Episodes
If we at Gastropod were asked to name a perfect food, the oyster would be at the top of our list. Oysters are pretty much always our answer to the question of what we'd like to eat this evening—but are they also the answer to the slow-motion disaster of disappearing coastlines worldwide? Join us this episode as we discover how this magical mollusk contains a pearl of hope in the fight to counter rising sea-levels, prevent erosion, and buffer storm surges everywhere from hurricane-hit New...
Published 04/02/24
Published 04/02/24
This episode, we've got the exclusive on the preliminary results of the world's largest personalized nutrition experiment. Genetic epidemiologist Tim Spector launched the study, called PREDICT, to answer a simple but important question: do we each respond to different foods differently? And, if so, why? How much of that difference is genetic, how much is due to gut microbes, and how much is due to any one of the dozens of other factors that scientists think affect our metabolic processes?...
Published 03/26/24
If "Cajun-style" only makes you think of spicy chicken sandwiches and popcorn shrimp, you need to join us in the Big Easy this episode, to meet the real Cajun flavor. Cajun cuisine and its close cousin, Creole, were born out of the unique landscape of the Mississippi River delta, whose bounty was sufficient to support large, complex Indigenous societies, without the need for farming or even social hierarchies, for thousands of years. Europeans were slow to appreciate the wealth of this...
Published 03/19/24
After Dan’s pasta shape, cascatelli, was launched, people everywhere were cooking with it and sending him photos of what they were making. As exciting as that was, he was disappointed that most folks were only making a handful of well-worn dishes with this new shape. So Dan decided to write a cookbook to show the world that there’s so much more you can and should be putting on all your pasta shapes, cascatelli and beyond! There’s only one problem: he’s never written a recipe in his life. In...
Published 03/12/24
Close your eyes and imagine this: a world without stuffed crust pizza. We know!—but that was the dismal state of the Italian flatbread scene before 1985, when Anthony Mongiello, aka The Big Cheese, came up with an innovation that loaded even more cheese onto pizza, while saving crusts nationwide from the trashcan. It was a multi-million dollar idea, Mongiello was sure—if only he could figure out how to protect his intellectual property and license it. But can you copyright the recipe for...
Published 03/05/24
Shoestring, waffle, curly, or thick-cut: however you slice it, nearly everyone loves a deep-fried, golden brown piece of potato. But that's where the agreement ends and the battles begin. While Americans call their fries "French," Belgians claim that they, not the French, invented the perfect fry. Who's right? This episode, we take you right into the heart of the battle that continues to be waged over who owns the fry—who invented it, who perfected it, who loves it the most? And then we take...
Published 02/27/24
In contrast to the abundance of the Arctic, in Antarctica, "once you leave the coast, you're basically heading to the moon." Jason Anthony, who spent several summers on the seventh continent, told us that in this desert of ice and stone (where the largest terrestrial animal is a tiny wingless midge), food isn't just important—it's everything. This episode is packed full of stories of survival at Earth's southernmost points, from Heroic Era expedition chefs whipping up croissants on the ice,...
Published 02/20/24
You may feel like it's cold where you live, but in the Arctic, the average temperature is well below freezing all year round. In winter, it's also pitch black for weeks on end—not an ideal environment for growing food. Still, for thousands of years, people in the Arctic have thrived in a landscape that most outsiders would find fatally inhospitable. This episode, we point our compasses north on a journey to discover how traditional knowledge, ingenuity, and a lot of hard work—combined with...
Published 02/06/24
“There’s the faintest soupçon of asparagus and just a flutter of Edam cheese,” says Paul Giamatti in the movie Sideways. Believe it or not, he's describing pinot noir, not quiche. The world of sommeliers, wine lists, and tasting notes is filled with this kind of language, prices seemingly rising in step with the number of bizarre adjectives. It's tempting to dismiss the whole thing as B.S., but listen in: this episode, author Bianca Bosker takes us along on her journey into the history and...
Published 01/23/24
This week, Gastropod tells the story of two countries and their shared obsession with a plant: Camellia sinensis, otherwise known as the tea bush. The Chinese domesticated tea over thousands of years, but they lost their near monopoly on international trade when a Scottish botanist, disguised as a Chinese nobleman, smuggled it out of China in the 1800s, in order to secure Britain's favorite beverage and prop up its empire for another century. The story involves pirates, ponytails, and hard...
Published 01/09/24
When it comes to booze, it’s fun to be bitter: an Aperol spritz has been the drink of summer for about five years, vermouth and soda was apparentlythe "hot girl" drink of 2023, and amaro is having "a major moment." Bitter botanical beverages are everywhere, but that doesn’t mean we understand what on earth they are. Could you explain the difference between vermouth and amaro, or whether either is an aperitif or a digestif? Where do Aperol, Campari, and Chartreuse fit in, and what’s the...
Published 12/19/23
Though rice might not feature in a hit 1990s Vanilla Ice rap, this grain tops the charts in other ways: it's the staple food for more than half the global population, and it's grown by more farmers than any other crop on Earth, from Japan to West Africa to Italy's Po River valley. Rice is so central that it's been used as currency, embedded itself in language, and formed the basis of beloved dishes, from sushi to jollof to risotto. But this adaptable grass has two features that have molded...
