Proof

Proof Podcast

We tell the weird and surprising and funny backstories around food and drink. The tales we haven’t all heard yet, the ones that have been lost, the under-told. This is not a recipe show. And this is not a show about celebrity chefs or what they like to eat. Proof goes beyond recipes and cooking to investigate the foods we love (tiki drinks) and don't love (the grain bowl); ask the big questions (where do food cravings come from?); and uncover the hidden backstories that feed your food-obsessed brain. Hosted by Bridget Lancaster. A production of America's Test Kitchen.

Proof Presents: The Walk-In
In this special episode of Proof, Bridget Lancaster talks with America’s Test Kitchen Executive Editor Elle Simone Scott about Elle’s new podcast, The Walk-In. Then, food historian Dr. Jessica B. Harris steps into The Walk-In with Elle. Food historian, author, and educator Dr. Jessica B. Harris gives Elle advice only an Auntie can. They talk about growing up as an only child, the magic of HBCUs, and how the pandemic has changed Dr. Harris' perspective....

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Hive Heist
A new branch of crime has emerged in central California under cover of mass almond groves: the theft of beehives. Why? Because they’re really valuable. The American honey economy has crashed, leading beekeepers to find other sources of income for their bees. The burgeoning US Almond industry was just the key. But it's a dangerous gig for the bees, making their hive rental fees steep and a perfect target for organized crime....

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You're a Good Man, Brady Keys
After Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination in 1968, Civil Rights leaders, fast food corporations, and the Nixon administration began an unlikely collaboration: to promote “Black Capitalism” in the fast food industry. The idea was this: promoting Black franchise business ownership in Black neighborhoods could improve the quality of Black life in America. Brady Keys was the king of Nixon’s Black capitalism. He received upwards of 9 million dollars in federal money to develop his fast food franchise, All-Pr...

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You’re a Good Man, Brady Keys
After Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination in 1968, Civil Rights leaders, fast food corporations, and the Nixon administration began an unlikely collaboration: to promote “Black Capitalism” in the fast food industry. The idea was this: promoting Black franchise business ownership in Black neighborhoods could improve the quality of Black life in America. Brady Keys was the king of Nixon’s Black capitalism. He received upwards of 9 million dollars in federal money to develop his fast food franchise, All-Pr...

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The Case of the Disappearing Franchise
Historian/Fast-food Detective Marcia Chatelain is our guide as we explore the cases of American fast food franchises that once were, until they vanished without a trace. The Mid-century was the height of fast-food franchising: McDonalds, KFC, White Castle. But what about the chains that didn’t survive? From pyramid schemes and copycats to acquisitions and fish wars, we explore the culprits in the cases of the disappearing franchise....

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The Mysterious Yamei Kin
Dr. Yamei Kin was orphaned by her parents at a young age, and adopted by missionaries. She became one of the first Chinese women to receive a medical degree. In the 1910s, the USDA hired Dr. Kin to research high-protein foods in light of World War I shortages. But she was never able to position tofu as a respectable ingredient in the American diet. Why wasn’t the West ready for Tofu?...

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Will The Real Mr. Oreo Please Stand Up?
A collaboration with Business Insider’s Brought To You By. In this three-part story, we tell the history of the Biscuit Wars of the early 1900s. Then, we learn of one woman’s relationship with Oreos as an expression of rebellion to her Jewish roots’ Kosher rules. Lastly, we also uncover the real story behind Mr. Oreo, the man who somehow got credit for inventing the current Oreo cream filling. Read Marjorie Ingall's essay about the Oreo Stella Parks, BraveTart: Iconic American DessertsRead from Business Ins...

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The Search for the Queerest Food
In John Birdsall’s 2014 article, "America, Your Food is so Gay," he describes a particularly indulgent cheese burger as "unflinchingly queer." For reporter Chad Chenail, this sparked a journey of self-discovery through queer theory, all in an attempt to answer the question: What is the Queerest food?...

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Season 5 starts August 20
Queer food, beehive theft, Nixon-sponsored fast food, and searching for Mr. Oreo. We're back with more of the food stories you love. Tune in for Season 5 of Proof beginning August 20....

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Summer Cocktails 101
According to cocktail expert Dan Zucarello, the basic Daiquiri might be the queen of all cocktails. Learn these cocktail fundamentals, and your summer will be filled with delicious drinks....

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Wine and Whisky Copycats
Some new wines and spirits are being created in the lab, not the cask. Using flavor technology, companies are able to replicate artisan wines and spirits at a fraction of the price. But, is there art in that too?...

