Eat This Podcast

Eat This Podcast

www.eatthispodcast.com
Talking about anything around food


Porridge
Oct 7 • 21 min
Porridge, for me, is made of oats, water, a bit of milk and a pinch of salt. Accompaniments are butter and brown sugar or, better yet, treacle, though I have nothing against people who add milk or even cream. So, while I’ve been aware of the inexorable…
Radish redux
Sep 23 • 16 min
Earlier this summer, I learned about a talk at the annual conference of the American Society for Horticultural Science. The press release said it “holds all the intrigue of a murder mystery and all the painstaking, arduous pursuit of an archeological dig,…
When in Rome
Sep 9 • 24 min
According to Virgil, Rome owes its existence to a food-based prophesy that persuaded Aeneas that this was indeed the place for the weary Trojans to make a new home. And according to the proprietors of both of the restaurants that claim to serve the…
A sweet sour story
Aug 26 • 16 min
I went to Kilfinane, in Ireland, for the Hearsay Audio Festival. I stayed because Maurice Gilbert offered to show me round his apple empire at Ballyhoura Artisan Food Park. I was sitting in O’Seachnasaíth’s public house, having just finished an excellent…
Chronicle of a Death Foretold, or
Aug 12 • 24 min
The most recent extension of the containment zone now covers the whole of the Salento peninsulaIn 2013, a few olive trees near Gallipoli, in Lecce province in the heel of Italy’s boot, seemed to be dying of drought even though there was water. Turned out…
Housekeeping
May 13 • 3 min
I’m going to be taking a little break. This episode explains that, and rounds up some of the responses to the show about Eating Alone. Special thanks to everyone who took the time to respond. Notes * There are no notes. I mean, c’mon. Huffduff it
Eating Alone
Apr 29 • 18 min
At the beginning of April, during the Hearsay International Audio Arts Festival, a little marquee in the main square of Kilfinane, a small mountain village, saw a steady stream of visitors enter. They would put on a pair of headphones, listen for a few…
Celebrating Passover and Easter
Apr 15 • 34 min
Whether the last supper was a Passover Seder I do not know. I do know that the rituals of the Passover dinner have been in place for thousands of years, although always open to evolution. And yet, there don’t seem to be any universal elements about Easter…
A historian of bread on the history of bread
Apr 1 • 25 min
In matters of personal taste there are no absolutes. I like this, you like that. But does that also mean that there is no good, no bad? That is a surprisingly complex question, especially when it comes to as fundamental a food as bread. William Rubel is a…
Prehistoric food globalisation
Mar 18 • 20 min
For a while, archaeologists treated the origins of agriculture – where it began, how it spread – as a minor element in the grand sweep of human history. That started to change with new techniques that could identify preserved plant remains, especially…
We need to talk about meat
Mar 4 • 27 min
Francesco Buscemi Meat is once again a central topic in nutrition, sustainability, health and capitalism. Points pro and con fly back and forth with no resolution in sight, not surprising given the doctrinaire nature of the discussion. I know where I…
Better baking through chemistry
Feb 18 • 27 min
Linda Civitello is a food historian whose latest book is Baking Powder Wars: the cutthroat food fight that revolutionized cooking. My kind of book, it uses an ingredient we all today take completely for granted to look at everything from fake news and…
Moxie Bread, Louisville, CO
Feb 4 • 27 min
Andy Clark left Massachusetts in 1994 and wormed his way into one of the iconic bakeries of Boulder, Colorado. After that, he spent 15 years running bakeries for Whole Foods Market. All the while, he was squirreling away ideas and thinking of his own…
Food and diversity in Laos
Jan 21 • 19 min
Today’s guest, Michael Victor, has spent the past 16 years living in Laos and getting to know its farming systems and its food. To some extent, that’s become a personal interest. But it is also a professional interest that grew out of his work with…
Facts about Champagne: Part 2
Dec 31, 2018 • 17 min
Mme Pommery’s establishment, outside Reims This is the second of two episodes in which Dr Graham Harding traces the rise and rise of Champagne. In Part One, how the secondary fermentation that gives champagne its sparkle went from being a bad fault to a…
Facts about Champagne: Part 1
Dec 24, 2018 • 27 min
Graham Harding studied history at university and then built the biggest independent branding and marketing consultancy in the UK. Having cashed out, he went back to school, to research a doctoral thesis on the rise of champagne in Victorian England. Very…
Good things from Nürnberg
Dec 10, 2018 • 20 min
Nürnberg, or Nuremberg if you want to avoid umlauts, means different things to different people. Indeed it means different things to a single person: me. There’s all the nasty stuff, and then there are the artists, the composers and, first and foremost –…
Is that a pickle …
Nov 26, 2018 • 23 min
To me, a pedant and a purist, a pickle by rights ought to have gone through a proper fermentation. It might have been pasteurised afterwards and bottled, but at some stage it needs to have supported microbial activity. And yet, I don’t think of kombucha…
What a bunch of turkeys
Nov 21, 2018 • 3 min
I successfully ignored the Great American Blowout last year, and I have nothing new this year. But I was stung by being left out of a round-up of stuff to listen to before and after your turkey, so I am thawing out some old favourites here. * As an…
Just that which is deserved
Nov 12, 2018 • 21 min
What is there to say about dessert? Utterly pointless, because by then I’ve usually eaten quite enough, thank you. And yet, utterly irresistible too, because I do have a bit of a sweet tooth. So I am usually quite happy eating out when someone suggests…
A communal oven in Christchurch, New Zealand
Oct 29, 2018 • 16 min
In 2010 and then again in 2011, Christchurch, on New Zealand’s South Island, suffered two huge earthquakes. The first destroyed buildings, but few people were hurt. The second brought more buildings crashing down and, because it happened around midday…
Food, power, pubs and politics in Ireland
Oct 15, 2018 • 21 min
Once you get over the idea that there is no good food in Ireland, and a single trip ought to be enough to do that, you might become aware of a paradox. Go into a pub, and if they serve food, rather than just sandwiches, it is likely to be rather…
Making sense of modern recipes
Oct 1, 2018 • 23 min
Peter Hertzmann tells a great story of a chef telling a bunch of students to go and double the recipe for a batch of cookies. Minutes later, one returned and said he couldn’t do it because the oven wouldn’t go up to 700 degrees. Ho, ho, ho. But there’s a…
Food in prison
Sep 17, 2018 • 18 min
It is hard to imagine a punishment worse than to have almost no choice of either what you eat or when you eat it, but that’s how life is for most prisoners. Their food choices are made for them, every single day. At the same time, meals are one…
Winding Down
Aug 31, 2018 • 4 min
What more is there to say? Plenty, of course, but not this time. This is the final episode of this run of Our Daily Bread. I say that as if there will be another, but all I’m really doing is leaving the door slightly ajar. I’ve had a lot of fun and…
A Perennial Dream
Aug 30, 2018 • 8 min
Wheat is an annual plant; it dies after setting seed. Each year, the farmer has to prepare the land, sow seed, fertilise and protect the plants. When the ground is bare, between crops, wind and water can erode the soil. The shallow root systems of annual…
It’s a Hard Grain
Aug 29, 2018 • 6 min
Durum wheat is only about 5% of the total wheat harvest around the world. For those of us who like our pasta, that’s a very important 5%. Different gluten proteins make a durum dough stretchy rather than elastic — perfect for pasta. The kernels are very…
Anything but Grim
Aug 28, 2018 • 7 min
Obed Hussey’s reaper The one process in the whole business of turning wheat into bread when time is of the essence is the harvest. It’s back-breaking work, and the slightest delay can ruin the quality of the grain. In Europe, a ready supply of peasants…
Bread and Political Circuses
Aug 27, 2018 • 7 min
An enormous amount of wheat, roughly one fifth of the total harvest, is traded internationally between countries and, as might be expected, if the supply falls, prices rise. Given the strategic importance of wheat, countries try to ensure that they have…
Wheats and Measures
Aug 26, 2018 • 4 min
The very first English law about food regulated the size of a standard loaf of bread. The Assize of Bread and Ale kept the price constant, but that price bought more or less bread depending on the price of wheat. It never was a very useful system, for…
Tradition!