Published 12/05/23
Is white chocolate really chocolate? What causes asparagus pee? Sprinkles or jimmies—which do you call them, and is the term ‘jimmies’ racist? Why is the heat of mustard and wasabi so different from a chile burn? This episode, Gastropod is getting to the bottom of your most pressing questions—which also means diving into some of the internet’s most controversial food debates. Listen in now as we call in historians and scientists to bust myths, solve mysteries, and find out why some people...
Published 11/21/23
No pumpkin spice latte, cookie, candle, or seasonal can of Spam (yes, really) would be the same without one of its key flavors: nutmeg, a warm, woody spice grated from the seed of a tropical fruit. But back in the 1600s, nutmeg wasn’t so common that you could put it in everything from coffee to soap. In fact, nutmeg once grew only in one place in the entire world: the Banda Islands, a Pacific archipelago too tiny to even appear on regular maps. To get their precious nutmeg, European sailors...
Published 11/07/23
Botanically, bean pods are indeed fruits, and, honestly, they are also pretty magical. And we’re clearly not the only ones to think that: beans are the unsung hero of history. The fact that they were domesticated an astonishing seven different times in different places around the world shows how essential beans were to early humans, wherever they lived; in Europe, Italian author and polymath Umberto Eco credits the bean with saving civilization itself. Lately, however, the humble bean has...
Published 10/24/23
Doughnuts are ubiquitous in the United States: whether you're at party, a coffee shop, or the break room at work, you’re likely to find a box of iced rings covered with sprinkles. But some kind of deep-fried dough blob is a treat found in cultures around the world—so why have doughnuts become uniquely American? And what’s with the name, when there’s rarely a nut found in this dough? This episode, we're taking a roll around the story of these sweet circles, from their debut in Dutch New...
Published 10/10/23
Savory, chewy, and, above all, slurp-able, a delicious bowl of ramen is one of the triumphs of Japanese cuisine. That's also a bit odd, because, for most of Japanese history, heavy, meaty, wheaty noodle soup would have had no place in the archipelago's otherwise bland and mostly pescatarian cuisine. This episode, we bust ramen myths and reveal ramen secrets, with the story of how Chinese influencers, U.S. food aid, and an economic boom built the quintessential Japanese soup—and how ramen was...
Published 09/26/23
How do we learn to eat? It may seem like an obvious question, but it's actually quite a complicated process. Who decided that mushed-up vegetables were the perfect first food—and has that always been the case? What makes us like some foods and hate others—and can we change? Join us to discover the back story behind the invention of baby food, as well as the latest science on flavor preferences and tips for how to transform dislikes into likes. (encore) Learn more about your ad choices. Visit...
Published 09/19/23
A bluefin tuna can grow to the size of a car, weigh twice as much as a grand piano, swim as fast as a running lion, and keep its muscles at human body temperature even in the ocean's coldest depths. It's also wildly delicious, with a sweet, briny, but meaty taste and a melt-in-your mouth texture that has made it the most expensive fish in the world, with a single bluefin selling for a record-breaking $3 million in 2019. Not bad for a fish that, until recently, New England fishermen used to...
Published 09/05/23
What do some epilepsy patients have in common with tech bros, bodybuilders, and Joe Rogan? The high-fat, carb-shunning diet known as keto, whose history dates back much further than its 2010s rise to fame. In this episode, Gastropod traces how a medical treatment pioneered more than 2,500 years ago was refined in the 1920s to treat seizures. We trace its wild ride in and out of fashion, with cameos from Robert Atkins, the 80s exercise craze, and Meryl Streep. And, of course, we've got the...
Published 08/22/23
Today, you can find a huge variety of breads on supermarket shelves, only a few of which are called "sourdough." For most of human history, though, any bread that wasn't flat was sourdough—that is, it was leavened with a wild community of microbes. And yet we know surprisingly little about the microbes responsible for raising sourdough bread, not to mention making it more nutritious and delicious than bread made with commercial yeast. For starters, where do the fungi and bacteria in a...
Published 08/08/23
It's been described as the ultimate status symbol for the wealthy, as the perfect solution for dieters and the sick, and, confusingly, as a liquid trapped in a solid that somehow remains fluid. What could this magical substance be? In case you haven't guessed, this episode, we're talking about Jell-O! Or, to be more precise, jelly—not the seedless kind you spread on toast, but the kind that shimmers on your plate, wiggles and jiggles on your spoon, and melts in your mouth. Jelly's story is as...
Published 07/25/23
Can we really have our burger, eat it—and never need to kill a cow? Growing meat outside of animals—in a lab or, these days, in shiny steel bioreactors—promises to deliver a future in which we can enjoy sausages and sushi without guilt, and maybe even without sending our planet up in smoke. For years, it's seemed like science fiction, but it's finally a reality: this month, Americans will get their first chance to buy cultivated meat in a restaurant. But how exactly do you get chicken...
Published 07/11/23
We love eggs scrambled, fried, or poached; we couldn't enjoy a quiche, meringue, or flan without them. But for scientists and archaeologists, these perfect packages are a source of both wonder and curiosity. Why do eggs come in such a spectacular variety of colors, shapes, and sizes? Why are we stuck mostly eating chicken eggs, when our ancestors feasted on emu, ostrich, and guillemot eggs? This episode, we explore the science and history of eggs, from dinosaurs to double-yolkers! (encore...
Published 06/27/23