties of plants and breeds of animals vanishing in the early 20th century. Why have we allowed so many of the foods we love to vanish? What impact has their loss had—and what lessons can it teach us for the future? Listen in this episode as Newman helps us tackle these morbid questions, leaving us with some hope, as well as a whole new perspective on chicken.Episode NotesLenore Newman‘s Lost Feast Lenore Newman holds a Canada Research Chair in Food Security and Environment at the University of the Fraser Valley, where she is currently an associate professor of geography and the environment. Her most recent book is Lost Feast: Culinary Extinction and the Future of Food; prior to that, she authored Speaking in Cod Tongues: A Canadian Culinary Journey. The Ansault pear, painted by Deborah G. Passmore on 10/13/1897, from the collection of the USDA National Agricultural Library in Beltsville, Maryland. The post Of Ghost Foods and Culinary Extinction appeared first on Gastropod. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Nov 05, 2019
Tiki Time!
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Tiki bars are hot these days: you can enjoy a fruity tropical drink while surrounded by faux-Polynesian décor in most major cities around the U.S. and elsewhere, with new tiki spots opening every month. The trend is a revival of a nearly century-old American tradition—but the knowledge of how to make these classic tiki cocktails had been all but lost over the intervening decades. It took an amateur sleuth who went on a deep dive into cocktail archaeology and recipe cryptography to bring back the lost flavors. But, while the drinks he rediscovered are delicious, does the classic tiki bar interior, adorned with carvings that resemble traditional Polynesian gods, stand the test of time? Listen in for tales of Hollywood celebrities, backyard luaus, and a savvy restaurateur with a wooden leg. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Oct 22, 2019
What’s CRISPR Doing in our Food?
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You’ve probably heard the hype: CRISPR will revolutionize biotech, cure disease, resurrect extinct species, and even create new-and-(not-so)-improved humans. But what is CRISPR—and what’s it doing in our food? The first generation of genetically modified crops, or GMOs, were labelled “Frankenfoods” by critics and are banned in the European Union. Can CRISPR succeed where fish-tomatoes failed? And what’s yoghurt got to do with it? Listen in this episode for the CRISPR story you haven’t heard—and for a taste of our CRISPRized future. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Oct 08, 2019
Happy Birthday to Us: Gastropod Turns Five
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We launched Gastropod in September 2014, which means we’re turning five this month, and that’s approximately 100 in podcast years. We’re celebrating our birthday with a special episode featuring highlights from the past five years’ worth of episodes, as chosen by you, our listeners—served up alongside a generous slice of cake science and history. Join the party and listen in now as we revisit fan favorites and behind-the-scenes highlights from our first half-decade, and then sit down with this souvenir list: 25 of our favorite fun facts from Gastropod, or five for each of the five years we’ve been making the show! Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Sep 24, 2019
Running on Fumes: Strawberry’s Dirty Secret
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This episode, we tell an age-old tale: an innocent young berry heads west to make its fame and fortune—but sells its soul in the process. In order for our hero, the strawberry, to defeat its nemesis, a fungus called wilt, the aromatic red fruit makes a deal with the devil—and duly becomes America’s favorite berry. But its success relies on fumigants, toxic gases injected into the soil that kill everything in their path. So what are fumigants; what’s their effect on farm workers, local communities, and the environment; and can the strawberry break free of their poisonous grip? Listen in this episode to find out! Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Aug 27, 2019
Omega 1-2-3
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Based on all the hype, you’d be forgiven for believing that the fish oils known as omega-3s are solution to every problem. Heart disease, dementia, depression, even obesity—the list of ailments that experts claim a daily dose of omega-3 can help prevent seems endless. And with more than ten percent of Americans taking a capsule of fish oil daily, omega-3s are one of the most profitable supplements in the world, too. Listen in this episode, as author Paul Greenberg and scientist JoAnn Manson help us figure out what these supposedly miracle molecules are, and what consuming them is doing to our bodies—and to our oceans. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Aug 13, 2019
Meet Sharbat, the Ancestor of Sorbet, Syrup, Shrub, Sherbet, and Pretty Much Everything Else Cool
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Many of you won’t have heard of sharbat, the delightfully tangy, refreshingly icy Persian drink. But most of you will have tasted at least one of its many descendants: sorbet, sherbet, syrup, shrub, and even the julep. So, what is sharbat? How did it inspire so many variations on cooling deliciousness? And how did Persians manage to make ice in the middle of the desert—thousands of years before the invention of mechanical refrigeration? Find out while keeping cool in this special episode of Gastropod, sponsored by McCormick. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Aug 06, 2019
Super Fry: The Fight for the Golden Frite
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Shoestring, waffle, curly, or thick-cut: however you slice it, nearly everyone loves a deep-fried, golden brown piece of potato. But that’s where the agreement ends and the battles begin. While Americans call their fries “French,” Belgians claim that they, not the French, invented the perfect fry. Who’s right? This episode, we take you right into the heart of the battle that continues to be waged over who owns the fry—who invented it, who perfected it, who loves it the most? And then we take you behind the scenes into another epic fight: the struggle for the perfect fry. Can food scientists create a fry with the ultimate crispy shell and soft inside, one that can stay that way while your delivery driver is stuck in traffic? Plus, the condiment wars: does mayo really have the edge over ketchup? Listen in now to find out! Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Jun 19, 2019
Eat This, Not That: The Surprising Science of Personalized Nutrition
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This episode, we’ve got the exclusive on the preliminary results of the world’s largest personalized nutrition experiment. Genetic epidemiologist Tim Spector launched the study, called PREDICT, to answer a simple but important question: do we each respond to different foods differently? And, if so, why? How much of that difference is genetic, how much is due to gut microbes, and how much is due to any one of the dozens of other factors that scientists think affect our metabolic processes? You’ve heard of personalized medicine, will there be such a thing as personalized diets? And should there be? Can teasing out the nuances of how each individual body processes different foods make us all healthier? To find out, we signed ourselves up as study participants, sticking pins in our fingers, weighing our food, and providing fecal samples, all for science—and for you, dear listeners. Listen in now as we take part in this ground-breaking study, discover our own differences, and find out the early results! Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Jun 10, 2019
Guts and Glory
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What does it mean when your stomach rumbles? How do our bodies extract nutrients and vitamins from food? Does what you eat affect your mood? Digestion is an invisible, effortless, unconscious process—and one that, until recently, we knew almost nothing about. On this episode of Gastropod, we follow our food on its journey to becoming fuel, from the filtered blood that helps slide food into the stomach, to the velvet walls and rippling choreography of the small intestine, to the microbial magic of the colon and out the other end. And we do it by visiting the world’s most sophisticated artificial gut at dinner time—a plumbing marvel named TIM that chews, swallows, squeezes, farts, and poops just like the real thing. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
May 21, 2019
BONUS: Introducing Science Rules! with Bill Nye
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We interrupt our regular programming to bring you news of a new podcast you might like. Bill Nye is on a mission to change the world—one phone call at a time. On his new podcast, Science Rules!, he tackles your questions on just about anything in the universe. Perhaps you’ve wondered: Should I stop eating cheeseburgers to combat climate change? How often should I really be washing my pillowcase? Can I harvest energy from all those static-electricity shocks I get in the winter? Science Rules! is out NOW—find it in your favorite podcast app. The post BONUS: Introducing Science Rules! with Bill Nye appeared first on Gastropod. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
May 16, 2019
The Great Gastropod Pudding Off
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Four bakers, one evening, and one challenge: Who can steam the best spotted dick? On this week’s action-packed episode, Tom Gilliford, Selasi Gbormittah, and Yan Tsou of Great British Bake-Off fame, along with honorary Gastropod member (and Cynthia’s partner) Tim Buntel, compete to see who can master this most classic of British puddings for the first-ever Great Gastropod Pudding Off! But what in the world is spotted dick? “It’s got nostalgia, mystery, horror, and comedy—it’s a perfect British dish,” explained British food designer and jellymonger Sam Bompas, who joined us to judge the competition. Listen in as Tom tries to beat his rival Selasi, Yan revives the flavor combination that robbed her of a Bake Off victory, and Tim tests out his Yankee-style pudding on the Brits. While the four bakers duke it out in the kitchen, we dive into the history and science of British pudding to find out what makes a pudding a pudding, the secret ingredient that will give your pud a lovely light texture, and why anyone would name a dessert “spotted dick.” Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
May 06, 2019
Potatoes in Space!
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Today, a half century after Neil Armstrong took one small step onto the surface of the Moon, there are still just three humans living in space—the crew of the International Space Station. But, after decades of talk, both government agencies and entrepreneurs are now drawing up more concrete plans to return to the Moon, and even travel onward to Mars. Getting there is one thing, but if we plan to set up colonies, we’ll have to figure out how to feed ourselves. Will Earth crops grow in space—and, if so, will they taste different? Will we be sipping spirulina smoothies and crunching on chlorella cookies, as scientists imagined in the 1960s, or preparing potatoes six thousand different ways, like Matt Damon in The Martian? Listen in this episode for the stories about how and what we might be farming, once we get to Mars. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Apr 23, 2019
The Curry Chronicles
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Curry is, supposedly, Indian. But there is no such word in any of the country’s many official languages—and no Indian would use the term to describe their own food. So what is curry? This episode takes us to India, Britain, and Japan on a quest to understand how a variety of spicy, saucy dishes ended up being lumped together under one name—and then transformed into something completely different as they were transported around the world. From a post-pub vindaloo in Leeds to comforting kare raisu in Kyoto, we explore the stories and flavors of curry—a dish that’s from nowhere and yet eaten nearly everywhere. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Apr 09, 2019
The Bagelization of America
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Today, it’s a breakfast staple, but, as recently as 1960, The New York Times had to define it for readers—as “an unsweetened doughnut with rigor mortis.” That’s right, this episode is all about the bagel, that shiny, ring-shaped, surprisingly dense bread that makes the perfect platform for cream cheese and lox. Where did it come from? Can you get a decent bagel outside New York City? And what does it have in common with the folding ping-pong table? Come get your hot, fresh bagel science and history here! Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Mar 26, 2019
Can Diet Stop Alzheimer’s?
