Before my wife and I had kids, one of the greatest pleasures in my life was spending an afternoon cooking. Whether slowly smoking meat in my charcoal grill/smoker combo out on the patio or enjoying a glass or two of Légende Médoc Bordeaux while attending to a pan simmering on the stove, cooking was one of my absolute favorite ways to wile away the hours.
Now with two kids and minimal free time, I still enjoy cooking, but I’m almost always relegated to meals that require 20 minutes at most to make. What’s a fella to do? Why, I just live vicariously by listening to other people talk about cooking. Food-related media is hardly a new phenomenon; Julia Childs was warbling away about this pie or that soufflé starting back in 1963. There are entire TV channels dedicated to cooking. And if you stacked every cookbook published since 1985 end to end to end (not flat, e.g.), they would reach halfway to the moon. (I cannot substantiate that claim, so please don’t fact check it.)
A more recent type of media, however, has made cooking-centric programming much more enjoyable: the podcast. With podcasts, of course, you choose the exact program you want to listen to instead of simply tuning into a radio or TV channel and hoping you like what’s being offered. Whether you want to learn about a given cuisine, hear interviews with chefs, or get step-by-step how to help with prepping a specific dish, you can find a fine food podcast out there that’s sure to satisfy.
Here are five great food podcasts to which every gourmand should give an ear.
This quirky podcast is reliably amusing and often oddly informative, answering questions you didn’t know you had. For example, what is stuffing, really? And why are we putting it in turkeys, anyway? Spilled Milk’s hosts, Molly Wizenberg and Matt Amster-Burton, are both comedians and their banter is charming and often completely off-topic. Listen for food-related fun, not necessarily to learn how to cook. And if you like this podcast, you’re set for a good long time: they have produced 375 episodes to date.
If you love food and you love history, you will also love this podcast. And frankly, a love of food isn’t even prerequisite to enjoy historian Linda Pelaccio’s A Taste of the Past podcast — merely an appreciation of history will do. After all, human progress has long been tied to food. Episodes cover topics ranging from a history of Ancient Roman foods to discussing how tea shaped the world over the centuries and influenced the modern era.
I listened to The Splendid Table for years thanks to APM (American Public Media, FYI), but now you can enjoy the venerable program any time thanks to its podcast. Original host Lynne Rosetto Kasper retired a few years ago, but in her place Francis Lam has kept the show as engaging and informative as ever. He regularly hosts noted chefs and food experts, so if you want to learn both about people and good eats, this is a great podcast. The topics vary widely, from episodes like “The Art of the Sandwich” to “Mexican Food in America.” Often amusing, this program is suited for genuine foodies and people looking for a bit of entertainment.
As it turns out, food can be a highly political topic. Who is the focalizer behind the picture of a cheeseburger in an ad, for example? And how does food come into play in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? If you like some food for thought along with your thoughts on food, check this one out. The content covered in The Racist Sandwich podcasts isn’t designed to be inflammatory but hosts Zahir Janmohamed and Soleil Ho don’t shy from any unpleasant topics, either.
As their site says, “Gastropod looks at food through the lens of science and history.” Which makes sense, because when you think about it, what is cooking but chemistry? You alter the state of various materials through heating, manipulating, and blending them with other materials, and then you have pizza. Or chowder. Or shepherd’s pie. Episodes range from topics like “How the Carrot Became Orange” and “Keeping it Fresh: Preservatives and the Poison Squad.” Ironically, some of the content here might make you less interested in eating shortly after a listen.
The Sporkful host Dan Pashman isn’t out there covering Michelin-starred restaurants or talking you through the tasting notes of a 25-year-old Scotch; he’s out there in the real world where people eat fast food, gain a bit too much weight, deal with picky kids, and steal food from office fridges. He interviews chefs, comedians, soldiers, farmers, and just about everyone else. The thread that weaves all the episodes together is the casual, easy tone that makes all of the varied content approachable.
If you burn through all of these, you should check out our favorite podcasts for road trips, our top overall picks for 2019, these productive podcasts to help get your life together, the best fiction podcasts overall, podcasts to listen to at work, the greatest history podcasts, some spooky horror podcasts, or The Manual’s own podcast. Need more suggestions? Here are some of our faves for men’s fashion, craft beer, and true crime.
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