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Quaran-tiny Sourdough Starter
Creating a sourdough starter can be difficult during a pandemic. Sourdough Guru, Andrew Janjigian is here to help....

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Science Diction: Umami
Science Diction host Johanna Mayer joins Bridget to talk about the history of Umami and MSG....

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[Bonus] Brought To You By from Business Insider: Jack Daniel's
While we work on our next season, here's another podcast to check out: Brought To You By from Business Insider. Jack Daniel’s is the top-selling whiskey in the world. For more than 150 years, it’s been made using time-honored methods that go back to when Jack Daniel made the whiskey himself. (Yes, he was a real person.) But who taught “Mr. Jack” how to make that whiskey? Nearest Green, a formerly enslaved man. Unlike Jack Daniel, though, most people don’t know his name, so one woman has made it her mission ...

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Exodus Bagels: A Small Business and COVID-19
The restaurant industry has been especially hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. 8 million restaurant jobs have disappeared around the country and some are projecting $80 billion in lost revenue in March and April alone. But behind the numbers and headlines are real people. This is the story of one family, struggling to save their bagel cafe in Boston. Take our Season 4 survey!...

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The Reconstruction of A Royal Cake
In 1947, the Peek Freans bakery of Bermondsey made a beautiful royal wedding cake for Queen Elizabeth’s nuptials to Phillip, the Duke of Edinburgh. It was a showstopper: 6 feet tall, 6 tiers, and covered in beautiful white royal icing and exquisite decorations. The Peek Freans bakers were so proud of the cake, that they immediately made a replica, which sat on display for decades. Queen Elizabeth’s replica wedding cake would end up in a museum. Until one day in 2015, when it was destroyed by vandals. They t...

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Cheater Cheater Chili Eater
For competitive chili cooks, the ultimate accomplishment is taking home first prize at the Original Terlingua International Frank X. Tolbert-Wick Fowler Memorial Championship Chili Cook-off. The Terlingua chili cooks are a tight-knit group. And in 2003, they were suspicious of newcomer Don Eastep. And it turns out, they were right to be. Because Don didn’t cook chili at that cook-off. Instead, he turned in a cup of chili to the judges, filled with samples of everyone else’s chili mixed together. And then, h...

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The Journey of the Nem
How did the nem, a Vietnamese Spring Roll, become a prominent feature on Senegalese restaurant menus in New York City? The Journey of the nem is one of war, love, hardship, and chasing a dream. Over the last century, the nem has traveled thousands of miles, from Vietnam, to Senegal, and eventually, to find its new home in New York. The diaspora and the collective knowledge that traveled with it, shared over generations and across international cities, helped propel spring rolls from foreign novelty to every...

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Who Owns Nature?
The Plant Patent Act of 1930 is cited in a landmark Supreme Court case that extended patent rights to genetically engineered plants, animals, and bacteria. But it all started with Luther Burbank, aka the “Wizard of Horticulture.” Burbank rose to fame in the early 20th century for his plant inventions like the Russet Burbank Potato. But, unlike his friends Thomas Edison and Henry Ford, Burbank was never able to patent his creations. After Burbank’s death, his supporters would push a controversial bill throug...

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Yelp Therapy
Bryce has put his blood, sweat, and tears into building his business, a Williamsburg restaurant called Black Flamingo. This plant-based Latin-inspired restaurant is home to a basement disco, and widely celebrated tacos and cocktails. So when Tanya leaves a scathing Yelp review about her bad experience at the restaurant, Bryce is discouraged. A Yelp rating is proven to affect restaurant profit, which can make even one bad review devastating to a business owner like Bryce. When the Yelp platform does little t...

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Raiders of the Lost Yeast
Seamus Blackley is the creator of the Xbox. He’s also an ancient Egypt enthusiast and baking hobbyist. Yes, you heard that right. Via Twitter, he assembled a rag-tag team of specialists: an archeologist (Dr. Serena Love) and a biologist (Rich Bowman). Together, they created a grand scheme: extract dormant yeast from the nooks and crannies of ancient Egyptian pots stored in the vaults of the world’s most prestigious museums and bake bread with it....

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Atomic Peanuts and Gamma Grapefruit
In 1927, more than 50 years before the first GMO crop hit the market, a scientist named Louis Stadler shot X-rays at barley. The result was a random mutation—a change in the color of the plant. While not particularly useful, it showed that with radiation, scientists could roll the genetic dice, press fast-forward on natural selection, and with enough rolls, maybe even uncover something new- a useful mutant. The Atomic Age would inspire a generation of scientists to blast crops with Cobalt-60 radiation. Even...

