Listened Mothers and Milk The ultimate short food chain; one person makes it, another person eats it. by Jeremy Cherfas from

A wet nurse (for that is what Hera was in all tellings of the story) created the Milky Way when her divine milk sprayed across the heavens. Today’s nursing mothers are not so blessed. Although women have a legal right to breastfeed in public across the United States and the UK (and many other countries), there are plenty of individuals who seem to think that they have the right to tell them to stop, and plenty of new mothers who are intimidated enough not to try. Why? How can this most essential of food chains possibly be considered shameful? And then there are the women who would dearly love to breastfeed their infants, but cannot. In this episode, experts on infant feeding discuss the history and current status of mothers’ milk and its various substitutes.

I never considered how much we take something like baby formula for granted. Having had a child failed to thrive due to a dairy allergy, formula with synthetic was essential in working through this.
Listened Persephone’s secret The Eleusinian Mysteries and the making of the modern economy by Jeremy Cherfas from

Elucidating the Eleusinian Mysteries is one small element in Scott Reynolds Nelson’s new book, Oceans of Grain. It looks at the many, many ways in which wheat and human history intertwine.

Jeremy Cherfas speaks with Scott Reynolds Nelson about his book Oceans of Grain. The conversations are broken up into the themes of transport, finance and empire. This series of conversations is not so much a history of wheat, but rather a history through wheat. It is fascinating to consider the impact that grain has had on so many significant historical events. I remember hearing Marilyn Lake talk about having a global perspective, this is a great example of this.

Listened Sushi From necessity to ubiquity by Jeremy Cherfas from Eat This

The California Roll was only the beginning. Or at least, the beginning of global domination. Back in the mid 1980s, when I made a documentary for BBC TV about disgust and learned food habits, we chose sushi as our exemplar of the Westerner’s idea of hard-to-understand foods. Raw fish. Cold rice. Seaweed. What’s to like? If I had known then of the rich history of sushi, I’m sure we could have made even more of its strange 1980s incarnation.
Eric Rath’s history of sushi traces the word back to its origins as a method of preserving fish through many twists and turns to today, when sushi means almost anything you want it to mean.

Another dive into the history of food. As seems to often be the case, what we appreciate as sushi today is in stark difference to the practices of preserving fish in the past.

I think the takeaway here is that sushi is a global cuisine, and what people do in Peru or Brazil, all these different types of sushi are equally as valid and that’s the amazing thing. We shouldn’t turn our noses up at the sushi bagel, or the sushi pizza, or whatever is new. It’s just all part of sushi’s long story. – Eric Rath

Listened Rachel Roddy: An A–Z of Pasta Twenty-one letters, fifty shapes, unlimited possibilities by Jeremy Cherfas from

Rachel Roddy is a marvellous conduit between the many cultures and kitchens of her adopted homeland and a world that simply cannot get enough of Italy. Her latest book is all about pasta, although she wisely recognised that there was little point in trying to be encyclopaedic. Instead, she chose 50 shapes on which to hang history, culture, personal stories and, of course, recipes and suggestions.

We met just in time for me to get this episode ready for World Pasta Day, today. We talked about the book, obviously, and also about many other aspects of pasta and Italian life. She did divulge what she is thinking of making to celebrate World Pasta Day. I won’t spoil the secret; you’ll just have to listen. What will you be making?

Listening to this discussion of pasta has me thinking about how much there is I either do not know or had never really thought about. Also, with the discussions of different regions, it has me reflecting upon how the idea of ‘Italian’ or ‘pasta’ is translated around the world to fit within the culture at hand. For example, growing up, I knew a knew a Malaysian whose Bolognese always had a kick to it.
Listened It’s coffee, but not as we know it Two long lost coffee species brought to light by Jeremy Cherfas from

I’ll be honest, I thought I was pretty savvy about coffee taxonomy knowing that there were two kinds, arabica and robusta. Not surprisingly, perhaps, a research paper about “Coffea stenophylla and C. affinis, the Forgotten Coffee Crop Species of West Africa” caught my attention. And of course, as I should have known, there are scores of different coffee species. What is particularly intriguing about C. stenophylla, however, is that in its day people considered it a very fine coffee indeed. A 1925 monograph recorded that “The beans are said, by both the natives and the French merchants, to be superior to those of all other species.”

Another great listen Jeremy. I also like the new collections page.
Listened 🎧 Disputations about taste by Jeremy CherfasJeremy Cherfas from

Episode summary: Taste is a very curious thing. We understand that how we taste something is almost entirely subjective, that while it depends to some extent on the physical and chemical properties of the things we’re tasting, the sensation is overlaid with all sorts of cultural and personal memories. Unless you have access to all of those, there’s nothing you can say about my taste. Except, we do that all the time. We slip easily from taste being indisputable to good taste and bad taste and from there to making taste the basis of moral judgements. What’s more, this is nothing new. These thoughts, and many more, were prompted by a new book: Food Fights: How History Matters to Contemporary Food Debates. It contains two chapters that cover taste directly (and a third that considers food choice from a slightly different point of view). In an effort to straighten myself out on the subject, I talked to the two chapter authors, and they’re going to be the guests in at least the next two episodes. In the first instance, Margot Finn…

Jeremy, I was intrigued by the discussion of the taste for chilli food.
Listened Russian Food: Old and New North of the Acrtic Circle, the Roots of Russian Food by Jeremy Cherfas from

Darra Goldstein combines a scholar’s knowledge of history and literature with a cook’s interest in recipes and ingredients. She had already written extensively on food across the vast Soviet empire, but more recently turned her attention to a search for what she calls “the true heart of Russian food“. She found it on the Kola Peninsula, a wild and forbidding part of Russia right at the top of Scandinavia. Our conversation, prompted by her new book, went further afield to include glimpses of food revivals and innovation in Russia today.