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Every three seconds, someone in the world develops Alzheimer’s disease. It’s a devastating disease: millions of people, as well as their caretakers, spend years dealing with disabling disorientation and memory loss. Today, it’s the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. By 2050, an estimated 15 million people in America will have Alzheimer’s—the combined populations of New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. But, after years of failed drug trials, scientists are now realizing that the disease begins with structural changes in the brain decades before sufferers show any symptoms. And some researchers now believe that diet may be the most important factor in determining whether or not those brain changes take place. Listen in now to find out: Can changing what you eat prevent Alzheimer’s? Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Mar 11, 2019
Seeds of Immortality
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When seeds first evolved, hundreds of millions of years ago, they not only revolutionized the plant world, but they also eventually sowed the path for human civilization. Today, it’s nearly impossible to eat a meal without consuming a plant embryo—or many. But how did seeds come to play such a critical role in human history? Why might one seed in particular, the lotus seed, hold the secret to immortality? And, perhaps just as importantly, how does this magical seed taste? Find out in this special episode of Gastropod, sponsored by McCormick. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Mar 04, 2019
Pick A Pawpaw: America’s Forgotten Fruit
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In 1916, agricultural experts voted the pawpaw the American fruit most likely to succeed, ahead of blueberries and cranberries. But today, most people have never even heard of it, let alone tried it. What is the pawpaw, and how did we forget it? Listen in this episode for a tale that involves mastodons and head-lice, George Washington and Daniel Boone, and a petite but passionate community of pawpaw obsessives. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Feb 26, 2019
Eating to Win: Gatorade, Muscle Milk, and… Chicken Nuggets?
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Ancient Greek Olympians swore by beans to give them a competitive edge. Japanese sumo wrestlers rely on a protein-rich soup called chankonabe to get into peak condition. And NBA all-stars Kevin Garnett, Carmelo Anthony, and Steph Curry credit their success to a pre-game PB&J. Throughout history, athletes have traditionally eaten something special they hope will give them an edge. But is there any science behind these special drinks and diets—and will consuming them help those of us who are not destined for sporting glory, too? Listen in this episode as we reveals the backstory behind such stadium staples as Gatorade and Muscle Milk—and the evidence for their efficacy. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Feb 12, 2019
The Secret History of the Slave Behind Jack Daniel’s Whiskey
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Back in 1866, Jack Daniel’s became the first registered distillery in the United States; today, it’s the top-selling American whiskey in the world. For much of the brand’s 150-plus years, the story went that the young Jack Daniel learned his trade from a pastor named Dan Call. In reality, he was taught to distill by an enslaved African, Nearest Green, whose contributions had been written out of history. In this episode, listen in as Fawn Weaver, the entrepreneur who has made rediscovering Green’s story her business, and Clay Risen, the whiskey expert whose 2016 article in The New York Times launched Weaver’s quest, tell us the true story of Nearest Green and Jack Daniel—and of American whiskey. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Jan 28, 2019
Sweet and Low (Calorie): The Story of Artificial Sweeteners
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For decades, ads for treats sweetened with substances like Sweet’N Low, NutraSweet, and Splenda have promised what seems like a miracle of modern science: that you can enjoy all the dessert you want, calorie-free. No need to deprive yourself—with artificial sweeteners, you can literally have your cake and eat it, too. But are these substances safe? Don’t they give cancer to rats and mess up your metabolism? Listen in now for answers to all these questions, plus the tale of a sugar-free gumball marketing blitz, courtesy of none other than Donald Rumsfeld. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Jan 15, 2019
Dirty Tricks and Data: The Great Soda Wars, Part 2
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Over the past five years, more than forty cities and countries around the world have passed a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages. These soda taxes are designed to improve public health—but do they? Or have all the doom-and-gloom predictions of the soda industry come true instead? Researchers have been crunching the data, and this episode we have the scoop: do soda taxes work? We’ve also got the story of how the soda industry is fighting back, with dirty tricks in Colombia and blackmail in California. Finally, are soda taxes even the best intervention for improving public health? We have brand-new results from a radical, world-first experiment in Chile. Listen in now as we reach the epic finale of the great soda wars! Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Dec 18, 2018
Souring on Sweet: The Great Soda Wars, Part 1
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Public health researchers agree: the evidence is clear that Americans consume way too much sugar, that sugar contributes to weight gain, and that rising rates of obesity in the U.S. will lead to significant health problems in the future. What’s much less clear is what to do about it. In this special, first-ever two-part episode of Gastropod, we tell the story of how sugary beverages—soda, in particular—became Public Health Enemy #1. Why are politicians and scientists targeting soda? Why have most attempts to pass soda taxes failed? And do these taxes even work to reduce consumption and obesity? Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Dec 04, 2018
The Truth is in the Tooth: Braces, Cavities, and the Paleo Diet
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Brush, floss, and forget: chances are, you only think about your teeth when they cause you trouble. But teeth have tales to tell, such as how old we are, how fast we grew, and how far we’ve traveled… But, most intriguingly, teeth can tell us both what we evolved to eat and what we actually have been eating. Paleo diet fans insist that our modern teeth troubles—all those pesky cavities—come from eating the wrong diet. If we only ate what our ancestors ate—meat, berries, and no grains—we’d be fine, they claim. But what do our teeth say? Tune in this episode to find out the toothy truth. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Nov 19, 2018
Who Invented Mac and Cheese?
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The warm, gooey dish, a childhood staple across North America, is many things to many people: a mainstay of African-American Sunday dinners, according to soul food expert Adrian Miller; a comforting yet celebratory meal that can be jazzed up in dozens of ways, according to chef and former mac and cheese restaurant owner Allison Arevalo; and Canada’s de facto national dish, according to journalist Sasha Chapman. So what do the Swiss Alps have to do with macaroni and cheese? Listen to this special sponsored episode for the story of where mac and cheese really came from and how it ended up in a little blue box. Plus, some tips for making the very best macaroni and cheese from scratch. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Nov 13, 2018
How the Carrot Became Orange, and Other Stories
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Thousands of years ago, in what’s now Afghanistan, people unearthed the tangled, gnarled roots of Queen Anne’s Lace—a ubiquitous, hairy-stemmed plant with a spray of tiny white flowers. These fibrous, twisted roots were white and bitter-tasting, but they had an appealing spicy, pine-y, earthy aroma. This was the unpromising ancestor of one of America’s most popular root vegetables (second only to the mighty potato): today, it’s mostly consumed in the form of two-inch orange slugs, marketed under the label “baby carrots.” So how did this white, woody root become orange, as well as purple and yellow and even red? Listen in now to find out—and hear the story of the invention of the baby carrot. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Nov 06, 2018
The Incredible Egg
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We love eggs scrambled, fried, or poached; we couldn’t enjoy a quiche, meringue, or flan without them. But for scientists and archaeologists, these perfect packages are a source of both wonder and curiosity. Why do eggs come in such a spectacular variety of colors, shapes, and sizes? Why are we stuck mostly eating chicken eggs, when our ancestors feasted on emu, ostrich, and guillemot eggs? This episode, we explore the science and history of eggs, from dinosaurs to double-yolkers! Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Oct 23, 2018
Espresso and Whisky: The Place of Time in Food
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Why does fish cook so fast? What’s the “wasabi window”? And can you really make 20-year-old aged whisky in six days? This episode, we’re looking at the role of time in food and flavor: what it does, and how we’ve tried—and sometimes succeeded—to manipulate that. To explore these questions, we visit a whisky time machine tucked away in low-slung warehouse in downtown Los Angeles and meet its inventor, Bryan Davis. And we speak with Jenny Linford, food writer and author of a new book, The Missing Ingredient, all about time and food. Listen in now—this one’s well worth your time! Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Oct 09, 2018
Why These Animals?
