264 episodes

Using food to explore all manner of topics, from agriculture to zoology. In Eat This Podcast, Jeremy Cherfas tries to go beyond the obvious to see how the food we eat influences and is influenced by history, archaeology, trade, chemistry, economics, geography, evolution, religion -- you get the picture. We don't do recipes, except when we do, or restaurant reviews, ditto. We do offer an eclectic smorgasbord of tasty topics. Twice nominated for a James Beard Award.

Eat This Podcast Jeremy Cherfas

    • Arts
    • 4.9 • 50 Ratings

Using food to explore all manner of topics, from agriculture to zoology. In Eat This Podcast, Jeremy Cherfas tries to go beyond the obvious to see how the food we eat influences and is influenced by history, archaeology, trade, chemistry, economics, geography, evolution, religion -- you get the picture. We don't do recipes, except when we do, or restaurant reviews, ditto. We do offer an eclectic smorgasbord of tasty topics. Twice nominated for a James Beard Award.

    Patrik Johansson, the Butter Viking

    Patrik Johansson, the Butter Viking

    Ten years ago, the first episode of Eat This Podcast featured Ben Reade talking about some butter that he had buried in a Swedish bog, the better to understand the bog butter occasionally unearthed in Ireland (and elsewhere). The butter for that experiment was made by Patrik Johansson, using methods taught him by his grandmother, lightly churned with some modern food science. The result is a product that can be found only at a few fine restaurants. That is unlikely ever to change, as Patrik says he couldn’t possibly scale up production.

    We talked about that, and much else besides.


    * You can follow Patrik Johansson on Instagram.

    * Here’s the episode on bog butter

    * And here is the transcript.

    * Drum roll by MissloonerVoiceOver255

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    • 23 min
    Food Security in Egypt

    Food Security in Egypt

    Jessica BarnesEgypt spends about 3% of its budget subsidising bread for about three-quarters of its population. Threats to that subsidy provoke massive civil unrest, helping to topple the regime in 2011. As a result, bread and wheat are fundamental to the government’s security and that of the people of Egypt. Wheat yields in Egypt are among the highest in Africa, but they are no match for the population, which is why Egypt is the biggest buyer of wheat on the global market. Even when government raises the price it will pay for local wheat, the farmers who grow it prefer to keep their harvest — for their own family food security — rather than sell it to promote the government’s security.

    These are just some of the challenges Jessica Barnes brings to light in her new book, Staple Security: Bread and Wheat in Egypt.


    * Staple Security: Bread and Wheat in Egypt is published by Duke University Press.

    * Music by Ramy Essam.

    * You may be interested in an episode I did back in 2014: Food prices and social unrest

    * Transcript available here.

    * Cover photo by Hossam el-Hamalawy. Banner photo “courtesy Middle East Confidential”.

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    • 29 min
    Fully Tested Tuna

    Fully Tested Tuna

    Sean Wittenberg, Safe Catch CEOThere is an awful lot of disagreement on the subject of mercury in fish and shellfish and how harmful it might be to people. That’s especially true for tuna, which are top predators that accumulate mercury from all the fish they eat over their long lives. Many countries, including the USA, offer guidelines about how much tuna it is “safe” to eat, but there are problems with that. First, not all tuna is tested for mercury. And second, some individual fish contain way more mercury than others. Safe Catch is a relative newcomer to canned tuna, with a unique selling point: it tests every single fish, and to a standard 10 times more stringent than the level at which the FDA might take action.

    Sean Wittenberg, CEO of Safe Catch, told me how his company came about and how it operates.


    * Safe Catch’s website.

    * Transcript, thanks to my generous supporters.

    * Astonishing tuna photograph by Tom Benson on flickr

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    • 20 min
    Biodiversity at Liberty

    Biodiversity at Liberty

    Since 1966, the European Union has had the most restrictive laws in the world on agricultural biodiversity. To be marketed, a variety has to be distinct, uniform and stable, which in principle means the individual plants have to be effectively identical. This has never suited organic farmers or any other smaller scale growers, including home gardeners. Finally, after a few false starts, a new regulation permitted the marketing of “organic heterogeneous material” from January 2022.

    One of the organisations that campaigned for the new regulation is Let’s Liberate Diversity, an association of European groups. I went along to their 10th anniversary forum to hear how farmers and food producers were responding to the new regulation.


    * Find out more about Brouwerij 3 Fonteinen and Biocivam Aude.

    * Let’s Liberate Diversity published a round-up of all the events at the Budapest forum.

    * The farmers Yumi Biagini is working with are looking for varieties from climate analogues, places that currently experience the kind of climate that they expect in the future. There used to be a marvellously easy tool to find climate analogues, but it seems to have vanished without trace. Best I can find is this explanation from Oregon State University.

    * Rouge de Bordeaux photograph from Moulin du Courneau on Instagram. 3F image from Drie Fonteinen.

    * Here is the transcript.

