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Bite

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.

Weekly hand curated podcast episodes for learning

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A Science-Loving Chef's Guide to Eating Safely Right Now

Whether you’re in lockdown or beginning to ease your way back into public life—you still need to eat every day. And the questions are still swirling: Are groceries safe? Should I reheat food when I bring it home? Does my delivery meal pose a risk? There’s no better expert on evidence-based advice about all things food than chef and writer J. Kenji López-Alt. He has all the answers you’re craving on this week’s episode of Bite. 

24mins

29 May 2020

Rank #1

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48 – This Science Will Make You Feel Better About What You Eat

Have you ever wondered why some foods make you feel more full than others? Or why when you’re stressed out you turn to your mom’s mac and cheese recipe? Our guest Rachel Herz is a psychologist and cognitive neuroscientist who studies why we eat what we eat. Kiera talks to her about how your culture influences your cravings, and why the outcome of the Super Bowl could make you eat healthier. Plus: Tom breaks down why the Farm Bill is actually interesting.

24mins

26 Jan 2018

Rank #2

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47 – Not Just Granola: How Hippies Reinvented American Cuisine

If you enjoy avocado toast and power bowls, thank a hippie. On this episode, Tom talks to Jonathan Kauffmann, whose new book is about how the 1960s counterculture gave way to some of today's most popular American dishes. Plus, Maddie talks to New York Times reporter Nellie Bowles about why some people are rejecting tap water in favor of pricey, untreated H20.

30mins

12 Jan 2018

Rank #3

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8 - Michael Pollan – Magic Mushrooms

You know Michael Pollan from his blockbuster book The Omnivore's Dilemma or his most recent title, Cooked, which was adapted by Netflix as a documentary series. But the celebrity author hasn't always been so obsessed with what people eat. "Before I started writing about food, my focus was really on the human relationship to plants," Michael tells us. "Not only do plants nourish us bodily—they nourish us psychologically.” Now he's researching flora with psychedelic properties for a new book. Part of the project covers recent experimental trials using psilocybin (a compound found in magic mushrooms) to treat cancer patients' anxiety about death. Plus: How much do you know about ayahuasca? And what Amazonian creature did Michael munch on in Brazil?

50mins

17 Jun 2016

Rank #4

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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 reveals how he got into cooking as a broke college student, and has some tips on stretching out your food budget. Then Kiera talks to Civil Eats founder and editor-in-chief Naomi Starkman about how to stay optimistic in these “anxiety-producing” times. 

26mins

30 Jun 2017

Rank #5

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54 – Did Drinking Give Me Cancer?

Mother Jones Senior Reporter Stephanie Mencimer just wrote a blockbuster story that weaves together her own breast cancer diagnosis and the disturbing history of the alcohol industry downplaying the link between booze and cancer. She joins us to talk about her drinking history and how the industry courts women. Then, New York Times op-ed writer Liz Tracy reflects on what it’s like to be a sober mom in a parenting culture that’s obsessed with wine. Finally, MoJo's Becca Andrews caught up with Planned Parenthood’s outgoing CEO Cecile Richards about her new memoir and the recipes that have fueled her career. Bonus: Cecile reveals her secrets to baking the best cherry pie.

36mins

20 Apr 2018

Rank #6

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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 less healthy, and more reasons why people are so susceptible to health quackery. Then we reveal a recipe for a delicious snack created by a pro-athlete-turned-pastry-chef—the “She Persisted Bar”—to give you fuel when you’re protesting.

24mins

10 Mar 2017

Rank #7

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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?

23mins

5 May 2017

Rank #8

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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 MacNaughton, 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.

28mins

16 Dec 2016

Rank #9

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60 – (Not) Eating Animals

This episode is all about giving up meat. As novelist Jonathan Safron Foer prepared to become a father, he became increasingly irked by a question: How would he justify eating meat to his kids? The question morphed into a bestselling book, Eating Animals, which became a documentary, premiering June 15. Jonathan shares more about his reasons for going veggie, and reflects on talking about food choices in the age of Trump. Then we hear from the Vegan Bros, two all-American dudes who gave up hunting and fishing for plant-based diets. The hosts share their favorite vegetarian cookbooks. And we ask you to tell us why you became a vegetarian or vegan—even if it didn't stick. (Go to www.motherjones.com/veggie-stories)

26mins

15 Jun 2018

Rank #10

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55 – This Is the Best Kind of Milk

In this episode of Bite, we dive deep into the contentious topic of fake milk with the great Plant-Based Milk Showdown of 2018. And Tom tells us how a particular kind of alterna-milk could restore America’s farmland. Then, in honor of Mother’s Day, we talk to Aimee Lee Ball, the journalist behind the website Eat, Darling, Eat, where she collects stories about a very potent mix of topics: mothers, daughters, and food.