Aug 25, 2018 • 7 min
The one thing to be thankful for in the rise of fast factory bread is that it prompted the resurgence of small, artisan bakers. They have been goaded to produce breads that are better in every way than even the best breads of years gone by. It may seem at…
Slow, but Exceedingly Fine
Aug 24, 2018 • 6 min
Without a doubt, the most important trend in the resurgence of baking with care is the increasing use of small mills by keen home bakers and professionals alike. Better nutrition and stunning flavour are the obvious benefits. Less visible, a renewal of…
Brown v. White
Aug 23, 2018 • 7 min
The fight between brown and white, good for you versus good for us, has been going on for a long time. Brown flour certainly ought to be more nutritious, and these days, even the elites are choosing brown bread over white. Maybe that’s why sales of “whole…
Sourdough by Any Name
Aug 22, 2018 • 6 min
Sourdough — whatever you call it — is the original leavening agent for breads around the world. At its simplest it is just a piece of the last batch of dough, set aside to ferment the current batch. But it can be so much more than that, a stable little…
Breaking Bread
Aug 21, 2018 • 7 min
If you bake bread only occasionally, you’re probably just grateful to little packets of dried yeast. This episode is not about that. There’s just not that much to say. When it comes to Judeo-Christian religious doctrine, however, the role of yeast in…
Back to Basics
Aug 20, 2018 • 5 min
Flour, water, salt and yeast; the basic ingredients of a loaf of bread. What happens when you mix them up and then heat them is a complex casade of chemistry, biology and physics. Most of the more subtle changes take time and can’t really be rushed.…
The Bread that Ate the World
Aug 19, 2018 • 7 min
Small bakers couldn’t compete with the giants created by Allied Bakeries, so they turned to science. That produced the Chorleywood bread process, which gave them a quicker, cheaper loaf. Unfortunately, the giant bakeries gobbled up the new method too.…
Allied forever
Aug 18, 2018 • 5 min
Size brings benefits to bakeries as much as to flour mills. The episode tells a small part of the story of how George Weston turned a bakery route in Toronto into one of the biggest food companies in the world, responsible for more brands of bread than…
Rollin’ rollin’ rollin’
Aug 17, 2018 • 7 min
Stone mills served us well in the business of turning grain into flour for thousands of years, but they couldn’t keep up with either population growth or new and better wheat. The roller mill came about through a succession of small inventions and the…
Water and Power
Aug 16, 2018 • 6 min
The rotary quern was perhaps the first labour-saving device. Using water power, rather than muscles, to turn the millstone made it even more efficient. Without watermills, it is doubtful whether ancient Romans could have enjoyed their bread and circuses.…
Risen
Aug 15, 2018 • 5 min
August 15th is Ferragosto, a big-time holiday in Italy that harks back to the Emperor Augustus and represents a well-earned rest after the harvest. It is also the Feast Day of the Assumption, the day on which, Catholics believe, the Virgin Mary was taken,…
The daily grind
Aug 14, 2018 • 6 min
It has been a long time since anyone who wanted to eat bread had to first grind their wheat. Grinding, however, was absolutely fundamental to agricultural societies, and still is for some. Archaeologists can see how the work left its mark on the skeletons…
Bread from the Dead
Aug 13, 2018 • 6 min
It’s a good thing the Egyptians believed strongly in an afterlife and wanted to make sure their dead had an ample supply of bread. The bread and the tomb inscriptions tell us something about how grain was grown and bread baked. To really understand the…
The inside story
Aug 12, 2018 • 4 min
That kernel of wheat isn’t actually a seed or a berry, at least not to a botanist. I have no intention of getting into the whole pointless is it a fruit or a vegetable debate, so lets just agree that no matter what you call it, the wheat thing is made up…
It’s not natural
Aug 11, 2018 • 6 min
Wheat has a hugely diverse genetic background, being made up of three different species, and genetic diversity is what allows breeders to find the traits they need to produce wheats that can cope with changing conditions. But because the accidents that…
Dwarf wheat: On the shoulders of a giant
Aug 10, 2018 • 6 min
Norman Borlaug created the wheats that created the Green Revolution. They had short stems that could carry heavy ears of wheat, engorged by loads of fertiliser. They were resistant to devastating rust diseases. And they were insensitive to daylength,…
Red Fife
Aug 9, 2018 • 6 min
For more than 40 years, one wheat variety dominated the Canadian prairies. Red Fife — the red-seeded wheat grown by David Fife, a Scottish immigrant — gave the highest yields of the best quality. It almost didn’t happen, if you believe the stories. And…
Nikolay Ivanovich Vavilov
Aug 8, 2018 • 7 min
This short episode fails to do justice to the man who, more than anyone, first grasped the importance of knowing where and how wheat arose. It does, however, explain why Vavilov wanted to collect the building material of future food security, for wheat…
Bake like an Egyptian
Aug 7, 2018 • 6 min
Kamut® is a modern wheat — registered and trademarked in 1990 — with an ancient lineage. The word is ancient Egyptian, and the hieroglyphics may literally mean “Soul of the Earth”. More prosaically, “bread”. The story of its discovery and growing…
Hulled wheats
Aug 6, 2018 • 6 min
Ancient grains used to be rare and hard to find not because they contained some magical secret for a long and fulfilled life, but because they take a lot more work than modern wheats. Instead of the wheat berry popping free after a gentle rubbing, they…
At last: agriculture
Aug 5, 2018 • 7 min
Cultivation is not the same as domestication. Domestication involves changes that do the plant no good in the wild, but that make it more useful to the people who cultivate it. Seeds that don’t disperse, for example, and that aren’t all that well…
What exactly is wheat?
