In this latest episode of Gastropod, chef and author Dan Barber takes listeners on a journey around the world in search of great flavor and the ecosystems that support it, from Spain to the deep South.
You’ll hear how a carefully tended landscape of cork trees makes for delicious ham, and about a squash so cutting edge it doesn’t yet have a name, in this deep dive into the intertwined history and science of soil, cuisine, and flavor.
It’s hard to imagine now, but there was a time before refrigerators, before long-distance trucks and ships. Most people had to survive on food from their immediate surroundings, no matter how poor the soil or challenging the terrain. They couldn’t import apples from New Zealand and potatoes from Peru, or rely on chemical fertilizer to boost their yields.
From within these constraints, communities around the world developed a way of eating that Dan Barber calls “ecosystem cuisines.” Barber, the James Beard-award-winning chef of Blue Hill restaurant and author of the new book The Third Plate, spoke to Gastropod about his conviction that this historically-inspired style of cuisine can be reinvented, with the help of plant-breeders, his fellow chefs, and the latest in flavor science, in order to create a truly sustainable way to eat for the twenty-first century.
This is a transcript of the Gastropod episode,The Microbe Revolution, first released on Nov. 11, 2014. It is provided as a courtesy and may contain errors.
NICOLA TWILLEY: Hello and welcome to Gastropod! I’m Nicola Twilley—
CYNTHIA GRABER: And I’m Cynthia Graber. And as usual, we’re here to share fascinating tales about the science and history of food. This week, we’re going to spend a lot of time talking about a vegetable called a cassava.
TWILLEY: You may not have heard of it—but according to Bill Gates, it is the world’s most interesting vegetable. He also called it the stud of the vegetable world.
CYNTHIA GRABER: These are some of my happy sounds. This episode, we’re taking you to one of our favorite places…
NICOLA TWILLEY: The restaurant! “Come Dine with Me,” as they say on Channel 4.
GRABER: Nicky, nobody outside of the UK knows what that show is.
TWILLEY: Missing out.
GRABER: But anyway, we are indeed dining out this episode. And, you know, restaurants are just one of those things: they seem like they’ve been around forever.
TWILLEY: But then that can’t be true. I mean, our ancestors might have gone to each others’ caves for a bite to eat, but I don’t think there would have been a menu and wait staff. So who invented the restaurant? …More →
Early humans may have visited each others' caves for a shared meal, but they wouldn't have expected to be served at their own table, or to choose when and what to eat. But today, restaurants are ubiquitous: there are millions of them worldwide, and the average American eats roughly 200 meals a year in one. So who invented the first restaurant, and when and where did it appear? How did it change society—and change along with society? And, in today's saturated market, is there a scientific way to choose the best?
JOHN T. EDGE: I think fried chicken nuggets are are an abomination. I think they’re a food product, not a food. I think to call something fried chicken in my book, there needs to be a bone and a human hand should have been involved in the preparation of said bird and nuggets don’t qualify on either of those measures.
CYNTHIA GRABER: Those are fighting words! You might have thought that fried chicken is just chicken that has been fried, but it’s way more complicated than that. In fact, fried chicken can be a surprisingly contentious dish.
NICOLA TWILLEY: And not just on the topic of whether nuggets are an abomination or not. So grab a drumstick and join us on this crispy, crunchy, deep fried adventure. I’m Nicola Twilley.
GRABER: And I’m Cynthia Graber. And in this episode of Gastropod, we’re going to look at fried chicken controversies through the lens of science and history. …More →