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Season 4 Starts April 9
4,500 year old yeast, atomic peanuts, and a cheating scandal at a chili cook-off. Season 4 goes even deeper to reveal what’s on our plates and how it got there. Tune in for Season 4 of Proof beginning April 9....

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[Bonus] The Bitter Southerner: Waffle House
We want to share with you a podcast from our friends at The Bitter Southerner called "The Ways of Waffle House" that attempts to answer a large question: How could a 2,000-store restaurant chain become, to Southerners, something more than just another place to eat?...

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Introducing Mystery Recipe, a New Podcast from America's Test Kitchen Kids
Mystery Recipe is a new podcast from America's Test Kitchen Kids! With new episodes every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, this short-form podcast will help kids AND their grown-ups uncover the fun, fantastical, and fascinating sides of food. Each week will have a different ingredient theme, which builds to the grand finale: a mystery recipe cook-along. Get excited about cooking (and eating) by digging into the deliciously silly and unexpectedly educational....

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Introducing Mystery Recipe, A New Podcast from America's Test Kitchen Kids
Mystery Recipe is a new podcast from America's Test Kitchen Kids! With new episodes every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, this short-form podcast will help kids AND their grown-ups uncover the fun, fantastical, and fascinating sides of food. Each week will have a different ingredient theme, which builds to the grand finale: a mystery recipe cook-along. Get excited about cooking (and eating) by digging into the deliciously silly and unexpectedly educational....

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[Bonus] Introducing Clearstory from This Old House
Our friends at This Old House have a new podcast called Clearstory. Hosted by Kevin O'Connor, Clearstory is a podcast that sheds light on the surprising stories behind our homes. The episode we bring you today, "Wood: Dead in the Water?", is all about old-growth wood found at the bottom of riverbeds that's used for beautiful furniture and flooring....

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Oyster Mushroom Revolution
In Rwanda 26-year-old Christian has turned his mom’s backyard into an oyster mushroom cultivation lab, with mushrooms sprouting here and there. And he’s not alone. For a country still known internationally for its 1994 genocide, Rwanda’s booming mushroom industry reflects hope for a brighter future. In Rwanda, is a better tomorrow just a mushroom farm away?...

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Underground Aams Trade, Part 2
In part two of this investigation, reporter Ahmed Ali Akbar explores the underbelly of the secretive mango distribution industry. He uncovers the historical and economic reasons that importing mangoes from Pakistan has been so difficult — from regulation to irradiation. And he finally traces product to supplier....

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Underground Aams Trade, Part 1
Pakistani-American communities in the U.S. rely on dealers on WhatsApp to gain access to their most coveted treasure: Pakistani mangoes. And they pay a premium for it. In part one of this two-part investigation, reporter Ahmed Ali Akbar searches for answers. Why are Pakistani mangoes so hard to find? And why is the Pakistani community resorting to deals on WhatsApp to procure them?...

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Jamon, Y'all
In 2015, Will Harris, a farmer in southwest Georgia, partnered with Spanish entrepreneur father and son to bring Iberian pigs to the United States. The climate would be different (from hot, dry Spain to wet, humid Georgia) and so would the pigs' diet (they would eat Georgia pecans instead of acorns), but Harris figured this expensive gamble could pay off. Can jamón ibérico can be reduced to a simple formula (pigs + pasture + acorns), or is there more to the story?...

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Tracing Jambalaya
Reporter Kayla Stewart attempts to trace Gulf Coast dish Jambalaya back to its rumored roots in West Africa’s Jollof Rice. Kayla’s journey to find a connection between the two dishes takes her from her mother’s Houston kitchen to the streets of Accra. But instead of a link, she finds that the history of African American food ways cannot be separated from the influences of slavery and colonialism....

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Why Not Eat Bugs?
A South African Entrepreneur, Leah Bessa, discovers that processing Black Soldier Fly larvae produces a milk-like substance, dubbed Entomilk. Can Leah’s entomilk ice cream succeed as a dairy-alternative? Although South African populations have a traditional history of bug-eating, can modern society overcome its ick-factor to take advantage of all bugs have to offer?...

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Prepping for the Worst
In a deep dive into “prepper” culture, we learn what makes up the ultimate survival cuisine. We investigate the motivation of this subculture that stocks up on non-perishables for the end-of-times. Should the desire to survive be reduced to a quirky paranoia, or is the quest to prepare for survival in dire circumstances more noble than we give it credit for?...

