Crunch, Crackle, and Pop

"Sound is the forgotten flavor sense," says experimental psychologist Charles Spence. In this episode, we discover how manipulating sound can transform our experience of food and drink, making stale potato chips taste fresh, adding the sensation of cream to black coffee, or boosting the savory, peaty notes in whiskey.

Composers have written music to go with feasts and banquets since antiquity—indeed, in at a particularly spectacular dinner hosted by Duke Philip of Burgundy in 1454, twenty-eight musicians were hidden inside an immense pie, beginning to play as the crust was opened. Today, however, most chefs and restaurants fail to consider the sonic aspects of eating and drinking. That's a mistake, because, as we reveal in this episode, sound can affect how fast we eat, how much we're prepared to pay for our meal, and even what it tastes like.

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Hacking Taste TRANSCRIPT

This is a transcript of the Gastropod episode Hacking Taste, first released on March 14, 2017. It is provided as a courtesy and may contain errors.

NICOLA TWILLEY: All right…

CYNTHIA GRABER: Okay, cheers!

TWILLEY: One, two, three…

TINA ANTOLINI: It’s like lemonade.

KELLEY CARTER: It’s so weird! Why is this so delicious? What the hell? Wait, what have you done to me?!
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Live Events

Gastropod in your earbuds or on your stereo is great; Gastropod live is all that, plus the chance to ask questions and interact with Cynthia, Nicky, and their special guests. We even bring the snacks (venue permitting)!


Photo courtesy the Museum of Science, Boston.

2019 Live Events

Gastropod at Ohio University, Monday, February 11, 2019

What do chocolate, asparagus, and foods that make you fart all have in common? Why do men have taste receptors in their testicles? And what tastes like a tropical mango crossed with a banana, but grows wild in the woods of Ohio? In this special live performance of the podcast Gastropod, co-hosts Cynthia Graber and Nicola Twilley will serve up a three-course feast for your eyes and ears. The evening will combine live experiments, interactive tastings, and a very special guest—Chris Chmiel of Integration Acres, the world’s largest pawpaw processor—to reveal the history and science behind the food we eat every day.

The show will begin at 7:30pm on Monday, February 11, in Baker University Center Ballroom. The performance is part of Ohio University’s Frontiers in Science series. It’s free and open to the public, and doors open at 6:30pm. Find more details on the Ohio University website.

2018 Live Events

Gastropod at The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, Friday, November 16, 2018

We performed in front of a full house at The Franklin Institute, and were joined on stage by special guest Monell Center olfactory expert Pamela Dalton, who told us how smell and memory work together to create flavor—and revealed how she created the most disgusting smell in the world.

Gastropod at the Wisconsin Science Festival in Madison, Saturday, October 13, 2018

We headlined the 2018 Wisconsin Science Festival with this sold-out show, including special guest Irwin Goldman, University of Wisconsin-Madison carrot guru.

Gastropod at the Frost Museum of Science in Miami, Wednesday, August 1, 2018

We performed this sold-out show at the Frost Museum of Science in Miami, on August 1, 2018. We were joined on stage by special guest Ricardo Trillos of Cao Chocolates, who told us all about his new project: the first chocolate made from beans grown on the mainland U.S.

Gastropod at the Boston Museum of Science, Wednesday, February 7, 2018

We performed this new solo show at Boston’s Museum of Science’s Cahners Theatre on February 7, 2018. Special guests included Catherine Dulac, biology professor at Harvard University, and Michael Pagliarini, chef and owner of the acclaimed restaurant Giulia.

2017 Live Events

 

Gastropod at the Majestic Theater, Madison, Wisconsin, Sunday, June 4, 2017

How do microbes create the flavor of your favorite cheese? Are you sure that your hamburger is really made of beef? And how does music affect the taste of chocolate? Special guests at this live performance included cheese geek Jeanne Carpenter, founder and executive director of Wisconsin Cheese Originals, and Barry Levenson, a professor of food law at the University of Wisconsin as well as the founder of the Mustard Museum. This event was brought to you as part of the 2017 International Public Science Events Conference.

