176 episodes

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.

Gastropod Vox Media Podcast Network

    • Arts
    • 4.8 • 2.9K Ratings

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.

    Reinventing the Eel

    Reinventing the Eel

    Aristotle thought they were born out of mud. A young Sigmund Freud dedicated himself to finding their testicles (spoiler alert, he failed). And a legendary Danish marine biologist spent 18 years and his wife's fortune sailing around the Atlantic Ocean to find their birthplace. The creature that tormented all of these great thinkers? It was the eel, perhaps the most mysterious fish in the world—and one of the most expensive per pound. So why are tiny, transparent, worm-like baby eels worth so much? Why have eels remained so mysterious, despite scientists' best efforts? And how has one pioneering farmer in Maine started raising eels sustainably, despite the species' endangered status? All that this episode, plus a nighttime fishing trip, suitcases full of cash, and a compelling argument that when it comes to the American Thanksgiving dinner plate, we should consider ditching the turkey—and replacing it with eel.
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    • 48 min
    Monsanto or MonSatan? How—and Why—a St. Louis Startup Became a Hated Herbicide Giant

    Monsanto or MonSatan? How—and Why—a St. Louis Startup Became a Hated Herbicide Giant

    A chemical that kills the plants you don’t want—weeds—and keeps the plants you do—food!—seems kind of like magic. After all, weeds are the bane of farmers' lives, causing tens of billions of dollars in lost yield every year. So why is the world's largest herbicide company, Monsanto, so unpopular that it's been referred to as MonSatan? How harmful are today's herbicides for us humans, and for the environments they're seeping into? And do we need weedkillers to feed the world? In part two of our three-part series on weeds, we take on the big questions around this “bad seed” of the farming world—and the fascinating story behind the scrappy St. Louis startup that hooked the world on herbicides.
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    • 52 min
    The Way the Cookie Crumbles

    The Way the Cookie Crumbles

    If you’ve baked up a batch of chocolate chip cookies, enjoyed a nice cup of tea and biscuits, or somehow scarfed a sleeve of Oreos, you will know that cookies—or biscuits, as they were known for most of their existence, and still are in much of the Anglophone world—are one of humanity's greatest inventions. But you probably won't know that they started their illustrious career, more than four thousand years ago, as a kind of beer bouillon cube! This episode, we explore how this food of soldiers and sailors was transformed as it spread all over the world, fueling trade and empire, becoming the world's first industrial food, and shaping culture and language along the way. Featuring cookies as preventative medicine, the biscuit feud that followed the Oreo, and the true story of where the chocolate chip cookie really came from—you'll want to pour yourself a nice tall glass of milk for this one! Or, you know, put on the kettle for a cuppa...
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    • 53 min
    Black Gold: The Future of Food...We Throw Away

    Black Gold: The Future of Food...We Throw Away

    For a few weeks in 1987, trash was temporarily headline news: a barge filled with waste that would no longer fit in New York City's overflowing landfills spent months wandering up and down the East Coast with nowhere to dump its smelly, rotting cargo. The trash barge's travels triggered a long overdue public rethink of the wisdom of sending all of our waste to landfills—including food. But fast forward more than thirty years, and food still takes up more space in American landfills than anything else. About 30 to 40 percent of food produced in the US gets thrown away, rather than eaten. What's more, putting all that rotting food inside landfills produces a lot of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. Our ancestors knew exactly what to do with food waste; the earliest descriptions of composting were written on clay tablets more than 4,000 years ago. So why didn't the GarBarge kick off a composting craze? And why is it so hard for us to keep food waste out of landfills? This episode, Gastropod visits the future of food waste: the high-tech facilities as well as the innovative policies that promise to keep our discarded food out of landfills, keep methane from escaping into the atmosphere, *and* turn those food scraps into something useful. Can a state the size of California really keep 75 percent of its food waste out of landfills, as it has pledged to do by 2025—and what will happen if it does? Listen in for compost blow-dryers, fruit-sticker bingo, and a lot of microbes!
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    • 52 min
    Gum's the Word: A Sticky Story

    Gum's the Word: A Sticky Story

    It’s sticky, it’s breath-freshening, and, according to the FDA, it’s technically food—this episode, we’re chewing on the science and history of gum! As it turns out, humans have been harvesting rubbery things to chew just for the chomp of it for thousands of years. But why? We're joined by anthropologists, archaeologists, gum scientists, and etiquette experts on our journey from the ancient birch tar-chewers of Scandinavia to the invention of modern-day, many-flavored bubblegum. How did an exiled Mexican president, a desperate Staten Island inventor, and a soap-selling runaway help gum go from something the Aztecs thought was only fit for children, the elderly, and prostitutes to a multi-billion dollar industry? Why did one country decide to ban gum altogether? And, with its popularity waning, is the gum-chewing bubble about to burst?

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    • 51 min
    Déjà-Brew: How Coffee Got Bad, Then Worse, and, Finally, Good Again

    Déjà-Brew: How Coffee Got Bad, Then Worse, and, Finally, Good Again

    If you hopped in a time machine for a cup of coffee from a 17th-century London coffeehouse, you would probably be a bit disappointed by their stale, bitter brews. We told you the story of how coffee jumped from its native soil in Africa to achieve near-world domination in Grounds for Revolution, the first episode in our two-part series. This episode, tune in for the story behind how new technologies, over-the-top advertising, and a forgotten female coffee visionary helped coffee go from bad, to a little better, to downright terrible, before reaching today’s Nirvana of coffee choice and quality. After all, why is a recipe with just two ingredients so hard to get just right? For the answer, we explore the science of coffee brewing, roasting, and flavor, and meet the people who shaped humanity’s pursuit of the perfect cup. All that plus Frank Sinatra, unicorn Frappuccinos, and a whole latte more in our fresh-brewed episode.
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    • 55 min

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5
2.9K Ratings

2.9K Ratings

Ethanos5610 ,

Food Theory Got There First

MatPat did a video on the Oreo cookie ripping off the Hydrox cookie. I still love you, but I just wanted you to know he posted it two years ago

OpheliaButton ,

Very bizarre speech patterns.

I thought the description sounded intriguing and was looking forward to this podcast, but one of the hosts speaks with very strange and jarring vocal patterns/inflections and I really can’t handle it. It’s like listing to AI software reading a script. Only made it a few minutes into my first episode before I had to stop.

Russ the plant scientist ,

Monsanto episode

Overall I enjoyed this podcast but this episode was so terribly biased that I now have to be overtly skeptical to everything they present. I’m sure this is going to negatively effect my further enjoyment of the podcast. When talking about a scientific topic, talk to scientists that specialize in the field not charlatans trying to sell their books.

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