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The True Cost of Mezcal
Mezcal has recently enjoyed a spike in popularity, which brought a welcome surge to the Oaxacan economy, the southern Mexican state where Mezcal is produced. But is the demand for Mezcal outgrowing the supply? What can be done to ensure it survives for years to come without sacrificing the agave plants and land that sustain it? Can mezcal avoid becoming the next tequila?...

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Season 3 Starts November 7th
An underground mango industry, the hidden costs of your favorite Mezcal, and ice cream made from bugs. Season 3 goes deep to challenge our ideas about what we eat and uncover where it comes from. Tune in for Season 3 of Proof beginning November 7....

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Season 3 Starts November 7th
An underground mango industry, the hidden costs of your favorite Mezcal, and ice cream made from bugs. Season 3 goes deep to challenge our ideas about what we eat and uncover where it comes from. Tune in for Season 3 of Proof beginning November 7....

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Can You Prevent Brain Freezes?
In these bonus episodes, we try to answer your weird food questions. This week: does eating ice cream slower prevent a brain freeze?...

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Can Pistachios Spontaneously Combust?
In these bonus episodes, we try to answer your weird food questions. This week: do pistachios spontaneously combust?...

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What Weird Things Did Presidents Eat?
In these bonus episodes, we try to answer your weird food questions. This week: What are the weirdest things US presidents ate?...

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Can You Bake A Cookie In Space?
In these bonus episodes, we try to answer your weird food questions. This week: If you flung a cookie dough ball into space, how long until it bakes into a cookie?...

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Can You Bake A Cookie In Space?
In these bonus episodes, we try to answer your weird food questions. This week: If you flung a cookie dough ball into space, how long until it bakes into a cookie?...

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Why Is Ranch So Addictive?
In these bonus episodes, we try to answer your weird food questions. This week: why is ranch so addictive?...

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Are We All Victims of Food Fraud?
In these bonus episodes, we try to answer your weird food questions. This week: In a world fraught with food fraud, how do you know what you're buying?...

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Can You Get Drunk Off Kombucha?
In these bonus episodes, we try to answer your weird food questions. This week: How much kombucha would it take to get you drunk?...

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Is Cereal Soup?
In these bonus episodes, we try to answer your weird food questions. This week: Is cereal soup?...

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Why Does OJ Taste Bad After Using Toothpaste?
In these bonus episodes, we try to answer your weird food questions. This week: Why are some flavor pairings divine (chocolate + coffee) and others horrible (orange juice after toothpaste)?...

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The Plan to Kill the Chinese Restaurant
Chinese restaurants are an essential part of the American landscape -- even more ubiquitous than McDonald’s. But a century ago, they were almost extinguished by legislation passed around the country that barred young white women from eating at chop suey houses. This is the story of an organized effort to wipe out Chinese eateries altogether and how these restaurants survived in spite of it.We want to get your feedback about Proof. Please take this survey so we know what you like and what we can do better: h...

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The Pretty Big Problem of Ugly Food
“Ugly Food” subscription boxes propose to solve a very big problem: nearly half of all the food produced in the United States is being wasted, even while many struggle to put food on the table each day. But can delivering a box of three-legged carrots and misshapen squash really address the root causes of food waste? Or is the Ugly Foods movement actually doing more harm than good?We want to get your feedback about Proof. Please take this survey so we know what you like and what we can do better: http://bit...

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The Quest for Mystic Makgeolli
Makgeolli is a quintessentially Korean alcohol, but few people outside of the Korean peninsula have ever heard of, much less tasted it. Even within Korea, it’s mostly known as an overly sweet, low quality drink available at every corner convenience store. But the real version of Makgeolli is the product of centuries of traditional Korean brewing techniques -- an elegant, complex, and balanced brew easily made in any home kitchen with only three ingredients: water, rice, and a fermentation starter called nur...

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The OGs of America’s Oranges
Eliza Tibbets was ahead of her time. She was a suffragist, an abolitionist, held regular seances in her home, and lived in a utopian community. And in Riverside, California, she was also considered the unofficial queen of the orange industry. As local legend has it, every navel orange tree in the Golden state can be traced back to cuttings from the two parent trees in Eliza’s front yard. This is the little known story of how an amateur farmer with utopian dreams launched an entire industry....

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Hidden Valley Wine
Great wine begins with high quality grapes, careful fermentation, deft blending techniques, and, in Mexico’s Valle de Guadalupe, a group of puritanical Russian immigrants called the “molokans.” Learn how this region’s earliest settlers escaped from religious persecution in tsarist Russia and how a culture of innovation and experimentation has transformed this humble strip of land near the Pacific coast into one of the most fawned over and exciting wine destinations in the world....

