The purpose of this project was to search for and analyze three food podcasts which related to each other. After hunting through pages of options, I decided on podcasts which each looked at the addictive role food can play. These three choices were, “Caffeine: The World’s Most Popular Drug”, from Gastropod, “Sugar and its Dark History” from A Taste of the Past, and “This Is Your Brain on Cheesesteak”, from The Sporkful. Each varied in how they used the medium, ultimatley contributing to the listener's take away of their message.
Starting off, the Gastropod podcast came about thanks to a viewer question about how much caffeine is in different beverages. The main idea appeared to be that caffeine is perfectly harmless when enjoyed in moderation. Today’s notion is that everyone is tired and busy all the time so rather than fix the problem by getting more sleep, down this cup of Joe instead. To this, Mark Bittman might agree that the general population feels they are too busy to truly take care of themselves. He explains in an article titled “Is Junk Food Really Cheaper?”, that people are stressed with all they have to do and don’t want to take time to cook. I would agree with this notion that the American lifestyle is too focused around a quick fix. This is not to say that a casual espresso can’t be enjoyed, it is more targeted at those that need cup after cup each day to function. As explained by a guest, caffeine can be mildly addictive but it is much easier to quit cold turkey than an actual drug. In this way, the content of the episode calms the listener from the initial shock of the title. Early on, the function of caffeine was explained by, Murray Carpenter. He said caffeine blocks a neurotransmitter, adenosine, which is what tells us we’re tired. This and the addictive nature contribute to the thought of caffeine as a drug. But, the several advantages of caffeine stated convinced me the narrators were trying to portray it positively. These included, producing the Age of Reason and increased athletic performance. Altogether, this podcast gave insight into caffeine’s past and the positive impacts it can have when enjoyed responsibly.
The audio began with a blooper of sorts to draw the audience in. The two hosts and their friend Jeff, talked about how Jeff doesn’t like when he’s without his caffeine. Soon after, the sound of brewing coffee can be heard. I thought this was an effective introduction because it gave listeners a relatable scenario, setting the tone. As it went on, the podcast was rather causal, with a blend of narration and interviews. I felt it was necessary to insert points from the guest journalists because it gave support to the hosts’ claims. Finally, the theme music wrapped up the podcast. Overall, I felt there could have been a bit more sounds and music to keep the listener attentive, I had to go back and re-listen to portions at times.
The second episode came from A Taste Of The Past. The main idea involved the history of sugar and how it came to be so prevalent in today’s society. The information came mostly from journalist, Andrew F. Smith with questions from the host, Linda Pelaccio. Andrew explained sugar’s history, giving particular merit to colonial times. Smith also addressed how sugar played a role in alcohol production. When sugar cane plants are stripped of their juices they ferment and are able to be used to produce rum and beer-like beverages. Moving to present times, Smith said that in laboratory studies rats became addicted to sugar to the point where they would choose to starve on rat food in favor of sugar. He elaborated, saying that this addictiveness is a major concern in relation to all the sugar in our processed foods. On this point, I questioned why the food industry would be so careless to health of the consumer in producing these products. A question that seems to encompass much of this class. Smith said that just about all processed foods’ main ingredients are sucrose disguised by another chemical name. Among other things, this reminds me of Prego spaghetti sauce. As Michael Moss says in his 2013 article, “The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food”, “[a] mere half-cup of Prego Traditional, for instance, has the equivalent of more than two teaspoons of sugar, as much as two-plus Oreo cookies” (5). I feel that both Moss and Smith would agree that sugar does not make sense in spaghetti sauce. But this encompasses all that is bliss point, if putting salt, sugar, and fat in odd places makes it taste better, food companies are going to do it. Moving on, Linda asked Andy about beet sugar and seemed determined to find out how it was different from cane sugar. I was puzzled by this because Andy continued to say to her that it was sucrose, just the same. Her persistence on this point seemed out of place and took away from the podcast towards the end. All in all, this piece highlighted the checkered history of sugar and sugar’s role in public health today.
This podcast began with song from a flute, leading into the host beginning to speak. This came off very elegant and made me feel as though this would be a thoughtful, academic piece. That turned out to be exactly right, as Linda interviewed Andy for the entirety of the podcast. I feel the podcast lacked adequate use of sounds and effects, listeners may have grown bored. Furthermore, there was a short break in the middle in which easy listening music was played. The information seemed to take a typical trip through history in chronological order. However, upon Andrew finishing his thought on present-day sugar consequences, Linda turned the conversation back towards colonial times. This was an unexpected move that improved my intrigue in the podcast. The interview style continued through the rest of the podcast with the same flute tune concluding the content.
The third podcast was characterized by what makes certain foods so irresistible. Narrator, Dan Pashman went around to Philadelphia restaurants sampling three local favorites: scrapple, pork sandwiches, and cheesesteak sandwiches. He then took these foods to the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia to get the science behind this famous fare. Once there, Dr. Marcie Pelchat broke it down for Dan, emphasizing our notion towards salt and fat. This provoked some thoughts in me. Why are we drawn to these? is it because we have taste buds with pleasure receptors for these tastes? It was not totally clear. Dr. Marcie explained more about Dan’s food tour, certainly touching on the Philadelphia’s crown jewel. She said a cheesesteak has people coming back because the cheese whiz is processed, so the high salt and fat create a pleasing taste which triggers our brains to want more.
Immediately the listener is drawn into this podcast by the sound of a flight attendant announcing a plane’s arrival into Philadelphia. Afterward, music is played and continued at a low tone as Dan begins to introduce the show. This seemed to enhance what he was saying by adding flavor to his words. The style was causal, the podcast was almost entirely Dan going around to the different eateries and Monell interviewing people. As Dan travelled to the different places, lively music was played when speaking stopped. Finally, the podcast concluded with the same theme music that came after the flight attendant.
The content of each podcast looked at how food (and drink) can be addictive. In each case, the food is eaten and triggers a brain activity which makes the person feel good. All of these cause the brain to tell the person basically, that’s good, have more. This is seen particularly in the A Taste of the Past and The Sporkful episodes, but also for caffeine, it may just take the creeping in of drowsiness to reinforce it. This ties into what we’ve discussed in class about food science which in many cases food scientists are on a mission to create just the right combination of taste and future want.
As far as design goes, the podcasts showed both similarities and differences. Each featured sounds and music at the beginning and end, with portions of music under narration as well. All three podcasts had guests but differed in the style they were presented. The Gastropod episode had two guests that were around for the entire podcast giving their takes. The A Taste of The Past episode was a one on one interview with the guest giving much of the important information. While The Sporkful episode, had a variety of guests which Dan interviewed along the way from each of the three restaurants and the Senses Center. In general, The Sporkful and Gastropod podcasts came off as light and casual. While, the A Taste of the Past episode seemed meant to be scholastic and more structured. I found The Sporkful episode to be the most engaging for its use of sounds and overall style.