Imagine trying to eat spaghetti without a fork. This was the reality for hungry medieval Italians, who didn’t have much luck at shoveling in spaghetti without one, leading to the creation of the utensil.
That interesting fact, along with other silverware-related histories, comes from Gastropod, a new podcast out today from food journalists Cynthia Graber and Nicola Twilley. Gastropod is not, like other food-focused shows, about cooking. “Each episode, we look at the hidden history and surprising science behind a different food and/or farming-related topic, from aquaculture to ancient feasts, from cutlery to chile peppers, and from microbes to Malbec,” the Gastropub site explains.
Twilley and Graber are both well versed in the food-as-culture phenomenon. Twilley recently published an engrossing article on how dumplings explain global warming and China’s developing economy in the New York Times magazine. The two met at a food journalism fellowship at UC Berkeley.
The first episode focuses on the “atomic history of cutlery,” beginning with the Italians and bringing us through the rise of flatware-related etiquette. “We assume these forms of eating gadgetry are enabling us to eat more easily, whereas in a way they’re just creating all these obstacles to the process of just putting foods in our mouths,” Bee Wilson, food historian and author of Consider the Fork, says in the episode.
Listen to the full 45-minute episode below, and check back in a month for the next installment.