Gastropod at the Boston Museum of Science, Wednesday April 26, 2017

Who invented the chocolate brownie? What’s the horrifying history of toxic additives behind today’s food fraud laws? How did seltzer get its fizz, and what on Earth does a unicorn kiss taste like? Special guests for this live performance included Deborah Blum, science writer and author of The Poisoner’s Handbook, Carla Martin, founder and director of the Fine Cacao and Chocolate Institute, and Chris Crowley, of New England’s legendary Polar Seltzer.

We performed this new solo show at Boston’s Museum of Science’s Cahners Theatre on April 26, 2017. The show started at 7:00pm with a reception in the Museum’s special Chocolate exhibition to follow.

Gastropod at the Michigan Science Festival, Saturday, April 8, 2017

What are the chances that your olive oil is fake, or that your yellowtail sushi roll is really escolar instead? How did seltzer get its fizz, and what are those bubbles doing to your taste buds? And what’s the story behind your Hershey kiss or your high-end, artisanal chocolate bar? Special guests for this live performance included John Spink, founder and director of the Food Fraud Initiative at Michigan State University, and Helen Veit, a MSU historian who focuses on food and nutrition.

We’ll premiered this brand-new solo show at Michigan State University’s annual Science Festival, at the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center Auditorium in East Lansing, Michigan. Doors opened at 6:30pm for a 7:00pm start; the show was free to attend, with first-come, first-served seating.

Pop-Up Magazine Winter Tour

Pop-Up Magazine is a live magazine, performed on stage in front of a live audience. For the Pop-Up Winter 2017 Tour, Gastropod joined a long list of talented writers, musicians, and artists to debut a brand-new story. In late February and early March, we appeared in sold-out venues in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York City, Austin, Portland, and Seattle. The show is never recorded, so you had to be there to experience it!


Pop-Up Magazine contributor Jamie Meltzer. Photo by Jon Snyder.

2016 Live Events

Our first live event took place at the Boston Museum of Science in May 2016, and sold out in minutes. A full house sat down to a three-course performance: live cheese microscopy and tasting with Tufts University professor and Gastropod microbiologist-in-residence, Benjamin Wolfe; a live interview with seaweed farming pioneer and Buckminster Fuller Challenge winner, Bren Smith; a surprise condiment course on the secrets of sriracha’s success with author and food historian Sarah Lohman; and, for dessert, an interactive chocolate-and-music pairing experiment, inspired by the work of Oxford University’s Charles Spence.

Thanks to the museum’s fabulous A/V team, you can re-live the evening (minus the samples) by watching the video above. If you’d like to be the first to know about future live events, sign up for our mailing list here. If your institution or event would like to host its own Gastropod live event, we’d love to talk with you: the best way to reach us is by email at contact at gastropod.com.

Press

Here are just a few of the nice things that people have said about Gastropod. Thank you!

 
Perhaps you’re looking for something headier: food as a way into culture or science or people or ideas. You’re in luck.

The Vulture recommends Gastropod’s style of “food documentary.”

“If you love food, science, and history, Gastropod is the podcast for you.”

Toast named us the “best combo of food and science” in their roundup of the 20 Best Food Podcasts in 2022.

“Between the interviews, environmental and historical sound recordings, research, and undertone of slightly sarcastic and self-deprecating wit (Twilley is British, after all), Gastropod is a must-listen … as unique in its focus as its approach”

Tasting Table says we’re one of 16 podcasts you should be listening to in 2022.

“Episode topics range from aquaculture to composting and often have a global bent.”

The Council on Foreign Relations recommends listening to Gastropod this summer.

“Hosts Cynthia Graber and Nicola Twilley examine how food has changed over time with an emphasis on scientific innovations and forgotten histories.”

PodBible includes “Of Ghost Foods and Culinary Extinction” in its June 2022 list of seven classic podcast episodes not to miss.

“You will definitely learn something you didn’t already know while listening to this podcast…”

…promises Modern Farmer, who count Gastropod as one of their “7 Bingeworthy Food and Farming Podcasts.”