Interesting as always Jeremy.
Listened Orange-fleshed sweet potato to feed hidden hunger – No-one wakes up saying ‘I crave vitamin A today’ by Jeremy Cherfas from

Marketing campaign for orange-fleshed sweet potato
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podcast cover artwork There is more to good nu…

Jeremy, this is another intriguing episode. You always leave me thinking and seeing the world differently.
Replied to Eat This Newsletter 118: Toot toot (

I’ve got this far, so I may as well continue to self-promote like crazy. You may remember Suzanne Dunaway telling me about how she started and then sold a fabulous artisan bakery in Los Angeles. Suzanne was one of the first authors to write about no-knead bread, so it was something of a pleasure to discover that she is also something of a no-gardening gardener. Her story of broad beans and radishes made me smile and sent me outside in search of neglected dill weed and sweetpeas.

Jeremy, I really enjoyed the piece on no-garden gardening:

In January, with faith in Mother Nature (and confident the earth under the hemp layer was alive with worms), I literally walked away from playing gardener. I threw away the two full packets of lettuce and radish seeds I’d intended to plant. I tossed a bit of cover dirt and replaced the mulch. After which I put the garden out of my mind.

This year I have stepped back. I bought a chilli plant in hope, as well as a zucchini, but in the end I just let it go. I have subsequently had tomatoes pop-up all through the garden, as well as various herbs, without the usual stress and rigour.

Replied to Another cup of coffee culture Making friends with espresso by Jeremy Cherfas (

Last episode, Jonathan Morris told me about the rise of coffee culture in Italy and how that changed as it made the move to London. Even long after the first proper espresso machines appeared in Soho, the UK was not a huge coffee drinker. Not so the United States, where coffee became an essential drug for the Union during the Civil War. In this episode, Jonathan Morris tells me how the habit lingered and grew into the bottomless cup of diner coffee. Along the way, we talked about Starbucks and about Friends, and the true history of the flat white.

Another interesting conversation with Jonathan Morris about the history of coffee, including a diplomatic discussion of the difference between Expresso and Nespresso.
Listened Pushing good coffee Beyond merely fair in search of ethical trade by Jeremy Cherfas from

Walking down the supermarket aisle in search of coffee, I have this warm inner glow. If I choose a pack that boasts the Fair Trade logo, or that of any other third-party certifying agency, I’ll be doing good just by paying a little more for something that I am going to buy anyway. The extra I pay will find its way to the poor farmers who grow the coffee, and together enlightened coffee drinkers can make their lives better. But it seems I’m at least somewhat mistaken. Certified coffee is certainly better than nothing, but it isn’t doing as much good as I fondly imagine. And the price premium I pay could be doing a lot more.

In this episode I hear about coffee that’s more ethical than fair, and about some of the ways in which Fair Trade falls short.

I came upon this episode via Jeremy Cherfas’ response to two podcasts exploring coffee: In Our Time and Wake Up and Smell the Coffee.
Listened Cashews, the World Bank, and Mozambique A misguided policy that did nobody any good by Jeremy Cherfas from

Jeremy Chefas discusses the history of cashews and the arrival in Mozambique via the Portuguese. He then discusses the challenges associated with production and cheaper labour in India. The catch with ‘cheaper’ is that this comes with an often hidden cost to the women when do the processing with the support of their children.
Listened Better baking through chemistry The food fight that changed the US constitution by Jeremy Cherfas from
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Linda Civitello is a food historian whose latest book is Baking Powder Wars: the cutthr…

Jeremy Cherfas continues his investigation into baking and bread with this investigation into baking powder. He speaks with food historian Linda Civitello about her latest book Baking Powder Wars: the cutthroat food fight that revolutionized cooking.
Listened Is that a pickle … Let’s not argue about definitions by Jeremy Cherfas from Eat This

To me, a pedant and a purist, a pickle by rights ought to have gone through a proper fermentation. It might have been pasteurised afterwards and bottled, but at some stage it needs to have supported microbial activity. And yet, I don’t think of kombucha as pickled tea or yoghurt as pickled milk. Maybe that’s because they aren’t salted. Just being boiled in vinegar or soaked in brine doesn’t qualify either, for me.

Luckily Jan Davison, author of Pickles: A Global History, has a much more open mind, which is great, because I learned a lot from her little book. And it gave us plenty to talk about.

Listened Bread as it ought to be Seylou Bakery in Washington DC by Jeremy Cherfas from Eat This Podcast

Jonathan Bethony is one of the leading artisanal bakers in America, but he goes further than most, milling his own flour and baking everything with a hundred percent of the whole grain. He’s also going beyond wheat, incorporating other cereals such as millet and sorghum in the goodies Seylou is producing. I happened to be in Washington DC just a couple of weeks after his new bakery had opened, and despite all the work that goes into getting a new bakery up and running, Jonathan graciously agreed to sit down and chat.

One of the things that really struck me in this conversation was the produce influencing the product. Jonathan Bethony talks about the different forms of grain and finding the right type of bread to bake with it. Rather than depending on adding sugars, alcohol and herbs, the Bethany explains that the grains provide all the flavour required. This reminds me of the notion of the assemblage and learning that occurs between the different parts.