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87 – The Dirt on Truffles

Truffles are one of the most sought-after foods in the world. People use specially trained animals to sniff out this delectable fungus on tree roots, and a pound of white truffles can sell for thousands of dollars. But there’s a dark side to this delicacy. We talk to journalist Ryan Jacobs about his new book, The Truffle Underground. And he’s got all the dirt: theft, fraud, poisoned dogs, and even murder.


86 – Meet the Farmers Saving Your Food From Climate Chaos

Growing food in America has always been unforgiving. But this year took it to a whole new level: Storm surges and bomb-cyclones wreaked havoc on the Midwest's planting season. Tom traveled to Iowa and Illinois to get the view from the ground, and discovered how farmers are fighting back.


85 – A Syrian Refugee Cures Homesickness With Hummus

In 2018, reporter Shane Bauer traveled to Syria to unpack America’s involvement in its bitter conflict. Hear an excerpt of a special Mother Jones Podcast series following in his footsteps. Then you’ll meet a Syrian refugee chef who couldn’t return to his homeland—but found a way to get a taste of it from New York.


84 – The Problem With Home-Cooked Meals

What’s not to love about a meal prepared from scratch at home? Well, a few things actually, according to Joslyn Brenton, co-author of the new book Pressure Cooker: Why Homecooking Won’t Solve Our Problems and What We Can Do About It. Brenton and her co-authors embedded with nine women to find out what it takes to feed a family today. They found that the expectation to return to the kitchen to solve the food system’s woes places an undue burden on busy parents. Tom talks to Brenton to hear...


83 – Nobody Puts Vegetables in the Corner

If you’ve ever had trouble figuring out what to do with a bunch of vegetables, this episode is for you. Just in time for summer grilling season, Maddie talks to Abra Berens, author of the new cookbook Ruffage: a Practical Guide to Vegetables. Abra dishes on the link between how plants grow and how they taste, what to do about bland, squishy zucchini, and how to make summer veggies the centerpiece at your next barbecue.


82 – Passover in Prison

Lloyd Payne, 29, has been incarcerated since he was 14. In previous prisons, "we got made fun of for being Jewish, and for eating a certain way and practicing a certain life," he said. Now that he’s at California’s San Quentin State Prison, he can attend an annual Passover gathering with the Jewish community behind bars. We sent a reporter to this Seder to see what it was like.


81 – High Steaks

The American taste for beef is on the rise again. Oxford University scientist Marco Springmann discusses the impact of a hamburger-heavy diet on the planet, and what it would take to make a dent in our food-related emissions. Then we look closer at the promises of grass-fed beef. And then, we asked you, our listeners, why you became vegetarians. Some of your answers were pretty standard—and some were totally wacky.


80 – Helen Oyeyemi's Delightfully Sinister Gingerbread

Helen Oyeyemi's novel “Gingerbread” is a smart, fantastical story about three generations of women who share a recipe. The tea cake is at times delicious—and at times sinister. Oyeyemi tells us that she was drawn to "the mix of safety and danger all combined in one seemingly innocuous foodstuff." Later in the show, the Bite hosts get baking tips from an in-house expert.


79 – The Words This Food Critic Will Never Use

San Francisco Chronicle food critic Soleil Ho won’t use the word “ethnic” in her restaurant reviews: “The assumption that it doesn’t apply equally to people and cuisines associated with Europe or white America gives me such a headache,” she writes. Ho and guest Victoria Bouloubasis are part of a crowing crop of restaurant reviewers who are rethinking food criticism, and increasingly dealing with the bigger societal issues diners and food workers confront, from racism to labor to identity...


78 – How Slavery's Brutal Legacy Lingers in American Cooking

Archaeologist and historian Kelley Fanto Deetz talks to Tom about her deep dive into the world of enslaved cooks on antebellum Virginia's plush plantations—and she makes the case that the first celebrity chef was a slave. Plus: Maddie interviews Jonathan Townsend, a colonial reenactor, about his popular cooking channel and the early American recipes he endorses. And we hear a dispatch from Jordan Gass-Poore, who attended a Prohibition-themed event in New York City.