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In the West, when it comes to which meat is for dinner, we nearly always choose beef, pork, or chicken. Yet cows and pigs are only two of more than five thousand of species of mammals, and chicken is one of ten thousand species of birds. Meanwhile, at different times in history and in different places around the world, people have enjoyed dining on all sorts of animals, from elephants to flamingos to jellyfish. So how do individuals and cultures decide which animals to eat, and which they don’t? And why is this decision so divisive—why do many Americans look with such horror on those who eat, say, horse or dog? Listen in this episode for a healthy serving of myth-busting—about domestication, disgust, and deliciousness—as we explore this thorny question. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Sep 25, 2018
Mango Mania: How the American Mango Lost its Flavor—and How it Might Just Get it Back
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Mangoes inspire passion, particularly in India, which is home to hundreds of varieties of the fruit. They are celebrated in Indian music, poetry, and art; they are mentioned in Hindu and Buddhist religious texts as well as the Kama Sutra; and Indian expats will even pay hundreds of dollars for a single, air-freighted box of their favorite variety. But while the average red-skinned mango in the American grocery store is certainly pretty, they’re disappointingly bland and crunchy. This episode, we embark on a mango quest to discover how a mango should taste, why the American mango lost its flavor, and how it might just get it back. This is a story that involves a dentist from New Jersey, George W. Bush, and some Harley Davidsons, as well as a full-on mango orgy—so listen in! Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Sep 11, 2018
Keeping it Fresh: Preservatives and The Poison Squad
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More than a century ago, enterprising manufacturers added brand-new chemical preservatives into food to keep it fresh as it traveled from the farm into rapidly growing American cities. Milk no longer went rancid! Meat no longer spoiled! But some scientists wondered: could all these preservatives be doing more harm than good? It took a crusading chemist named Harvey Washington Wiley to take this the fight all the way to Washington, D.C., where he recruited a “poison squad” to test their health effects—and, in the process, created the nation’s first law to protect against poisons in our food supply. But did he succeed? Are the preservatives we eat today safe? Listen to this episode to hear Wiley’s story—and learn why some of the chemicals he tested are still in our food today. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Aug 28, 2018
Watch It Wiggle: The Jell-O Story
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It’s been described as the ultimate status symbol for the wealthy, as the perfect solution for dieters and the sick, and, confusingly, as a liquid trapped in a solid that somehow remains fluid. What could this magical substance be? In case you haven’t guessed, this episode, we’re talking about Jell-O! Or, to be more precise, jelly—not the seedless kind you spread on toast, but the kind that shimmers on your plate, wiggles and jiggles on your spoon, and melts in your mouth. Jelly’s story is as old as cooking itself—it is one that involves spectacular riches and dazzling displays, as well as California’s poet laureate and some very curious chemistry. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Aug 14, 2018
Out of the Fire, Into the Frying Pan
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From rainbow-hued enameled stew pots to lightweight nonstick frying pans, the metal and ceramic vessels we use to heat our food are such an everyday aspect of the kitchen that they’re easy to take for granted. But make no mistake: the invention of the pot was, after fire, one of the most important innovations in cooking. You’ll want to hug your favorite skillet after coming along with us on this journey, which ranges from some of the earliest clay pots ever found in what’s now the Sahara Desert, to the British round-bellied cast-iron number that kickstarted the Industrial Revolution, to a legal challenge in Ohio that raised the question of Teflon’s health and environmental impact. Plus, can science help us find the perfect pot or pan? Listen in to find out. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Jun 19, 2018
Hotbox: The Oven From Turnspit Dogs to Microwaves
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Humans are the only animals that cook their food, an innovation that changed the course of our evolution and the trajectory of the planet. But how did we tame those early cooking fires and put them in a box—and what can subsequent leaps forward in heating technology tell us about cuisines and culture? This episode, we’re taking you on a whirlwind tour through oven history and science, from the legendary roast beef of Old England—and the special dogs bred to turn the spits on which it hung—to the curious origins of the microwave in military radar technology. What do we gain and lose when our ovens change—and how might understanding that help with the quest to bring better cookstoves to the developing world? Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Jun 05, 2018
Feed the World: How the U.S. Became the World’s Biggest Food Aid Donor—And Why That Might Not be Such a Great Thing
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The United States is, by far, the world’s largest international food aid donor. Almost every year since the 1950s, it has been responsible for more than 50 percent of the billions of tons of food shipped from the parts of the world with a surplus to the parts of the world that are hungry. This episode, we ask: how did this situation come about, given that America spent its first 150 years of nationhood arguing against feeding people overseas? And, more importantly, is shipping sacks of corn from American ports really the best way to help people in need around the world? Listen in as we explore the curious story of how the U.S. started giving food—and why it’s so hard to stop. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
May 22, 2018
Ripe for Global Domination: The Story of the Avocado
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Avocados are on a roll. More precisely, they’re on toast—a lot of toast. Last summer, British Vogue reported that more than three million new photos of avocado toast are uploaded to Instagram every day. But how did this humble fruit, originally named after testicles, get from its Mexican forest home to a tattoo on Miley Cyrus’s upper arm? This episode, we unravel the avocado’s amazing journey, a story that involves not only conquistadors and cartel violence, but also a Southern California postman and actress Angie Dickinson lounging in a white leotard. And we discover where the avocado is headed next—a place where it’s known as the butter fruit, and often consumed in shake form. Listen in now for all this creamy green goodness and more. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
May 08, 2018
Meet the Man Who Found, Finagled, and Ferried Home the Foods We Eat Today
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You’ve probably never heard of David Fairchild. But if you’ve savored kale, mango, peaches, dates, grapes, a Meyer lemon, or a glass of craft beer lately, you’ve tasted the fruits of his globe-trotting travels in search of the world’s best crops—and his struggles to get them back home to the United States. This episode, we talk to Daniel Stone, author of The Food Explorer, a new book all about Fairchild’s adventures. Listen in now for tales of pirates and biopiracy, eccentric patrons and painful betrayals, as well as the successes and failures that shaped not only the way we eat, but America’s place in the world. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Apr 24, 2018
Who Faked My Cheese?
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Cheeeeese: that one word alone causes our stomachs to rumble and mouths to water. The sheer variety of flavors and textures created by only a few ingredients—milk, salt, enzymes, and microbes—is astounding: hard and soft, creamy and crumbly, richly umami and sweetly savory. For thousands of years, humans have been transforming animal milk into one of the most diverse and delicious substances in the world. But what is it about milk that makes it so uniquely suited to this particular magic trick? And why is it so hard to recreate using non-animal-based substances? This episode: real cheese, vegan cheese, and the real vegan cheese of the future. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Apr 10, 2018
Marching on our Stomachs: The Science and History of Feeding the Troops
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For most of us, eggs are perfect packets of portable protein, and pizza is the lazy option for dinner. For the research team at the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Systems Center, pizza and eggs are two of the most nightmarish food-science challenges of the last fifty years—but the struggle to perfect such dishes for the military has shaped civilian meals, too. Join us this episode as we venture into the Willy Wonka-style labs where the U.S. Army is developing the rations of the future, and then take a trip to the supermarket with author Anastacia Marx de Salcedo to see how military R&D has made much of the food on our grocery store shelves longer-lasting, more portable, and convenient—and, yes, more highly processed too. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Mar 27, 2018
Cooking the Books with Yotam and Nigella
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Who first started collecting recipes into cookbooks? Do cookbooks have a future in a world full of online recipes? And can cookbooks tell us anything about what people are actually eating, or are they simply aspirational food porn? This episode, we explore the past, present, and future of cookbooks, from cuneiform tablets to Hail Marys, with the help of two of our favorite cookbooks authors—and Gastropod fans—Nigella Lawson and Yotam Ottolenghi. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Mar 13, 2018
Cutting the Mustard
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For some Americans, a trip to the ballpark isn’t complete without the bright yellow squiggle of French’s atop a hotdog. For the French, the slow burn of Dijon is a must-have complement to charcuterie. In the U.K., Sunday’s roast beef is nothing without the punch of Colman’s. Yet few realize that this condiment has been equally essential—maybe more so—for the past 6,000 years. In fact, the first spice that we know prehistoric humans used to pep up their dinners is none other than mustard. But why is the sale of mustard oil for consumption banned in the U.S., Europe, and Canada, despite the fact it’s used by millions of people around the world nearly every day? Listen in now for the answer to that mustard mystery and dozens more, including how mustard got its heat, and why we have caterpillars to thank for its particular taste profile. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Feb 27, 2018
Remembrance of Things Pasta: A Saucy Tale
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It’s one of food’s most beautiful relationships: pasta and sauce. But which came first—and how on Earth are you supposed to figure out which of those hundreds of shapes to serve with your pesto? With Valentine’s Day round the corner, we bring you the saucy—and occasionally scientific—history of an Italian staple. Listen in now as we take you from the very first mention of “a food of flour and water,” served “in the form of strings,” to the cutting-edge shape-shifting pasta of tomorrow. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Feb 13, 2018
We’ve Lost It: The Diet Episode
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Diet dreams are splashed across magazine covers and blare from the T.V., offering tips and tricks, that will, readers and viewers are promised, make weight loss easy and fast. Diet books making similar claims can be found at the top of the best-seller list without fail, every January. But where does this obsession with losing weight to reach some kind of idealized body type come from? How long have gurus and doctors alike made millions from the West’s preoccupation with the “d” word, and why do strange fads such as chewing each bite hundreds of times stick around for centuries? This episode, we explore the history of diets, before asking a scientist: Does anything actually work? Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Jan 30, 2018
Meet Saffron, the World’s Most Expensive Spice
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It’s the poshest spice of all, often worth its weight in gold. But saffron also has a hidden history as a dye, a luxury self-tanner, and even a serotonin stimulant. That’s right, this episode we’re all about those fragile red threads plucked from the center of a purple crocus flower. Listen in as we visit a secret saffron field to discover why it’s so expensive, talk to a clinical psychologist to explore the science behind saffron’s reputation as the medieval Prozac, and explore the spice’s off-menu role as an all-purpose beautifier for elites from Alexander the Great to Henry VIII. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Jan 16, 2018
Secrets of Sourdough
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Today, you can find a huge variety of breads on supermarket shelves, only a few of which are called “sourdough.” For most of human history, though, any bread that wasn’t flat was sourdough—that is, it was leavened with a wild community of microbes. And yet we know surprisingly little about the microbes responsible for raising sourdough bread, not to mention making it more nutritious and delicious than bread made with commercial yeast. For starters, where do the fungi and bacteria in a sourdough starter come from? Are they in the water or the flour? Do they come from the baker’s hands? Or perhaps they’re just floating around in the foggy air, as the bakers of San Francisco firmly believe? This episode, Cynthia and Nicky go to Belgium with two researchers, fifteen bakers, and quite a few microbes for a three-day science experiment designed to answer this question once and for all. Listen in for our exclusive scoop on the secrets of sourdough. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Dec 18, 2017
Green Gold: Our Love Affair with Olive Oil
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Olive oil is not what you think it is. According to Tom Mueller, author of Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil, an olive is a stone fruit like a plum or cherry—meaning that the green-gold liquid we extract from it “is, quite literally, fruit juice.” And, while we’re blowing your minds, have you ever stopped to wonder what “Extra Virgin” means? “It’s like extra dead or semi-pregnant,” Mueller said. “I mean, it doesn’t make any sense at all.” This episode we visit two groves—one in the Old World, one in the New—to get to the bottom of olive oil’s many mysteries. Listen in this episode as we find out why the ancient Romans rubbed it all over their bodies, and whether the olive oil on our kitchen counters really is what it says on the label. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Dec 05, 2017
Women, Food, Power … and Books!
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From “The Flintstones” to Focus on the Family, the stereotype has long been that men hunt and provide, while women just stir the pot. Thankfully, today many women—and men—reject both that biological essentialism and the resulting division of labor. But what can science tell us about the role our earliest female ancestors played in providing food for themselves and their communities? Meanwhile, given the fact that women have been confined to the kitchen for much of recent Western history, how have they used food as a tool of power and protest, escape, and resistance? Just in time for the holiday season, this episode we dive into two books that take on the science and history of women’s relationship with food. First, science journalist Angela Saini helps us upend conventional wisdom on “women’s work” and biological differences between the sexes; then food historian Laura Shapiro reveals an entirely new side to six well-known women through their culinary biographies. Join us this episode as we hunt, gather, and cook with women throughout history, from feral pigs to Shrimp Wiggle. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Nov 21, 2017
Crantastic: The Story of America’s Berry
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It’s nearly Thanksgiving, which, for most Americans, marks the one time a year their dinner table is adorned with jewel-like cranberries, simmered into a delicious sauce. But hundreds of years ago, cranberry sauce was a mainstay of daily meals, all around the U.S. How did this acidic, tannic berry, so hard to love in its raw form, become one of the most popular fruits in America, and how did it fall so deeply out of fashion? Meanwhile, as cranberry sauce was relegated to Thanksgiving, cranberry juice became a popular drink—and mixer. But why is the juice so widely believed to combat urinary tract infections, and does science support that claim? Join us this episode for all that, plus a tour of the cranberry bog of the future. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Nov 07, 2017
Cannibalism: From Calories to Kuru
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For most of us, it’s unthinkable: human is never what’s for dinner. Sorry to burst any bubbles, but this episode, we discover that not only is cannibalism widespread throughout the natural world, but it’s also much more common among our own kind than we like to think. Spiders and sharks do it; so have both ancient and modern humans. So why does it sometimes make sense to snack on your own species—and what are the downsides? From Hannibal Lecter to the Donner party, cannibals are now the subject of morbid fascination and disgust—but how did eating each other become such a taboo? Join us this episode for our Halloween special: the science and history of cannibalism! Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Oct 24, 2017
Eataly World and the Future of Food Shopping
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In just over a month, the world’s first theme park devoted entirely to Italian food will open its doors—and Gastropod has the scoop! Among Eataly World‘s delights will be hunt-your-own truffles, baby lambs, beach volleyball, and custom Bianchi shopping bike-carts. But there’s a bigger story, and it’s that Oscar Farinetti, the founder of the Eataly empire, has somehow managed to make money by merging two businesses—grocery stores and restaurants—that are both incredibly challenging when it comes to turning a profit. In the process, he’s transforming the way we shop for food. Join us this episode as we tell the story behind the life and death of the great American supermarket—and take a trip to Italy for a sneak peek at its future. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Oct 10, 2017
What the Fluff is Marshmallow Creme?
