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The Food Programme


Investigating every aspect of the food we eat


United Kingdom




Investigating every aspect of the food we eat




A Celebration of the Birthday Cake

Jaega Wise delves into the history, traditions and culture surrounding the birthday cake, meeting bespoke baker Adam Cox, and attending a traditional Mexican "cake smash" along the way. She'll also find out what happens when a cake historian takes on the task of baking a traditional roman-style cake, and pick up some tips for the best birthday bakes from none other than Dame Mary Berry. And there's a very special delivery for one 13 year old girl from a community network of bakers trying to ensure that absolutely all children get a birthday cake. Produced by Tory Pope for BBC Audio in Bristol


Cooking at home with Gary Lineker

Footballing legend, broadcaster and our host for lunch… Gary Lineker makes his famous 'gambas al ajillo' for Leyla Kazim at his home as she hears how he learnt to cook nine years ago and never looked back. They also discuss food memories from his professional football career, from playing and eating around the world to unorthodox pre-match lunches, Spanish-style. Along the way, she hears stories from Gary’s friends and family as a little-known side to Gary’s character as a newly passionate cook and self-confessed foodie gradually takes shape. Produced by Nina Pullman for BBC Audio in Bristol.


Lamb Season

Although chocolate eggs and Hot Cross buns take centre stage at Easter, millions of people also sit down to share a joint of lamb to celebrate. In this episode, Sheila Dillon finds out more about the tradition for eating lamb at Easter with Welsh food writer Carwyn Graves, and hears how despite its prominence on Easter tables, the timing of lamb production doesn't always fit with when the festival falls on the calendar. So should we be considering eating other types of sheep meat at this time of year? Sheila speaks to sheep farmer Steve Lewis from Pembrokeshire Lamb whose lambs are being born at this time of year, and is currently selling customers last season lamb and hogget. She also visits Spanish restaurant, Asador 44 in Cardiff to learn from chef Owen Morgan how to prepare older cuts of sheep meat, including 8 year old mutton from The Cornwall Project. Presented by Sheila Dillon Produced for BBC Audio in Bristol by Natalie Donovan


Stouts and Porters: How dark beers became cool

Stouts and porters, dark malty beers maybe used to have a reputation of being a bit stuffy but there has been a recent trend of these drinks growing in popularity. Guinness, the biggest player in the market, has seen a big increase in sales, for a period being the bests selling pint in pubs for the first time. There’s been a big interest in it from young people, there is a whole genre of social media influencers comparing pints and even Kim Kardashian was photographed with one in London last St Patricks day. In this programme, Jimi Famurewa looks at how a drink that is so ubiquitous and established becomes a cool. Jimi goes to the wildly popular Devonshire Arms to meet Oisin Rogers and drink the arguably best pint of Guinness in London. The story of dark beer starts with porter in London and Jimi talks to beer writer Laura Hadland about the history of porter and stouts between the UK and Irish capitals. Adding nitrogen to stout and porter is a huge part of Guinness’s success. Jimi visits Anspach and Hobday, brewers who are taking on Guinness with their own nitro porter, London Black. Jimi also look at the history of stout and porter in West Africa with Eko brewery who are taking inspiration from the continent including the Guinness brewed in Nigeria. Social media is a huge part of the interest in Guinness. Jimi sits down with a pint to talk to Ian Ryan who runs the shitlondonguinness Instagram page and has written a book One Man's Search for the Perfect Pint of Guinness, who is credited in having a big part in this trend. Produced in Bristol by Sam Grist


The Plant-Based Diet Boom: How is it changing food culture?

The last decade has seen an explosion in the trend of plant-based eating, from the growth of plant-based products in supermarkets and vegan options on menus, to celebrities and diet influencers making plant-based cool on social media. In this programme, Leyla Kazim explores some of the cultural and social impacts from the plant-based diet trend, including the rise of the flexitarian way of eating, the impact on the vegan movement, and the evolution of the diet culture wars in the media. Presented by Leyla Kazim and produced by Sophie Anton for BBC Audio in Bristol


The herb and spice scam?

