Listen up: Be enlightened — and inspired — by food-focused podcasts
While multi-tasking is roundly snubbed by scientists as being harmful to productivity—turns out focusing on just one activity at a time is a sure path to success, sans stress—often a little background noise is necessary. And why not absorb knowledge during a long drive, hands-on project or extended period of tedious chores (such as my recent KonMari kitchen organization adventure, featured in last week’s column, which turned into an apartment-wide purge)?
Enter: the ubiquitous podcast.
According to a January poll by CBS News, two thirds of Americans listen to podcasts “at least once in a while.” And 23 percent of respondents indicated that they tune in a few times a week. Compare these figures with last year, when most people in the poll replied that they never listened to podcasts.
Perhaps because modern society is cresting a golden wave of self-improvement—last year The New Yorker called it “Improving Ourselves to Death”—we always want more: more proficiency and more stuff to talk about in social situations…when we’re not craning our necks inward toward digital devices.
I gravitate toward food topics and chef interviews—when prepping meals, especially—the quirkier the better. Here are a few favorite foodcasts, available via Apple iTunes, Stitcher Radio, Apple Play, SoundCloud or via RSS feed:
For Creative Home Cooks
Milk Street Radio
Since Lucky Peach went RIP in 2017, my favorite food magazine is Milk Street, founded in October 2016 by Christopher Kimball. The former cofounder of PBS’ America’s Test Kitchen and editor of Cook’s Illustrated magazine (still an excellent periodical), Kimball caught heat for ripping off his former employer to launch this new media venture…but I might argue that the brouhaha stems from him being so damn good at what he does. A lifelong teacher, Kimball—plus contributors including chef Sara Moulton and the New Yorker’s Adam Gopnik—“goes anywhere and everywhere to ask questions and get answers about cooking, food, culture, wine, farming, restaurants, literature and the lives and cultures of the people who grow, produce and create the food we eat.” Plus he invites listeners to call or write in to the show with questions. milkstreetradio.com
Proof: A Podcast from America’s Test Kitchen
Brand new as of this past Halloween, Proof investigates clues to seek answers to simple, sometimes mind-boggling questions. Hosted by Bridget Lancaster, for years featured in the ATK TV and video series and best described as your cool culinary aunt, each episode begins with a clear, clever goal. Find out how celery fell from status as coveted vegetable of the Victorian era (once fetching more money than caviar today!) to crudité castaway; how Jelly Belly creates stinky sock- and vomit-flavored jelly beans for its oddly popular “Beanboozled” line; and why ketchup is such a polarizing condiment in this country. americastestkitchen.com/proof
For Obsessive Eaters
Top winner at the James Beard Awards, the Webby Awards and the Saveur Awards, this almost 2-year-old series by Dan Pashman, also of the Cooking Channel’s cheeky yet informative web series “You’re Eating It Wrong,” is packed with nerdy tidbits. “We obsess about food to learn more about people,” Pashman says in his introduction, which leads to though-provoking discussions of food culture, trends, history and habits. The “Ask Mimi” miniseries brings legendary food critic Mimi Sheraton to the mic to offer advice on the intersection of food and sex, marriage, etiquette and life. sporkful.com
For Curious Cooks
The Splendid Table
Bread baked around the world, the history of sauces and the art of the sandwich are all explored in this weekly public radio program hosted by Francis Lam, an award-winning writer, cookbook editor, and former “Eat” columnist for The New York Times Magazine. Thoughtful but quick to laugh, Lam steers conversations with chefs, restaurateurs and wine experts that delve into food and restaurant culture and with journalists who journey to faraway lands to discover what makes a meal authentic. (Also worth listening to: archived episodes led by Lynne Rossetto Kasper, who retired in 2017 after 20 years on air.) splendidtable.org
For Vegans (And Plant-Based Wannabes)
Food for Thought
Hosted by impassioned blogger and “advocate for animals” Colleen Patrick-Goudreau since 2006, this popular podcast champions the ethics behind a plant-based, vegan lifestyle. Always up to dispel a myth, the activist tackles issues of food waste, animals in film, and societal perceptions, and shares stories from her travels to explain what it’s like to be vegan in other parts of the world. Recently rebroadcast, “The Taming of the Cattle” kicks off with Patrick-Goudreau’s no-bull explanation of how beef production is essentially livestock slavery, since “cattle” literally translates to “capital” and “wealth” in certain languages since the beginning of civilization. colleenpatrickgoudreau.com
For Nostalgic Types
A few obsolete podcasts worth replaying:
Burnt Toast by Food52 (2015-18)
Listen to “snackable dinner-party fodder,” such as an exploration of how food emojis are conceived (“Why Is There No Pie Emoji?”); the history of food fights (“How to Throw a Ripe Tomato”); and tips for feeding picky eaters (“Pizza for Breakfast: Cooking For (and With) Kids”). food52.com/p/burnt-toast
Eat Your Science: The Alton Browncast (2013-17)
Geek out with OG food nerd and decade-long host of Food Network’s “Good Eats” Alton Brown, who weaves scientific concepts with guest interviews ranging from celebrity chefs such as Bobby Flay and Hugh Acheson to actor William Shatner. altonbrown.com
New York Magazine’s Grub Street Podcast (2015-16)
Straight from the Big Apple, tune in to fascinating material such as “The Rise of the Power Sushi Restaurant” and “Here’s How Food Critics Actually Lose Weight.” grubstreet.com
CBD DINNER AT FREE RANGE
On Wednesday, March 13, Free Range Kitchen & Wine Bar in Basalt is going green. Executive chef Chris Krowicki will prepare three courses of New American cuisine infused with CBD, the non-psychoactive, feel-good component of cannabis, and featuring Colorado producers including Elevated Elixirs, High Mountain PrimeMyBody and Wise Bar. “I’ve been a CBD consumer since my breast cancer,” says Robin Humble, restaurant co-owner with husband, Steve. “(We’re) trying something new.” 7 p.m., $46; 305 Gold Rivers Court, Basalt. RSVP: firstname.lastname@example.org or 970-279-5199.
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