In the relentless resurgence of audio, food-related podcasts are definitely becoming a thing. English-language offerings on both sides of the Atlantic are multiplying, with podcasts by food magazines, websites and individual commentators jostling for space on people’s MP3 players with established radio programmes from networks such as the BBC, KCRW and New York Public Radio. From shows dedicated to recipes, ingredients and how-tos, to others exploring the science, history, and fun in eating, here’s a guide to the best audible offerings out there, all available on iTunes and online.
Food52 – Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs’s online food destination – launched its podcast in March, and it’s as eloquent, efficient and classy as the website. The founder-hosts are often joined by more than one guest (such as authors and bakers), and witty, engaging debate ensues – it’s New York on a plate, in your ears. The first instalment, I Draw the Line at Tongue, dug into the weirdest things to eat, while the latest, with author Peter Miller, is all about lunch. The pace, the editing and the judiciously chosen soundbites compiled for each intro make this a keeper.
From the BBC World Service, this won the radio category at the 2015 Fortnum & Mason Food & Drink Awards last month for The Case For and Against Meat, a two-parter broadcast in December 2014. Delving into “the economics, science and culture behind what we eat and drink” in a no-nonsense, newsy way, the show has covered fussy eaters, dining alone and, most recently, sexual politics in the kitchen. The Food Chain doesn’t shy away from issues, and keeps things moving with on-the-road investigative reports and studio interviews.
An altogether more rambling – and, at times, random – London affair. Former supperclub hosts James Ramsden and Sam Herlihy, joined by the occasional guest, broadcast from a kitchen table in Hackney, east London. They are clearly good mates (they’re about to open a restaurant together in London Fields, Pidgin), with a long history of banter and interesting off-the-cuff insights. Episodes don’t come with clear labels, but that allows for a sprawling spontaneity and comfortably casual tone that the more scripted shows don’t have. To date, they have discussed whether avocados are the blood diamonds of the fruit world, and why Spam is suddenly big again.
Another jocular discussion between two foodies who find each other hilarious, with added writerly verve and focus. Veteran food writers Matthew Amster-Burton and Molly Wizenberg devote each episode (they’re up to No 179) to eating one thing only – pudding, brown butter, or, most recently, hot sauce. They also host international junk-food tasting sessions where listeners send in boxes of foreign snacks, which the pair try on air. The hosts are infectiously enthusiastic and their back and forth definitely draws on the joy that sometimes only food can bring.
A feminist food show with a punchy power-pop soundtrack, this is bit like Bikini Kill hitting your worktop: it’s a serious celebration of women in the food world. And in light of The Food Chain’s latest episode, its relevance is easily gauged. The tone is serious, considered and informative, with a consistently strong roster of guests, from Ina Garten and Dorie Greenspan to April Bloomfield and Anna Jones … the influential, the powerful, the inspirational.
Others to mention
The Dinner Party Download is a weekly gathering of vastly entertaining proportions, with celebrity guests, tunes to eat to and excellent conversation. Food is the New Rock, where musos and foodies intersect, is possibly the only food podcast to have been recorded in front of a live audience at South by Southwest in Texas. US musician Dave Sitek talking about his band TV on the Radio’s on-tour eating habits and his blueberry pie secrets was a definite highlight. And Eat It Too! is one for the etymologist eaters out there, with each episode dissecting a particular food-inspired phrase (such as “to sugarcoat” and “bringing home the bacon”) while The Sporkful, Dan Pashman’s popular podcast, is for eaters of all stripes, and emphatically not for foodies – Pashman is passionate about the goodness is each mouthful, and has a lot to say about whoopie pies, cheesesteaks, doughnuts and office fridges.