Summary: Bite is a podcast for people who think hard about their food. Join acclaimed food and farming blogger Tom Philpott, Mother Jones editors Kiera Butler and Maddie Oatman, and a tantalizing guest list of writers, farmers, scientists, and chefs as they uncover the surprising stories behind what ends up on your plate. We'll help you digest the food news du jour, explore the politics and science of what you eat and why—and deliver plenty of tasty tidbits along the way.
Our inboxes have been filled to the brim with advice from people peddling vitamins, herbs, and diets—all claiming that the product that they were hawking would help supercharge the body’s defenses to ward off the coronavirus. Is there any truth to these pitches? Can certain foods—like elderberries, garlic, and zinc—really help strengthen your immune system? How about a good night’s sleep, or getting enough exercise? We take a hard look at these claims, with help from Timothy Caulfield, a law professor at the University of Alberta and the research director of its Health Law Institute. He studies how companies and brands use and misuse medical and scientific research, and he’s the host of the TV series A User's Guide to Cheating Death, in which he debunks pseudoscientific claims.
“When we don’t own our media, we will not own our messages,” says Stephen Satterfield, the founder of the food culture magazine Whetstone, and one of the only Black owners of a major food publication. Satterfield talks about the challenges of finding investors for new media projects. Then Kiano Moju, founder of the production studio Jikoni, reflects on her experiences with racism while making viral recipe videos and reveals her vision for her website where users can submit recipes from the African diaspora.
Dominique Crenn famously nabbed her first cooking job, at the legendary San Francisco restaurant Stars, without ever having gone to culinary school. She went on to become the first female chef in North America to hold three Michelin stars for her restaurant Atelier Crenn, and she has a reputation as a vocal activist for environmental and social causes—from ditching meat on her menus to championing equality in the workplace. Her new memoir is called Rebel Chef: In Search of What Matters. This episode was a collaboration with the Commonwealth Club’s Inforum Series.
Meatpacking plants across the United States have become coronavirus hotspots—and workers at chicken plants are particularly vulnerable. Caitlin Esch, a senior producer at Marketplace, digs into the history behind chicken production in America and talks about what she’s learned over nearly a year of investigative reporting into labor conditions at poultry plants in the South. This episode of Bite is a collaboration with The Uncertain Hour, an investigative podcast from Marketplace’s Wealth and Poverty desk.
Black families own just one percent of the country’s arable land. But that’s despite the fact US agriculture has deep roots in African traditions. Leah Penniman, author of the book Farming While Black, delves into the roots of our modern farming practices, and talks about a growing movement among young Black and indigenous farmers to reclaim lost land. Plus: A dispatch from Minneapolis, where a Jamaican restaurant has transformed into a protest supply hub.
Whether you’re in lockdown or beginning to ease your way back into public life—you still need to eat every day. And the questions are still swirling: Are groceries safe? Should I reheat food when I bring it home? Does my delivery meal pose a risk? There’s no better expert on evidence-based advice about all things food than chef and writer J. Kenji López-Alt. He has all the answers you’re craving on this week’s episode of Bite.
Quarantine has prompted a burst of gardening activity around the country; some people have even likened it to the 1940s Victory Garden movement. In a third-floor apartment in Queens, two roommates have figured out how to grow a whole host of vegetables without a backyard. Then we talk to Doria Robinson, executive director of Urban Tilth in Richmond, California, to try and understand what it will take to make disaster gardens last beyond times of crisis.
Restaurants run on social contact and razor-thin profit margins. So COVID-19 stopped them cold, and brought them to the brink of financial ruin. In today's episode, Tom Colicchio—owner of Manhattan restaurant empire Crafted Hospitality and judge on Top Chef—makes the case that the government's stimulus efforts are a recipe for mass restaurant extinction, and calls for a program targeted directly at saving independent eateries. Then Nigerian-born, New Orleans-based chef and activist Tunde Wey pushes back, arguing that restaurants as we know them aren't worth saving without major reforms.
