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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.




40 – She Packs Your Brussels Sprouts and Lives in Fear

Elena thought she had finally found freedom. She graduated high school and got a steady job in a vegetable factory. Then, in a matter of minutes, everything turned upside down. Mother Jones’ Becca Andrews brings us this story out of Tennessee. Then Top Chef Masters champ Traci Des Jardins tells us what she would have done with her knife skills if she hadn’t become a chef, and talks about the number one challenge facing new restaurants today.

Duration: 00:19:28

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. 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 and...

Duration: 00:26:17

38 – W. Kamau Bell and the Case of the Racist Skittles

Comedian W. Kamau Bell showed up at a Ku Klux Klan rally in Kentucky in 2014 fully expecting to face steely stares and racist comments. But when one of the masked Klansmen did approach Bell, it was to hand him iced tea and Skittles, the snacks Trayvon Martin purchased the night he was killed by George Zimmerman in 2012. On today’s episode, Bell tells us how he reacted to the overtly racist gesture—and about how certain foods can become cultural symbols. He also reveals the key to the most...

Duration: 00:27:50

37 – The Agony and Ecstasy of Eating 330 Hamburgers

Journalist Kevin Alexander discovered a lot about a city through its burgers. Last year, he ate hundreds of hamburgers across the United States in a quest to find the best one. On this episode, you'll go out to lunch with Kevin and Maddie as they taste the one burger that Kevin hasn't tried yet. Then, we talk to Paul Greenberg, a lifelong fisherman and bestselling author of the books "Four Fish" and "American Catch." Paul also tried an extreme diet for a year: Instead of land meats, he ate...

Duration: 00:32:14

36 – Trumpcare’s Assault on Your Dinner

What’s going to happen if I get hurt or sick? That’s what many people are asking themselves as the Trump administration attempts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act. But a group you don't often hear from on this issue is farmers—and they are very worried about how they’ll be able to afford to take care of themselves. That’s bad news for the future of the nation’s farms—and eaters. On today’s episode, Politico food and agriculture reporter Helena Bottemiller Evich explains why. Then,...

Duration: 00:23:19

35 – We Watch “Game of Thrones” for the Food Porn

What do you serve wedding guests you’re about to murder? What’s a modern substitute for dog sausage? Chelsea Monroe-Cassel, co-author of A Feast of Ice and Fire: The Official Game of Thrones Companion Cookbook, has the answers. Plus, she’ll give you tips on what to cook for your season 7 dinner party. We also hear from an antique-cookbook collector about ancient Rome’s stinkiest recipe. Then Kiera interviews Michael Ruhlman, author of Grocery: The Buying and Selling of Food in America,...

Duration: 00:30:10

34 – You Are What You Eat, Donald Trump

As President Donald Trump adapts to his new life as the most powerful leader in the country, his food choices have remained curiously stodgy. Steaks doused in ketchup, chocolate soufflé, wedges of iceberg lettuce served with creamy dressing: "He basically has the eating habits of someone who was spending lots of time and money in fine dining establishments in the early '80s and late '70s," says Slate political correspondent Jamelle Bouie, our first guest on this week’s episode. Bouie also...

Duration: 00:29:52

33 – Inside Silicon Valley's Race to the Best Fake Meat

Scientists and entrepreneurs have taken vegetables to a whole new level by devising futuristic proteins that may finally be tasty enough to convince carnivores. Jenny takes you on a tour of a few of these start-ups and their plans to scale up, and then heads inside a special college class aimed at making fake meat better. Then Kiera interviews Dr. Andrew Freeman, a cardiologist who has started recommending a plant-based diet to his patients.

Duration: 00:22:23

32 – As a Fat Person, "I Felt Like I Always Had to Apologize for Myself"

Has anyone ever teased you about your size? On today’s episode, we talk all about fat shaming—and we hear from two amazing writers who try not to internalize all the messages about the importance of being skinny. First up, writer Lindy West, author of the book Shrill and many pieces about body image, including one for The Stranger called “Hello, I Am Fat.” Then Maddie interviews Samantha Irby, who writes the blog Bitches Gotta Eat, and has a hilarious new collection of essays called We Are...

Duration: 00:31:22

31 – Everything You Love About Food Means Nothing to This Guy

In this age of food porn, gourmet Instagram feeds, and restaurant pilgrimages, what’s it like if you’re just not that into food? On this week’s episode of Bite, Tom talks to Vox cofounder Dylan Matthews, the soylent-loving, cooking-averse political journalist who “eats to survive” and not for pleasure. Dylan also has a few hot food tips for non-foodies. Plus, the Bite crew reviews a fork made of French fries and a few other dumb new food inventions.

Duration: 00:22:48

30 – Sex, Drugs, and Oysters: What It's Really Like to Work at a Fancy Restaurant

In Stephanie Danler’s novel Sweetbitter, it takes Tess, a 22-year-old waitress new to Manhattan, about three months to master the art of balancing three plates on one arm. In the same amount of time, Tess adapts to a life of champagne and cocaine-addled adventures. In this episode, Stephanie dishes about how her own experiences—working as a back-waiter, bartender, and restaurant manager in New York City—informed the novel. Plus: What’s your favorite comfort food in the age of Trump?

