Food Non-Fiction

Food Non-Fiction tells the incredible true stories behind food. We delve deep into the history and fascinating facts about the most famous and interesting foods. We look forward to taking you on this wild food journey, through history, and around the world.
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Food Non-Fiction







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Now displaying: November, 2015
Nov 26, 2015

In this Food Non-Fiction podcast episode, we tell the story of how Las Vegas became a destination market for gambling, how the nature of destination markets created competition amongst the many casinos, how casino food amenities were used as a competitive tool, and how casino restaurants have changed over time from buffet to gourmet.

In October of 1929, the stock market crashed. October 29th was the worst day of this crash. It was named “Black Tuesday”. On Black Tuesday, over 16 million shares were traded on the New York Stock Exchange. Billions of dollars were lost and the economy was on a downward spiral into the Great Depression of the 1930’s. So, in 1931, Phil Tobin, a 29 year old freshman member of the legislative assembly introduced a bill to legalize gambling in Nevada. He wasn’t a gambler himself, in fact, he was a cowboy, but he knew that legalizing gambling would bring the state of Nevada some much-needed revenue. The revenue would come from gaming taxes.

At this time, in 1931, the Hoover Dam was scheduled for construction. It was built between 1931 and 1936. This meant that thousands of workers would be coming to Nevada. And these would be federal workers, so it was likely that a lof of the illegal casinos would be shut down. So instead, of having the casinos shut down when the workers came, legalizing casinos would bring in a ton of tax revenues.

Phil Tobin’s bill made financial sense. So, on March 19 of 1931, the Governor signed Assembly Bill 98 into law.

Assembly Bill 98 legalized the following games:

Big Injun
Stud Poker
Draw Poker

The bill is also known as the “Wide Open Gambling Bill”.

After World War II, there were strict gambling laws in most states, so Nevada really became the center of gambling in the U.S. - especially, of course, in the Las Vegas strip - which is, by-the-way, located south of the actual city of Las Vegas.

The Las Vegas strip was, and still is, a destination market. People travel there specifically to experience the gambling and entertainment. Destination markets offer a lot of the same thing. For example, you go to Hawaii to surf so there are a lot of surfing schools and they need to compete.

Same thing with going to Las Vegas to gamble - there are so many places you can gamble that these places need to compete for your dollars. So casinos, over time, 

have offered more and more amenities.

Casino resorts started popping up in the 1940’s. You could go to a casino resort, and not only gamble, but have your hotel, live shows and food, all in one place.

Casino restaurants were designed to bring people to the casinos. The strategy back in the middle of the 20th century was to offer cheap food, sometimes even free food. The logic was that if you could offer great price value for food at your casino, then people might choose to come to your casino, rather than go to a standalone restaurant or another casino.

So casino restaurants used to operate as what is called “loss leaders” - casino restaurants would lose a little money, but then gain that money back and more when customers played the gambling games.

There are 2 ways that having a restaurant at a casino can increase revenue.
One - is that the restaurant draws in more players
Two - is that it gets each player to spend more while they’re at the casino.

The Vegas strip is the ULTIMATE gambling destination, but the relationship between casino restaurants and gambling spending is different in Vegas. Certainly, your average Vegas casino restaurant is not operating at a loss anymore. This shift in Las Vegas from the days of cheap casino buffets, designed for the convenience of gambling clients, to high end, big profit restaurants has been gradual.

Thank you to our interview guests:

Dr. Sarah Tanford

Dr. David G. Schwartz

Thanks to the Looperman Artist for the Music:

Chillwave bass and synth by djpuzzle

Nov 19, 2015

In this Food Non-Fiction podcast episode, we reveal how bacon became a breakfast food. In 1925, the Beech-Nut Packing Company asked Edward Bernays to help increase bacon sales. Why did they ask Edward Bernays? Because Bernays was a master of influencing public opinions. His campaigns increased smoking amongst women, the use of disposable Dixie cups instead of washable glass cups, and more. Back then, breakfasts were very light meals. For example, a breakfast could be a cup of orange juice, some coffee and a roll. So Bernays asked his physician whether a heavier breakfast would be better for the body, given the logic that the body needs to replenish energy lost during sleep. After his physician concurred with the idea, Bernays asked the physician to write to 5000 other doctors to get their opinion. Bernays then published the findings in magazines and articles, concluding that bacon and eggs would make a great healthy breakfast. He succeeded in increasing bacon sales.