Aug 4, 2018 • 5 min
Modern bread wheat contains more than five times more DNA than people, in a much more complicated arrangement. As a result, it has taken a fair old while to decode wheat’s genome. Having done so, though, the DNA confirms what plant scientists have long…
Crumbs; the oldest bread
Aug 3, 2018 • 5 min
Maybe you heard about the oldest crumbs of burnt toast in the world. But have you stopped to wonder how the archaeologists found those crumbs? The bread they came from was a fine, mixed grain loaf that might well have been a special dish at a feast. It is…
Boil in the Bag
Aug 2, 2018 • 5 min
When did people start to eat wheat? The date keeps getting pushed back, and is now around 35,000 to 45,000 years ago. That is long before the dawn of intentional agriculture. How do we know? Because a man who died in a cave hadn’t cleaned his teeth, and…
The Abundance of Nature
Aug 1, 2018 • 6 min
In the 1960s, using the most primitive of tools, an American plant scientist demonstrated that a small family, working not all that hard for about three weeks, could gather enough wild cereal seeds to last them easily for a year or more. Jack Harlan’s…
Our Daily Bread 00
Jul 26, 2018 • 1 min
It’s magic, I know. First a pretty ordinary grass becomes the main source of sustenance for most of the people alive on Earth. Then they learn how to turn the seeds of that grass into the food of the gods. Join me, every day in August, as I dig into Our…
Food as Power
May 28, 2018 • 21 min
Shortly after the end of World War 2 in Europe, one of the quintessential boffins who had worked on the war effort turned his attention to the most pressing problem of the peace: a shortage of coal and oil. But where others saw the problem as a lack of…
Food safety and industry concentration
May 14, 2018 • 16 min
In the previous episode, I talked to Phil Howard of Michigan State University about concentration in the food industry. Afterwards, I realised I had been so taken up with what he was telling me that I forgot to ask him one crucial question. Is there any…
Who owns whom in the food industry
Apr 30, 2018 • 22 min
Philip HowardIt came as quite a shock to me to discover that a couple of my favourite craft beers in America were nothing of the sort. Both are brewed by behemoths. That’s just one of the revelations in a recent study by Phil Howard, Associate Professor…
Whatever happened to British veal?
Apr 16, 2018 • 22 min
Dairy cows unavoidably produce male calves that are of no use to the dairy industry. They used to end up as veal, and in 1960, Britons ate more than 600,000 calves worth of the stuff. By the 1980s, that had dropped to less than 35,000. Ten years ago, a UK…
Hoptopia
Apr 2, 2018 • 27 min
Brewers have long appreciated the value of hops from the Pacific northwest, but it was Cascade, a variety practically synonymous with craft brewing, that made the area more generally famous among beer drinkers. Cascade was named for the Cascade Range,…
A visit to Hummustown
Mar 19, 2018 • 17 min
Refugees selling the food of their homeland to get a start in a new life is, by now, a cliché. Khaled (in the photo) joined their ranks a year ago. But cliché or not, selling food is an important way to give people work to do, wages, and hope. If it’s…
Barges and bread
Mar 5, 2018 • 27 min
Time was, not so long ago, when you could barely move on the Thames in London for ships and boats of all shapes and sizes. Goods flowed in from the Empire in tall-masted sailing ships and stocky steamers and were transferred to barges and lighters for…
The Hamlet Fire
Feb 19, 2018 • 23 min
Industrial accidents, tragic though they may be, can also lead to change. The fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York in 1911 is credited with changing a generation’s attitudes to worker safety, unions and regulation. Eighty years later,…
From little seeds …
Feb 5, 2018 • 18 min
No apologies for returning to the Irish Seed Savers Association in County Clare. An organisation like that usually sprouts from one person’s enthusiasm and drive, and it flourishes with the commitment and passion of volunteers and staff for whom the work…
Bread as it ought to be
Jan 22, 2018 • 28 min
Huffduff it Jonathan Bethony is one of the leading artisanal bakers in America, but he goes further than most, milling his own flour and baking everything with a hundred percent of the whole grain. He’s also going beyond wheat, incorporating other cereals…
Little bits of 2017: Part IV
Jan 8, 2018 • 6 min
Ask the internet “who invented mayonnaise?” and likely as not you’ll still be told it was a French chef after the battle of Mahon in 1756. Lacking cream, he whipped up an emulsion of egg yolks, oil and vinegar. How that was supposed to substitute for…
Little bits of 2017: Part III
Jan 1, 2018 • 3 min
Egg is to bacon as orange juice is to coffee. Smoked salmon is to dill as lamb is to asparagus. South Asian is to rice as Southern European is to thyme. Just three of the relationships that Jaan Altosaar, a graduate student at Princeton University,…
Little bits of 2017: Part II
Dec 25, 2017 • 5 min
Changes in food fads and fashions are endlessly fascinating. Often, they’re related to status, as technological advances make formerly elite foods available to the masses. And then, of course, the elites have to find new foods to set themselves apart,…
Little bits of 2017: Part I
Dec 18, 2017 • 5 min
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is supposed to give poor people in America enough help to buy a nutritious diet, and it has been under fire over the past year. Not only do people want to cut back on the benefits, some even want to make SNAP…
Feeding people is easy
Dec 4, 2017 • 31 min
“Plenty of plants, not much meat and maximum variety.” The best advice for a good diet I’ve ever heard. It’s a maxim devised by Colin Tudge, long before anything similar you may have heard from more recent writers. Tudge, more than anyone else I know, has…
A cheese place
Nov 20, 2017 • 22 min
Durrus is a village at the head of Dunmanus bay, south of the Sheep’s Head peninsula in the southwest of Ireland. Durrus is also the name of an award-winning, semi-soft cheese, while Dunmanus is a harder cheese, aged a lot longer. Both were created by…
Rethinking the folk history of American agriculture
Nov 6, 2017 • 28 min
Remember Farm Aid, which launched in 1985? A lot of people do, and they tend to date the farm crisis in America to the 1980s, triggered by Earl Butz and his crazy love for fencerow to fencerow, get big or get out, industrial agriculture. And of course,…
Ireland’s apple collection
Oct 23, 2017 • 24 min
Nobody knows when the first apples were specifically selected in Ireland. The earliest written record dates to 1598, “when a writer discusses the fruitful nature of Irish orchards and the merits of the fine old Irish varieties contained in them”. (A brief…
Antibiotics and agriculture
Oct 9, 2017 • 22 min
In the past year or so there has been a slew of high-level meetings pointing to antibiotic resistance as a growing threat to human well-being. But then, resistance was always an inevitable, Darwinian consequence of antibiotic use. Well before penicillin…
1000 days of noodle soup
Sep 11, 2017 • 24 min