77 – "Bao" Director Domee Shi Gives a Sweet Dumpling a Dark Twist

Domee Shi, director of Pixar's Oscar-nominated short film "Bao," was afraid that people "would be too upset" by the shocking turn in her fantastical tale about a cute, little Chinese dumpling. But it ended up being her secret ingredient. Plus: How food plays an essential role in the year's best films.


76 – What It Feels Like to Be Big in America

Tommy Tomlinson is the author of “The Elephant in the Room: One Fat Man’s Quest to Get Smaller in a Growing America.” He talks to Mother Jones reporter Edwin Rios about his Southern upbringing and his tortured relationship with fast-food. He also reveals how former NFL quarterback Jared Lorenzen inspired him to tell his own story, and he reveals what people get wrong about obesity and losing weight.


75 – Cooking Chicken With Beto O’Rourke

You can now hang out with Beto O'Rourke in his kitchen or chat with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez while she makes mac’n’cheese in her InstantPot: Politicians are using social media to livestream their everyday moments. Mother Jones senior reporter Tim Murphy dissects this phenomenon—and talks about what it means for politics today. We also pay a visit to the #ChefsForFeds relief kitchen, which doled out free meals to furloughed federal workers during the shutdown.


74 – The Cult of the Chili Pepper

We all know that burning sensation particular to eating chili peppers. But who knew the tiny fruit did so much more than make our mouths sweat? Stuart Walton, author of the new book “The Devil’s Dinner,” reveals the life-altering power of capsaicin, the active compound in chilis. Then Nopalito Chef Gonzalo Guzman shares his tips and tricks for taming dried chili peppers.


39 – Songs That Make Food Taste Better

Whiskey ballads, tamale ditties, odes to cornbread: So many beloved musicians make food their central subject at some point. Former OC Weekly Editor Gustavo Arellano tells us about the evolution of corridos and rancheras, Mexican songs that are often dedicated to favorite foods or life in the fields. “Kind of like gangster rap,” Arellano explains, “corridos would tell you the stories of repressed communities". Then Jenny Luna tries whiskey that has been aged to the tune of Michael Jackson...


73 – The Five-Second Rule, and Other Food Myths Busted

Is the five-second rule real? How risky is double-dipping chips at a potluck? Food safety expert Paul Dawson, co-author of the new book "Did You Just Eat That?", shares scientific answers to our most pressing questions about germs at the table. Then we visit a mysterious basement marketplace showcasing the future of meat.


72 – These Spices Will Transform Your Life

In the introduction to his new cookbook, Season: Big Flavors, Beautiful Food, Nik Sharma writes: “Mine is the story of a gay immigrant, told through food.” Nik was born in India, but left his native country for the United States in part because he wanted greater opportunity to be himself. In his cookbook, popular food blog, and columns for the San Francisco Chronicle, he does just that. Nik takes American classics like egg salad, and experiments with incorporating the Indian spices and...


71 – When Food Stamps "Turn Your Life Around"

Thanksgiving is a time when we talk about what we’re thankful to have—and remember that not everyone has a lot. In this episode, we hear from some people who are very grateful to have had the support of SNAP benefits—which used to be called food stamps—during a hard time. Then, Maddie catches up with a researcher who found a troubling decline in the use of SNAP among one group of particularly needy Americans.


70 – Sheriff Corndog

Mother Jones’ reporters bring you food-adjacent stories from this year’s midterm election. Madison Pauly fills us in on the history of an Alabama sheriff who got rich off his jail inmates with the help of a truckload of corndogs, and how voters will decide whether it could happen again. And then Tim Murphy takes us to Nevada, a crucial swing state, where members of the culinary workers union have mastered the art of political organizing—and could have lessons for the Democratic party...


69 – Samin Nosrat Gets Salty

Have you ever wondered if there's a secret to salting your food to bring out its best flavor? On this episode, we catch up with chef and writer Samin Nosrat, who’s kind of an expert on the subject. Her hit cookbook, Salt Fat Acid Heat, was just turned into a riveting Netflix series. Samin tells Maddie all about making miso in Japan, and what it was like to turn her cooking advice into TV. And she schools us on how to use salt. Plus: Addicted to Lacroix sparkling water? Here’s what the wacky...