Linda Pelaccio, a culinary historian, takes a weekly journey through the history of food on A Taste of the Past. Tune in for interviews with authors, scholars and culinary chroniclers who discuss food culture from ancient Mesopotamia and Rome to the grazing tables and deli counters of today. Each week Linda explores the lively link between food cultures of the present and past.
The Arabesque Table
Like the intricate pattern of intersecting lines of an ornamental Arabesque pattern, so are the roots of the Arab cuisine intertwined. Reem Kassis has researched Arabic food for many years and wrote her first book, The Palestinian Table, about the classic dishes. As her research continued she studied how the cuisine has evolved over the course of history with so many influences of the everchanging region. Her new book, The Arabesque Table, presents a more modern take on many of the dishes that are rooted in the historic origins of the food of the Arab world and still represent a national cuisine.
Meet Bread & Pizza Authority Peter Reinhart
World-famous artisan bread authority and author Peter Reinhart recently shifted his focus to another form of yeasty dough, Pizza. He has launched a new podcast on Heritage Radio Network all about it, called PIZZA QUEST, where he meets all of the best pizza makers. On this episode, Linda gives you an opportunity to meet Peter and learn about his obsession and how he got there.
Black Smoke, the African American Roots of BBQ
While it's enjoyed throughout the US, barbecue has long been recognized as southern cooking. But the originators of barbecue have not been given their culinary due. The African American culture has been largely ignored as the progenitor of the culture of barbecue as author and soul food scholar Adrian Miller is quick to point out in his new book, Black Smoke: African Americans and the United States of Barbecue (University of North Carolina Press, 2021.) The merits of sauces and styles can be discussed from shore to shore, but that may not be as essential as correcting the narrative itself. As Miller explains it, Barbecue is American food with southern roots from plantation slave pitmasters sharing their flavors and fire.
Retro Cocktails and Pimm's Cups
There has been a resurgence in the cocktail culture of the pre-Prohibition period and the MadMen era. And whether mixing at home, cocktails-to-go (outside) from a restaurant or bar, or the new kid on the block: ready to drink cocktails in a can, there has been a definite uptick in the spirits market. Author and spirits writer Kara Newman shares her views and observations and answers Linda's questions about the origins of Pimm's.
Cuisine of the Spanish Roma
Gypsies, Romani, Gitano - these are all names used to identify the ethnic group of Roma throughout Europe, of which there are more than 750,00 living in Spain. Food writer Valerio Farris learned about the cuisine of the Spanish Roma and the importance of preserving their recipes and culture by cooking with Roma people in and around Barcelona.
Made in Italy, really!
Authentic products by artisan producers are worth protecting. Beatrice Ughi, founder and president of the food importing company Gustiamo talks about the fake and adulterated products passing as "Made in Italy", and shares her passion for keeping it real.
Definitely appreciate the topics
I do think the host comes off as one of the coastal elite, and have noticed when topics she’s not as passionate about (ie non-Euro topics) she tends to cut off the interviewees and not let them finish. The guests themselves are wonderful and what keeps me listening.
He is correct. Mama’s Pizza is terrible, but they make the absolute best cheesesteak .25 miles outside of city limit. Grew up a mile away. EAT THE MAMAS STEAK! Every cut of steak is covered with the oohygooey cheese. Jim’s and Pat’s are fake. Jim’s on South is the worst. DelAnsando’s a very close second.
Fascinating Topics but Hit or Miss
There are a lot of fascinating topics brought up in this podcast. In the past few days I’ve really enjoyed some older episodes like Eat Your Words (about the linguistic and historical changes that some of our food names in English have undergone), the one about Mark Twain’s favorite American foods, and the one about the Libyan Jewish cuisine in Rome. I’ve learned fun and interesting facts and usually have my browser open to read further into some of the facts brought up.
With that said, I have to agree with some other commenters in a few points. Some guests seem out of their element, particularly up and coming authors. I’m sure the book about beans, for example, was interesting—but the author doesn’t seem like she’s done any sort of podcast or public speaking. I’ve come across several other episodes like this as well. I’m not sure what the solution to this would be, but some episodes are hard to listen.
It unfortunately also does tend to come off as very Western-centric. Especially in a place like New York, one would expect to find authors and cooks from all over the world, yet the guests are more often than not white Americans. As a white American who is fascinated by the Middle Eastern cultures, languages, and cuisines and has lived in Israel/Palestine and Jordan, I had been hoping to hear more from the people who actually grew up in that region and were steeped in the culture and cuisines—rather than other Westerners who are interested in these topics but only know about them by proxy. Add some diversity, not for diversity’s sake alone but to make the podcasts richer and deeper.
I personally don’t mind Linda’s delivery—but it’s clear when she’s interested in a topic and when she’s bored. The latter point is something to consider working on, but I actually really like the episodes where she jokes with the guests and is actively engaged in the conversation.
Overall I enjoy this podcast a lot, but I’d like to see more diversity in guests and fewer unprepared guests. Thank you for making this show!