In 2014, food historian and professor Ken Albala found himself stuck in a kitchen with no utensils. He headed for an Asian grocery store and bought a little saucepan and some noodles, to make something for breakfast. Thus started almost three years of…
Pushing good coffee
Aug 30, 2017 • 29 min
Walking down the supermarket aisle in search of coffee, I have this warm inner glow. If I choose a pack that boasts the Fair Trade logo, or that of any other third-party certifying agency, I’ll be doing good just by paying a little more for something that…
It’s putrid, it’s paleo, and it’s good for you
Aug 14, 2017 • 25 min
As our ancestors moved north out of Africa, and especially as they found themselves in climates that supported less gathering and more hunting, they were faced with an acute nutritional problem: scurvy. Humans are one of the few mammals that cannot…
Back to the future for the wheat of tomorrow
Jul 31, 2017 • 20 min
The plant breeding behind the green revolution has delivered amazing results, way more than two ears of corn where one would grow before. Those gains, however, depend on tailoring the environment in which the seeds are planted to suit those modern…
Getting to know the cinta senese on its home turf
Jul 17, 2017 • 18 min
In the town hall of Siena is a series of glorious frescoes that depict The Allegory of Good and Bad Government. In one of them is a pig, long snouted and thin legged, black with a white band around its back and down its front legs, being quietly chivied…
A brief survey of the food of Corfu
Jul 3, 2017 • 20 min
The island of Corfu was part of the Venetian republic for hundreds of years. So when I went there on holiday I expected to see some Italian influences, and there were plenty; Venetian lions, eroded by time; elegant buildings; Italian restaurants…
Changing Global Diets: the website
Apr 24, 2017 • 17 min
Foodwise, what unites Cameroon, Nigeria and Grenada? How about Cape Verde, Colombia and Peru? As of today, you can visit a website to find out. The site is the brainchild of Colin Khoury and his colleagues, and is intended to make it easier to see the…
Australia: where healthier diets are cheaper …
Apr 10, 2017 • 22 min
No country has solved the problem of how to ensure that all of its people have enough safe, nutritious food to eat year round, and the variety of approaches is both bewildering and informative. Australia, for example, has a welfare system that doesn’t…
Mistaken about mayonnaise — and many other foods
Mar 27, 2017 • 23 min
Who invented mayonnaise? Could boiling down tonnes of cattle concentrate beef’s nutritious qualities? Did lemonade put a halt to the plague in Paris? Tom Nealon writes about these and (many) other topics in his book Food Fights and Culture Wars, a title…
A computer learns about ingredients and recipes
Mar 13, 2017 • 13 min
Recommendation engines are everywhere. They let Netflix suggest shows you might want to watch. They let Spotify build you a personalised playlist of music you will probably like. They turn your smartphone into a source of endless hilarity and mirth. And,…
How much does a nutritious diet cost?
Feb 27, 2017 • 24 min
Recently I’ve been involved in a couple of online discussions about the cost of a nutritious diet. The crucial issue is why poor people in rich countries seem to have such unhealthy diets. One argument is about the cost of food. Another is about…
Food and status
Feb 13, 2017 • 19 min
Food has probably been a marker of social status since the first woman gathered more berries than her sister. It still is. Some foods are authentically posh, others undeniably lower class, and there’s no way I’m going to go out on a limb and say which is…
In praise of meat, milk and eggs
Feb 1, 2017 • 24 min
Excluding animal products from your diet as a vegetarian or vegan is a choice some people have the luxury to make, and if they know what they’re doing, and take care, they can be perfectly healthy. But there are probably far more people who have no choice…
India’s bread landscape and my plans here
Jan 16, 2017 • 8 min
This is the last of the short episodes of the holiday season. It is also something of a meta-episode because it is mostly about this podcast and another podcast. I’ve hinted before that I’d like to do more constructed shows here, where I speak to a few…
Long live the Carolina African Runner
Jan 9, 2017 • 7 min
Maybe you’ve seen the stories about a peanut, prosaically named Carolina Runner No. 4? In 2017 it will be ready to be grown in commercial quantities, having faded gently away from being the primary peanut before the 1840s to a reasonable contender into…
A deep dive into cucurbit names
Dec 31, 2016 • 4 min
One of the most fascinating things about pumpkins and squashes is what people call them. The whole summer squash, squash, pumpkin thing is confusing enough, and that’s to say nothing of courgettes and zucchini, which I explored in a podcast a few weeks…
The Great Epping Sausage Scandal
Dec 26, 2016 • 10 min
James William Greenwood (that’s him on the left) was a pioneering investigative journalist of the high Victorian period. He broke some sensational stories, most notably by spending a night in the workhouse to document the appallingly squalid conditions of…
We need to talk about diets
Dec 13, 2016 • 18 min
Truth be told, I’m not really big on huge international conferences. I’ve been to enough of them to know the score; lots of talk, lots of platitudes, lots of good intentions, lots of inertia. Despite all my prejudices, however, I dragged myself down to…
The Culinary Breeding Network
Nov 28, 2016 • 18 min
Many vegetables don’t taste of anything much these days, but whose fault is that, really? Plant breeders produce what growers want, and growers want what people will buy. So why aren’t people buying flavour? Mostly because they aren’t being offered a real…
Foie gras
Nov 14, 2016 • 22 min
Any way you slice it, foie gras — the fatty liver of a duck or goose — is a fighting matter. To animal rights activists it is quite obviously cruel and depraved. To many chefs and eaters, it is a delicious extravagance. To many other chefs and eaters, it…
Wine and cheese
Oct 31, 2016 • 16 min
Traditionally, the wine to drink with a bit of cheese was always a red wine. But tastes have changed, and nowadays you can find lots of recommendations for white wines to drink with cheeses. Those recommendations — all of them — are based on personal…
English sausages
Oct 17, 2016 • 22 min
English sausages have a definite dual personality. One of those is a sumptuous, succulent blend of good meat, a bit of cereal, herbs and spices and maybe even a touch of the vegetable, like leeks. The other is a staple of the poor. Who knows what…
Whiskynomics
Oct 3, 2016 • 20 min
If you heard the episode on microshiners you’ll know that there is something of a boom in small-scale distilling. And you might be worried that every boom seems to be followed by a bust. One distiller, however, told me that it was an economic bust that…
A far from dismal scientist
Sep 19, 2016 • 28 min
Speculators are responsible for food price spikes? Food price spikes are responsible for riots in the streets? First-world hipsters are responsible for hungry quinoa farmers in Peru? No, yes, no – at least if you care more about evidence than emotions and…
When is a zucchini not a zucchini?