20mins

4 May 2018

Rank #11

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66 – The Bizarre Fad Diet Taking the Far Right by Storm

Lately, Jordan Peterson, the Canadian psychologist known for his arch-conservative politics and views on masculinity, has been talking up the virtues of carnivorism. He’s not the only extreme right winger who has an unusual relationship with meat. In today’s episode, we talk to Kelly Weill, a Daily Beast reporter who wrote about the rise of the all-meat diet in the conservative fringe. Then, University of Colorado PhD student Alexis De Coning talks about her investigation into the disturbing history of veganism among white nationalists.

25mins

7 Sep 2018

Rank #12

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How Does Your Pandemic Garden Grow?

Quarantine has prompted a burst of gardening activity around the country; some people have even likened it to the 1940s Victory Garden movement. In a third-floor apartment in Queens, two roommates have figured out how to grow a whole host of vegetables without a backyard. Then we talk to Doria Robinson, executive director of Urban Tilth in Richmond, California, to try and understand what it will take to make disaster gardens last beyond times of crisis.

22mins

15 May 2020

Rank #13

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52 – This Is Your Dinner on Weed

California recently legalized marijuana for recreational use, and gourmet chefs have pounced. Maddie takes you to a high-end edibles dinner, where fancy appetizers are infused with cannabis. Then Mother Jones fellow Jackie Mogensen talks all things edibles with the San Francisco Chronicle’s David Downs, one of the few cannabis news editors in the country. “You bet FritoLay is going to get in this space,” Downs said—“they recognize the writing on the wall.”

29mins

23 Mar 2018

Rank #14

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The Bizarre Fad Diet Taking the Far Right by Storm

Lately, Jordan Peterson, the Canadian psychologist known for his arch-conservative politics and views on masculinity, has been talking up the virtues of carnivorism. He’s not the only extreme right winger who has an unusual relationship with meat. In today’s episode, we talk to Kelly Weill, a Daily Beast reporter who wrote about the rise of the all-meat diet in the conservative fringe. Then, University of Colorado PhD student Alexis de Coning talks about her investigation into the disturbing history of veganism among white nationalists.

25mins

27 Dec 2019

Rank #15

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46 – Dinner and a Movie

Kiera interviews screenwriter Sri Rao, one of the few American-born people who’s worked on Bollywood films, and he’s learned a lot about bridging the two cultures along the way. He applies those insights in his new cookbook, title Bollywood Kitchen, which tells you how to make authentic Indian food and suggests the perfect Bollywood films to watch while enjoying it. Sri talks about the inspiration for the cookbook, which Bollywood stars he’d invite for a dinner party, and more. Plus, Maddie dishes on a new wave of pharmacies filling prescriptions for healthy food. 

16mins

15 Dec 2017

Rank #16

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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.

18mins

17 May 2019

Rank #17

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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.

17mins

22 Sep 2017

Rank #18

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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. Plus, Tom talks to Ronni Lundy, the author of a groundbreaking cookbook on the cuisine of Appalachia.

28mins

24 Mar 2017

Rank #19

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43 – Robin Sloan's Hilarious and Bizarre Food Novel

The Bite team interviews author Robin Sloan, author of the new novel Sourdough. When a gift of magical sourdough starter lands on the protagonist’s lap, she rolls up her sleeves and learns how to bake. Secretive, invite-only farmer’s markets and oblique cheese mongers soon enter the picture. Sloan, whose previous novel is Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, peppers the brisk, entertaining story with plenty of food trend send-ups along the way. Maddie and Kiera talk with Sloan about all that and more on this very special live episode of Bite.  

13mins

3 Nov 2017

Rank #20