chrisaldrich / tags / podcast:name=eat this podcast

Tagged with “podcast:name=eat this podcast” (17)

  1. Celebrating Passover and Easter

    Whether the last supper was a Passover Seder I do not know. I do know that the rituals of the Passover dinner have been in place for thousands of years, although always open to evolution. And yet, there don’t seem to be any universal elements about Easter celebratory foods. The episode looks at these two contrasting aspects of ritual food.

    First, Susan Weingarten talks about an essential item on the Passover table that is not mentioned in God’s original instructions for the last supper of the Israelites in Egypt.

    Then, I talk to Lois Long about a recipe made famous by her mother, Edna M. Holmgren. Magic Marshmallow Crescent Puffs won the Pillbury Bake-Off in 1969 and were subsequently expropriated by some Christians to retell the story of the resurrection.

    The recipe

    This copy of Edna Holmgren’s recipe is not quite the original. Lois Long told me that “the flour in the cinnamon sugar mixture was Pillsbury’s idea. I cut it down to 1 tbsp but I don’t like it. The original recipe has no flour.” I do wonder what it is there for. Possibly to soak up melting gooeyness, because many of the comments on the Hall of Fame website are complaints about the mess if the pastry isn’t very carefully sealed.

    Edna Holmgren and her daughter Lois Long at Pillsbury’s Hall of Fame celebration in 1988


    Susan Weingarten’s book Haroset: A Taste of Jewish History is published by The Toby Press.

    Huge thanks to Lois Long for sharing her time, her memories, and copies of some of her memorabilia.

    The cover image is a print by Jacob Cornelisz van Oostsanen after Albrecht Dürer, from the Rosenwald Collection of the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC.

    The banner image of The Last Supper is by the workshop of Pedro Berruguete, circa 1495–1500, a gift of the Ahmanson Foundation to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

    Oooops. Oh dear. I thought I had double checked the date of Pesach, but I apparently got it wrong. I said Thursday. It is Friday. Sincere apologies.

       Huffduff it

    —Huffduffed by chrisaldrich

  2. Eat This Podcast: Bread as it ought to be

    Jonathan Bethony is one of the leading artisanal bakers in America, but he goes further than most, milling his own flour and baking everything with a hundred percent of the whole grain. He’s also going beyond wheat, incorporating other cereals such as millet and sorghum in the goodies Seylou is producing.

    —Huffduffed by chrisaldrich

  3. Pecans and history

    The Guadalupe River that flows through Texas used to be known as The River of Nuts, a fact that Wikipedia does not confirm. The nut in question is the pecan, Carya illinoinensis, and the pecan tree is the state tree of Texas. The groves of wild pecans that lined the rivers of Texas are, however, threatened by the very popularity of the nuts they bear, and in particular by the fickle global nut market. The Chinese, you see, have gone nuts for pecans, increasing their purchase of American pecans from 3–4% in 2006 to 30–40% today. And if they abandon the pecan as quickly as they took it up, the wild pecan groves might be abandoned too. All this, and much more, I learned from James McWilliams, professor of history at Texas State University. His new book is one of those delights that looks at the global sweep of human endeavour through a little lens, in this case the pecan.

    Why it was the Chinese, rather than the French, the English or some other country, that chose to absorb the pecan surplus, I guess we’ll never know. McWilliams told me that Chinese people he spoke to believe the nuts prolong life; irrational as that may seem, no American grower is going to say they don’t. And while the high prices are good news for growers, they’re not so good for people who want pecan-containing industrial food.


    James McWilliams’ book is The Pecan: a history of America’s native nut. There’s an extract in Texas Monthly online.

    iTunes artwork photo by Melanie McDermott

    Outro music Pecan Pie by Golden Smog.

    —Huffduffed by chrisaldrich

  4. Knives: the new bling | Eat This Podcast

    Bling, the Urban Dictionary tells me, is an onomatopoeic representation of light bouncing off a diamond. Or a Bob Kramer original hand-made chef’s knife, which goes for $2000 and up. Of course some people might be able to justify spending that kind of cash on what is, after all, one of the key tools of the trade … if your trade happens to be cooking. But my guest today, Peter Hertzmann, says he sees lots of knives, maybe not quite that expensive, hanging on the wall in people’s kitchens, unused. “Kitchen knives”, he told this year’s Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery, are “the new bling”.