Sep 5, 2016 • 17 min
People accused me of being a tease when I originally published that banner photograph up there and said that it was not a zucchini. It was, I admit, a deliberate provocation. It all depends on whether we’re speaking English or Italian. Because in English…
Small-scale spirits
Aug 22, 2016 • 29 min
I confess, I had no idea there was even such a thing as a craft distillery. Craft breweries certainly, and thankfully, because most mass-produced beer is just not all that good, at least to me. But I’ve never had a problem with mass-produced spirits,…
A visit to Elkstone Farm in Colorado
Aug 8, 2016 • 24 min
It’s all very well trying to eat local in a place like Rome or San Francisco, where the climate is relatively benign all year round and you can grow a great deal of produce without too much difficulty. But what do you do when you are at an altitude of…
Xylella is here and it could be dangerous
Jul 25, 2016 • 20 min
Climate change and global trade combine to make it ever more likely that new pests and diseases will threaten food supplies. A classic example is playing out now in Puglia, the region that includes the heel of Italy’s boot. The disease is caused by a…
How the Irish created the great wines of Bordeaux (and elsewhere)
Jul 11, 2016 • 26 min
I confess, quaffing a Lynch-Bages or a snifter of Hennessy, I have wondered how it is that such fine upstanding Irish names come to be associated with cognac and claret. There my wonderings ended, until a recent visit to Ireland, where, in Cork and…
Back to the mountains of Pamir
Jun 27, 2016 • 27 min
In 2007, Frederik van Oudenhoven travelled to the Pamir mountains in Central Asia to document what remained of the region’s rich agricultural biodiversity. Almost 100 years before, the great Russian botanist Nikolai Vavilov became convinced that this was…
Sweetness and light
Jun 13, 2016 • 25 min
Before I read Christopher Emsden’s book Sweetness and Light: Why the demonization of sugar does not make sense I had no idea that the statistical correlation of air pollution and the epidemic of “diabesity” was stronger than the correlation with sugar. Or…
The True Father of the First Green Revolution
May 30, 2016 • 20 min
Today’s show is something of a departure; I’m talking about someone who is crucial to global food security and yet who is almost unknown. It’s true, as Jean-Henri Fabre, the French naturalist wrote, that “History … knows the names of the king’s bastards…
A brief history of Irish butter
May 16, 2016 • 18 min
The Butter Museum in Cork, Ireland, features on some lists of the world’s quirky etc. food museums but not others. It ought to be on all of them. This is a seriously interesting museum for anyone who likes butter, and in my book, that means just about…
Where’s the latest episode?
May 9, 2016 • 3 min
By rights, there should have been an episode last week, but there wasn’t because I was just back from New York and the James Beard Awards, and I just didn’t have time to put something together. Also, of course, I didn’t win — that honour went to Gravy,…
It is OK to eat quinoa
Apr 18, 2016 • 26 min
Quinoa — that darling of the health-conscious western consumer — came in for a lot of flack a few years ago. Skyrocketing prices caused some food activists to claim that the poor quinoa farmers of the high Andean plains in Bolivia and Peru were no longer…
Welcome to the Wonderbag
Apr 4, 2016 • 14 min
At this year’s Amsterdam Symposium on the History of Food I talked to Jon Verriet, who’s been researching the history of the haybox. That’s an insulated container, into which you put hot food, which then keeps cooking thanks to the retained heat. Jon made…
The evolution of food culture in Mali
Mar 21, 2016 • 21 min
When it comes to cradles of agriculture, West Africa does not often get a look in. The Sahel is better known as a place of famine than of feasting, but it wasn’t always so, and even today the Bamana people of Mali have a rich food culture. Stephen Wooten…
Crackers about Indonesian food
Mar 7, 2016 • 15 min
I’m on what the real professionals call a mission, or, failing that, duty travel. And once again I’ve bitten off more than I can chew. So, rather than admit defeat and just leave well enough alone, I decide to record a little reflection on the food of…
Chewing the fat about chewing the fat
Feb 22, 2016 • 20 min
Karima Moyer-Nocchi is an American woman who teaches at the University of Siena. When she had been here almost 25 years she developed something of an obsession. On the one hand, she watched “a bewildering decline in the quality and craftsmanship of…
The haybox through history
Feb 8, 2016 • 12 min
Huffduff it This year’s Amsterdam Symposium on the History of Food was dedicated to The material culture of cooking tools and techniques and was full of fascinating stuff. I especially enjoyed a talk on the hay box, the original slow cooker. The principle…
An English woman’s take on Italian cooking
Feb 1, 2016 • 8 min
Rachel Roddy, after about 10 years of hard slog, is an overnight sensation. She’s just scooped the André Simon award for best food book in 2015, a very big deal indeed for a first book. I’d been warming up this second helping for a day or two before that…
Egyptian street food in London
Jan 25, 2016 • 7 min
As promised, another second helping from one of 2015’s episodes, before we get to the new stuff. This time, I’m remembering my trip to the little place in St Martin’s Lane in London that serves a couture version of koshari, the iconic street food of…
Tulip bulb soup
Jan 5, 2016 • 5 min
As ever, I’m taking a little break and bringing you some repeats from 2015. This one is prompted by an episode of NPR’s Planet Money that I’ve just listened to. They decided to cook a peacock for reasons that I think had something to do with the role of…
An experiment in sound and taste
Dec 21, 2015 • 23 min
Maybe you’ve read about experiments that show that when potato crisps crunch louder, people say they’re fresher. And beyond crisps, all sorts of taste sensations can be manipulated by the sounds that surround them. Heavy metal apparently renders a…
Aquae Urbis Romae
Dec 7, 2015 • 23 min
Visitors to Rome are often astonished not so much by the big famous fountains that dot the city but by the smaller flows that gush or trickle from what seems like every street corner. All that water, going to waste. Those drinking fountains – known…
How to measure what farms produce
Nov 23, 2015 • 12 min
How should we measure what farms produce? The answer drives some pretty important trends. For the past 60 years and more, the key metric has been yield – tonnes per hectare or equivalent. And it has resulted in extraordinary improvements in productivity,…
The Dark Ages were a time of prosperity
Nov 10, 2015 • 22 min
The Dark Ages ran for about 400 years, from around the fall of the Roman Empire, in the middle of the 6th century, to around the 10th or 11th centuries. It was dark because the light of Rome had been extinguished, while that of the Renaissance had not yet…
Going further than food miles
Oct 26, 2015 • 24 min
Wendell Berry, the American farmer, writer and thinker, famously said that “Eating is an agricultural act”. The quote now has a life of its own, but it is worth remembering that Berry used it to introduce a longer version of his advice to the urban…
Fifth quarter: Rachel Roddy’s Rome
Oct 12, 2015 • 24 min
That sink is where Rachel Roddy, an English woman in Rome, prepares meals to share with her partner Vincenzo, their young son Luca, and a horde of appreciative readers of her website and, now, her first book. Five Quarters: Recipes and Notes from a…
