Podcast Idea: Food Wars
A podcast about regional food identity, and who really has the best biscuits.
Description: Every real city has an iconic food (or maybe more than one, if you’re a real mega-center like New York or Delhi). Regions have foods they’re proud of too — don’t even bother with a biscuit outside the south, and I can personally attest that bagels beyond New York City are a one way ticket to doughy depression. But to become the best, the iconic, THE symbolic food of a city, county, or even state, you have to do battle with all kinds of challengers. Food Wars is about those battles — the arguments die-hard fans have about what really makes a cheese steak, or a hot chicken, or a samosa — and the places where food victory is won and lost.
Editor’s note (that’s me, Rose, the “editor”): Food podcasts are notoriously hard to do, but I think this one works because it’s not a how-to or a discussion of cooking. It’s about places and regional rivalries and big personalities. It’s about debate and posturing. It’s about ego. And podcasts are nothing if ego machines.
Host: Sohla El-Waylly, my favorite Bon Appetit YouTube person GIVE HER MORE VIDEOS YOU COWARDS!!!!*
Executive Producer: Okay this is embarrassing SOMEONE DM’d me with this idea and I can’t find it now so whoever you are please reply to this so I can credit you I’m sorry my DM’s are a cesspool of literal dick picks.**
Comps: Gastropod meets Food Actually meets “Is a hot dog a sandwich” debates.
Sample Episode 1: Chile Conundrum I recently had “Frito pie” for the first time and let me tell you: it’s good people. I was then informed that there’s something called “Skyline chile” which honestly sounds disgusting. On this episode, Sohla navigates the wild world of chile. Beans or no beans? What kind of meat? Fritos, pasta, rice? Things get heated as she travels around and tries to understand how each locale came to their peculiar chile recipe, and why people are so comitted to what’s in their pot.
Sample Episode 2: Biscuit Bonanza When Amanda Mull wrote about the science of biscuit making for The Atlantic, she did not expect it to be a story that garnered hate mail. But that’s exactly what happened, in part because Mull suggested that biscuits made anywhere but the southern US simply didn’t have the right flour, which meant that biscuits made anywhere but the southern US weren’t good. Readers doth protestsed too much, and The Atlantic even did a follow up with reader comments. Any southerner can tell you that people’s reuptations can live and die by their biscuits, on and on this episode Sohla tries to get to the bottom of the great biscuit flour rivalry.
Sample Episode 3: Sambhar Situation South Indian cooking is having a moment in New York City right now (according to articles I have read, which may or may not be true). As chefs try to direct diners slowly away from Americanized dishes like tikka masala, they often have to think about how and when to replicate their regional favorites. Sambhar can be made in many ways — sweeter, with lentils, without, with more veggies, without — and different people argue that different preparations are better. On this episode, Sohla explores what happens when regional preferences collide with the realities of New York City diners, and how chefs cook with that tension in mind.
Audience: People who watch Gourmet Makes but turn it off when it gets to the part about how to actually make the thing because who the hell wants to do that?
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* Hosts and guests have not signed on in any way. I’m making stuff up here!
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Long live independent podcasts. Long live bad ideas.