    Peter teaches knife skills, has written extensively on the topic, and one of the things he is adamant about is that you never chop, you slice. Even if you’re pretty handy with a blade, you can probably learn a thing or two from his video Three Aspects of Knife Skills. I know I did.


    You can actually get a set of four Bob Kramer knives, plus a steel to ruin them with, for less than $2000.

    Intro music by Dan-O at

    Outro music by Martin Simpson. And if I ever knew, I’d forgotten that the song was written by Cat Stevens.

    —Huffduffed by chrisaldrich

  5. Industrial strength craft beer | Eat This Podcast

    Italy, land of fabled wines, has seen an astonishing craft beer renaissance. Or perhaps naissance would be more accurate, as Italy has never had that great a reputation for beers. Starting in the early 1990s, with Teo Musso at Le Baladin, there are now more than 500 craft breweries in operation up and down the peninsula. Specialist beer shops are popping up like mushrooms all over Rome, and probably elsewhere, and even our local supermarket carries quite a range of unusual beers. Among them four absolutely scrummy offerings from Mastri Birai Umbri – Master Brewers of Umbria. And then it turns out that my friend Dan Etherington, who blogs (mostly) at Bread, cakes and ale, knows the Head Brewer, Michele Sensidoni. A couple of emails later and there we were, ready for Michele to give us a guided tour of the brewery.

    Mastri Birai Umbri is owned by the Farchioni family, which has become a powerhouse in basic agricultural products since the late 18th century. Farchioni olive oil is ubiquitous, and their flour only slightly less so, and while the quality of these products is high, they’re not the sorts of commodities I associate with a craft brewery. But I am starting to rethink the casual opposition between “industrial” and “craft” or “artisanal”. It’s true that industrial food processes are often soulless, repetitive and designed to serve only the bottom line, degrading the notion of quality about as far as it will go before people revolt. But my conversation with Michele showed me that it is possible to take an industrial approach to the production of a high-quality product. He insists on repeatability – that the brew should taste the same each batch and present the drinker with the same experience each time. That is probably the major distinction from a more artisanal or craft approach that instead of stomping out all the differences uses a different kind of skill to allow the product to vary slightly from batch to batch. The quality of Michele’s beer, however, is unimpeachable.

    The other big distinction, I suppose, is quantity. When I asked him what the future might hold for craft beers in Italy, Michele thought it unlikely that 500 breweries could survive, because many are too small to compete. But why should that matter? If you’re big enough to survive at some scale, perhaps only in a local market, do you have to keep growing. This is one of those eternal business mysteries that I’ve seldom heard explained to my satisfaction. Why is perpetual growth necessary? Of course, demand may increase. But if you’re making as much as you want to and need to, and don’t want to regulate demand by increasing the price, that’s an opportunity for someone else to enter the market. You don’t have to do it yourself.

    All of which is probably a bit deep for a consideration of well-made beers. In any case, I think I need to stop using “industrial” as a term of opprobrium and focus instead on the product, rather than the means of production.


    Le Baladin is a somewhat strange enterprise, and I am not as familiar with their beers as I would like to be. Their design sense is definitely quite odd. As Dan says, “It’s kinda scrappy, cartoony, vaguely Keith Haring, vaguely hippy, like someone’s mate did it, someone who’s not a professional designer. But remember kids, don’t judge a beer by its label.”

    No link to the Farchioni website, because it autoplays noise, and I hate that.

    The whole pure yeast vs wild fermentation debate is fascinating. Here’s a recent account from Australia: Winemakers turn to wild fermentation.

    Intro music by Dan-O at

    —Huffduffed by chrisaldrich

  6. Food and status | Eat This Podcast

    Food has probably been a marker of social status since the first woman gathered more berries than her sister. It still is. Some foods are authentically posh, others undeniably lower class, and there’s no way I’m going to go out on a limb and say which is which.

