First Thing, Daily Maverick's flagship newsletter

Join the 230 000 South Africans who read First Thing newsletter.

What’s on your plate: Stories about food, politics an...

Maverick Life


What’s on your plate: Stories about food, politics and identity

Image design Leila Dougan for Maverick Life

‘Cooking is a little gift in every day. It’s a little opportunity to feel like you’ve done something and created something.’ says author, chef and TV host Samin Nosrat. In this week’s review, we explore the stories behind the Gatsby, bone broth and much more.

Much has been written about the world’s renewed enthusiasm for cooking and baking – especially sourdough bread – as countries around the globe went into lockdown. From thinking differently about what we eat, or learning more about the vulnerability of global food chains in times of lockdown, to learning new recipes, food can be as tasteful, yummy and exciting as it is political. This week, we dive into shows that talk about how cuisine is tied to national identity in the Middle East; linked to forced removals during apartheid, and tangled with immigrant experiences in the US. Listen in and be prepared to think differently about what’s on your plate.


The Delicious Gatsby History, Identity and Politics – The Eusebius McKaiser Show (Radio 702)

Length: 49 minutes
Format: Single episode
Year: 2019
Listen on: Omny Studio or any other podcast app or streaming service

Traditional radio broadcast is reinventing itself in the digital age, repackaging and archiving segments as podcasts so that we can all listen back in our own time. In this conversation, well-known local radio personalities Eusebius McKaiser and Lester Kiewit are joined by researcher, Tazneem Wentzel, to explore the history of the Gatsby. Through this delicious sandwich, Wentzel traces the history of forced removals and racial discrimination in Cape Town. Take a listen and learn about the effect of apartheid on race, identity and food.

For more delectable delights from Radio 702 and Cape Talk, tune your ears to the following programmes: Foodies Anna Trapido and Vashna Jagarnath help take listeners through the historical background of the kota and Exploring the art of foraging.

Read further: This New Frame story about ‘The complex history of Cape Muslim cuisine’ by Ishay Govender.


Bone Broth – Richard’s Famous Food Podcast

Length: 35 minutes
Format: Single episode
Year: 2015
Listen on: Apple Podcasts, Stitcher or any other podcast app or streaming service

The best way to describe this wildly unique show is like a cartoon for your ears. Think about over the top rapid-fire sound effects, colours and characters that you associate with cartoons and now think about how that would translate into a podcast about food. That’s Richard’s Famous Food Podcast, a dizzying, hilarious and irreverent look at food culture, starting with the recent bone broth fad. Voicing most of the characters and creating much of the elaborate sound design with his own vocal cords, Richard Parks III pokes fun at food crazes and snobbery. This is a wild ride of a show that is overflowing with flavour, satire and sound.

For a taste of what to expect, read this Sydney Morning Herald profile of the show and its creator, Richard Parks III.


56 – Operation Hummus and More Stories of War and Peace and Food from Israel and Ramallah – The Kitchen Sisters Present (Radiotopia)

Length: 31 minutes
Format: Single episode
Year: 2016
Listen on: Apple Podcasts, Stitcher or any other podcast app or streaming service

The so-called Hummus Wars between Israel and Lebanon over who can lay claim to hummus as their national dish is at the centre of this fascinating story about food and politics. With their signature style of using the bare minimum of narration and maximising field recordings to create a sense of place rich with the texture of multiple voices, the Kitchen Sisters dig into how hummus became a symbol of competing national identities. The race to break the Guinness World Record for the largest tub of hummus brings into sharp relief the competing Jewish and Arab claims to the cultures and traditions of the Middle East. The genius of this story is how it uses a simple dish as a prism through which to view a very complex history. Bonus, if you visit the page for this episode, you’ll also find extra information, including Yotam Ottolenghi’s hummus recipe, yum!

If you want to hear more of the Kitchen Sisters’ stories about food, you’re in luck. The creators of the show, Davia Nelson and Nikki Silva, have a whole series dedicated to the subject called Hidden Kitchens. A favourite is Kimchi Diplomacy, stories of how this Korean staple can bridge even the biggest divides.


Cooking In An Immigrant Time Warp With Maangchi – The Sporkful (Stitcher)

Length: 34 minutes
Format: Single episode
Year: 2020

Listen on: Stitcher, Apple Podcasts, Spotify or any other podcast app or streaming service

The charming Maangchi, described as Youtube’s Korean Julia Child by The New York Times, makes this two-way interview sparkle with humour, deliciousness and delight. Maangchi charts her move from South Korea to the US in the early ‘90s, her work with victims of domestic abuse in Canada, her video game addiction and her rise to stardom through cooking videos. By the end of the episode you’ll be laughing along with Dan Pashman, the host of this award-winning food podcast, and learning about the role of Korean food in the recent Oscar-winning movie, Parasite.


Can Anyone Learn To Cook? A Life Through Food with Samin Nosrat – The Food Programme (BBC Radio 4)

Length: 28 minutes
Format: Single episode
Year: 2019
Listen on: BBC Sounds or any other podcast app or streaming service

In real time, Samin Nosrat of Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat fame takes listeners through cooking pasta with clams. Interweaving Nosrat’s life story with her approach to cooking and teaching, this charming interview cut together with music, narration and sounds of the kitchen is both practical and philosophical. As Nosrat says, “Cooking is a little gift in every day. It’s a little opportunity to feel like you’ve done something and created something.” Listen and then head to your kitchen to create some mouthwatering dishes.

Want more from Samin Nosrat? Check out our earlier review of the podcast Home Cooking made by Nosrat and Hrishikesh Hirway of Song Exploder and The West Wing Weekly fame.

If you’re wondering how to listen to these audio gems, local podcast organisation, Sound Africa, has prepared a handy guide to show you how.

Happy listening! DM/ ML/ TGIF

If you have thoughts on what this podcast review could cover, please let us know! Email us at [email protected]

Missed last week’s edition? Click below to read it.

The many influences of fashion on culture and the world


Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted