Category: food and drink

Julian Baggini: The Philosopher in the Kitchen – 1. Practical Wisdom and hummus

Here is the first of four short films I made with Julian Baggini last summer and released last month to coincide with the paperback edition of his book, The Virtues of the Table. In this first film he asks: Do we really need to follow recipes?


Julian Baggini: The Philosopher in the Kitchen – 1. Practical Wisdom (Hummus) from George Miller on Vimeo.

Food adulteration is nothing new

HorsesWith horse meat cropping up all over the place in food in the UK at the moment, I went back to the interview I recorded in 2008 for Princeton University Press with Bee Wilson about her book Swindled: From Poison Sweets to Ersatz Coffee.

As the book makes clear, (justifiable) concern about what’s in our food is nothing new: complaints about adulterated bread date back at least as far as the Middle Ages, and the Victorians had to contend with fake tea, ersatz coffee and cheese coloured with red lead. In this interview, Bee says:

Adulteration is a universal in history – it’s always been with us and it’s always going to be with us in some form or another. But it only seems to have become endemic in modern industrialized cities coupled with a particular kind of state. You would have editorials written in the Times between about the 1820s and the 1860s quite regularly saying things like, if a gentleman wants to sell chicory and call it coffee, that’s his business, no one should intervene…

Listening to the BBC lunchtime news today, I was surprised by just how phlegmatic shoppers interviewed on Camden High Street were about not knowing what was in the food they were eating; the prevailing attitude was, if the food’s cheap, you’re naive not to expect some corners to have been cut along the way. Where, I wonder, is the dividing line between corners cut and horses minced?

To listen to the podcast click here.

28. The Life of a Roman Town

Mary Beard: PompeiiHow easy is it to get an insight into the life of the ancient Romans from a visit to the remains of Pompeii today? How much of what we see is even Roman, and how much is recent reconstruction?

What did the Romans really think about sex? And what did they believe in a world on the cusp of embracing Christianity? And did they really eat dormice?

Click on the link above to hear writer, broadcaster, blogger extraordinaire and Cambridge professor of Classics, Mary Beard tackle all these questions and more.

You can also hear Mary talking about the Roman triumph in podcast 15: The Big Parade.

20. “Grub first, ethics later”

Raymond Tallis: Hunger coverThe first Podularity podcast of 2009 is an interview with polymath Raymond Tallis about his most recent book, Hunger, which appears in the Art of Living series from Acumen Publishing.

The Times has described Tallis as “the Lennox Lewis of the intellectual world – a formidable heavyweight” and, as you might expect from such a wide-ranging thinker, his essay on hunger goes beyond the satisfaction of our physiological desires to look at a whole range of human appetites and desires. Read More

For those of you who haven’t given up drinking for January…

Is this bottle corked? coverHere’s a link to the Faber podcast I did just before Christmas with Kathleen Burk and Michael Bywater about their book, Is this Bottle Corked?, in which they explore the “secret life of wine”.

Listen to it and not only will you discover how to tell with confidence when a bottle is corked, you’ll also discover why elephants may be capable of making booze but are unlikely ever to aspire to the status of a grand cru.

In fact, the stories Kathy and Michael come up with are so entertaining, they could be just what you need to help you through January, even if you’ve forsworn drink…