Food Through the Lens of Science and History

Pizza Pizza!
May 19 • 45 min
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,…
Eating the Wild: Bushmeat, Game, and the Fuzzy Line Between Them
May 5 • 39 min
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…
Eating the Rainbow: Or, the Mystery of the Orange Oranges, the Red M&Ms, and the Blue Raspberry
Apr 21 • 43 min
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…
A Tale To Warm The Cockles Of Your Heart
Apr 7 • 35 min
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.…
White vs. Wheat: The Food Fight of the Centuries
Mar 24 • 49 min
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…
Licorice: A Dark and Salty Stranger
Mar 10 • 39 min
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…
To Fight Climate Change, Bank on Soil
Feb 25 • 42 min
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,
Move Over Gin, We’ve Got Tonic Fever
Feb 11 • 37 min
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!
The United States of McDonald’s
Jan 27 • 48 min
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.
Dinner Plate Invasion: Lionfish, Tiger Shrimp, and Feral Pigs, Oh My!
Jan 13 • 40 min
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…
Meet the Queen of Kiwi: the 96-Year-Old Woman Who Transformed America’s Produce Aisle
Dec 17, 2019 • 39 min
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,
Are Insect Guts the Secret to the Most Delicious Kimchi?
Dec 3, 2019 • 37 min
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,
Menu Mind Control
Nov 18, 2019 • 46 min
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,
Of Ghost Foods and Culinary Extinction
Nov 4, 2019 • 48 min
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,
Tiki Time!
Oct 22, 2019 • 40 min
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 Am…
What’s CRISPR Doing in our Food?
Oct 7, 2019 • 44 min
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?
Happy Birthday to Us: Gastropod Turns Five
Sep 24, 2019 • 40 min
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,
Celebrate Mexico’s True National Holiday with the Mysteries of Mole
Sep 10, 2019 • 42 min
In the United States, Cinco de Mayo is an excuse for margarita-fueled partying. But in Mexico, that date—the anniversary of a military triumph over Napoleon on May 5, 1862—is marked by a parade and not much else.
Running on Fumes: Strawberry’s Dirty Secret
Aug 27, 2019 • 41 min
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,
Omega 1-2-3
Aug 12, 2019 • 41 min
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 preven…
Meet Sharbat, the Ancestor of Sorbet, Syrup, Shrub, Sherbet, and Pretty Much Everything Else Cool
Aug 6, 2019 • 22 min
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?
Super Fry: The Fight for the Golden Frite
Jun 18, 2019 • 40 min
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,
Eat This, Not That: The Surprising Science of Personalized Nutrition
Jun 10, 2019 • 53 min
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 resp…
Guts and Glory
May 21, 2019 • 42 min
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,
BONUS: Introducing Science Rules! with Bill Nye
May 16, 2019 • 3 min
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 u…
The Great Gastropod Pudding Off
May 6, 2019 • 50 min
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 p…
Potatoes in Space!
Apr 23, 2019 • 43 min
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,
The Curry Chronicles
Apr 9, 2019 • 38 min
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,
The Bagelization of America
Mar 26, 2019 • 47 min
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,
Can Diet Stop Alzheimer’s?
Mar 11, 2019 • 38 min
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,
Seeds of Immortality
Mar 4, 2019 • 27 min
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 m…
Pick A Pawpaw: America’s Forgotten Fruit
Feb 26, 2019 • 38 min
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?
Eating to Win: Gatorade, Muscle Milk, and… Chicken Nuggets?
Feb 12, 2019 • 37 min
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,
The Secret History of the Slave Behind Jack Daniel’s Whiskey
Jan 28, 2019 • 40 min
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…
Sweet and Low (Calorie): The Story of Artificial Sweeteners
Jan 15, 2019 • 41 min
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.
Dirty Tricks and Data: The Great Soda Wars, Part 2
Dec 17, 2018 • 41 min
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 i…
Souring on Sweet: The Great Soda Wars, Part 1
Dec 4, 2018 • 42 min
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.
The Truth is in the Tooth: Braces, Cavities, and the Paleo Diet
Nov 19, 2018 • 32 min
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,
Who Invented Mac and Cheese?
Nov 13, 2018 • 29 min
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 …
How the Carrot Became Orange, and Other Stories
Nov 5, 2018 • 34 min
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,
The Incredible Egg
Oct 23, 2018 • 41 min
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.
Espresso and Whisky: The Place of Time in Food
Oct 8, 2018 • 37 min
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 manipu…
Why These Animals?
Sep 24, 2018 • 43 min
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,
Mango Mania: How the American Mango Lost its Flavor—and How it Might Just Get it Back
Sep 11, 2018 • 34 min
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 ex…
Keeping it Fresh: Preservatives and The Poison Squad
Aug 27, 2018 • 44 min
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!
Watch It Wiggle: The Jell-O Story
Aug 13, 2018 • 45 min
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?
Out of the Fire, Into the Frying Pan
Jun 19, 2018 • 38 min
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.
Hotbox: The Oven From Turnspit Dogs to Microwaves
Jun 5, 2018 • 45 min
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 heat…
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
May 22, 2018 • 42 min
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 th…
Ripe for Global Domination: The Story of the Avocado
May 7, 2018 • 43 min
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,
Meet the Man Who Found, Finagled, and Ferried Home the Foods We Eat Today
Apr 23, 2018 • 38 min
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 hi…
Who Faked My Cheese?