    Because foods serve as social markers, the history of cuisine is also a history of the democratisation – some would say vulgarisation – of elite dishes, and perhaps noone has chronicled that more effectively than Rachel Laudan. Her book Cuisine and Empire: Cooking in World History shows clearly how foods move from high cuisine to low. Recently, in some places, the flow has reversed as elites have taken up what they imagine to be rustic, peasant food. The 100% wholewheat sourdough loaf, chewy of crust and riddled with large holes, became a desirable bread only very recently. As we chatted about these things, one thing became clear. There’s very little chance that food will lose its status as a marker of status any time soon.


    Rachel Laudan recently reworked her thoughts on bread: Why did our ancestors prefer white bread to wholegrains?. That will take you to her website and details of Cuisine and Empire.

    Our earlier conversation was Sugar and salt: Industrial is best.

    Banner photo shows poor old George IV of the United Kingdom, consuming his magnificent Coronation Dinner alone, watched by a crowd of thousands. Well, not quite alone. Aside from the onlookers in the galleries, there were about 170 diners in Westminster Hall with him and a few hundred more scattered through various rooms in the Palace of Westminster. But the King was effectively alone.

    Smaller image shows John, Duc de Berry, in blue on the right, exchanging New Year’s gifts at a banquet.

    —Huffduffed by chrisaldrich

  7. A computer learns about ingredients and recipes | Eat This Podcast

    Recommendation engines are everywhere. They let Netflix suggest shows you might want to watch. They let Spotify build you a personalised playlist of music you will probably like. They turn your smartphone into a source of endless hilarity and mirth. And, of course, there’s IBM’s Watson, recommending all sorts of “interesting” new recipes. As part of his PhD project on machine learning, Jaan Altosaar decided to use a new mathematical technique to build his own recipe recommendation engine.

    The technique is similar to the kind of natural language processing that powers predictive text on a phone, and one of the attractions of using food instead of English is that there are only 2000–3000 ingredients to worry about, instead of more than 150,000 words.

    The results so far are fun and intriguing, and can only get better.


    Jaan Altosaar published an article about his work that gives an explanation of how it all works. It also allows you to investigate the food map and use some of the other tools he built.

    A scientific report that may have inspired Jaan (and possibly Watson) to take up the challenge is Flavor network and the principles of food pairing.

    That paper offers great explanations for why some novel food pairings work, including Heston Blumenthal’s iconic white chocolate and caviar, published in 2002.

    The madcap adventures of Chef Watson are everywhere on the internet. The recommendatiuon engine that is me suggests a report from Caitlin Dewey which includes a recipe for the ubiquitous Austrian chocolate burritos (but no explanation of what makes them Austrian. Just the apricot purée?).

    The banner shows a small part of the food map, with East Asian ingredients tightly clustered while North American ingredients are all over the shop.

    —Huffduffed by chrisaldrich

  8. Eat This Podcast: How much does a nutritious diet cost?

    Recently I’ve been involved in a couple of online discussions about the cost of a nutritious diet. The crucial issue is why poor people in rich countries seem to have such unhealthy diets. One argument is about the cost of food. Another is about everything other than cost: knowledge, equipment, time, conditions.

    My own opinion is that given all those other things, the externalities, a nutritious diet is actually not that expensive. But that’s just an opinion, so I went looking for information, and found it in a paper entitled Using the Thrifty Food Plan to Assess the Cost of a Nutritious Diet, published in the Journal of Consumer Affairs in 2009. The very first sentence of that paper is:

    How much does a nutritious diet cost?

    Parke Wilde, author of that paper, is an agricultural economist at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University in Boston, and I really enjoyed talking to him for the podcast.

    Our discussion was limited to the United States and to the peculiarities of SNAP, but it is clear that other rich countries are also grappling with the difficulties of deciding what constitutes a nutritious diet and how to ensure that poor people can afford to eat it. Parke alluded to some of the crucial policy decisions, such as not allowing people to spend their SNAP benefits on things like alcohol while at the same time giving them the freedom to buy sugar-sweetened sodas if they so choose. There are incentives to buy healthier food, but even those come up against an important fact.