The American Table

Baltimore Post-Examiner

Bloomberg Business


Daily Dawdle

Music Thanks to Looperman Artists:

Big Room Lead by djpuzzle
EDM Trap 808 by 7venth12
pop drums acoustic drumset 1 by martingunnarson
progressive house melodic synth for intro by capostipite
Lookin For This by FLmoney

Nov 12, 2015

In this Food Non-Fiction podcast episode, we look into the origins of the ice cream sundae. About a dozen towns claim to be the birthplace of the ice cream sundae, but there are 3 main contenders that are always mentioned. By chronological order, we share the stories from 1. Two Rivers, Wisconsin in 1881, 2. Evanston, Illinois in 1890 and 3. Ithaca, New York in 1892.

In Two Rivers, the ice cream sundae was created when a man named George Hallauer asked for chocolate syrup on top of his ice cream. The Berners' Soda Fountain owner, Edward C. Berners, obliged. 

In Evanston Illinois, the passing of the Blue Law prevented people from consuming soda water, because it was considered too frivolous. That meant that people also couldn't buy ice cream sodas, which were already invented. So one inventive pharmacist. Mr. Garwood, who had a thriving business in ice cream sodas, removed the soda water from the ice cream treat, calling it a "Sunday soda". The name was later shortened and the spelling was changed to be more respectable of the lord's day. So it became known as the "sundae".

In Ithaca, New York, the first sundae was created at Platt & Colt Pharmacy. The pharmacy's co-owner, Chester Platt, often got together with the pastor, John M. Scott, from the Unitarian Church after services. One day, when the two were together, he served up ice cream with cherry sauce and they loved it so much that they named it Cherry Sunday after the flavor and the day of the week.

We present the evidence for each and you can decide which story you want to believe. 


Sundae Fight Song lyrics:
In Two Rivers, in Winsconsin,
History was made.
And our pride in that first sundae,
it will never fade.
Made right here by old Ed Berners
Eighteen eighty-one
Now we celebrate that sundae
And have lots of fun
Others try to claim the sundae
started in their towns
But the story of our sundae
turns their smiles to frowns
Evanston and Ithaca,
They are among the worst,
but confronted with our facts,
Concede that Ed was first.
Topped with chocolate, or with cherries and with lots of nuts
Try to claim our sundae
and we’ll kick you in your butts!
On Two Rivers! On Wisconsin.
It’s with pride we burst
as we shout out to the whole world
Ed was first!

Two Rivers, Puh-leeze lyrics:
Two Rivers, why live in denial,
The story you compile, won't play.
Your sign maker, a truth faker,
without sundae proof your claim's melting away.
Ed Berners off to fool the world.
There's such a lot of fools you see.
Though sometimes the truth may offend-
still you can pretend,
my sweet Wisconsin friend,
Two Rivers-puh-leeze.

Special thanks to:
Ithaca recording artists, "Rock Beats Paper"
Arrangement: Robert Dietz
Engineering: James Cannon/Panic Room Studios

Music Thanks to Looperman Artist:

1950s Rock N Roll Piano Riff by rasputin1963

Special Thanks to our Interviewees:

Eden Juron Pearlman - Executive Director of the Evanston Historical Center in Evanston Illinois

Bruce Stoff - Director of Ithaca/Tompkins Convention & Visitors Bureau

Gregory Buckley - Two Rivers City Manager

Ron LaQuaglia - Owner of Glenburn Soda Fountain and Confectionery


Book: A Month of Sundaes by Michael Turback

Visit Ithaca

What's Cooking America


Nov 5, 2015

This is the incredible true story of passenger pigeons. There used to be an estimated 3-5 billion passenger pigeons. People killed them for food, then sold the surplus to local markets. With the advancements of technology, people were able to sell their surplus to regional then national markets. Improvements in telegraph technology allowed hunters to communicate where the birds were, and the spread of railroads allowed transportation of huge numbers of passenger pigeons to far away markets.

There was a time when you could buy a passenger pigeon for pennies a piece. There were thousands of hunters that just hunted passenger pigeons all year round. Eventually, the passenger pigeons started dying out, but instead of hunting less to allow the birds to rebuild their numbers, hunters would grab passenger pigeon chicks as soon as they hatched and then mash them together into make a paste.

In 1914, Martha, the last passenger pigeon in the world died at the Cincinnati Zoo.

Special Thanks to Joel Greenberg for the fascinating interview!


Book: “A Feathered River Across the Sky” by Joel Greenberg 

Thank you to Looperman for the Music:

Night Strings HD by jawadalblooshi
Sad Acoustic by EpicRecord
Wood Chimes by danke
Poppy Acoustic 3 by EpicRecord