Twice a month I’ll post a list of 4 episodes, each from a podcast you hopefully haven’t heard of that follow a theme and fit into categories of New and Old and Light and Heavy. Light podcasts are meant to be listened to without the need to focus on the content too much, a refreshing alternative to music as background noise. Heavy podcasts should be approached with some caution and willingness to listen a little more carefully. Last Time was about music and aging and featured Mogul, Undone, and Reply All from Gimlet, and the Freakonomics Radio show.
If you haven’t checked out Kevin’s Interview with the food blogger Cathy Erway, it’s worth reading through. I like the podcast she’s hosting with Gimlet Creative, and wanted to explore the area a little deeper with a few podcasts. To be honest I’ve been having a hard time suggesting Heavy podcasts for listeners, since everything these days seems a little too heavy, so I’m sticking to one theme this time. All four episodes deal with infrequently discussed foods or food origin stories. Podcasts about food are some of my favorites, and I’ve included a very special segment from the Granddaddy of all Podcasts regarding an exotic Spanish Goose product that I believe is impossible to not love. Bon Appetit!
Revisionist History | McDonald’s Broke My Heart | 2017 | Runtime 35:53
Suitable for: People like me who ate McDonald’s growing up, now avoid them even if it means starving, and who like hear someone else bash them.
How to Listen: Order a bowl of fries from your favorite local dive bar that still makes a delicious crispy fry. Skip to :43.
Series Binge Rating: 3/5 – The first season is great, the second season is just okay.
Why Listen: Mr. Gladwell had a hard time finding his footing this season compared to last, but this podcast episode has some personality that’s difficult to ignore. I’m sure either you are or you know someone who was always a runner or otherwise super active who had a junk food addiction that just didn’t make sense, and in this episode that’s Malcolm. But more importantly it’s a commentary on how some misguided health information can lead to a sea change if there is enough money behind it, but in this case the outcome at least a little ambiguous. On one hand I approve of moving toward plant-based diets and I truly resent McDonald’s for what they’ve done to the American and world perception of food. On the other, being afraid of animal fats likely moved us more quickly toward eating stuff that wasn’t great for us. This episode lays out a pretty strong case but you ought to be the judge.
This American Life | Poultry Slam 2011 – Latin Liver | December 2 2011 | Runtime 39:20
Suitable for: Everyone with even the slightest sense of humor. This might be the show that hooked me on podcasts.
How to Listen: The entire episode is great, but I only want to talk about Act Three. Act Three: Latin Liver. Skip to around 40:00
Series Binge Rating: 5/5 – Ira Glass is the undisputed father of Modern Radio Programming. Chances are you’ve already heard this episode.
Why Listen: I’ve never eaten Fois Gras, but I’m told it’s a special experience. But it can’t be quite as special as Dan Barber talking about a Spanish Goose rancher in this classic This American Life podcast episode. It’s a short act, but the beauty and simplicity described is truly inspiring. What would life be like if we all were as in tune with nature as the subject of this segment? It’s difficult to even think of running a ranch without fences and industrial feed, could it ever work? If you like this segment I highly recommend watching Barber’s TED talk about fish farming.
Gastropod | The Birds and the Bugs | July 13 2017 | Runtime 43:20
Suitable for: Those curious about why we eat what we eat.
How to Listen: The episode starts with a mouth-watering description of chicken, just go with it.
Series Binge Rating: 3/5 – Each episode takes a little time to digest (pun intended), so leave some time between listening.
Why Listen: Gastropod is a podcast about food, and focuses on antibiotics in poultry, revealing some interesting history about the American obsession with chicken (especially the white meat). It’s in the heavy spot because it raises some questions about the efficacy of injecting antibiotics into farm animals. Also, while I’ve heard about various types of chickens, but always wondered why we pretty much just eat “chicken”. Answers are predictably strange and uniquely American, involving major companies hosting a competition, parades, and of course, “convenience”. The hosts of this show are genius writers and I believe do this as a hobby, but the results are fantastic.
99% Invisible | War and Pizza | Runtime 20:32
Suitable for: Those curious about why shelf-stable foods exist.
How to Listen: Be ready to start thinking of stocking your pantry as a patriotic act. Ads are at the end of this Podcast!
Series Binge Rating: 5/5 – This show moves quickly. No other show comfortably fits so much inside 25 minutes.
Why Listen: I’m fascinated by the way our military influences our everyday life. Having grown up reading Popular Science, I’ve always been pretty familiar with DARPA and all its research trickling into consumer products. Food was something I thought separate from that, and thanks to this episode I now know I was wrong. This rather short episode is explains why Hot Pockets, Twinkies, and Wonder Bread exists. When I first heard this episode I started to become convinced I needed to think more deeply about what I eat and why, and started to question the existence of many consumer products in the US. Just how many things are manufactured with Military Research dollars?
The Sporkful | The Art and Science of the Perfect Burger |
Although it’s a little shallow, this show is pretty fun. This episode is good and so is the one about politicians eating.