Just Mayo and justice
Sep 28, 2015 • 20 min
It’s hard to know what this episode is really about. Government bullying private enterprise? An evil conspiracy to crush a competitor? Confused consumers unable to read a label? All of the above? In a nutshell, on 12 August 2015 the US Food and Drug…
A year of cooking almost everything from scratch
Sep 14, 2015 • 20 min
Megan Kimble — that’s her on the left — is a young journalist in Tucson, Arizona. Back in 2012, she set out to stick it to the processed food man, by eating only unprocessed food for a year. Her book Unprocessed: My City-Dwelling Year of Reclaiming Real…
The military-culinary complex
Aug 31, 2015 • 21 min
Have you ever stopped to wonder what drives the incessant innovation in processed food? Who thought that an energy bar would be a good thing to exist? What was the logic that drove the development of the cheese-flavoured powder that coats so many snacks?…
100% food insecure: poor people in a rich country
Aug 17, 2015 • 17 min
The O-Pipin-Na-Piwin Cree Nation have suffered generations of maltreatment at the hands of various official entities. Moved from their homelands further south, they now occupy small scattered settlements in northern Manitoba, where summers are short and…
Larder inessentials
Jul 20, 2015 • 20 min
The heat here in Rome has been something the past couple of weeks. Not up to 2003 of blessed memory, but hot nevertheless. The last thing I needed was for the fridge to start playing up, but it did, making horrible noises. Ignoring the disaster foretold,…
Culture and agriculture in the Pamirs
Jul 6, 2015 • 26 min
The Pamir Mountains of Central Asia hold a fascinating diversity of food crops. Exploring the area in the early years of the 20th century the great Russian botanist Nikolai Vavilov became convinced that this was where “the original evolution of many…
How to eat well in Italy
Jun 22, 2015 • 20 min
People looking for a good place to eat in Rome can choose from almost as many opinions as there are restaurants. Truth be told, though, a lot of those opinions have been shared by ninnies. Seriously, if you’re looking for some harmless entertainment as…
These aren’t the pests you’re looking for
Jun 8, 2015 • 17 min
One aspect of the global food trade that most people give very little thought to is the unwitting trade in plant pests. Insects, worms, bacteria and viruses, fungi: all can hitch a ride on trade shipments — or be carried accidentally by tourists.…
Lead poisoning of hunters and game
May 18, 2015 • 18 min
This episode of Eat This Podcast is only tangentially about what people eat. At its heart, though, it is about how what people leave behind affects the other animals that eat it. Hunters routinely clean up the animals they’ve shot out in the field. That…
Enjoying life on a rather restricted regimen
May 4, 2015 • 15 min
By great good fortune, there is nothing I cannot eat. There are a couple of things I’d prefer not to eat, but nothing, at least as far as I know, that would make me ill. As a result, I am fascinated by people who have to forego certain foods to stay well.…
Grass-fed beef
Apr 20, 2015 • 17 min
What kind of business wants customers to buy less? The beef business, or at least, one tiny corner of the beef business. Mark Shelley is an environmental film-maker turned cattleman who raises grass-fed beef near Carmel, California. The methods he and…
A second helping of citrus in Italy
Apr 6, 2015 • 27 min
This episode is a repeat of one first published in October 2014, and the reason is that it has been nominated for a James Beard Foundation Award. I’m utterly thrilled by the news, and gratified that more people have downloaded episodes and subscribed to…
A visit to Koshari Street
Mar 23, 2015 • 17 min
Street food is big. Not just in places where eating on the street is the only place many people can afford, but in happening neighbourhoods around the rich world too. Burrito trucks, Korean barbecue in a taco, ceviche, you name it; all are available on…
An Italian wine education
Mar 9, 2015 • 19 min
Drinking Italian wine anywhere — even in Italy — can be fraught with complications. Is that wine from the area in Piedmont known as the Langhe? Better not say so on the label, unless you have express permission to do so, or risk a fine. Labelling was one…
A little about allotments
Feb 23, 2015 • 16 min
Allotments seem to be a peculiarly British phenomenon. Small parcels of land, divided into smaller still plots, furnished often with a shed and make-shift cold frames, greenhouses and what have you, where, in time-honoured tradition, old men in baggy…
Food, hunger and conflict
Feb 9, 2015 • 12 min
A couple of weeks ago I was at the 2nd annual Amsterdam Symposium on the History of Food, and a very interesting meeting it was too. The topic was Food, Hunger and Conflict, a reminder that food and control of the food supply can be both a weapon in human…
Agricultural foundations
Jan 26, 2015 • 24 min
One of the things I find most frustrating in agricultural research is that, despite the subject matter, it often bears little relationship to the fundamental facts of life. Too often, we hear all sorts of extravagant claims being made that a bit of more…
Future of agriculture
Jan 20, 2015 • 4 min
Will biotechnology feed the world? Can organic agriculture? Ford Denison is a research scientist who has thought clearly about the future of agriculture and what, if anything, it can learn from nature. Right now, he’s worried.
Pasta laid bare
Jan 12, 2015 • 5 min
Why is arrabbiata sauce always served on penne pasta? What’s wrong with my spaghetti cacio e pepe? Maureen Fant, co-author of Sauces & Shapes: Pasta the Italian Way first explained all back in February 2014 in one of the year’s most popular episodes.
Cheese in aspic
Jan 5, 2015 • 5 min
There’s a thin line between protecting the authenticity of a fine traditional food and preventing the kinds of living changes that allowed it to survive long enough to become traditional. Zack Nowak, a food historian, looked at the rules governing the…
Bread remembered
Dec 29, 2014 • 5 min
Back in January I talked to Suzanne Dunaway about Buona Forchetta, the bakery she and her husband Don started and eventually sold. An early social marketing campaign and the perils of being driven by price made it worth listening to again. If you enjoyed…
Garibaldi and citrus in Italy
Dec 22, 2014 • 4 min
One of my treats this year was sitting down with Helena Attlee to talk about her book The Land Where Lemons Grow. Part of that interview didn’t make it into the final podcast, so here it is now. And if you missed the original podcast, it’s here. Music…
Another helping of turkey
Dec 15, 2014 • 11 min
The domestication of the turkey probably first took place around 2000 years ago in south central Mexico, possibly for their feathers and ritual value rather than their meat. Their rise to the top of the American festive table came much later, not with the…
A partial history of the turkey
Dec 1, 2014 • 15 min
As Thanksgiving ebbs into memory and Christmas looms on the horizon, Eat This Podcast concerns itself with the turkey. For a nomenclature nerd, the turkey is a wonderful bird. Why would a bird from America be named after a country on the edge of Asia? The…
Talking turkey
Nov 27, 2014 • 3 min
As people in North America prepare to give thanks and devour unimaginable quantities of food, we go to the heart of the matter. Why are turkeys called turkeys? In next week’s show, more about the American contribution to poultry culture.