    Unhealthy calories are much cheaper than healthy calories.[1]

    One study, which I found here, looked at exactly what you can buy for a dollar. If you’re looking for a snack, a dollar’s worth of cookies will buy you 1200 calories. The same dollar on carrots gets you only 250 calories. Thirsty? A dollar of orange juice is worth 170 calories, while a dollar of sugar-sweetened soda is 875 calories. Of course calories aren’t everything. But in the short term, if you’re hungry, calories are everything.

    A different version of the same sort of story is the “healthy food is more expensive” trope, which crops up regularly. In the UK, a 2014 study claimed that on average 1000 calories of “healthy” food cost about 3 times more than 1000 calories of “unhealthy” food. This kind of study – and others like it – uses government agency definitions of healthy and unhealthy but doesn’t actually take nutrition into account. The cheapest category in that study was starchy carbohydrates – which the UK’s Food Standards Agency places just behind fruit and vegetables in terms of “healthiness”. You could eat a lot of “bread, rice, potatoes and pasta” for calories and a bit of fruit and vegetables for nutrients and end up with a pretty nutritious diet.

    Would you want to, though?

    That’s the crux of the matter. A nutritious diet can be had for reasonably little money (given that you know how to cook and have the facilities) but you might not enjoy it all that much.


    Using the Thrifty Food Plan to Assess the Cost of a Nutritious Diet

    If you really want to get some insight into the tricky triple balancing act of foods, nutrients and cash, Parke Wilde and his collaborators have made their model available for you to play with.

    Parke Wilde’s website. A really interesting recent piece of his looked at proposals to amend SNAP to restrict access to sugar-sweetened beverages.

    The USDA’s monthly Cost of Food reports are online

    The banner photograph is from Millie Copper who tried to buy a healthy diet based on the Thrifty Food Plan costs for a couple of weeks.

    Thanks to Christopher Gifford, a great Patreon, for inspiring this episode.

    Peel an onion, and stick five or six whole cloves in it. Put it in a saucepan with about 500 gm of brown or green lentils. Add a stock cube or a spoonful of miso paste if you have some, but if you haven’t, that’s OK. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Simmer for 30–45 minutes. [2] Serve with lots of bread and a nice green salad.

    I’ve actually written at length about this before, but cannot for the life of me find it now.  ↩

    You can just boil for about 5 minutes and then swaddle the whole thing in cushions or blankets, or a ready made haybox if you have one.  ↩

    —Huffduffed by chrisaldrich

  9. Sugar and salt: Industrial is best | Eat This Podcast

    Henry Hobhouse’s book Seeds of Change: Five Plants That Transformed Mankind (now six, with the addition of cacao) contains the remarkable fact that at the height of the slave trade a single teaspoon of sugar cost six minutes of a man’s life to produce. Reason enough to cheer the abolition of slavery, I suppose. But that doesn’t mean that everything is sweetness and light in the business of sugar. Or salt. A photo gallery in The Big Picture made that very clear, and inspired Rachel Laudan, a food historian, to write in praise of industrial salt and sugar.

    One critic asked:

    OK, I totally get why people should not live in poverty and desperation. But why does that translate into cheers for industrially processed foods? Don’t we actually consume more sugar and salt than we need to? How about something in between? Well made, fairly and sustainably produced. And consumed with reason.

    Laudan makes a good case for industrial sugar and salt, although at the end she casually adds “rice, flour, wine, chocolate and many other foods we cherish”. Here, I think, is where we part company, because, unlike the critic quoted above, I want to distinguish foods from ingredients. On flour, for example, too right I don’t want to be grinding my own grain, as Rachel herself has made clear in much of her writing. But I also don’t want to be using only extremely industrial flour, and luckily I can afford to buy flour that is “well made, fairly and sustainably produced”. (“Consumed with[in] reason,” not so much.) At least I have the option. With very few exceptions, I cannot feel the same way about artisanal salt and sugar, although I confess that if I could get it easily, I would buy Maldon Sea Salt, and if I did, I would almost certainly eat more salt than I do at present.

