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3231 reviews
This podcast has
224 episodes
Date created
Average duration
48 min.
Release period
15 days


Food with a side of science and history. Every other week, co-hosts Cynthia Graber and Nicola Twilley serve up a brand new episode exploring the hidden history and surprising science behind a different food- or farming-related topic, from aquaculture to ancient feasts, from cutlery to chile peppers, and from microbes to Malbec. We interview experts, visit labs, fields, and archaeological digs, and generally have lots of fun while discovering new ways to think about and understand the world through food. Find us online at, follow us on Twitter @gastropodcast, and like us on Facebook at

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Dining at the (Other) Top of the World: Hunger, Fruitcake, and the Race to Reach the South Pole
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, to desperate Dorito auctions when supplies run low today. Plus, listen in now for the scoop on how food fueled the race to the South Pole—and determined the ultimate winner and loser. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Dining at the Top of the World: Arctic Adaptation, Abundance, and...Ice Cream
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 genetics and microbes—have allowed the indigenous populations of the far North to not only successfully feed themselves, but also develop a distinctive and remarkable cuisine. Tune in now for the secrets of a dish that feels like Fourth of July fireworks in your mouth, the story of Iceland's second-most famous celebrity (after Björk), and the science behind how to avoid scurvy on an almost vegetable-free diet. Just don't forget your long underwear! Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Cork Dork: Inside the Weird World of Wine Appreciation (encore)
“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 science behind blind tasting, wine flavor wheels, and the craft of the sommelier. You'll never feel lost in front of a wine list again. (encore) Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
It's Tea Time: Pirates, Polyphenols, and a Proper Cuppa (encore)
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 drugs—and, to help tell the tale, Cynthia and Nicky visit Britain's one and only commercial tea plantation, tucked away in a secret garden on an aristocratic estate on the Cornish coast. While harvesting and processing tea leaves, we learn the difference between green and black tea, as well as which is better for your health. Put the kettle on, and settle in for the science and history of tea! (encore edition) Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
The Case of the Confusing Bitter Beverages: Vermouth, Amaro, Aperitivos, and Other Botanical Schnapps
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 difference between drinks called bitters and the bitters your bartender dashes into a Manhattan? This episode, Gastropod is on the case of the confusing bitter beverages, starting with their origins in alchemy. (That pre-dinner spritz is pretty magical!) Listen in now to find out why Napoleon chugged cologne, how a shopkeeper’s assistant created the preferred drink of kings and influencers, and how you should enjoy these trendy new botanical beverages. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Rice, Rice Baby
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 rice cultures and directed the grain's destiny: it can grow in an aquatic environment, but it requires cooperation to cultivate. In this episode, we explore how rice's relationship to water and community have shaped stories all over the world, from Japanese-American rice growers in California's drought-prone San Joaquin valley to Bangladeshi farmers facing flooding from climate change. Plus: could taking rice out of water not only build a better future for African-American rice farmers in the American South, but save the planet in the process? Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Ask Gastropod: White Chocolate, Jimmies, Chile vs. Mustard Burns, and Asparagus Pee
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 turn asparagus into the devil’s own brew! Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Pumpkin Spice Hero: The Thrilling But Tragic True Story of Nutmeg
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 had to brave a three-year journey filled with the possibility of shipwreck, storms, scurvy, dysentery, starvation, and death—so it's not surprising that the spice was so valuable that the crew weren't allowed to have pockets in their clothing, in case they smuggled some ashore for themselves! But how did one heroic Brit, Nathaniel Courthope, end up changing the course of nutmeg history—and, with it, the fate of not just pumpkin spice lattes, but also the city of New York? Listen now for the spicy, swashbuckling tale behind the season's favorite flavor. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Beans, Beans, the Magical Fruit
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 found its fan base declining. In Northern Europe, Australia, Canada, and the United States, most people barely eat beans at all. This episode—our love song to beans—we're exploring the story of the bean's fall from grace, as well as the heirloom varieties and exclusive club that are making beans cool again. Plus, we visit with the Ugandan breeder working on Beans 2.0, which will take a third less time to cook. But can anybody do anything about one of beans' most notorious side-effects? Yes, we're talking farts: we're on the case to discover whether scientists can develop a gas-free bean. Listen in as we spill the beans on one of our favorite foods. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
Raised and Glazed: Don’t Doubt the Doughnut
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 Amsterdam to the momentous origins of the doughnut hole. Listen in now, as we meet the Salvation Army volunteers who cemented the doughnut's popularity on the battlefields of both world wars, the Massachusetts middle-school dropout who created a doughnut empire, and the Cambodian-American Donut King of California. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
We'd Like to Teach The World to Slurp: The Weird and Wonderful Story of Ramen's Rise to Glory
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 transformed from a quick street-food bite for workers to both the three-minute staple of students everywhere in its instant form and the craft ramen that has people standing in lines for hours. Plus: how ramen noodles helped prevent a prison riot, and Cynthia and Nicky go head-to-head in an epic (failure of a) slurp-off. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
First Foods: Learning to Eat (encore)
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

Podcast reviews

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4.7 out of 5
3231 reviews
docvail 2024/02/13
So informative!
I just found this remarkable podcast! The depth and complexity of the research is impressive but the show doesn’t sound like a textbook. It is fille...
cour10eygrace 2024/02/07
I love this show!!
Wish I had found it years ago! I have a lot of old episodes to catch up on :)
360KnifeBlock (Sara) 2023/12/09
Best pod period
Educational, well researched, funny, fast and just brilliant. Best food journalism period.
iosonosenzatitolo 2023/12/26
Great content, must listen at 1.75>
Great research on each topic. Love the quality, topics, length. Something is wrong with the voices for me. Yes it could be me. Like there’s a new ton...
Feyenoord2486 2023/12/13
Over produced
The information is not bad but it’s too over produced and it sounds like the hosts are trying too hard while in the end sounding flat and boring. Make...
pele9 2023/11/15
Really Enjoy
I always enjoye the episodes. Making my way through the back catalog.
doyouwantamango 2023/12/07
Rice, rice baby not so nice, nice baby
I really wanted to like this podcast, as I love podcasts about food, stories diving into the history and cross-cultural aspects of things, and bonus o...
summerwaverider 2023/11/13
So enjoyable!
I started listening a couple of years ago and cannot wait for each episode to drop. Listening is fascinating in every way, and really makes you think ...
Lyagard101 2023/11/09
Pumpkin spice- Banda Islands
Love your podcast, always learn something new. Note on the Banda Islands, went there 7 years ago. I don’t know when the author went there, but for me...
Dealia R 2023/10/26
Quintupled My Knowledge of Eels
I love this podcast. I’m a night time listener and like to hear things that are interesting but not disturbing. Since becoming a Gastropod listener I ...
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