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7 Food-Focused Podcast Episodes to Listen to Right Now

Explaining Trump’s bailout for farmers, comparing nose-to-tail butchery with mass-market meat, and more

A Corn farmer Scott Olson/Getty Images

There are a million podcasts out there. Some are excellent, and others are just a couple of people shouting into low-quality microphones without much sense of direction. We here at Eater don’t like wasting time on the bad ones, so here is a curated selection of recently published episodes that are thought-provoking and entertaining. These are mostly food-focused selections from general-interest podcasts that have come online in the last month, and they’ll surely provide a boost to listeners’ daily commutes.

Today, Explained, “Soy Story”

Where to subscribe: Apple Podcasts, Stitcher
Length: 18 minutes
The gist: The Donald Trump administration’s expanding trade war is making regular headlines these days, and the news stories are mostly centered on the types of Americans who will be hurt. Farming, especially those who grow soybeans, corn, and hogs, are under the gun, and since farmers gave Trump an estimated 67 percent of their vote in 2016, the president has taken notice of their plight. Trump has proposed a $12 billion bailout to help ease the pain from tariffs on farming exports.

Sean Rameswaram, host of Vox’s daily Today Explained podcast, reports on the bailout. Rameswaram speaks with the Washington Post’s Caitlin Dewey, who notes the bailout shouldn’t be a big surprise since the farming industry already receives a great deal of subsidies from the American government. Dewey explains the details of Trump’s plan, which has three main tenets: Give direct payments to farmers who grow affected commodities, expand a program in which the Department of Agriculture buys farm products and gives them to food banks, and expand varying initiatives to promote American-farmed goods overseas. Dewey says the tariffs are incredibly unpopular among the industry, and while farmers are happy to have this support now, it’s for one season, only. How American farmers will be affected in the future remains unclear.

Rameswaram also speaks with Kristin Duncanson of Highland Family Farms in Minnesota. Duncanson’s farm grows soybeans, small grains, and hogs, so the trade war could take a huge toll on her business. For Duncanson, the uncertainty of her future income is a real problem, and this bailout isn’t a solution. “This type of situation is really short-term relief, and it may be not enough relief,” she tells Rameswaram. “We’re really good, in the Upper Midwest, at growing corn and soybeans and raising hogs. We want to do that and do it in an open marketplace across the globe.”

Fresh Air, “Food Writer Becomes a Butcher to Better Understand the Value of Meat”

Where to subscribe: NPR One, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts
Length: 48 minutes
The gist: Camas Davis is a former restaurant critic. When she lost her job, she decided to learn more about her scope of coverage by becoming a butcher. Davis spent some of her youth as a “lazy” vegetarian, eating chicken, fish, eggs, and dairy now and then, and she regularly dined on meat for a living as an adult. But, she says she didn’t really know anything about farming, processing, and where animal protein originates. “Over time, I sort of grew to think pigs were made of pork chops and bacon,” she tells Fresh Air host Terry Gross in a segment of the public radio show’s food-focused series, The Salt.

Davis’s just-released memoir, Killing It: An Education, chronicles her time apprenticing on a farm in Gascony, France. Speaking with Gross, she recounts what she learned during her apprenticeship and shares in graphic detail the process of slaughtering a pig. Gross issues a disclaimer for squeamish listeners who may want to turn down the volume on the gory details. Davis, on the other hand, believes meat eaters should be aware of the provenance of their meals. The conditions animals experience at mass-market farms and slaughterhouses are ugly, but Davis doesn’t see a world-wide abstention of meat as a realistic solution to this problem. Instead, consumers should hold farmers and butchers accountable.

“[Slaughtering animals] made me feel a part of an honest system of meat production,” she says. “And also a very respectful system of meat production in which they use every part and they see every part of the animal as food.”

Exterior of Summerhill restaurant in Brooklyn.
Summerhill restaurant in Brooklyn.
Eater New York

This American Life, “If You Build It, Will They Come?”