Whether you are working mandatory overtime shifts, feeling stuck inside a third-floor apartment, or full-time parenting on top of working at home—chances are, you’re craving to break free. So today, we bring you two stories about escape. First, kava is a traditional drink from the South Pacific that recently made its way to trendy Manhattan bars. And some experts say it can release you from anxiety. Then: Think you’re feeling cooped up? Try being a chicken. Novelist Deb Olin Unferth discusses her new book, Barn 8, about two rogue inspectors who decide to let a million birds run wild.
Supermarket cashiers, meal delivery folks, fast-food cooks, and farmworkers—all help keep society together. While that’s always been true, the COVID-19 crisis has put them in the spotlight. On this episode, we talk to food workers who are putting their lives on the line to feed the nation. You’ll hear about how their work has changed in big and small ways, from a Door Dasher’s elaborate cleaning routine to a small farm’s struggle to keep up with the surging demand for CSA boxes.
Get ready to master your pantry, no matter what you've stockpiled. Tamar Adler, author of the book An Everlasting Meal, has tons of tips for home cooking with economy and grace: What to prioritize on your grocery list, how to stretch ingredients across meals and make use of your scraps, and how to keep your sanity while cooking with kids. Plus: The founder of Rancho Gordo talks about how the coronavirus has made everyone desperate for beans, and Tamar offers some tasty recipes that will give you courage to finally cook those dried beans you've been avoiding.
Today we bring you a bonus episode from our sister show, The Mother Jones Podcast. The coronavirus pandemic is devastating the hospitality industry. Millions of Americans are in lockdown. Events are being cancelled. The day before the release of this podcast episode, New York City's restaurants and bars have been forced to stop sit-down service. In the midst of a crisis, the worst thing that could happen to the restaurant industry has happened. This week, we talked to restaurant owners in the Chinatown in Flushing, Queens. This is a thriving immigrant community, and food-lover’s paradise, that has been turned upside down by COVID-19. For restauranteurs already operating on slim profit margins, staying open during the shutdown was already near-impossible. The question is whether they’ll be able to reopen at all. Also on the show: you share with us your stories about stepping up to help others through the crisis, and they are seriously inspirational. Tune in for all sorts of strategies, big and small, for giving your community a helping hand.
“Getting people to trust fast-food is a process,” says Marcia Chatelain, author of the new book Franchise: The Golden Arches in Black America. For many Black communities, that process started at a precise moment in history: The resulting chaos following Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination created the perfect opening for McDonald’s to step in and promise progress in the form of Black-owned businesses. But the resulting relationship has been complex; fast-food has been a source of both power and despair in Black America. “Businesses’ job is to maximize profits,” Marcia tells Bite fellow Camille Squires, “but they can’t set the possibilities for people’s lives.” Plus: Marcia reveals her true feelings about Popeye’s chicken sandwiches.
The new documentary Honeyland is getting rave reviews. Set in North Macedonia, it seems at first to be about the process of hunting for wild bees. And bees do fill the film—flitting in and out of the frame, stinging neighbors, and turning the harsh landscape into molten gold. But the real focus of the film is on a captivating woman named Hatizde. Maddie talks to the Honeyland filmmakers Tamara Kotevska and Ljubomir Stefanov about their remarkable experience following this highly unusual protagonist.
There's a new power broker in national politics, but it's not a politician. Art Cullen, editor of the tiny Iowa newspaper the Storm Lake Times, won the Pulitzer Prize in 2017 for his op-eds on Big Ag meddling in local communities. Now, presidential candidates make sure to visit him while on the campaign trail. Ahead of the Iowa caucus, Cullen talks to legendary food writer Michael Pollan about rural economics, climate change, and the presidential election. This interview comes to us thanks to the UC-Berkeley School of Journalism and the Berkeley-11th Hour Food and Farming Fellowship.