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!

Episode Notes

Willie Harcourt-Cooze and Willie's Cacao

Willie Harcourt-Cooze is a cacao farmer and the founder of Willie's Cacao, a UK-based chocolate maker who presses his own beans to create Nicky's favorite bars, including a gorgeous, creamy white chocolate. If you're based in the U.S. and want to try the goods, don't panic: you can find the full range online here, as well as at various independent shops scattered around the country. (And if you'd like to brush up on everything chocolate, from its history to the bean-to-bar process, check out our classic episode We Heart Chocolate!)

Somerville Chocolate

Eric Parkes makes his delicious maple white chocolate and saffron white chocolate bars (as well as plenty of milk and dark chocolate varieties) in Cynthia's home town. Find out more here.

Sarah Wassberg Johnson

Food historian Sarah Wassberg Johnson is a museum educator and the author of the upcoming book Preserve or Perish: Food Conservation in New York State During the Great War.

Pam Dalton

Pam Dalton is a scientist at the Monell Chemical Senses Center and an expert on how the human body senses odor and irritation from chemicals. You can hear more from Pam on our episode about chili peppers, So Hot Right Now!

Richard Auffrey

Richard Auffrey is a food writer based in Massachusetts. You can find his investigation into the history of jimmies on his blog.

Daniel Whitehead

Chemist Daniel Whitehead is researcher focusing on how to capture and nullify noxious chemicals at Clemson University. For those interested in learning more about the chemical origins of asparagus pee, check out this paper he shared about asparagusic acid.

The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation for the Public Understanding of Science, Technology, and Economics

This episode of Gastropod was supported by a generous grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation for the Public Understanding of Science, Technology, and Economics. Check out the other books, movies, shows, podcasts, and more that they support here.


Click here for a transcript of the show. Please note that the transcript is provided as a courtesy and may contain errors.