What’s really in your spice rack? In this exclusive investigation by The Food Programme, Jaega Wise investigates the authenticity of spices sold by a number of high street, online and health food chains. Using brand new technology outside of the lab for the first time, she will test herbs and spices from some of the biggest household names and retailers, including Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Amazon and more. Plus, we hear from leading experts on the UK’s food defence frontline to find out just how challenging it is to detect fraud and police this lucrative area. Produced by Nina Pullman for BBC Audio in Bristol.


Feeding Norfolk

A message from Delia Smith takes the Food Programme team to Norfolk to see how a network of social supermarkets is helping people out of food poverty. Nourishing Norfolk, is a project linking a large number of smaller shops, or food hubs around the county. The shops use the "social supermarket" model, providing free fruit and vegetables and cut price food and many other essentials including cleaning and hygiene products, and smokeless coal. During the team's tour, they hear how being linked has given the hubs more buying power, and they have been able to team up with more local businesses who are able to help - by offering warehouse space, larger scale donations and even logistics. The hub volunteers then have more time to do what they are good at; offering support, guidance and community to those who need it. Since the shops are all independently run, they are also able to try out and develop ways that can help with the specific problems faced by people in poverty in their area, which has included the setting up of a mobile food hub. Delia wrote how she had been blown away by the work that is happening there - where people are not only being provided with affordable food, but also help and assistance at all levels. Presented by Sheila Dillon Produced in Bristol for BBC Audio by Natalie Donovan


The power of poems to connect us to food

Getting people to engage with food and ideas for agricultural change can be really difficult - but that’s the hope of a major new arts project called We Feed The UK. Farmers, poets and photographers have collaborated to tell ten stories to celebrate custodians of land, seed, soil and sea from all corners of the country. The project is being coordinated by the charity The Gaia Foundation – with a mission to elevate stories of farms and food producers that show positive solutions to climate change, the biodiversity crisis and social justice in the food system. Jimi Famurewa joins conversations between farmers, food producers and poets, who are collaborating as a part of the project, to hear a selection of these poems and ask how poetry can help the public think twice about how food is grown. Presented by Jimi Famurewa and produced by Sophie Anton for BBC Audio in Bristol


A Bitter Taste?

Appetite suppressant, glucose control and inflammation antidote... The scientific research around the power of bitter foods may sound far-fetched. But new studies are continuing to add to our knowledge of what this food group, disliked by many, can do for our health. To find out more, Leyla Kazim speaks to Italian taste scientist and self-confessed ‘bitter enthusiast’, Gabriella Morini, who has been studying this area since the eighties. Can, and should, we learn to love bitter? Leyla spends a morning cooking with chef and MasterChef finalist Alexina Anatole, whose new book Bitter is on a mission to help us do just that. After cooking with bitter greens, Leyla tracks their journey from plate back to field. While salad might seem an unseasonal thing to be eating in winter, British soils and temperature are actually well suited to growing a huge variety of winter salads, notable for their fresh taste as well as their resilience. She meets a specialist mixed leaf salad grower and hears how choosing these varieties could help reduce our reliance on Spanish salad, where climate change is making winter growing increasingly erratic. In many ways, understanding the power of bitter foods is regaining knowledge that was used by our ancestors; while bitter herbs and leaves are still used in traditional medicine in Indigenous cultures across the world. Leyla speaks to food historian Dr Neil Buttery to retrace some of the history of bitter flavours. Finally, calling in on nutritionist Dr Lucy Williamson, Leyla hears tips on how to apply our more modern day understanding of bitter to everyday meals and lifestyles. From old folklore to new scientific research, and from cooking to growing, Leyla discovers how there is plenty more to bitter flavours than might well meet the eye, or the taste bud. Presented by Leyla Kazim. Produced by Nina Pullman for BBC Audio in Bristol.


Love on a Plate

From warming aphrodisiacs in the early modern period, to date-night oysters and champagne or a loving dish of hot macaroni cheese, sharing food has always been a way for people to connect, and in some cases it can make us feel loved or even in the mood for romance.. In this programme, Jaega Wise seeks to uncover some of the reasons why this connection between food and love exists, and asks whether it's what's on the plate that is doing something inside us, or if it's all placebo, and it’s the act and ritual around eating (the setting, the conversation etc..) that can give us these feelings of love. Featuring aphrodisiac and absinthe pairing at The Last Tuesday Society (east London) with historian Dr Jennifer Evans (University of Hertfordshire); romantic dining at London Shell Co; chef José Pizarro and partner Peter Meades; food writers Clare Finney and Skye McAlpine; experimental psychologist Prof Charles Spence plus research from The Good Housekeeping Institute on the relatively modern Valentine's day institution of dine-in meals for two. Presented by Jaega Wise Produced in Bristol for BBC Audio by Natalie Donovan