 
“Knowledgeable cohosts Cynthia Graber and Nicola Twilley talk to experts and serve up a feast of delicious bite-sized facts that surprise and delight.”

Wired thinks Gastropod is one of “The Best Podcasts for Everyone.”

“In a year when the concept of quarantine continued to provoke COVID dread, this episode flipped it upside down to explain the whole story of quarantines as a positive solution in a variety of non-human contexts.”
 

The Solutions Journalism Network rates our episode, Chocpocalypse Now!, as one of their favorite examples of solutions journalism of 2021.

 
“Gastropod is for people who want to know everything there is to know about food.”

Rotacloud says listening to us will leave you “raring to go for the next pub quiz.”

“With awesome interviews with experts and historians,” “this amazing podcast” “examines how food has and continues to shape human society.”

Find That Pod says “Don’t miss this one.”

If you want a podcast that’ll arm you with a neverending arsenal of “Hey! Did you know that…” food facts, Gastropod is the one for you.

Cynthia Graber and Nicola Twilley’s Gastropod … never ceases to amaze” the team at the UK’s MOB Kitchen.

Gastropod is the perfect kind of podcast that gives you fun facts about things you didn’t even know you wanted to know about.

New Zealand’s most popular news website, Stuff, says “look no further.”

“Gastropod … offers fascinating answers to questions like “how did tiki bars become a thing?”

We’re one of the 12 best food podcasts, according to Oprah.

Sadly, we don’t speak Croatian, but we’re very happy to be on this list of “five gastronomic-themed podcasts that were an absolute hit in 2020”
 
“Ever wondered about the origin of the bouillon cube? What’s the connection between glass bakeware and child labor? Co-hosts Cynthia Graber and Nicola Twilley delve into the fascinating answers behind these questions and more…”

Mashable thinks that Gastropod is one of the ten “best podcasts to listen to if you love cooking.”

“Featuring interviews with chefs, scientists and experts from all over the world, the duo are excellent at digging up the fascinating stories behind the stuff that ends up in our plates, bowls and mouths.”

Wired UK recommends Gastropod as one of the “best podcasts for curious minds.”

“Gastropod picks apart the science and history behind popular foods […] [Its] investigations, on topics as diverse as saffron and Mexican mole, skip across continents.”

National Geographic UK lists Gastropod as one of “The seven best food podcasts for lovers of world cuisine.”

“It’s one of the most engaging conversations about how curry was appropriated by the British who colonised India.”

India’s MintLounge recommends Gastropod as one of “three food podcasts to whet your appetite”—with a special shout out to our episode The Curry Chronicles.

Gastropod has been going strong for … years, a testament to how goddamn interesting it is.

We’re on Inverse‘s list of “The Five Best Science Podcasts, 2020 Edition.”

“Whether they are discussing how Leonardo da Vinci invented the first pasta machine, how Jack Daniel learned how to make whiskey, or the history of birthday cake,  Graber and Twilley infuse a passion for discovery, a constant search for insight from facts, and a strong desire to inform into every episode. In other words, the podcast makes you hungry for more.”

Writing for Podcast Reports magazine, Frank Racioppi explores why Gastropod is “such a critical and listener favorite.”

“Each of their twice-monthly, hour-long installments is thoroughly researched, tightly edited and humorously presented while not shying away from the social and political implications of our modern culture of eating.”

Writing for Geist magazine, Kelsea O’Connor calls us “drool-worthy,” but warns that listening “inevitably makes me hungry.”

“14 seasons of alimentary adventures, with a new episode every fortnight. Dig in.”

British GQ thinks Gastropod is one of the best podcasts to listen to in 2021.

“Meticulously researched and always entertaining, Gastropod uses the low-key charm of its hosts to sneak up on you.”

The Portland Press Herald warns that, “before you know it, you’ll be captivated (and peckish).”