Duration: 00:26:46

29 – This Simple Advice Completely Changed the Way I Eat

Writer and chef Samin Nosrat distills cooking into four basic elements: salt, fat, acid, heat. In this episode, she reveals secrets about using one of them to transform what you cook—and her advice changed how Maddie was tasting food for the days following. Maddie and Samin conduct a taste test, and Samin reveals how she clinched her first cooking job at Chez Panisse, and dishes on what it took to win over Alice Water. Plus, Tom reveals some of his own home cooking tricks.

Duration: 00:25:11

28 – What a Cool New Podcast About Shipping Can Teach You About Coffee

That cuppa joe you just sipped? Its long journey to your cup was made possible by shipping containers—those rectangular metal boxes that carry everything from TVs to clothes to frozen shrimp. And there’s a whole host of characters whose lives revolve around this precious cargo: gruff captains, hearty cooks, perceptive coffee tasters, and competitive tugboat pilots. This is the world journalist Alexis Madrigal illuminates in his new podcast Containers. Alexis tells us how the fancy coffee...

Duration: 00:32:38

27 – The Bizarre, True-Crime Story of New England’s Seafood King

If you’ve ever eaten cod from New England, chances are you’ve helped build the empire of Carlos Rafael, the crime boss whose fishy business has earned him the nickname “The Codfather.” In this episode, Kiera interviews journalist Ben Goldfarb about his recent Mother Jones feature on the rise and fall of this larger-than-life character. Featured: FBI agents posing as the Russian mob, Rafael’s Machiavellian backstory, and the moody atmosphere of the Massachusetts fishing town of New Bedford....

Duration: 00:28:34

26 - The Science of Why People Don’t Believe in Food Science

When Atlantic journalist and physician James Hamblin investigated the world of gluten-free products, he found a $23 billion industry of "detox courses," custom blood tests, and specially formulated foods—but no medical evidence that avoiding gluten is good for people who don't have celiac disease. Kiera interviews Hamblin, author of the new book If Our Bodies Could Talk: A Guide to Operating and Maintaining a Human Body, about the gluten-free boondoggle, how multivitamins can make people...

Duration: 00:26:18

25 – Is Your Favorite Restaurant Standing Up for Immigrants?

Tom and Maddie pay visits to owners of “sanctuary restaurants”—eateries that are standing up for their workers’ rights as the Trump administrations vows to crack down on illegal immigrants. Penny Baldado—who owns a café in Oakland, California, famous for its adobo sandwiches—is an immigrant herself; she’s originally from the Philippines. When she was undocumented, “I moved in the world with a lot of fear,” she tells Maddie. She now relishes the opportunity to offer both employees and...

Duration: 00:26:36

24 - Somali Refugees Make Better Pancakes

Maddie pays a visit to a mother-daughter team of Somali chefs in Oakland, California. Before arriving in the United States, Halimo and Fatuma lived in the largest refugee camp in the world, in Kenya. There, they used UN rations to concoct Somali delicacies, including the paper-thin pancakes that they teach Maddie to make. Then, Tom talks with science writer Ed Yong about the trillions of bugs living inside our bodies, and why there’s no such thing as “good” and “bad” bacteria.

Duration: 00:23:14

23 - Save the Chocolate

Chocolate—ah, glorious chocolate,” says today’s guest Simran Sethi at the start of our interview. In her new book Bread, Wine, Chocolate: The Slow Loss of Foods We Love, Simran regards this beloved treat with a mix of reverence and concern. Chocolate is threatened, but there are ways to ensure its survival, Simran explains. Maddie examines another part of your dinner that’s under threat in the Bay Area, and Tom divulges how beer made advanced civilizations possible.

Duration: 00:26:42

22 - You Don’t Get Fat For the Reasons You Think

Avoid potato chips. Watch less TV. Run more. Get surgery. You’ve heard dozens of reasons about why people get fat, and what they should do about it. But today’s guests have some theories about obesity that might not sound so familiar. Biochemist and author Sylvia Tara always had trouble staving off pounds—and then she learned about some truly surprising causes of weight gain. Journalist Gary Taubes thinks obesity can mostly be blamed on one single ingredient. And he thinks that another...

Duration: 00:26:21

21 – The Secret Lives of Chefs

Why do so many chefs get tattoos? That’s just one question we asked this week’s guests, journalist Isaac Fitzgerald and illustrator Wendy McNaughton, the duo behind the new book Knives and Ink: Chefs and the Stories Behind Their Tattoos. Also on this week’s episode, we talk with food writer Kat Kinsman about the epidemic rates of anxiety and depression among chefs—and why mental health is still a taboo subject in kitchens.

Duration: 00:31:31

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