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Frankenfish
The snakehead has been described as one of the ugliest fish in the world. It has a thick neck and razor-sharp teeth. It's been rumored to bite little kids and walk on land. It’s also an invasive species that’s been plaguing the Potomac river system for nearly two decades. Can turning this monster into a local delicacy save the Potomac?...

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Welcome to the Microbiome
Probiotics are everywhere, but the science that explains the mechanism of the gut-brain connection still isn't there. Harvard PhD candidate Cary Allen-Blevins is researching everything from breast milk to kombucha to better understand the role of probiotics in gut health. This episode is a collaboration between Proof and Veritalk from Harvard's Graduate School for Arts and Sciences. The original version is part of a series on food that Veritalk produced recently. Check it out at: https://gsas.harvard.edu/ve...

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Who Killed the Miracle Berry?
In the 1970s, the Miracle Berry was poised to become the sugar replacement of choice. It was hailed as the solution to the diabetes epidemic, and was preferred to every other sugar alternative in blind taste tests. The fruit contains a taste-altering protein, miraculin, that makes sour foods taste sweet. So why haven't you heard of it? Did "big sugar" engineer its downfall? And can modern food entrepreneurs reposition the miracle berry as the future of sweet?...

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Season 2 Starts May 23rd
An FDA conspiracy, an invasive species threatening our waterways, and an emerging wine region that shouldn't work. If you thought Season 1 changed the way you thought about food, stay tuned. Season 2 of Proof starts May 23rd....

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AMERICAN BARBECUE
A conversation with culinary historian Michael Twitty about the history of American Barbecue....

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CELERY TONIC
Jack Bishop discusses the history and unique flavor of celery tonic....

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NATURAL VS. ARTIFICIAL FLAVORS
You've seen them on labels, but what are natural and artificial flavors anyway? Reporter Sara Joyner explains....

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TEST COOK CRAVINGS
How do the test cooks at America's Test Kitchen manage their cravings? Jack Bishop heads into the kitchen to find out....

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NON-NEWTONIAN FLUIDS
Ketchup isn't just a popular condiment, it's also scientifically fascinating. Bridget sits down with Jack Bishop to talk about the physics of ketchup....

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ZEPPOLES
Zeppoles are a staple of the San Gennaro street fair in New York city. Jack Bishop has a special connection to the Italian fritters....

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KETCHUP
Do burgers need ketchup? The birthplace of the burger, Louis’ Lunch, doesn’t think so. The family-run business has maintained a strict no-ketchup policy since they opened in 1895. We infiltrate this notorious ketchup resistance cell to try to understand why ketchup is such a polarizing condiment....

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BOWLS
We are living through a fascinating moment in culinary history: the swift and relentless takeover of the [blank] bowl. These days, you can go an entire week of eating all of your meals in bowl form and never overlap once. Why are we bowl happy and how (or when) did adding the word bowl to everything from grain to breakfast become a thing? In this episode, we do a deep dive into bowl culture....

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FAIR FOODS
State fairs have become the site of a novelty fried foods arms race, with vendors clamoring to outdo themselves (and each other) every year. We set out to learn why the adrenaline-seeking foodie in each of us wants to try deep-fried kool-aid at the fair, even if we eat sensibly in our real lives....

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BEANBOOZLED, Part 2
In part 2 of our Beanboozled story, we go inside Givaudan, one of the largest flavor houses in the world, to uncover how stinky sock flavored jelly beans are made....

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BEANBOOZLED, Part 1
Jelly Belly's popular "Beanboozled" game is an edible version of Russian roulette. You might score a tutti frutti bean, or you might get stuck with a stinky sock-flavored bean. But how in the world did Jelly Belly distill these disgusting flavors into a tiny, innocent looking candy? This curiosity leads us into the strange hidden world of commercial flavor chemistry, secret societies of flavorists, and so-called flavor artists. This is part 1 of an engrossing journey into the weird science of flavor....

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TIKI
Wait... the mai tai was invented in Oakland?! We follow the popular cocktail on a historical journey through the rise and fall of tiki culture in America....

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CRAVINGS
We've all been there - the moment when an overpowering food craving descends upon you and takes possession of your body, mind, and wallet. But where do food cravings come from? Are they cultural, genetic, gender-specific? We find out if science has the answer....

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CELERY
Celery was the "it" vegetable of the Victorian era - celery tonics claimed to cure everything from overstrained nerves to a sluggish liver, and upper-class Victorians had special dishes for serving and displaying their celery. So how did celery go from fashionable to forgettable? We trace celery's fall from grace and ask the important question: is it poised for a comeback?...

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