“De l’histoire, de l’anthropo, de la science, de la bouffe: un podcast qui ose depuis déjà plus de 5 ans s’attaquer à des sujets parfois ardus mais passionnants, riches en infos, animé par deux chouettes femmes”

Reco des cool kids chez Les Camionneuses.

Gastropod is easily one of the best podcast choices out there in terms of sheer production value and quality, not to mention the fact that it offers something a little different.

Nova Sydney names us Best Podcast #1

“Cynthia Graber and Nicola Twilley host a delightful podcast.”

We’re a staff pick at the Forbes Library!

“You can fully prep, cook, and plate a meal while indulging in some feel-good entertainment.”

Better Homes & Gardens says Gastropod “deliciously combines science, history, and taste,” making us one of their “6 Mood-Boosting Podcasts to Get You To a Happy Head Space.”

“Combining deep research and lighthearted delivery,” Gastropod tackles ” a compellingly unpredictable range of subjects”

The New York Times recommends Gastropod as one of the six best food podcasts.

“The pair look at social issues like world hunger and the effect of fumigants as well as tracing the origins of curry and examining the ‘bagelisation of America.'”

The Independent calls us one of the top five science podcasts.

“Co-hosts Cynthia Graber and Nicola Twilley bring their journalistic expertise to everything from calories to the dirty secret of strawberries.”

Mental Floss names Gastropod as one of the eleven best podcasts of the decade.

“Everything you’ll learn, which is a lot, will make engaging dinner party conversation.”

The Boston Globe reports on our fifth birthday—pointing out that “that’s practically 100 in podcast years.”

Graber and Twilley have built something wonderful, independent, and free.

Industry Bible Hot Pod wishes us a happy fifth birthday—and says “Here’s to five more.”

Twilley and Graber are strong storytellers, weaving cohesive narratives from complex material and explaining the science with clarity. […] Gastropod is one of the most intelligent food podcasts around, and each episode is virtually guaranteed to arm you with at least a few facts to share with your friends.

The Los Angeles Review of Books Podcast Review says we “delve deeper” than other podcasts, in its review of food podcasts that “leave you hungry for more.”

A foodie podcast is coming to Miami. And they want to talk about sex and chocolate.

The Miami Herald previews our 2018 live show at the Frost Museum of Science, Miami.

A truly fresh and fun podcast about all things food.

Buzzsprout names Gastropod one of the best science podcasts of 2017.

Cynthia Graber and Nicola Twilley on cooking up the food podcast Gastropod

In this Open Notebook interview we share how Gastropod got started, and some of what we’ve learned from making it.

With a mix of long, in-depth pieces and bite-sized food facts, this scrumptious show will make you feel like one smart cookie at the dinner table.

Popular Science names us one of “The best science podcasts to make you smarter.”

This biweekly banquet always leaves us hungry for more.

We are thrilled to have been selected as Boston’s Best Podcast of 2016 by The Improper Bostonian.

Gastropod features excellent visual curation, superb writing in the form of episode notes and a fine podcast (it’s a good length).

UC Food Observer’s Rose Hayden-Smith tells new Gastropod listeners to “be prepared for an exquisite and tasteful experience,” advising them to “come hungry…you’ll want to savor every bite!”

Often needlessly self-deprecating and always charming, the humble and curious hosts totally make the show.

We’re Tasting Table’s pick as one of the best podcasts to listen to as you hunker down with a boozy hot chocolate.

Geek out with Cynthia Graber and Nicola Twilley as they explore the fun, science-y wonders of food with engaging spirit.

Bravo TV names us one of their “5 Fun Food Podcasts Worth Binging on.”

How do they do it? Graber and Twilley took us under the hood of Gastropod…

Margaux Phares interviews us about how this particular artisanal sausage gets made for Storybench.

Gastropod’s high production values sometimes come from surprisingly DIY places. “Often when we record, Cynthia is under her duvet, I’m in my closet,” says Twilley.

Grist reveals our darkest secrets while including us in its prestigious Grist 50 list of “The 50 People You’ll Be Talking About in 2016.”

A bewitching show about food, science, and history from veteran journalists Cynthia Graber and Nicola Twilley.

