You grab a bagel in the morning on the way to work, and you may not know there’s a lengthy tale behind the origin of this familiar chewy bread we love. Did you know Leonardo da Vinci designed the first pasta machine, or that the invention of the fork influenced the shape of our jaws? These and other intriguing stories are what Gastropod is all about. With a new episode every other week, the popular and eye-opening podcast series looks at food through the lens of science and history. Gastropod turned five in September, and that’s 100 in podcast years, founders and hosts Cynthia Graber and Nicola Twilley say. While media companies often produce podcasts, Gastropod is independent. In fact, it’s recorded in the hosts’ homes (Graber lives in Somerville, Twilley in Los Angeles) from an unexpected place: their closets. “Clothes act as soundproofing. You don’t get echoes,” says Graber. They work over the phone or through Skype and are often out in the field together interviewing chefs, experts, scientists, and historians, visiting labs and archeological digs, weaving together often obscure stories in a clever and entertaining way. “We’re committed to unrepresented voices,” says Twilley. To celebrate Gastropod’s recent birthday, the two asked listeners to vote for their favorite episodes. On Sept. 24, Gastropod released a special that features highlights from the last five years. We discover that a gold spoon makes food taste sweeter. And that Jack Daniel learned how to make whiskey from an African slave. Fitting for the birthday episode, Graber and Twilley also delve into the history of birthday cake with historian Alysa Levene. She told listeners that birthday cakes were once just big, dense fruitcakes until refined sugar and white flour and, later, the whisk were invented. “Details are the things Nicky and I love the best,” says Graber. Listen to Gastropod for free on gastropod.com, iTunes, Stitcher, and other audio websites. Everything you’ll learn, which is a lot, will make engaging dinner party conversation.
ANN TRIEGER KURLAND