    I also feel, although I didn’t want to abuse my position as host and labour the point, that the very cheapness of sugar and salt does contribute to overconsumption. I’m pretty sure that the reason sugars, in all their forms, are cheap has more to do with subsidies and unpaid externalities than anything else, but whether getting rid of those would make a difference to consumption now, I have no idea. I doubt that it would make much difference to how much of either salt or sugar would be available for preserving.


    Cuisine and Empire: Cooking in World History, Rachel Laudan’s eagerly anticipated new book, will be published in September.

    Sugar has been the focus for many wonderful books, articles and the rest of it. Reading around for this episode I came across Mike Rendell’s website, which has some interesting historical insights. And ‘The Dunghill of the Universe’ The Sugar Barons: Family, Corruption, Empire and War looks worth a read too.

    The Food Programme, on BBC Radio 4, took a new look at Sugar: Pure, White and Deadly? — their question-mark, not mine — at the end of May. And pretty good it was too.

    Barbarities in the West Indies by James Gillray, published by Hannah Humphrey, hand-coloured etching, published 23 April 1791, copyright National Portrait Gallery and used with permission.

    Podcast cover image of Venezuelan cut sugarcane by Rufino Uribe.

    Intro music by Dan-O at

    —Huffduffed by chrisaldrich

  10. What’s the beef with frozen meat? | Eat This Podcast

    Most dilettante foodies I know probably regard frozen beef as an acceptable substitute only when fresh is unavailable. Sure the fresh must be grass-fed, dry-aged, properly hung and all that – but mostly it must be fresh, not frozen. However, unless your climate is wonderfully mild, that grass-fed beef is going to be eating something else over the winter, and that’s not great for the meat. Ari LeVaux, a syndicated food writer, reckons that except at the end of the growing season, when the animals have just finished feasting on lush pastures, well-frozen good beef is a far better option than fresh. When we spoke last week, I started by asking Ari why most people – foodies included – have such a poor opinion of frozen beef?

    In fact, I’d say there is a general misconception about “freshness”. There was a rage for fresh pasta in England a while ago. And to me it was unfathomable. Good dried pasta is so superior to the slimy industrial stuff that it is almost another food. Sure, fresh often is good. But with foods that can be preserved in other ways, and have been, a good product properly prepared is often superior.

    As for the nutritional composition of grass-fed versus conventional beef, there clearly is a difference. A mega-review by the Union of Concerned Scientists found that milk and meat from grass-fed animals has lower total fat than conventional, but the fat is higher in what might loosely be termed “good” fats, things like omega–3 fats and conjugated linoleic acid. On the other hand, the evidence for health benefits is more mixed. Some studies on animals and people have shown benefits, but they are by no means absolutely conclusive.

    So on its own, better nutrition is perhaps not enough reason to seek out grass-fed beef. On the other hand, if omega–3 fats are what you really want, you can do much better eating oily fish. But hey! It can’t hurt, and eating great beef less often is a win in so many other areas.


    The problem with fresh beef, by Ari LeVaux, prompted this podcast.

    The Union of Concerned Scientists’ review is Greener pastures: How grass fed beef and milk contribute to healthy eating by Kate Clancy. More recent research work, for example A review of fatty acid profiles and antioxidant content in grass-fed and grain-fed beef says much the same, adding that because feedlot cattle have more total fat, in the end the difference may not be as great because the conventional-beef consumer eats more total fat.

    I drove through the Wind River Reservation, many years ago, and it is the most beautiful place. The rise and fall of the deal between Arapaho Ranch and Whole Foods is an intriguing story that demonstrates beautifully just how complex food systems can be.

    Intro music by Dan-O at

    Outro music is, obviously, Get along little dogies, by Marty Robbins. But for a real blast from the past, you must see Arlo Guthrie do it for the Muppets.

    Photo from Highland Cattle World. Podcast “cover” photo (used so far without permission, but I have asked) by Esther Perez.

    —Huffduffed by chrisaldrich

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