Destination Food

Many of us are travel looking for food experiences and we often want to eat something that is authentically of that place. So we seek out the local delicacy which hopefully reflects the local landscape, history and people. However many of the foods we think of as quintessential ‘destination’ foods are elevated in the 20th century with the rise of easier travel and more and more tourism. On the other hand, it’s easier than ever to access to ‘global’ food in the towns and cities we live in. Sheila Dillon explores what travelling to eat looking for authentic experiences means in an increasingly globalised world. We start the programme hearing the story of Nashville Hot Chicken from journalist Zach Stafford. In recent history, Hot Chicken went from an obscure speciality of a specific community in North Nashville, Tennessee to one if it’s most iconic symbols. Zach tells the story of how Hot Chicken became part of the ‘Disnification’ of Nashville as it has become a popular tourist destination. But like so much of American culture the story is racialised with new white owned businesses making money from a food created by a black community. Sheila then travels to Brussels to become a food tourist herself. Guided by Elisabeth Debourse, Editor-in-Chief at Le Fooding she explores whether the search for the elusive ‘authentic’ local food is helpful in trying to get a good meal. She visits Rue des Bouchers and restaurant Les Brigittines. Someone who’s thought a lot about food and place is food writer Anya von Bremzen. It’s something she explores in her latest book is National Dish. She talks about how many iconic foods linked to place are much more modern than we might think. The Food Programme is based in Bristol and although the city has a distinct culture, it doesn’t have an iconic ‘destination food.’ Sheila talks to is an actor, born and bred Bristolian and the new presenter of ‘A Proper Bristol Breakfast,’ the Radio Bristol morning show about Bristol’s eclectic food identity. Produced by Sam Grist for BBC Audio in Bristol


How has a small island become the nation with the highest rate of obesity?

Sheila Dillon investigates what we can learn about food and public health from the extreme case of Nauru. It’s the world’s smallest republic yet has the highest rate of obesity.


Haggis and Hosting: Celebrating Burns Night

In the dark nights of January, celebrating the work of poet Robert Burns by feasting, toasting and speaking poetry has become a much-loved tradition in Scotland and around the world. Sheila Dillon joins Scottish-Malaysian chef Julie Lin in Glasgow as she hosts friends for Burns Night 2024 to share food and ways of celebrating. She also visits the Centre for Robert Burns Studies at the University of Glasgow to hear more about Rabbie Burns himself. Who was he? And where do the Burns' food traditions come from? After hearing Burns' famous 'address to a haggis', we call in on the recently-crowned world's best haggis maker, Simon Broadribb, at his butcher's shop in Southampton, to see his award-winning recipe in action. Time for a wee dram? Finally, we hear from whisky expert and 'Master of the Quaich' Ann Miller on what to drink alongside your Burns supper, and discover Burns' own links with the whisky industry. Presented by Sheila Dillon. Produced by Nina Pullman for BBC Audio in Bristol.


Eating for Two?

Jaega Wise is on a mission to find out what she should really be eating while pregnant - from conception to birth. Presented by Jaega Wise Produced in Bristol for BBC Audio by Natalie Donovan


A Seaweed Revolution in the UK?

Seaweed farming could be a huge boon for the UK, restoring biodiversity, cleaning the sea and could even be capturing carbon. Seaweed is healthy and delicious but UK grown seaweed has a very low profile with only a handful of farms across the country and few people eating it. In this programme Leyla Kazim finds out why this is and what a future focused on seaweed could look like. She talks to Vincent Doumeizel author of The Seaweed Revolution who believes seaweed is an answer to many of the crises we face as a species. In St Austell bay, Cornwall she meets Tim van Berkel from the Cornish Seaweed Company and sees one of the few seaweed farms in the UK. What is the current state of Seaweed farming? We hear from Elisa Capuzzo CEFAS. Leyla meets Douglas McMaster at his restaurant Silo to talk about seaweed as an ingredient. She also talks to Olly Hicks, adventurer and seaweed farmer who has a licence for a huge seaweed in Devon but is currently selling the seaweed for use in agriculture. Produced for BBC Audio in Bristol by Sam Grist