Apr 9, 2018 • 47 min
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,
Marching on our Stomachs: The Science and History of Feeding the Troops
Mar 26, 2018 • 44 min
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 l…
Cooking the Books with Yotam and Nigella
Mar 12, 2018 • 42 min
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,
Cutting the Mustard
Feb 26, 2018 • 42 min
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.,
Remembrance of Things Pasta: A Saucy Tale
Feb 12, 2018 • 40 min
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’ve Lost It: The Diet Episode
Jan 30, 2018 • 48 min
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 …
Meet Saffron, the World’s Most Expensive Spice
Jan 15, 2018 • 38 min
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 c…
Secrets of Sourdough
Dec 18, 2017 • 44 min
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.
Green Gold: Our Love Affair with Olive Oil
Dec 4, 2017 • 46 min
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,
Women, Food, Power … and Books!
Nov 21, 2017 • 38 min
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.
Crantastic: The Story of America’s Berry
Nov 6, 2017 • 35 min
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,
Cannibalism: From Calories to Kuru
Oct 24, 2017 • 43 min
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 w…
Eataly World and the Future of Food Shopping
Oct 9, 2017 • 36 min
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,
What the Fluff is Marshmallow Creme?
Sep 25, 2017 • 34 min
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,
Lunch Gets Schooled
Sep 11, 2017 • 49 min
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.
Sour Grapes: The History and Science of Vinegar
Aug 28, 2017 • 40 min
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,
The Birds and The Bugs
Aug 15, 2017 • 40 min
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.
It’s Tea Time: Pirates, Polyphenols, and a Proper Cuppa
Jul 31, 2017 • 40 min
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 …
Peanuts: Peril and Promise
Jun 20, 2017 • 39 min
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….
Fake Food
Jun 6, 2017 • 37 min
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 o…
Here’s Why You Should Care About Southern Food
May 22, 2017 • 43 min
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,
Better Believe It’s Butter
May 9, 2017 • 32 min
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,
Meet Koji, Your New Favorite Fungus
Apr 24, 2017 • 36 min
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 th…
V is for Vitamin
Apr 10, 2017 • 40 min
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.
Hacking Taste
Mar 14, 2017 • 42 min
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,
Cork Dork: Inside the Weird World of Wine Appreciation
Feb 28, 2017 • 41 min
“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,
To Eat or Not to Eat Meat
Feb 14, 2017 • 43 min
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 wea…
We Heart Chocolate
Jan 30, 2017 • 40 min
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 wo…
Inventing the Restaurant: From Bone Broth to Michelin
Jan 16, 2017 • 40 min
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,
Gettin’ Fizzy With It
Dec 12, 2016 • 36 min
‘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.
The Spice Curve: From Pepper to Sriracha with Sarah Lohman
Nov 29, 2016 • 38 min
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,
The Buzz on Honey
Nov 15, 2016 • 38 min
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.
What is Native American Cuisine?
Nov 1, 2016 • 39 min
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 va…
Oysters: History and Science on the Half Shell
Oct 18, 2016 • 38 min
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,
Counting Fish
Oct 4, 2016 • 40 min
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,
Seaweed Special
Sep 13, 2016 • 24 min
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,
The Salt Wars
Aug 22, 2016 • 37 min
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.
Kombucha Culture
Aug 8, 2016 • 38 min
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?
Keeping Kosher: When Jewish Law Met Processed Food
Jul 25, 2016 • 39 min
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?
Poultry Power: The Fried Chicken Chronicles
Jul 12, 2016 • 42 min
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,
Outside the Box: The Story of Food Packaging
Jun 27, 2016 • 40 min
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,
Who Invented the Cherry Tomato?
Jun 13, 2016 • 33 min
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?
Everything Old is Brew Again
May 30, 2016 • 40 min
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,
Museums and the Mafia: The Secret History of Citrus
Apr 18, 2016 • 39 min
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.
Grand Theft Food
Apr 4, 2016 • 35 min
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,
Caffeine: The World’s Most Popular Drug
Mar 21, 2016 • 39 min
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?
The Maple Boom
Mar 7, 2016 • 34 min
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,
First Foods: Learning to Eat
Feb 22, 2016 • 46 min
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?
The Food of Love
Feb 8, 2016 • 36 min
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.
The End of the Calorie
Jan 25, 2016 • 44 min
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 …Mo…
The Mushroom Underground
Nov 16, 2015 • 37 min
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—…
Peak Booze
Nov 2, 2015 • 32 min
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,
Mezcal: Everything but the Worm
Oct 19, 2015 • 42 min
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,
The Good, The Bad, The Cilantro
Oct 5, 2015 • 30 min
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,
The Bitter Truth
Sep 21, 2015 • 43 min
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 f…
The United States of Chinese Food
Aug 24, 2015 • 41 min
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.
The Whole Hog
Aug 10, 2015 • 27 min
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 Scoop on Ice Cream
Jul 27, 2015 • 43 min
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,
Crunch, Crackle, and Pop
Jul 13, 2015 • 25 min
“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,
Field Recordings
Jun 29, 2015 • 28 min
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,
The Cocktail Hour
May 25, 2015 • 49 min
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,
Gastropod on Gastropods
May 4, 2015 • 27 min
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,
Savor Flavor
Apr 21, 2015 • 52 min
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,
Say Cheese!
Mar 22, 2015 • 54 min
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.
No Scrubs: Breeding a Better Bull
Feb 16, 2015 • 35 min
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 …
Breakfast of Champions
Jan 19, 2015 • 41 min
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.
Kale of the Sea
Dec 8, 2014 • 35 min
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 pe…
The Microbe Revolution
Nov 10, 2014 • 37 min
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,
Dan Barber’s Quest for Flavor
Oct 14, 2014 • 43 min
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 co…
Episode 1: The Golden Spoon
Sep 6, 2014 • 42 min
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.