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    • 25 min
    Feed Your Baby Like a Fascist

    Feed Your Baby Like a Fascist

    At the end of the previous episode on mothers’ milk Professor Amy Brown mentioned an important source of anxiety for new mothers: they cannot easily see how much their baby has eaten, and that pushes them to use a see-through bottle and switch from breast to formula. It may surprise you to learn that the Italian Fascist regime came up with a solution 90 years ago. In this episode, Professor Diana Garvin provides some insights into Fascist breastfeeding, and a friend of mine explains how it lingered to traumatise mothers 50 years on, and continues to do so today.

    As for why this episode is being published today, rather than on Monday, that’s because the Fascists chose 24 December 1933 to first celebrate the Giornata della madre e del fanciullo, the day of the mother and the child. Why Christmas Eve? Diana Garvin says it was “originally meant to coincide with the mother Mary’s labour pains. Ostensibly.”

    That ostensibly is interesting, because while they might have been against the church, the Fascists must have known that Mary suffered no labour pains at all. At least not after the middle of the 14th century.

    That was when Birgitta Birgersdotter, later to become St Bridget of Sweden, had a vision in the little town of Bethlehem, one of a series of visions that started when she was quite young, which had a profound impact on art and depictions of the nativity. Bridget relates how, in this vision, she “saw the One lying in her womb then move; and then and there, in a moment and the twinkling of an eye, she gave birth to a Son, from whom there went out such great and ineffable light and splendor that the sun could not be compared to it”. In another vision, Mary says “When I gave birth to him, it was also without any pain.” So, no labour pains.

    Giotto's Nativity from the lower church in Assisi, painted around 1310 and thus before St Bridget, shows a reclining Mary, who may well be exhausted by her labour.

    Before Bridget, many depictions of the nativity show Mary lying down exhausted and resting, as a new mother surely would. After, she is usually shown kneeling before the baby emanating light, along with the manger, Joseph and a candle and various other details she envisioned.


    * Diana Garvin’s latest book is Feeding Fascism: The Politics of Women’s Food Work published by University of Toronto Press. Articles include Taylorist Breastfeeding in Rationalist Clinics: Constructing Industrial Motherhood in Fascist Italy and Reproductive Health Care from Fascism to Forza Nuova.

    * I am very grateful to my friend Susan for sharing her memories of breastfeeding her son in Italy.

    * Huge thanks to Jennifer Wilkin Penick for alerting me to the significance of St Bridget in the history of art.

    * We have a transcript.

    * St Bridget’s words from The Prophecies and Revelations of Saint Bridget (Birgitta) of Sweden.

    * Cover photo by Lucy Clink.

    * Music: Jumbel from Blue Dot Sessions.

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    • 16 min
    Some thoughts on markets and such

    Some thoughts on markets and such

    It has been a difficult year for food supplies, and even more so for food markets. Prices everywhere seem to be higher than they have been for a long time, and that’s just in retail shops. On international commodity markets, things have been wild. Wheat shot up after Russia invaded Ukraine in February, but had started rising well before that, in mid 2021. Prices began to drift down in mid-May, while fighting was still intense and no wheat had yet left the Black Sea. As became clear, there was no great global shortage of wheat, although it had become scarce.

    There was a lot of talk about speculators and starvation, which just happens to be the topic of a blog post by David Zetland, an American political economist who teaches at Leiden University in The Netherlands. He, like me, had long dismissed claims that speculators exacerbated price increases, but unlike me had changed his mind, at least in some cases. Of course I wanted to understand why, so I asked David to walk me through that and other some fundamental economic ideas as they relate to food and water.


    * Crops, speculation and starvation was the piece that prompted me to book a talk with David Zetland.

    * His personal site is a gateway to his many other activities, including The Little Book of The Commons.

    * More can be said about crop insurance, a lot more, and soon I hope to find people to say it here. A good place to start is this piece by Aaron Smith at UC Davis.

    * A transcript! On time!

    * DALL-E made the images for me.

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    • 23 min

Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5
50 Ratings

50 Ratings

bunner808 ,

deliciously interesting

A great variety of fascinating topics covered in an enlightened and enjoyable way. Short and to the point podcasts then send you down tracks to follow on your own for those topics and guests that the listener finds most interesting…

worksforme2! ,

Listen only if you’re curious about food and agriculture

And who isn’t curious about food and ag.? :) This podcast manages the fine line between delightful comfort food and adventurous-to-me forgotten food. Jeremy’s voice is lovely, his curiosity about food is boundless, and respect for his guests is sincere. Whether it’s the history of bread or heirloom apples in Ireland (600?!?), I enjoy each episode. Thank you for sharing your conversations with us, Jeremy.

kobgreen ,


Love this traveler/ writer/ food aficionado so delighted to find this well presented and intelligent podcast. Coupling my intense desire to get back to traveling with my unending desire to learn about foodways from all over the eatable globe. Thank you both for a nourishing interview.

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