New Year’s Eve Food Around the World

Join Leyla Kazim for a tour of New Year’s Eve food traditions around the world, from eating lentils in Italy, scoffing 12 grapes in Spain, slurping soba noodles in Japan and Kransekage in Denmark and Norway. We hear from food writer, Rachel Roddy; owner of Japanese Cookery School Hashi Cooking, Reiko Hashimoto; Spanish chef, Omar Allibhoy; co-founder of ScandiKitchen, Brontë Aurell; and author of National Dish: Around the World in Search of Food, History, and the Meaning of Home, Anya Von Bremzen. Presented by Leyla Kazim and produced by Sophie Anton for BBC Audio in Bristol.


Christmas with The Food Programme

Cooking at Christmas is so much more than just the main meal, so this year Sheila Dillon, and chef Thomasina Miers, show us how to do more with less. Sheila Dillon joins chef Thomasina Miers in her kitchen who shows her why she thinks some of the most delightful meals at Christmas are made with the leftovers, and she shares her family tradition for doctoring mince pies, to make a much more extravagant treat. Plus the pair connect with friends whose lives this Christmas feel far from normal, to hear how tradition and food can bring joy, even in the most strained situations. Presented by Sheila Dillon Produced for BBC Audio in Bristol by Natalie Donovan


Reflections on rum

Jaega Wise reflects on her findings and a few surprising moments during the making of this week's rum programme, with producer Nina Pullman.


Dark and stormy: A journey through rum

A refreshing mojito? Rum punch? Maybe just a simple rum and coke? Many of us might think no further about rum than how to mix it within a drink. But it actually has a unique story within our history through its links with slavery and the navy, where it was used as a currency and became an integral part of the maritime trade in people and sugar. Fast forward to today, and the popularity of rum is still rising. But amid the flavours, brands and a vast range of rum-based drinks, there is very little information about how it’s made and where it comes from. In this episode, Jaega Wise visits two British rum producers making it in very different ways. One, Goldstone Rum, is the latest addition to a new group of distillers making rum from scratch in the UK. The other, the BBC Food and Farming Award-winning Isle of Wight Distillery, is part of a long tradition of blending and spicing rum made in the Caribbean. But while rum has a sociable, sunny image thanks to its Caribbean heritage, not many people want to talk about its darker history and how it was once used as currency to buy enslaved Africans, who in turn worked on the sugar plantations that were the source of rum itself. Who better to hear about the history and culture of rum than global rum ambassador Ian Burrell, who meets Jaega at RumFest to explain more about its origins, the rum scene in the UK and mix a cocktail or two. Throughout this journey of rum, Dr Christy Pichichero, professor of history and expert in Black studies at George Mason University, explains why understanding the true story of rum is an important part of our shared history, and what it means to rum makers and drinkers today. Presented by Jaega Wise. Produced by Nina Pullman for BBC Audio in Bristol.


Recipes for Long Life

Dan Buettner believes that "when a ritual lasts for hundreds or thousands of years, like prayer before a meal, it serves some purpose". Dan is the best-selling author of and founder of The Blue Zones; five parts of the world where people tend to live much longer and healthier lives, many into their hundreds. In this programme, Leyla Kazim finds out more about the culinary aspects of his research, discovering what is eaten in the Blue Zones, what isn't being eaten, and some of the practices that exist around meal times. She also meets two academics whose work focuses on how to help people living in the UK live longer and more healthily. Liz Williams from the Healthy Lifespan Institute at the University of Sheffield explains that although the current life expectancy for people in the UK is just over 81 years - our average 'healthy life' expectancy is much lower, at around 63. Dr Oliver Shannon from The University of Newcastle explains how some of the Blue Zones observational findings are consistent with research they have been doing into the impact of the Mediterranean diet on brain health. The promise of a long healthy life is all well and good - but as we know the reality of diets is that they are impossibly hard to keep to. So could choosing to make a 'lifestyle' change be any easier to stick with? Leyla hears from Jean Newton who in her 70s has done just that. Presented by Leyla Kazim Produced by Natalie Donovan for BBC Audio in Bristol.