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If you’re not from New England, you may never have heard of Fluff, or its legendary sandwich-based incarnation, the Fluffernutter. The sticky sweet marshmallow creme was invented exactly one hundred years ago in Somerville, Massachusetts—at the time, the Silicon Valley of candy innovation. To celebrate, we’re diving into the history of the disruptive technologies that led to Fluff’s rise, as well as the secret behind its soft yet sturdy consistency. It’s a story that involves Howard Stern, Fanny Farmer, and the fabulously named Archibald Query—so listen in and join this festival of fluff! Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Sep 26, 2017
Lunch Gets Schooled
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Across the United States, school lunch is being transformed, as counties and cities partner with local farms to access fresh vegetables, as well as hire chefs to introduce tastier and more adventurous meals. This is a much-needed correction after decades of processed meals that contained little in the way of nutrition and flavor. But how did we get to trays of spongy pizza and freezer-burned tater tots in the first place? While it seems as if such culinary delights were always part of a child’s day, the school lunch is barely a century old—and there are plenty of countries in the world, like Canada and Norway, where school lunch doesn’t even exist. This episode, we dive into the history of how we got to today’s school lunch situation, as well as what it tells us about our economic and gender priorities. Listen in now for all that, plus the science on whether school lunch even matters.  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Sep 11, 2017
Sour Grapes: The History and Science of Vinegar
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It’s found in almost every home, whether it’s destined to dress salads or clean surfaces and kill fruit flies. But, effective as it is at those tasks, most of us struggle to get excited about vinegar. Today, however, a handful of enthusiasts and entrepreneurs are trying to launch a vinegar renaissance—one in which we appreciate vinegar (nearly) as much as the alcohol from which it’s made. This episode, we visit vinegar attics in Italy, conduct an epic tasting in a backyard vinegar shed in west London, and chat with our in-house microbiologist, Ben Wolfe of Tufts University, in order to explore vinegar’s long, frequently accidental history, its rumored health benefits, and its culinary potential. Plus: is the balsamic vinegar on your shelf the real thing? Listen now for all this and more! Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Aug 29, 2017
The Birds and The Bugs
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Chicken is such a mainstay of the contemporary American dinner table that it seems hard to imagine that, just a century ago, it was rare and expensive. But over the course of the 20th century, both chickens and the chicken industry exploded in size. Much of that growth can be attributed to the miraculous properties of antibiotics, which were developed to fight human diseases but quickly began to be fed to farm animals in vast quantities. Journalist and author Maryn McKenna weaves these two intertwined tales together in her new book, Big Chicken: The Incredible Story of How Antibiotics Created Modern Agriculture and Changed the Way the World Eats. In this episode of Gastropod, she describes the consequences of decades spent feeding chicken antibiotics, in terms of chicken flavor, poultry well-being, and, most significantly, human health. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Aug 15, 2017
It’s Tea Time: Pirates, Polyphenols, and a Proper Cuppa
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This week, Gastropod tells the story of two countries and their shared obsession with a plant: Camellia sinensis, otherwise known as the tea bush. The Chinese domesticated tea over thousands of years, but they lost their near monopoly on international trade when a Scottish botanist, disguised as a Chinese nobleman, smuggled it out of China in the 1800s, in order to secure Britain’s favorite beverage and prop up its empire for another century. The story involves pirates, ponytails, and hard drugs—and, to help tell the tale, Cynthia and Nicky visit Britain’s one and only commercial tea plantation, tucked away in a secret garden on an aristocratic estate on the Cornish coast. While harvesting and processing tea leaves, we learn the difference between green and black tea, as well as which is better for your health. Put the kettle on, and settle in for the science and history of tea! Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Aug 01, 2017
Peanuts: Peril and Promise
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Despite their diminutive scale, peanuts play an outsized role in American culture. Peanut butter has long been a mainstay of the American lunchbox, with its sticky, slightly sweet nuttiness flavoring the memories of generation after generation of kids. And it’s hard to imagine ballgames without, as the song goes, peanuts and Cracker Jacks (which, of course, also contain peanuts). But today, peanuts are the source of both hope and fear: while there’s been a surprisingly steep rise of peanut allergies in recent decades that can—though rarely—lead to death, peanut butter is also the basis of a medical therapy used to save the lives of millions of children around the world. This episode, we discover how the humble peanut got to be such a big deal. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Jun 20, 2017
Fake Food
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Hamburgers that turn out to be horse, not beef. Honey sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup. Old, grey olives dipped in copper sulfate solution to make them look fresh and green. Fraudulent foods such as these make up as much as five to ten percent of the offerings on supermarket shelves, according to experts—but which food is most likely to be faked, and what does that tell us about our food system? Join us this episode as we put on our detective hats to investigate food fraud’s long history and the cutting-edge science behind food forensics today—as well as what you can do to make sure what’s on your plate is what you think it is. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Jun 06, 2017
Here’s Why You Should Care About Southern Food
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The food of the South is one of the most complicated, complex, contradictory cuisines in the U.S. This is the region where a monumental mixing of crops and culinary traditions gave way to one of the most punishing, damaging monocultures in the country; where food born in violence and slavery led to delicious, nutritious dishes. It’s also the region that laid the tablecloth for seasonal, farm-to-table dining, as well as drive-through fast food. In this episode, authors Michael Twitty and John T. Edge, two of the nation’s leading voices on Southern food, take listeners on a tour through their shared history. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
May 22, 2017
Better Believe It’s Butter
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Butter is beautiful: solid golden bars add the perfect flakiness to pastry, give cake a delightfully tender springiness, and melt mouth-wateringly onto toast. But unlike its cousin, cheese—another concentrated, solidified form of milk—we don’t tend to think of butter as something that’s available in hundreds of varieties, each with a different flavor, color, and texture. Nor do we necessarily consider a dairymaid costume to be a uniform of women’s empowerment. But we should. This episode, we explore the science behind butter’s subtle variations, as well as its long history as a vehicle for both ritual worship and female entrepreneurship around the world. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
May 09, 2017
Meet Koji, Your New Favorite Fungus
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It’s impossible to imagine Japanese meals without soy sauce, or the umami-rich fermented bean paste called miso, or the rice-based spirit known as sake. Which means that Japanese cuisine depends on the one fungus that enables the fermentation of all these delicious foods: koji. Today, American chefs are discovering what Asian cooks have known for centuries, that koji is a microbial powerhouse with seemingly magical abilities to completely transform food. But how does a mold from a family of microbes known for their toxicity turn salty, mashed beans into sticky, succulent miso? How did koji make its way from Japan to the U.S.? And how might the weird and wonderful ways chefs in the U.S. are now using koji transform the American dinner table, too? Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Apr 25, 2017
V is for Vitamin
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They’re added to breakfast cereal, bread, and even Pop-Tarts, giving the sweetest, most processed treats a halo of health. Most people pop an extra dose for good measure, perhaps washing it down with fortified milk. But what are vitamins—and how did their discovery make America’s processed food revolution possible? On this episode of Gastropod, author Catherine Price helps us tell the story of vitamins, from Indonesian chickens to Gwyneth Paltrow. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Apr 10, 2017
Hacking Taste
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Taste is the oldest of our five senses, and yet perhaps the least understood. It’s far more complicated than salty versus sweet: new research is dramatically expanding our knowledge of taste, showing that it’s intimately connected to obesity, mood, immunity, and more. In this episode, we get into the science of how taste works, why we taste what we do, and what makes supertasters unique. And finally, we hack our taste buds—for fun, but, in the future, maybe for health, too. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Mar 14, 2017
Cork Dork: Inside the Weird World of Wine Appreciation
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“There’s the faintest soupçon of asparagus and just a flutter of Edam cheese,” says Paul Giamatti in the movie Sideways. Believe it or not, he’s describing pinot noir, not quiche. The world of sommeliers, wine lists, and tasting notes is filled with this kind of language, prices seemingly rising in step with the number of bizarre adjectives. It’s tempting to dismiss the whole thing as B.S., but listen in: this episode, author Bianca Bosker takes us along on her journey into the history and science behind blind tasting, wine flavor wheels, and the craft of the sommelier. You’ll never feel lost in front of a wine list again. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Feb 28, 2017
To Eat or Not to Eat Meat
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With flexitarianism on the rise throughout the developed world, and everyone from Bill Clinton to Beyoncé endorsing the benefits of a vegetarian or vegan diet, it can sometimes seem as though meat is just a bad habit that the majority of us are too weak-willed to kick. But is giving up meat morally superior, healthier, and better for the planet, as its advocates insist? This episode, we fearlessly dive into the long, tangled history and surprisingly nuanced science behind those claims. Listen in now for the truth on Pythagoras, cow farts, and more. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Feb 14, 2017
We Heart Chocolate
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In the weeks before Valentine’s Day, U.S. consumers will buy nearly 58 million pounds of chocolate. This love affair is not limited to just one day or one country: chocolate has spread from its native home in Central and South America to conquer the world. But today, cacao cultivation is facing a series of wicked problems—ones that threaten to drastically shrink the supply of chocolate just as global demand grows. If the threats aren’t taken seriously, might we lose one of our favorite treats? And, if so, will we also lose our next wonder drug? Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Jan 31, 2017
Inventing the Restaurant: From Bone Broth to Michelin
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Early humans may have visited each others’ caves for a shared meal, but they wouldn’t have expected to be served at their own table, or to choose when and what to eat. But today, restaurants are ubiquitous: there are millions of them worldwide, and the average American eats roughly 200 meals a year in one. So who invented the first restaurant, and when and where did it appear? How did it change society—and change along with society? And, in today’s saturated market, is there a scientific way to choose the best? Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Jan 17, 2017
Gettin’ Fizzy With It
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‘Tis the season for a glass of bubbly—but this episode we’re not talking champagne, we’re talking seltzer. America is in the throes of a serious seltzer craze, with consumption of the bubbly stuff doubling in only a decade, from 2004 to 2014. But where does seltzer come from, and why is it called “seltzer,” rather than simply “sparkling water”? Is there any truth to the rumors that seltzer can combat indigestion—or that it will rot our teeth? Why are all the hipsters crushing cans of LaCroix, and what’s the story behind Polar’s ephemeral sensation, Unicorn Kisses? Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Dec 13, 2016
The Spice Curve: From Pepper to Sriracha with Sarah Lohman
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American food has a reputation for being bland—but, according to historical gastronomist Sarah Lohman, “It’s nonsense that Americans don’t like spicy food.” Lohman is the author of a new book, Eight Flavors: The Untold Story of American Cuisine, which explores the stories behind the flavors that have come to define American cuisine. In this episode, she takes us on a journey through the history and science of black pepper, the oldest flavor described in her book, to the hot new taste sensation that is sriracha.   Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Nov 29, 2016
The Buzz on Honey
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Honey seems like a simple, comforting food, slathered on toast, spooned down to soothe sore throats, and beloved of bears, both plush and real. In reality, this sticky combination of bee spit and evaporated nectar is a powerful and ancient ingredient. For much of history, honey was humanity’s main source of sweetness, as well as our first vehicle for getting drunk. Unlike table sugar, honey also comes in an infinite variety of textures and flavors, influenced by the two million blossoms from which each jar is made. And, from ancient Egypt to modern medicine, honey has been valued for its healing powers. Join us this episode as we get stuck in the sweet stuff.   Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Nov 15, 2016
What is Native American Cuisine?
