Gastropod

Gastropod

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

Episodes

January 18, 2022 41 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 expats will even pay hundreds of dollars for a single, air-freighted box of their favorite variety. But while the average red-skinned mango in the American grocery store is certainly pr...

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Gastropod is excited to present this guest episode of Outside/In called Scents and Sensibility. Once upon a time, potpourri was a popular way to freshen up a space. Now, for some, it feels a bit like the lava lamp of fragrance: an outdated fad from a bygone decade. Why was potpourri so popular in the 1980’s, and what happened to it? Did the trend dry up, or just evolve? In this episode, Outside/In explores the transformation of pot...

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December 21, 2021 50 min

Allow us to indulge our inner aunties: We’ve set you up on a really hot date this episode—with one of nature’s sweetest fruits, the date! Adored by pleasure-seekers and paleo dieters alike, dates are a Christmas baking standby, and the first bite when breaking fast during Ramadan. These fudgy, caramelly, brown-buttery fruits are so important in their Arab homelands that they're known as the "bread of the desert" and tho...

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December 7, 2021 50 min

Here’s a little riddle for you: What’s all around you, but can’t be seen, smelled, or tasted? Hint: It’s in your Oreos, Nutella, instant noodles, dish soap, shampoo, lipstick, potato chips, pizza dough, packaged bread, chocolate bars, ice-cream, and biodiesel. The answer is ... palm oil, the hidden ingredient on just about every aisle of the grocery store. It's the most ubiquitous, most important, most interesting oil that most...

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Move over, beef: there’s a new burger in town. Plant-based meats are sizzling hot right now; in 2020 alone, the alternative meat industry saw a record $3.1 billion in investment, with 112 new plant-based brands launching in supermarkets. These juicy, savory, chewy fake burgers are a far cry from the dry, weird-tasting veggie patties of the past. This episode, we visit the Impossible Foods labs to swig some of the animal-free molecu...

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November 17, 2021 46 min

This week we're bringing you an episode from Nice Try! Nice Try’s second season, Interior, is all about the lifestyle products that have been sold to us over and over, and the promises of self improvement they have made, kept, and broken. Their foray into the private utopia of the home starts with the doorbell.

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It’s pretty rare to find organ meat on the dinner table in most American households today, but 90 years ago, the earliest editions of The Joy of Cooking contained dozens of recipes for liver, sweetbreads, and even testicles. For much of history, offal (as organ meat is called) was considered the best part of the animal—so what happened? Why are brains banned in the UK and lungs illegal to sell in the US, and why are Scottish haggis...

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If you live in the U.S., chances are, your first hint of fall isn’t a russet-colored leaf landing on the sidewalk—it’s the orange-wrappered candies taking over the aisles of your local grocery and convenience stores. Forget decorative gourds: it’s officially Halloween candy season! But how did a 2,000-year-old Celtic festival marking the sun's death and the beginning of winter morph into a family-friendly sugar-fest? With the h...

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If you’ve ever engaged in mortal combat with a patch of ragweed, dandelion, or crabgrass in your garden, you might understand the twin emotions of rage and begrudging admiration when it comes to weeds: They. Just. Won’t. Die. When it comes to commercial agriculture, weeds pose a more existential threat—globally, the proportion of our harvest that is lost to weed infiltration is enough to feed millions, and, even with advanced herbi...

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September 28, 2021 51 min

Bourbon has to be aged in barrels, by law; whiskey usually spends years in barrels, by custom; and between 20-30 percent of wine spends some time in one. And almost all of those wooden vessels are made from just two kinds of tree: American white oak and French oak. This episode, we tell the story—and try the whiskey—of the distiller and the barrel-maker who, together, are figuring out how to use the huge, elegant, native oak of the...

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For a lot of Americans, tofu conjures up images of bland, squishy cubes: a sorry alternative to meat. Even in Asia, where tofu was born, the soybean was initially seen as unappetizing, not to mention flatulence inducing. This episode, we tell the story of how people in what's now northeastern China figured out how to turn this legume of last resort into an array of nutritious, delicious foods, from slippery beancurd skins to si...

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Four bakers, one evening, and one challenge: Who can steam the best spotted dick? On this week’s action-packed episode, Tom Gilliford, Selasi Gbormittah, and Yan Tsou of Great British Bake-Off fame, along with honorary Gastropod member (and Cynthia’s partner) Tim Buntel, compete to see who can master this most classic of British puddings for the first-ever Great Gastropod Pudding Off! But what in the world is spotted dick? “It’s go...

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If you thought it was high time for us to get into the weeds with cannabis science and economics, then you’re in the right place: Welcome back to part two of our miniseries on cannabis edibles! This episode, we meet with leading cannabis researcher Adie Rae to figure out the biology behind the difference between inhaling and eating weed, as well as what we do and don't know about the potential health benefits and harms of canna...

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Edible cannabis products are hot right now: Snoop's got some, Willie Nelson's got some—even Martha Stewart's making fancy French-style gummies. In states where it’s legal, you can buy everything from marshmallows to macarons, all laden with THC, the psychoactive compound in cannabis. This commercial boom may be recent, but the history of edibles goes way, way back to the origins of the plant thousands of years ago in th...

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As promised, it's time for the final splashdown in the battle of bottled vs. tap water. When we left off last episode, bottled water had staged a miraculous comeback thanks to Nike, yuppies, and Orson Welles. Today, it's America's favorite liquid refreshment: we buy more bottled water by volume than any other packaged beverage, even though you can get its less glamorous cousin, tap, delivered directly to your home for m...

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Today, bottled water is ubiquitous and cheap: every single second of every single day, more than a thousand people buy and drink a plastic bottle of water in the U.S.. But it wasn’t always so. In this episode, we trace a centuries-old power struggle as bottled water went from hip to lame to hot again. Why did doctors prescribe the waters from specific springs for everything from hemorrhoids to hypochondria, and how did whaling ship...

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We’ve dropped hints and left clues—and now, at long last, Gastropod’s very own Nicola Twilley has published her first book! Co-written with her husband Geoff Manaugh, Until Proven Safe: The History and Future of Quarantine is a captivating chronicle of quarantine across time, space, and species (and yes, they started writing the book long before 2020). Just for you, dear Gastropod listeners, we have a special episode in which, for ...

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Internet influencers have been pushing “immune boosters” during the pandemic — claiming they’ve got just the pill, berry, or brew to rev up our body’s defenses. But is there really a way to boost our immune system? Science Vs is finding out whether these vitamins and supplements truly work as a shield against colds and viruses. Science Vs takes on fads, trends, and the opinionated mob to find out what's fact, what's not, an...

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Guest Episode: Body Stuff with Dr. Jen Gunter. Think you know how your body works? Think again! Dr. Jen Gunter is here to shake up everything you thought you knew — from how much water you need to drink to how often you need to poop and everything in between. Join us weekly for this TED original series that will tell you the truth about what's *really* going on inside you. This episode: You know the old rule that you need to dr...

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May 25, 2021 48 min

Like most people around the world, you probably didn’t do much flying this past year. Maybe you miss the bustle of airports and the joy of seeing friends in far-off places—but chances are, you probably don’t miss the food handed out on planes: those sad little tinfoil-covered trays of rubbery chicken breasts, tired lettuce, and frozen cherry tomatoes. They’re a far cry from airline meals decades ago, in the golden age of flying, wh...

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