Where to subscribe: Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Pandora
Length: 60 minutes (Act II: 16 minutes, begins at 37:29)
The gist: Remember Summerhill, the Brooklyn restaurant with fake bullet holes and 40-ounce wine in paper bags that sparked outrage as the brick-and-mortar personification of gentrification? It opened in July 2017, and, despite what one might assume considering the massive protests its owner, Becca Brennan, a white woman from Canada, and a public relations campaign inspired, it’s still in operation. In fact, business is booming. The bar is regularly packed with residents of the borough’s Crown Heights neighborhood.

In the second act of a The American Life episode about “people trying to build something that will last,” producer Neil Drumming finds the current conflict surrounding Summerhill is between two black people: chef Wallahi Oyo, who was made a partner in the wake of the backlash, and Justine Stephens, one of the leaders of said backlash. Stephens accuses Oyo of selling out to help Brennan save face. Oyo says he’s just trying to make a living and accuses Stephens of selling out to lead a group of protestors who are mostly white. Brennan, meanwhile, has faded to the background.

Drumming’s reporting reveals an irreconcilable rift between Stephens and Oyo, and provides a humanized look at the gentrification debate that is often discussed in the abstract.

Taste Buds, “Critic vs. Restaurateur”

Where to subscribe: Apple Podcasts
Length: 27 minutes
The gist: Journalist Corey Mintz, formerly of the Globe & Mail in Toronto, has a new podcast called Taste Buds as part of the Canadaland network. Mintz talks with chefs, critics, and other restaurant-world personalities, and attempts to spark the kinds of discussions that might not be had during glossy interviews. In the premiere episode, he sits down with Chris Nuttal-Smith, former Globe & Mail critic who now operates his own website, and Jen Agg, chef-owner of the lauded and soon-to-close Toronto restaurant, the Black Hoof. The trio converse over an after-hours meal at the Hoof.

In between enthusiastic praise for their meal that includes cured meats, “rice chicharron,” sweetbread sausage, and peeled rhubarb, the guests cover a range of topics, including the importance of professional restaurant criticism in 2018. Of particular interest is a contentious back-and-forth on how atmosphere, not food, is what makes a successful restaurant. Mintz and Nuttall-Smith admit they have perpetuated this fallacy with their lionization of chefs over the years. “At the time, none of you knew how wrong you were,” Agg responds. “...The really fascinating thing to me is that it’s the trick, the magician’s trick, of having you come in and be so well taken care of and have the lighting so flattering, all the beautiful things that I do to make sure you’re having a wonderful time, that you don’t notice. You notice it internally, and it makes the food taste better, and you don’t even realize that’s happening. That’s what I think is interesting.”

Agg also explains her perception of the critic-restaurateur relationship, which can be acrimonious. “I, for the most part, mostly took it with a grain of salt,” she explains. “I thought that we had a really smart, fake nemesis thing going.” This idea is reminiscent of how critic Ramsey Michel (played by Oliver Platt) describes his Twitter feud with Jon Favreau’s Carl Casper toward the end of Chef: “I thought we were having fun. ”It was theater.”

Three more episodes worth a listen

  • Comedian Michael Ian Black interviews Giada De Laurentiis, the Food Network star, in an episode of How to Be Amazing.
  • Two years after following food vendors during a baseball game at Boston’s Fenway Park, Planet Money gives an update on one of the vendors, who was a rookie on his first outing during that game in 2016.
  • On The Dave Chang Show, celebrity chef and host David Chang digs into the food scene in Las Vegas, a city once known for casino buffets, that now is one of the hottest dining locales in America.

Hungry for more? Check out Eater’s own podcast, the Eater Upsell. Hosted by Eater editor-in-chief Amanda Kludt and video producer Daniel Geneen, the latest episode looks back on the life of late restaurant critic Jonathan Gold.

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