Xconomy’s Wade Roush included us in his list of the best podcasts of 2015.

I love “Gastropod” because it makes me question why I eat what I eat — and how I cook it.

Writing for Mother Nature Network, Starre Vartan includes us on her list of the best podcasts of 2015 (that aren’t Serial).

Gastropod is a fabulous look at the history and science of food. It’s delicious and nutritious. Do not listen while hungry. But definitely listen.

SciCurious, a.k.a. Bethany Brookshire, included Gastropod in her 2015 list of recommended podcasts.

The forward-thinking, science-minded podcast about food and the culture surrounding it.

The A.V. Club’s Ben Cannon enjoyed the “vast and astounding implications” of our “Crunch, Crackle, and Pop” episode.

In many ways, it’s kind of like a great cocktail—substantial, nuanced, and not over too fast.

WNYC’s James Ramsay compared us to a tasty beverage in his weekly HodgePod newsletter, July 10, 2015.

Sate your craving for the latest culinary science and trends.

We are a Wired magazine Staff Pick in their “Guide to the Ever-Expanding World of Podcasts,” July issue, 2015

Twilley and Graber love to get into some nitty-gritty science details, but always keep the mood light and fun.

Writing for Tech Times, Andrea Alfana lists Gastropod as one of “Five Great Science Podcasts You Should Be Listening To Now.”

If you’re a bit of a science and history geek as well as a food fan, this podcast is a must-listen.

We’re the UK’s Food & Drinks Guide’s top pick in food-related podcasts, June 10, 2015.

Absurdly smart.

TED Ideas Editor Helen Walters flatters us on the TED staff list of favorite podcasts, May 22, 2015.

Their lively, easy-going banter brings a world of culinary curiosities to life. […] Since Nicola hails from the U.K. and Cynthia is from the U.S., between them, you’ll hear perspectives from both sides of the pond.

Lisa Howard’s “5 Must-Listen Culinary Podcasts” for Paste Magazine, May 1, 2015

The general theme of the podcast is something that fascinates me and the hosts do a top-notch job presenting the information and telling the stories.

Daniel Murphy writing on the Awkward Botany blog, December 24, 2014

The podcasters delve into archeological digs, visit labs, and talk to experts to report stories that often elude daily media. They also manage to mix knowledge with conviviality.

Peggy Hernandez reviewing us for the The Boston Globe, December 23, 2014

This is new, but with its focus on reporting and sharp writing, it’s quickly become one of two food-related podcasts I always listen to.

Writing for Nieman Storyboard, Gabe Bullard recommends Gastropod as a worthy substitute for listeners left bereft by the end of Serial’s first season.

Have a listen, you won’t regret it!

Kevin Bonham writing for Scientific American‘s Food Matters blog, December 6, 2014

Think playful music, witty banter and engaging narratives that communicate topics of science and history in all of their mind-blowing complexity. Basically, it’s like Radiolab for food.

Ariel Laurel Wilson, Edible Manhattan, November 13, 2014

It has an endearingly homemade feel with nerdy banter between the hosts…the content is fascinating.

We made Aoife McElwain’s list of favorite food podcasts in the Irish Times.

This show is changing how I think about my food.

Science writer Aatish Bhatia via Twitter, October 16, 2014

Gastropod is fascinating and charming, and also different.

Maryn McKenna, A New Podcast Delves Into the History and Science of Food, National Geographic’s The Plate, October 10, 2014

If you need some food-related fun facts to roll out at your next dinner party, look no further than the new Gastropod podcast.

Rebecca Greenfield, The Surprisingly Interesting History of the Fork, Fast Company’s Recommender, September 16, 2014

I’m drawn to food because of the way it bridges human culture and the natural environment. There’s a new podcast that talks about food in just that way.

A Podcast for Those Who Like Food for Their Brain, Grist, Nathanael Johnson, September 16, 2014

Debut of @Gastropodcast by @cagraber & @nicolatwilley is outstanding. Every minute taught me something new.

Science writer Ferris Jabr via Twitter, September 17, 2014