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Pasta, sushi, tacos, samosas, and pad thai: In the U.S., enthusiastic eaters will likely be able to name traditional dishes from a wide variety of cuisines around the world. But most of us couldn’t name a single Native American dish from any one the vast network of tribes, cultures, and cuisines that spread across the U.S. before Europeans arrived. Today, farmers, activists, and chefs are trying to change that. They’re bringing back Native foods—not just to teach all Americans about the indigenous foods of their country, but to improve the lives of Native Americans themselves, who suffer from some of the highest levels of debilitating and often deadly diet-related diseases. Can a return to a Native diet help?   Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Nov 01, 2016
Oysters: History and Science on the Half Shell
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We’re living in a golden age for oysters. Just two decades ago, an ostreophile would have thought him or herself lucky to choose among a handful of options; today, in the U.S. alone, hundreds of varieties with exotic names like Moon Shoal, Hama Hama, and Kusshi tempt oyster lovers. What creates all those different flavors and textures—and what’s the story behind today’s oyster revolution? Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Oct 18, 2016
Counting Fish
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This week, we are taking on one of the universe’s great mysteries: how many fish are in the sea? If you stop to think about it, it seems almost impossible to figure out how many fish there are—after all, they’re basically invisible, not to mention constantly moving. But how else are we to know how many we should take out to eat? Join us as we set sail to figure out how we count fish—and why it matters. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Oct 04, 2016
Seaweed Special
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Seaweed farming is booming: the global harvest has doubled in the past decade, according to a new report from the United Nations University, and it’s now worth more than all the world’s lemons and limes. Most of that seaweed ends up in our food, though there is a growing market in seaweed-based cosmetics and drugs. So what does a seaweed farm look like? How does it help restore the ocean? And what can you do with kelp in the kitchen, other than wrap sushi? Join us for a conversation with Bren Smith, fisherman-turned-seaweed farmer, for the answers to these questions and more.   Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Sep 13, 2016
The Salt Wars
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Salt is a magical substance. It reduces bitterness, enhances sweetness, boosts flavor, and preserves perishable foods. Without it, we would die: the human body can’t make sodium, but our nerves and muscles don’t work without it. It was considered rare until quite recently, so it’s hardly surprising that, throughout history, salt has been the engine behind empires and revolutions. Today, there’s a new battle in the salt wars, between those who think that we eat too much of it and it’s killing us—and those who think most of us are just fine. Join us for a serving of salt, seasoned with science, history, and a little politics.   Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Aug 23, 2016
Kombucha Culture
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If you haven’t tasted kombucha yet, you probably will soon. The sour-sweet, fizzy, fermented tea is becoming ubiquitous in trendy cafes, workplaces, and health food stores across America. Where did it come from, and how did it get so popular? And what in the world is the slimy, beige blob that produces it? From German POWs to Lindsey Lohan to a kombucha zoo at Tufts University, this episode explores the history and science of summer’s hottest drink. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Aug 08, 2016
Keeping Kosher: When Jewish Law Met Processed Food
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Roughly two percent of Americans are Jewish, and only a small fraction of them keep kosher. Yet between a third and a half of all packaged food in an American supermarket has a kosher label on it. How did kosher law become big business? Join us this episode as we find out how ancient Jewish dietary laws have shaped and been shaped by the science of processed food, from Coca-Cola to Jell-O and beyond.   Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Jul 26, 2016
Poultry Power: The Fried Chicken Chronicles
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Juicy, crispy, crunchy…fried chicken is undoubtedly delicious. But it’s also complicated, in ways that go far deeper than the science behind that perfect crust. From slavery to entrepreneurship and from yard fowl to Gospel bird, the story of fried chicken is filled with challenging contradictions. Grab a drumstick and listen in. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Jul 12, 2016
Outside the Box: The Story of Food Packaging
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The invention of food packaging is one of humanity’s greatest achievements. It may seem hard to imagine today, but the first clay pots made the great civilizations of the ancient world possible, while paper’s first use, long before it became a surface for writing, was to wrap food. But packaging’s proliferation, combined with the invention of plastics, has become one of our biggest environmental headaches. In this episode, we explore the surprising history of how our food got dressed—and why and how we might want to help it get naked again.   Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Jun 28, 2016
Who Invented the Cherry Tomato?
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In the 1960s, cherry tomatoes were nearly impossible to find in the grocery store. By the 1990s, it was hard to get a salad without them. Somehow, within a couple of decades, the tiny tomatoes had taken over. Where did they come from? And who lay behind their sudden rise to glory?   Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Jun 14, 2016
Everything Old is Brew Again
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Pull up a bar stool and prepare to open both your mind and your palate: it’s time to meet beer before it settled down into the fizzy brown brew we know and love today. The ales in this episode of Gastropod represent the future of flavor, but take their inspiration from the pre-industrial pint. Join us as we meet brewers who are making beer with local herbs, roast chicken, and yeasts scraped off the skin of wild blueberries—and then taste the surprisingly delicious results.   Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
May 31, 2016
Museums and the Mafia: The Secret History of Citrus
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A slice of lime in your cocktail, a lunchbox clementine, or a glass of OJ at breakfast: citrus is so common today that most of us have at least one lurking on the kitchen counter or in the back of the fridge. But don’t be fooled: not only were these fruits so precious that they inspired both museums and the Mafia, they are also under attack by an incurable immune disease that is decimating citrus harvests around the world. Join us on a historical and scientific adventure, starting with a visit to the ark of citrus—a magical grove in California that contains hundreds of varieties you’ve never heard of, from the rose-scented yellow goo of a bael fruit to the Pop Rocks-sensation of a caviar lime. You’ll see that lemon you’re about to squeeze in a whole new light.   Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Apr 19, 2016
Grand Theft Food
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It’s easy to assume that burglars and thieves are always after conventional valuables: cash, jewels, or high-end electronics. But some of the most memorable heists actually involve food. Inspired by Geoff Manaugh’s new book, A Burglar’s Guide to the City, we dive into the ancient history and detective science behind food crime. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Apr 05, 2016
Caffeine: The World’s Most Popular Drug
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A tablespoon of it will kill you, but most of us feel like death without it: we’re talking about caffeine this episode. Inspired by a listener question — does green tea have more or less caffeine than black? and what about yerba mate? — Cynthia and Nicky explore the history and science of the world’s most popular drug. Listen in as we discover the curious effect of birth control pills on how our bodies process it, calculate how much of an edge it gives athletes, and learn what dolphin dissection and the American Constitution have to do with each other, and with caffeine.   Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Mar 21, 2016
The Maple Boom
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Many people only think of maple syrup at the breakfast table, when they’re facing down a stack of hot, fluffy pancakes or some French toast. They’re missing out. Maple is undergoing a major boom, newly ascendant in beverage aisles, Asian kitchens, and even biomedical research laboratories. In this episode, we visit sugar shacks and talk to the experts to find out why tree sap is so hot right now—and whether it can live up to the hype.   Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Mar 08, 2016
First Foods: Learning to Eat
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How do we learn to eat? It may seem like an obvious question, but it’s actually quite a complicated process. Who decided that mushed-up vegetables were the perfect first food—and has that always been the case? What makes us like some foods and hate others—and can we change? Join us to discover the back story behind the invention of baby food, as well as the latest science on flavor preferences and tips for how to transform dislikes into likes.   Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Feb 23, 2016
The Food of Love
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Throughout history, humans have attributed aphrodisiac powers to certain foods, from legendary lover Casanova’s diet of fifty oysters for breakfast to chocolate, the default Valentine’s Day gift for the uninspired. But how did such varying vegetables as asparagus, potatoes, and Peruvian maca acquire this reputation—and do any of them actually deserve it? Join us to find out the history and science behind edible aphrodisiacs in this NSFW episode of Gastropod. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Feb 09, 2016
The End of the Calorie
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For most of us, the calorie is just a number on the back of the packet or on the display at the gym. But what is it, exactly? And how did we end up with this one unit with which to measure our food? Is a calorie the same no matter what type of food it comes from? And is one calorie for you exactly the same as one calorie for me? To find out, we visit the special rooms scientists use to measure how many calories we burn, and the labs where researchers are discovering that the calorie is broken. And we pose the question: If not the calorie, then what?   Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Jan 26, 2016
States’ Plates