The festa dell’uva of the 1930s
Nov 17, 2014 • 17 min
These days, every little town and village in Italy has its sagra or festa, a weekend, or longer, in celebration of a particular local food. Although they have a whiff of tradition about them, most of these are relatively recent inventions, designed to…
Looking forward to the festa dell’uva
Nov 10, 2014 • 1 min
In the 1930s the Italian fascists decided that floats laden with giant grapes would be the vehicle to drive forward Italian nationalism. Hear how in next week’s Eat This Podcast.
Exploring Kazakhstan’s apple forests
Nov 4, 2014 • 16 min
Kazakhstan stretches across Central Asia from the Caspian Sea in the east to China in the west. The country is famous for many things – it is the largest landlocked country in the world, says Wikipedia – but among food and plant people it is most…
Bears and apples
Oct 27, 2014 • 1 min
Ben Reade recently got back from a trip to Kazakhstan, in search of the original wild apples. Last time we spoke, he was sharing bog butter. This time, bears, and how they may have helped to domesticate those apples. The whole show will be published next…
A novel approach to food security
Oct 20, 2014 • 19 min
It is so easy to forget that very few people know anything about plant breeding and how vital it is to having enough to eat. The time it takes, and the resources it needs — financial, genetic, human — are just not something most people know about. No…
Citrus in Italy
Oct 6, 2014 • 25 min
Citrus, thanks to what writer Helena Attlee calls their great “suggestibility,” confound the botanist and the shopper alike. What is the difference between a clementine and a mandarin? That was one of the few questions I didn’t ask Helena Attlee when we…
What’s cooking in Tasmania?
Sep 22, 2014 • 22 min
What better to do with a surplus rooster than turn him into a delicious meal. And share the process. Stir-fries, curries, Ethiopian wats, loaves of bread: John Grosvenor, a software developer, posts delectable images of much of his cooking on the social…
Garum brought up to date
Sep 8, 2014 • 19 min
Garum is one of those ancient foods that everyone seems to have heard of. It is usually described as “fermented fish guts,” or something equally unappealing, and people often call it the Roman ketchup, because they used it so liberally on so many things.…
Rice from Randall’s Island, New York
Aug 25, 2014 • 18 min
Randall’s Island is a small piece of land just east of 125th Street in New York’s East River. It is also around 2 degrees further south than the northern limit of rice growing on Hokkaido in Japan. What could be more natural, then, than for a community…
Japanese food through Canadian eyes
Aug 11, 2014 • 23 min
I’m fascinated by Japanese food, but from a position of profound ignorance. I’ve never been there and I’ve never having eaten anything I could definitely say was “genuine,” aside from a wasabi chocolate cake baked by a Japanese friend. So the opportunity…
Who invented dried pasta?
Jul 29, 2014 • 22 min
The history of pasta, ancient and modern, is littered with myths about the origins of manufacturing techniques, of cooking, of recipes, of names, of antecedents. Supporting most of these is a sort of truthiness whereby what matters most is not evidence or…
Vermont and the taste of place
Jul 14, 2014 • 22 min
What do artisanal cheese and maple syrup have in common? In North America, and elsewhere too, they’re likely to bring to mind the state of Vermont, which produces more of both than anywhere else. They’re also the research focus of Amy Trubek at the…
What makes Parmigiano-Reggiano Parmigiano-Reggiano?
Jun 30, 2014 • 17 min
Great wheels of parmesan cheese, stamped all about with codes and official-looking markings, loudly shout that they are the real thing: Parmigiano-Reggiano DOP. They’re backed by a long list of rules and regulations that the producers must obey in order…
Bones and the Mongol diet
Jun 16, 2014 • 16 min
The growing popularity of “Mongolian” restaurants owes less to Mongolian food and more to, er, how shall we say, marketing. To whit: “It’s actually not a cuisine, but an INTERACTIVE style of exhibition cooking modeled after a centuries-old legend.…
Edible aroids
May 26, 2014 • 13 min
A Dutch food writer tries to discover the origins of pom, the national dish of Suriname. Is it Creole, based on the foodways of Africans enslaved to work the sugar plantations of Surinam? Or is it Jewish, brought to Suriname by Dutch Jews? So began Karin…
Food tours and cooking classes
May 12, 2014 • 16 min
It is quite amazing how popular food tours and cooking classes are in Italy. When in Rome, many people seem to want to eat, and cook, like a Roman. Well, not entirely, and not like some Romans. I spoke to Francesca Flore, who offers both tours and cooking…
Rambling on my mind
Apr 28, 2014 • 24 min
This episode of Eat This Podcast is something of a departure. With nothing in the pantry, so to speak, I had to make something with what I had: myself. So I hooked myself up to the audio recorder and went about some of my customary weekend cooking,…
Food prices and social unrest
Apr 14, 2014 • 17 min
“If you can tell your story with a graph or picture, do so,” says Marc Bellemare, my first guest in this episode. The picture on the left is one of his: “a graph that essentially tells you the whole story in one simple, self-explanatory picture.” Yes…
The Global Standard Diet
Mar 31, 2014 • 15 min
We’ll have what they’re having has taken on a whole new meaning. In a world in which you can get pizza in Tokyo and sushi in Rome, diets have become truly global in reach. You could argue that this has made them more, not less, diverse. Where once rice…
Food and finance
Mar 17, 2014 • 16 min
Sure, you’ve seen Trading Places. But do you know about the history of futures contracts, or why some things are traded on commodities markets and others aren’t? I didn’t, not really. So I spoke to Kara Newman, food writer and author of The Secret…
Culture and Cuisine in Russia & Eastern Europe
Mar 3, 2014 • 28 min
About a month ago I got wind of a conference called Food for Thought: Culture and Cuisine in Russia & Eastern Europe, 1800-present, at the University of Texas at Austin. In some dream world, I would have booked a flight there and then, packed my audio…
Pasta
Feb 17, 2014 • 17 min
There’s supposed to be this whole mystique surrounding “proper” pasta: how to cook it, which shape with what sauce, how to eat it, all that. And if you’re not born to it, you’ll never really understand it. Well, maybe not, but with a little effort you can…
Food — and bombs — in Laos
Feb 3, 2014 • 19 min
A bombie cluster munition on a farm in Khammouane Province, Laos.©2010/Jerry Redfern Karen Coates is a freelance American journalist who writes about food – among other things. She emailed to ask if I would be interested in talking to her about a book…
Baking bread: getting big and getting out
Jan 20, 2014 • 20 min
Ah, the self-indulgent joy of making a podcast on one of my own passions. “They” say that turning cooking from an enjoyable hobby into a business is a recipe for disaster, and while I’m flattered that people will pay for an additional loaf of bread I’ve…
A tasting menu
Jan 13, 2014 • 25 min
The first episode of 2014 is a look back to some of the topics I covered in 2013, and for what I hope is a good reason. With a podcast, unlike a piece of writing or an image, it is very hard to decide quickly whether this is something I want to pursue…
Fermentation revisited
Dec 18, 2013 • 14 min
Apologies for the delay in publishing this podcast. One of the joys of not being tied to “proper” radio is the freedom to give a story the length it deserves. The downside is that nobody is cracking the whip to whip things into shape on time, so that…
Hunger and malnutrition
Dec 2, 2013 • 21 min
One week jam, the next global hunger and malnutrition. That’s the joy of Eat This Podcast; I get to present what interests me, in the hope that it interests you too. It also means I sometimes get to talk to my friends about how they see the big picture…
Jam tomorrow?