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What’s the dish that best represents your home state? Whose version or recipe would you choose to define it? And what do those dishes tell us about ourselves? In his new book, The Mad Feast, Matthew Gavin Frank travels the United States, teasing out the history and science behind each state’s dish: for this episode of Gastropod, we chat with him about California rolls, buttwich sandwiches, and Pepcid AC. For three-and-a-half years, Matthew Gavin Frank drove around America, eating spudnut after spudnut in Idaho and beaver tail in Arkansas. The resulting book, The Mad Feast: An Ecstatic Tour Through America’s Food, is, he writes, both “anti-cookbook cookbook” and “digressive revisionist take on U.S. history.” The dishes he chooses illuminate each state’s history, but also its geography and ecology: New Mexico’s famous chile peppers get their flavor from the state’s high altitude, long, dry days, and cooler nights, but, although native to the American Southwest, they only began to be cultivated after colonization; Louisiana’s crawfish étouffée reflects not only the state’s melting pot history but also the nutrient-dense Mississippi Delta wetlands in which crawfish and rice are raised alongside each other in flooded fields. In this episode, we tag along with Frank to explore the intertwined histories of colonization, immigration, and slavery, as well as the science of plant breeding and the agricultural ecosystems that lie behind each state’s signature dish. Make sure you’ve got some antacids on hand, and then join us on an epic edible adventure, from Michigan pasties all the way through to Oregon’s marionberry pie.Episode NotesMatthew Gavin Frank and The Mad Feast Matthew Gavin Frank’s most recent book, The Mad Feast: An Ecstatic Tour Through America’s Food, came out this month. His previous books include Preparing the Ghost: An Essay Concerning the Giant Squid and Its First Photographer, Barolo, a food memoir based on his illegal work in the Italian wine industry, and Pot Farm, about his time working on a medical marijuana farm in Northern California. His resume also includes stretches running a tiny breakfast restaurant in Juneau, Alaska, and catering Julia Roberts’s private parties in Taos, New Mexico. The post States’ Plates appeared first on Gastropod. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Dec 01, 2015
The Mushroom Underground
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They’re a kingdom unto themselves, neither animal, vegetable, nor mineral. They count among their number both the world’s largest organism and millions of microscopic, single-celled creatures. And yet not only have they been an important—and delicious—food source for thousands of years, but they also seem to have powerful medicinal properties. What are these mysterious creatures? Fungi! Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Nov 17, 2015
Peak Booze
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Are you part of Generation Peak Booze? In this episode, we dive into the factors behind the ups and downs in alcohol consumption in the U.K. and the U.S. over the course of the twentieth century, we explore the long-term health effects of peak booze, and we get a sneak peek at the synthetic alcohol of the future. Cheers!   Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Nov 03, 2015
Mezcal: Everything but the Worm
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It’s nearly the Day of the Dead in Mexico, which gives us the perfect excuse to get familiar with the country’s national spirit: tequila. Or wait, should that be mezcal? And what’s the difference, anyway? In this episode of Gastropod, Cynthia and Nicky travel to Mexico to explore the history and science of distilled agave, and get tangled up in a complex story of controversies, clones, and culture. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Oct 20, 2015
The Good, The Bad, The Cilantro
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On the surface, it’s just a leafy green herb. Its feathery fronds add a decorative note and a distinctive flavor to dishes across Latin America and Asia, from guacamole to phở. And yet cilantro is the most divisive herb in the kitchen, inspiring both deep dislike and equally deep devotion. What’s the history and science behind these strong reactions—and can cilantro disgust ever be overcome?   Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Oct 06, 2015
The Bitter Truth
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It’s one of the five basic tastes, along with salty, sweet, sour, and umami. It’s also the least popular and the most mysterious. “That tastes bitter” is not usually a compliment, and yet scientists are increasingly concerned that by banishing bitter from our diets, we’re affecting our health in ways we don’t fully understand. In this episode, we get to know bitter a little better, finding good reasons and new ways to appreciate its complex charms.   Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Sep 22, 2015
Inside the Food Lab with Kenji López-Alt
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He has boiled hundreds of eggs in the quest for breakfast perfection. He has expended thousands of words on the divisive subject of mashed potatoes. And he is the only one who cares enough to test absolutely every possible shape of pan you could ever cook with. In this episode of Gastropod, we interview the ultimate food nerd: J. Kenji López-Alt. López-Alt trained as a scientist before working as a chef, and he has dedicated the past six years to “unraveling the mysteries of home cooking through science” in The Food Lab, his wildly popular column at Serious Eats, which is now an encyclopedic book of the same name. The book contains hundreds of recipes, from the perfect tomato sauce to salmon with basil caper relish, along with instructions for amassing the ultimate set of kitchen tools, and scientific tips for everything from making homemade ricotta to simmering the tastiest French onion soup. For this episode, we talk to him about the rigorous double-blind experiment he set up to discover whether New York City’s water is truly the secret ingredient in its superlative pizza crust. We persuade him to share his secret triple-umami-bomb blend that has everyone who tastes his chili begging him to reveal where he found the beefiest beef possible (Marmite lovers, rejoice!). And finally, López-Alt breaks it to us that we have been doing everything from slicing our onions to seasoning our burger patties all wrong, in ways we’d never even thought to worry about. Listen and learn: this is the kind of science that is guaranteed to double the deliciousness of your next kitchen adventure.Episode Notes Kenji López-Alt is managing culinary director of Serious Eats. His column, The Food Lab, was launched in 2009: its new online video series is well worth checking out. The Food Lab book can be purchased in your local bookstore or online from September 21, but is available for pre-order here: it’s awe-inspiringly thorough and filled with revelatory tips, tricks, and recipes.   The post Inside the Food Lab with Kenji López-Alt appeared first on Gastropod. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Sep 07, 2015
The United States of Chinese Food
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Wander into any town in the U.S., no matter how small and remote, and you’re likely to find at least one Chinese restaurant. In fact, there are more Chinese restaurants in America than McDonalds, KFC, and Burger King combined. And the food they serve is completely unlike anything you’ll find in China. In this episode of Gastropod, we ask one crucial question: why? From the Gold Rush to MSG, via the scandalous story of gender-bending Chinese restaurants in 1920s New York City, this episode of Gastropod serves up a tasty buffet of American Chinese food. Grab your chopsticks and dive in! Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Aug 25, 2015
The Whole Hog
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Bacon, bratwurst, bangers, barbecue: these are just a few of the many ways people around the world enjoy feasting on pigs. Of all the domesticated animals humans consume, Sus scrofa domesticus is the most fascinating, the most divisive, and, arguably, the most delicious. In this in-depth conversation with author and historian Mark Essig, author of the book Lesser Beasts: A Snout-to-Tail History of the Humble Pig, Gastropod discovers the evolutionary source of the pigs’ intelligence (scientists have judged them the cognitive equal of a human three-year-old), and why the animals’ physiology so closely resembles our own. We also uncover the real reason Jews originally eschewed pork, and how pigs were the essential but forgotten weapon, alongside guns and germs, that allowed the Spanish and English to conquer and colonize the Americas. Plus, we read and review Barry Estabrook’s book, Pig Tales: An Omnivore’s Quest for Sustainable Meat, which picks up the porcine tale in the present, where Mark Essig leaves off. From helicopter hunting to manure spraying and more, join us and pig out! Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Aug 11, 2015
The Scoop on Ice Cream
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It’s one of the most complex food products you’ll ever consume: a thermodynamic miracle that contains all three states of matter—solid, liquid, and gas—at the same time. And yet no birthday party, beach trip, or Fourth of July celebration is complete without a scoop or two. That’s right—in this episode of Gastropod, we serve up a big bowl of delicious ice cream, topped with the hot fudge sauce of history and a sprinkling of science. Grab your spoons and join us as we bust ice-cream origin myths, dig into the science behind brain freeze, and track down a chunk of pricey whale poo in order to recreate the earliest published ice cream recipe. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Jul 28, 2015
Crunch, Crackle, and Pop
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“Sound is the forgotten flavor sense,” says experimental psychologist Charles Spence. In this episode, we discover how manipulating sound can transform our experience of food and drink, making stale potato chips taste fresh, adding the sensation of cream to black coffee, or boosting the savory, peaty notes in whiskey. Composers have written music to go with feasts and banquets since antiquity—indeed, in at a particularly spectacular dinner hosted by Duke Philip of Burgundy in 1454, twenty-eight musicians were hidden inside an immense pie, beginning to play as the crust was opened. Today, however, most chefs and restaurants fail to consider the sonic aspects of eating and drinking. That’s a mistake, because, as we reveal in this episode, sound can affect how fast we eat, how much we’re prepared to pay for our meal, and even what it tastes like. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Jul 14, 2015
Field Recordings
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Plants that can hear themselves being eaten. Microphone-equipped drones that eavesdrop on sick chickens. Lasers that detect an insect’s wing-beats from dozens of feet away. In this James Bond-inspired episode of Gastropod, we listen to the soundtrack of farming, decode the meaning hidden in each squawk, moo, and buzz, and learn how we can use that information to improve our food in the future. Tune in now for this special broadcast of the barnyard orchestra! Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Jun 30, 2015
The Cocktail Hour
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Whether you sip it with friends, chug it before hitting the dance floor, or take it as a post-work pick-me-up, there’s clearly nothing like a cocktail for bracing the spirit. In addition to its peculiar history as a medicinal tonic, plenty of hard science lies behind the perfect cocktail, from the relationship between taste perception and temperature to the all-important decision of whether to shake or stir. What’s more, according to historian David Wondrich, mixology is “the first legitimate American culinary art”—and one that has since caught on around the world. Raise a glass, and listen in as we discover the cocktail’s historical origins, its etymological connection to a horse’s butt, and its rocky history, post-Prohibition. We also check out an original copy of the world’s first cocktail recipe book at New York City’s bartending mecca, Cocktail Kingdom; take a private cocktail science class with Jared Sadoian of The Hawthorne in Boston; and talk red-hot pokers with culinary scientist Dave Arnold. Cheers! Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
May 26, 2015
Gastropod on Gastropods
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Finally, Gastropod is tackling gastropods! In this episode, Cynthia visits one of America’s first and only snail farms. Though Gastropod is, as regular listeners know, a podcast about the science and history of all things gastronomical, we do share a name with Gastropoda, the taxonomic class that includes slugs and snails. And, as it turns out, the history and science of heliciculture, or snail farming, is completely fascinating. Join Cynthia on a trip to rural Washington State to learn how to raise snails and whether fresh and vacuum-packed taste any less rubbery than canned. Plus, you’ll hear about the earliest evidence for human snail consumption, how the Romans fattened theirs up, and all about the bizarre world of snail sex. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
May 04, 2015
Savor Flavor
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Why does grape candy taste so fake? What on earth is blue raspberry, anyway? And what is the difference between natural and artificial, at least when it comes to flavor? Join us as we taste the rainbow on this episode of Gastropod, from artificial flavoring’s public debut at the 1851 Crystal Palace exhibition, to the vanilla-burping yeasts of the future. We’ll experiment with Skittles, discover how invented flavors first appeared in our daily diets, and visit a synthetic biology lab, all in our quest to understand what artificial flavor is, was, and might be. Along the way, we’ll learn what exactly goes into designing the perfect pineapple from one of America’s top flavorists, investigate beaver butts, and discover the taste of an extinct banana. Listen now! Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Apr 21, 2015
DNA Detectives
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DNA: it’s the genetic information that makes plants and animals what we are. Most of the time when you hear about it in the context of food, it’s to do with breeding. But in this short episode, we bring you two DNA detective stories that show how genetic analysis can rewrite the history of agriculture and fight food fraud—at least some of the time. Listen now to hear how preserved DNA from an underwater site off the coast of Britain is helping paint a picture of how hunter gatherers in Northern Europe might first have experienced the wonders of agriculture, by trading kernels of exotic, domesticated Near Eastern wheat over long distances. We’ll also explore DNA’s role in some controversial accusations of food fraud and introduce you to the mysterious publication that defines the official standards of identity for food ingredients. And, finally, we squeeze in a short trip to Dublin’s Science Gallery, to talk to chef Clare Anne O’Keefe about a dish that was entirely inspired by Gastropod! EPISODE NOTES“Britain Imported Wheat 2,000 Years before Growing It” Listen to Cynthia’s mini-podcast for Scientific American on the surprising results from DNA testing of an underwater archaeological site in the English Channel, as reported in the paper “Sedimentary DNA from a submerged site reveals wheat in the British Isles 8000 years ago,” published in the journal Science. In a blog post reviewing the findings, archaeobotanist Dorian Fuller speculates that these early grains “would have been symbolically charged as exotica much like spices in much later times.”“Waiter, I’ll have the Gastropod special!” To accompany Nicky’s recent public event—a conversation with Ross Golden-Bannon at the Science Gallery, Dublin, called “A Plateful of Food Culture”—chef Clare Anne O’Keefe created a special dish to serve in the Science Gallery cafeteria, incorporating a variety of ideas and foods we’ve featured on Gastropod! She used potatoes, seaweed, and subnatural foods, and mixed history and science on the plate. Listen to our episode to hear Clare Anne describe the meal. The Gastropod special, photographed by its creator, Chef Clare Anne O’Keefe.“How Not to Test a Dietary Supplement” Check out Nicky’s piece for The New Yorker‘s Elements blog for more on the New York State Attorney General’s attempt to crack down on alleged dietary supplement fraud, the International Barcode of Life database, the United States Pharmacopeial Convention, and why this particular case of DNA detective work is likely to be an ongoing story… The post DNA Detectives appeared first on Gastropod. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Apr 07, 2015
Say Cheese!
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Cheese is the chameleon of the food world, as well as one of its greatest delights. Fresh and light or funky and earthy, creamy and melty or crystalline and crumbly—no other food offers such a variety of flavors and textures. But cheese is not just a treat for the palate: its discovery changed the course of Western civilization, and, today, cheese rinds are helping scientists conduct cutting-edge research into microbial ecology. In this episode of Gastropod, we investigate cheese in all stinking glory, from ancient Mesopotamia to medieval France, from the origins of cheese factories and Velveeta to the growing artisanal cheese movement in the U.S. Along the way, we search for the answer to a surprisingly complex question: what is cheese? Join us as we bust cheese myths, solve cheese mysteries, and put together the ultimate cheese plate. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Mar 23, 2015
Extreme Salad and Crazy Potatoes
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Step away from the French fries—and even from that bag of pre-washed mixed greens lurking in the crisper drawer. It’s time to reconsider the potato and up your salad game. In this episode, Cynthia and Nicky talk to science writer Ferris Jabr about the chestnut-flavored, gemstone-hued potatoes he discovered in Peru, as well as the plant breeders working to expand American potato choices beyond the Russet Burbank and Yukon Gold. Plus we meet wild gardener Stephen Barstow, whose gorgeous megasalads include 537 different plants, to talk about ancient Norwegian rooftop onion gardens and the weedy origins of borscht. If you thought you knew your veggies, think again—and listen in! A farmer holds up a potato in Peru. Photograph by Cynthia Graber.Episode NotesFerris Jabr’s “Reinventing the Potato” Lots of different kinds of potatoes and tubers for sale at a market in Peru. Photograph by Cynthia Graber. Ferris Jabr is a freelance science journalist based in New York City. This article, written with the support of the UC Berkeley-11th Hour Food & Farming Journalism Fellowship, introduces readers to an alien universe of potatoes with pink flesh and dark blue skin, curved like croissants or knobbly like a pine cone—potatoes that taste like buttercream and caramelized beets, and that turn out to be pretty good for you, too. Read it and drool. Ferris Jabr’s purchases from the Mistura food festival, chopped and ready to be cooked. Photograph by Ferris Jabr. Potato varieties grown by Shelly Jansky, potato breeder and flavor expert at the University of Wisconsin. Photograph by Ferris Jabr.Stephen Barstow’s Around the World in 80 Plants Multi-species salad, via Stephen Barstow. This is a gardener’s guide to the stories behind Barstow’s favorite edible perennials, from rock samphire, a cliff-dwelling leafy green used to make the most popular pickle in Shakespeare’s London, to the unexpected deliciousness of the invasive Japanese knotweed. Recipes included! Multi-species salad, via Stephen Barstow.Hampton Creek Our sponsor for this episode is Hampton Creek, a technology company that is pioneering the food space. You can find their (very tasty, egg-free) products at your local Whole Foods, Target, or Walmart. For more on their project to build the world’s largest database of plant compounds, check out this Fast Company story, “Google Maps’ Former Lead Data Scientist Is Now Building The World’s Largest Plant Library,” from August 2014. The post Extreme Salad and Crazy Potatoes appeared first on Gastropod. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Mar 03, 2015
No Scrubs: Breeding a Better Bull
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In 1900, the average dairy cow in America produced 424 gallons of milk each year. By 2000, that figure had more than quadrupled, to 2,116 gallons. In this episode of Gastropod, we explore the incredible science that transformed the American cow into a milk machine—but we also uncover the disturbing history of prejudice and animal cruelty that accompanied it. Along the way, we’ll introduce you to the insane logic of the Lifetime Cheese Merit algorithm and the surreal bull trials of the 1920s. This is the untold story behind that most wholesome and quotidian of beverages: milk. Prepare to be horrified and amazed in equal measure. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Feb 17, 2015
Enhanced Eating with Dan Pashman
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Have you ever wondered how to avoid sandwich sogginess, what scented soap to pair with your restaurant order, and whether airplane food can be made to taste of anything at all? Dan Pashman has, and his new book, Eat More Better, is filled with deeply researched, science-based hacks to improve your everyday eating. Pashman, host of The Sporkful, shares his pro tips and dream lunchbox design in conversation with Cynthia and Nicky: listen, learn, and win a copy of his book for yourself. Episode NotesThe Sporkful Dan Pashman shares fresh eating-related tips and tricks each week on his podcast, The Sporkful, which you can listen to online here and on iTunes here.Eat More Better Using science, humor, and extensive research, Pashman’s new book tackles a series of eating-related questions that may never have crossed your mind but whose answers may well upgrade your next meal. Vertical Grilled Cheese Sandwich Plating diagram by Alex Eben Meyer, courtesy of Simon & Schuster. The post Enhanced Eating with Dan Pashman appeared first on Gastropod. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Feb 02, 2015
Breakfast of Champions
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Breakfast: the most important meal of the day. Or is it? In this episode of Gastropod, we explore the science and history behind the most intentionally designed, the most industrialized, and the most argued about meal of all. Armed with a healthy dose of caffeine chronopharmacology, we embark on a global breakfast tour that exposes the worldwide dominance of Nutella, as well as the toddler kimchi acclimatization process. Meanwhile, back in the U.S., we trace the American breakfast’s evolution from a humble mash-up of leftover dinner foods to its eighteenth-century explosion into a feast of meats, griddle cakes, eel, and pie—followed swiftly by a national case of indigestion and a granola-fueled backlash. Breakfast has been a battleground ever since: in this episode, we not only explain why, but also serve up the best breakfast contemporary science can provide. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Jan 20, 2015
Night of the Living Radishes