Nov 18, 2013 • 12 min
Vivien Lloyd about to add warm sugar to her simmered fruit. What is jam? “A preserve made from whole fruit boiled to a pulp with sugar.” Lots of opportunities to quibble with that, most especially, if you’re planning to sell the stuff in the UK and label…
Backpackers and their food
Nov 4, 2013 • 16 min
When you’re on holiday, or just away from home, do you seek out the “authentic” local food, or look for a reassuringly familar logo? Backpackers, keen to distinguish themselves from the vulgar hordes who are merely on holiday, seek out the authentic, at…
Pecans and history
Oct 21, 2013 • 21 min
The Guadalupe River that flows through Texas used to be known as The River of Nuts, a fact that Wikipedia does not confirm. The nut in question is the pecan, Carya illinoinensis, and the pecan tree is the state tree of Texas. The groves of wild pecans…
Why save seeds?
Oct 7, 2013 • 12 min
What, really, is the point of conserving agricultural biodiversity? The formal sector, genebanks and the like, will say it is about genetic resources and having on hand the traits to breed varieties that will solve the challenges tomorrow might throw up.…
How to bake bread in a microwave oven
Sep 23, 2013 • 12 min
Say you wanted to bake bread in a microwave – I can’t think why, but say you did – you could go online and search the internets for a recipe. And you would come up with a few. Just reading them over, they didn’t seem all that appetising. One, for example,…
Crispy crunchy mega-munchy
Sep 9, 2013 • 12 min
I am reliably informed that the taste of a soggy potato crisp – or chip, if you prefer – is identical to that of a crispy one. But the experience falls far short of enjoyable. A crisp needs to be, well, crisp. If it isn’t, it actually tastes bad. That’s…
Backyard vegetable breeding
Aug 26, 2013 • 16 min
Carol Deppe was a guest here a few months ago, talking about how most people misunderstand the potato, which is about as nutritious a vegetable as you could hope for. I found out about that because I was checking out her new book, The Resilient Gardener,…
Industrial strength craft beer
Aug 12, 2013 • 27 min
Italy, land of fabled wines, has seen an astonishing craft beer renaissance. Or perhaps naissance would be more accurate, as Italy has never had that great a reputation for beers. Starting in the early 1990s, with Teo Musso at Le Baladin, there are now…
Knives: the new bling
Jul 29, 2013 • 13 min
Bling, the Urban Dictionary tells me, is an onomatopoeic representation of light bouncing off a diamond. Or a Bob Kramer original hand-made chef’s knife, which goes for $2000 and up. Of course some people might be able to justify spending that kind of…
What’s the beef with frozen meat?
Jul 15, 2013 • 17 min
Most dilettante foodies I know probably regard frozen beef as an acceptable substitute only when fresh is unavailable. Sure the fresh must be grass-fed, dry-aged, properly hung and all that – but mostly it must be fresh, not frozen. However, unless your…
Early agriculture in eastern North America
Jun 24, 2013 • 15 min
The Fertile Crescent, the Yangtze basin, Meso America, South America: those are the places that spring to mind as birthplaces of agriculture. Evidence is accumulating, however, to strengthen eastern North America’s case for inclusion. Among the sources of…
Sugar and salt: Industrial is best
Jun 10, 2013 • 17 min
Henry Hobhouse’s book Seeds of Change: Five Plants That Transformed Mankind (now six, with the addition of cacao) contains the remarkable fact that at the height of the slave trade a single teaspoon of sugar cost six minutes of a man’s life to produce.…
Spam: a special edition
Jun 6, 2013 • 12 min
I did not know that that the famous Monty Python spam sketch was recorded on 6 June 1970. At least, that’s the claim of a Tumblr obsessed with Minnesota in the 1970s. (Wikipedia says only that “[i]t premiered on 15 December 1970”.) However, I need no…
Seed Law
May 27, 2013 • 13 min
Introducing a blog post with the words “The European Commisssion recently decided …” is possibly a guaranteed turn-off, unless the decision concerns something really important like straight cucumbers. Illegal seeds, though, that might just stir some…
Potatoes are (almost) perfect
May 13, 2013 • 10 min
The USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service runs a program for Women, Infants and Children that subsidises specific foods for eligible women and their children. Back when it started, the WIC program excluded potatoes, on the grounds that “Americans already eat…
Neanderthal Diets
Apr 29, 2013 • 14 min
Neanderthals did not descale their teeth regularly, for which modern scientists can be very thankful. Embedded in the fossilized calculus, or tartar, on teeth from the Shanidar cave, in Iraqi Kurdistan, and elsewhere are some remarkable remains that are…
OZ97a — a great British hop
Apr 15, 2013 • 9 min
Perhaps you saw an article in a recent BBC News magazine about how US craft beer is inspiring British brewers. The Americans say they’re not bound by tradition, with the clear implication that the Brits are. And yet it was insipid American beers — like…
Do good chocolate
Apr 1, 2013 • 10 min
Original Beans chocolate offers an original proposition — each bar bought pays for a new cacao tree to be planted — and an original price to match. The company’s chocolate bars certainly taste interesting and distinctive, and by all accounts are doing…
Air-cured sausages
Mar 18, 2013 • 7 min
Time was when curing meat, especially stuffed into a casing to make a sausage, was the only way both to use every part of an animal and to help make it last longer than raw meat. Done right, a sausage would stay good to the next slaughtering season and…
Bog Butter
Mar 4, 2013 • 8 min
Peat diggers in Ireland and elsewhere have occasionally unearthed objects, usually made of wood, that contained some kind of greasy, fatty material with a “distinctive, pungent and slightly offensive smell”. Butter. Centuries-old butter. Who buried it,…