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For this special New Year episode, Gastropod transports you to Oaxaca, Mexico, for the legendary Night of the Radishes, celebrated the night before Christmas eve, where locals present their most elaborate and inventive radish carvings. You’ll also get a taste of entomophagy, otherwise known as the practice of eating bugs, when Cynthia and her partner Tim try chapulines, or grasshoppers, for the first time. The Night of the Radishes has taken place in the central square, or zocalo, of Oaxaca on December 23, every year for the past 117 years, since 1897. Originally intended as a way to decorate produce stands and attract Christmas shoppers, the festival now attracts more than 100 participants, and thousands of tourists and locals alike wait for more than 4 hours for a glimpse at the carved scenes. Here are some of the photos Cynthia took as she wandered around the zocalo. All radish photographs by Cynthia Graber. The image above is Mezcal Man. Fruit and vegetable carving as a way to attract custom is a time-honored tradition that is still alive and well in Mexico’s markets. As Nicky mentioned, vendors at Mexico City’s La Central de Abasto, the largest wholesale market in the world, spend hours carving watermelon and mamey into pyramids, rosettes, and even monstrous mouths. Carved watermelon on display at La Central de Abasto’s in-house art gallery. Photographed by Nicola Twilley during her two-week residency at the market with the Laboratorio Para La Ciudad. While the radishes are inedible, insects are very definitely on the menu in Oaxaca. In the episode, we discuss some of the benefits of entomophagy: in a 2013 paper, the Food & Agriculture Organization of the United Nations argued that the “mini-livestock” contain high-quality protein, amino acids, and omega-3 fatty acids, and require about a quarter of the feed to yield the same amount of “meat” as beef, as well as much less water. Insects also create significantly less pollution than cattle, sheep, or chickens, and need a smaller amount of land for cultivation. The problem, of course, is that to many Western eyes, insects are disgusting. For Cynthia and Tim’s first insect-eating experience, they made sure to try a dish that paired the bugs with two of Cynthia’s favorite Oaxacan products: hierba santa, a slightly anise-flavored leaf, and a thick layer of a melted Oaxacan cheese called quesillo. As Tim said, it looks exactly as if the grasshoppers climbed onto the leaves, got stuck in the cheese, and died there. Mmm…Episode Notes  Night of the Radishes, or Noche de Rábanos Thanks to Rubén Vasconcelos Beltrán, the chronicler of the city of Oaxaca, for sparing a few minutes the same day his children returned from Mexico City for the Christmas holiday. He also copied a chapter of a book called Noche de Rábanos: tradiciones navideñas de Oaxaca (Night of the Radishes, Oaxacan Christmas Traditions), by Alejandro Méndez Aquino, which was hard to find in the U.S. And, if you want to learn more about how farmers produce such over-sized radishes, read Nicky’s piece on breeding and growing giant vegetables.Entomophagy For more information on eating insects, Nicky wrote this article on the first farm in the U.S. growing crickets solely for human consumption. Mosaic also recently published an in-depth article on entomophagy by Emily Anthes, called “Lovely Grub: Are insects the future of food?” If you have questions about this episode—or want some food recommendations in Oaxaca! —ask us either by leaving a comment here or via email. Cynthia has plenty of restaurant recommendations for what she considers one of the most delicious cities she’s ever visited, even if you’re planning on steering clear of grasshoppers yourself! The post Night of the Living Radishes appeared first on Gastropod. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Jan 02, 2015
Kale of the Sea
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Call off the search for the new kale: we’ve found it, and it’s called kelp! In this episode of Gastropod, we explore the science behind the new wave of seaweed farms springing up off the New England coast, and discover seaweed’s starring role in the peopling of the Americas. The story of seaweed will take us from a medicine hut in southern Chile to a high-tech seaweed nursery in Stamford, Connecticut, and from biofuels to beer, as we discover the surprising history and bright future of marine vegetables. Along the way, we uncover the role kelp can play in supporting U.S. fishermen, cleaning up coastal waters, and even helping make salmon farms more sustainable. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Dec 09, 2014
Bite: Smoked Pigeon and Other Subnatural Delights
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In this week’s bite-sized episode, Nicky travels to the campus of Duke University, in Durham, North Carolina, for a day of talks and tastings exploring the shifting status of stinky cheese, offal, insects, and other funky foods. At different times and places, these foods have been regarded as “subnatural”—low-class, disgusting, even unhygienic. But what does categorizing these foods as subnatural say about us, and what happens when we decide that they’re desirable, after all? Episode Notes Here are links to the peculiar but fascinating events, ideas, and books we discuss in this bite-sized episode.Subnature: Architecture’s Other Environments,David Gissen The term “subnature” was coined by architectural theorist David Gissen in 2009 to describe the less desirable aspects of the built environment: puddles, pollution, and pigeons. His book explores the historical assumptions behind this mostly unquestioned hierarchy in which light, air, and greenery are perceived as “good,” while the equally natural dust, dirt, and weeds are unwelcome. Image from the Brooklyn Pigeon Project, Aranda/Lasch, 2004 It also includes a selection of projects by contemporary architects and preservationists that engage with historical perceptions of subnatural environments and attempt to re-imagine them for the future. For example, Gissen includes both a discussion of anti-pigeon spikes and a description of the Brooklyn Pigeon Project, in which architecture firm Aranda/Lasch developed a set of algorithms and tools to help humans re-visualize the city from the point of view of a flock of pigeons.Subnature and Culinary Culture, Duke University By collaborating with colleagues from a wide range of departments at Duke, as well as chefs, cheese-makers, and foragers from the local community, Tom Parker, a visiting scholar from Vassar, created a campus-wide program of events, talks, installations, and edible experiences exploring what the idea of subnature might mean in terms of food, and why particular foods, texture, and flavors have been marginalized in certain societies. Chef Kim Floresca smokes sturgeon at the Duke University campus smokehouse, with Tom Parker and Josh Evans from the Nordic Food Lab. Photo by Nicola Twilley. Roasting quail in a downtown Durham parking lot. Photo by Nicola Twilley. Highlights included the construction of a smokehouse on the lawn outside the university president’s offices, as well as a dinner in which the chefs from five local restaurants came together to showcase local subnatural ingredients prepared in transformative ways. On the menu: car-park roasted quail, cooked using a set-up that chef Matt Kelly described as “redneck ingenuity,” and sturgeon coated in a crust of corn fungus and its own heart and collagen, smoked in the Duke smokehouse. “Sturgeon: Its Roe, Marrow, Collagen, & Heart. Lacto-Fermented Onions. Our Soured Cream. Saltwort.” As prepared by chefs Kim Floresca and Daniel Ryan, [ONE] Restaurant. Photo by Nicola Twilley.“How Wine Became Metropolitan,”Edible Geography This is the post about David Gissen’s new map of France’s wine regions that started the ball rolling by introducing Tom Parker to the idea of subnature. Gissen represents wine appellations as stops on a subway line rather than as geographic territories in an attempt to communicate the relationship between each region, rather than their legal boundaries. The Metro Wine Map of France, David Gissen The post Bite: Smoked Pigeon and Other Subnatural Delights appeared first on Gastropod. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Nov 25, 2014
The Microbe Revolution
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Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past couple of years, you’ve probably heard about the human microbiome. Research into the composition, function, and importance of the galaxy of bacteria, fungi, and viruses that, when we’re healthy, live in symbiotic balance in and on us has become one of the fastest moving and most intriguing fields of scientific study. But it turns out that plants have a microbiome too—and it’s just as important and exciting as ours. In this episode of Gastropod, we look at the brand new science that experts think will lead to a “Microbe Revolution” in agriculture, as well as the history of both probiotics for soils and agricultural revolutions. And we do it all in the context of the crop that Bill Gates has called “the world’s most interesting vegetable”: the cassava. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Nov 11, 2014
Dan Barber’s Quest for Flavor
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In this latest episode of Gastropod, chef and author Dan Barber takes listeners on a journey around the world in search of great flavor and the ecosystems that support it, from Spain to the deep South. You’ll hear how a carefully tended landscape of cork trees makes for delicious ham, and about a squash so cutting edge it doesn’t yet have a name, in this deep dive into the intertwined history and science of soil, cuisine, and flavor. It’s hard to imagine now, but there was a time before refrigerators, before long-distance trucks and ships. Most people had to survive on food from their immediate surroundings, no matter how poor the soil or challenging the terrain. They couldn’t import apples from New Zealand and potatoes from Peru, or rely on chemical fertilizer to boost their yields. From within these constraints, communities around the world developed a way of eating that Dan Barber calls “ecosystem cuisines.” Barber, the James Beard-award-winning chef of Blue Hill restaurant and author of the new book The Third Plate, spoke to Gastropod about his conviction that this historically-inspired style of cuisine can be reinvented, with the help of plant-breeders, his fellow chefs, and the latest in flavor science, in order to create a truly sustainable way to eat for the twenty-first century. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Oct 14, 2014
Bite: What America Could Taste Like
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We promised we’d serve a bite-sized snack in between our full-length episodes, and here it is—a short and snappy update, in which we share two of the most interesting food history and science stories we’ve come across recently. This week is all about the ignored, overlooked, and (maybe) future foods and flavors of America. We’ll introduce you to the scientists using DNA sequencing to help them perform the very ancient human activity of crop domestication, and to a writer fighting to save Alaska’s most abundant and sustainable fishery. By the end of our conversation, we expect you’ll want to swap that all-American burger and fries for some wild salmon and mashed potato beans. (Don’t worry, you can still have a chocolate-chip cookie for dessert—in fact, it will be the ur-chocolate-chip cookie.) Episode Notes Here are links to the story and book we discuss in this bite-sized episode—both are well worth a read.“How we can tame overlooked wild plants to feed the world,” Hillary Rosner, Wired Much of what we eat today was domesticated when people were just learning to weave clothing and still thousands of years from developing an alphabet. Today we tinker—but only at the margins. Maybe we get higher yield here or resistance to corporate herbicide over there. As far as transforming plants from the wild into new well-bred row crops, though, progress pretty well stopped a millennium before Jesus ate a matzo. Read Hillary Rosner’s fascinating story about the scientists working to domesticate new plant species in full here.American Catch: The Fight for our Local Seafood, Paul Greenberg Paul Greenberg’s new book explores the United States’ fishy mathematics: 91 percent of the seafood Americans eat is foreign, but a third of the seafood Americans catch is sold to foreigners. That’s a problem, Greenberg convincingly argues, because if we don’t eat our oceanic bounty, we don’t care about its well-being. We are what we eat, we are told. But we Americans do not eat what we truly are. We are an ocean nation, a country that controls more sea than land and more fishing grounds than any other national on earth. And yet we have systematically reengineered our landscapes, our economy, and our society away from the sea’s influence. You can buy Greenberg’s book online here, and send a message to the EPA to protect the Bristol Bay fishery here. The post Bite: What America Could Taste Like appeared first on Gastropod. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Sep 30, 2014
Episode 1: The Golden Spoon
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Chances are, you’ve spent more time thinking about the specs on your smartphone than about the gadgets that you use to put food in your mouth. But the shape and material properties of forks, spoons, and knives turn out to matter—a lot. Changes in the design of cutlery have not only affected how and what we eat, but also what our food tastes like. There’s even evidence that the adoption of the table knife transformed the shape of European faces. To explore the hidden history and emerging science of cutlery for our brand new podcast, Gastropod spoke to Bee Wilson, food historian and author of Consider the Fork, and Zoe Laughlin, co-founder of the Institute of Making at University College London. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
Sep 06, 2014