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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Sep 16, 2015

In this Food Non-Fiction podcast episode, we tell you about ancient Egyptian honey. Did you know that honey that archaeologists have uncovered from tombs that are thousands of years old remain edible? We tell you all about beekeeping from ancient Egypt.





Ancient Origins

Book: The World History of Beekeeping and Honey Hunting

Book: Letters from the Hive: An Intimate History of Bees, Honey, and Humankind

Music from Looperman thank you to:




Sep 10, 2015

This is a Food Non-Fiction bonus episode! Lillian the host went on a BBQ boat with her friends today and recorded the experience to share. 

Thanks to Joe, the owner of Joe's BBQ Boat for the interview

Sep 9, 2015

This Food Non-Fiction podcast episode is about fruit flies. They seem to appear out of nowhere. In fact, people used to believe that small organisms like flies could be spontaneously generated from other matter, whether living or nonliving. This was called "the doctrine of spontaneous generation" or "Aristotelian abiogenesis". The concept of spontaneous generation was popular from Aristotle’s time (somewhere between 384-322 BCE) to the 1600’s. In 1668, Italian physician, Francesco Redi, conducted an experiment to disprove the doctrine of spontaneous generation. He put meat in jars, covered one jar with gauze (so that only air could get in) and left the other one open. If spontaneous generation was possible, then flies would have grown in either condition, but no maggots were seen in the covered jar.


Mother Nature Network
The Bug Squad
Book: Lords of the Fly: Drosophila Genetics and the Experimental Life
Article: Achilles and the Maggots
Article: Francesco Redi's Description of the Spontaneous Generation of Gall Flies 

Music From Looperman artists:


Sep 8, 2015

In this bonus Food Non-Fiction podcast episode, we talk about giant apes and bamboo. In a National Geographic article, we read that perhaps giant apes competed with giant pandas for bamboo. To learn more about this, we spoke to the gigantopithecus (giant ape) expert, Dr. Russel Ciochon. In an enlightening interview, the professor informed us that there is no evidence of competition between gigantopithecus and giant pandas and that gigantopithecus is more likely to have become extinct because they were large animals and could not adapt during more extreme climate change.

Researchers know what gigantopithecus ate because of phytolith ("phyto" meaning plant and "lith" meaning stone) found in gigantopithecus teeth. Our knowledge of phytolith shapes let us recognize the phytolith as coming from bamboo and durian.

Special Thanks: to Professor Russell Ciochon

References: National Geographic article


Sep 2, 2015

This Food Non-Fiction podcast episode is all about pandas and bamboo. We tackle the question - why do giant pandas only eat bamboo? The 2015 answer is that no one really knows. We also spoke to panda experts from the Toronto Zoo and Zoo Atlanta. We find out what they feed the giant pandas, when, why and how.

Aug 27, 2015

In this Food Non-Fiction podcast episode, Lillian visits Dark Table in Vancouver and Fakhri visits O'Noir in Montreal. We speak to the founder of Canada's 3 dark dining restaurants and find out how to run a restaurant in pitch black. We also had a guest, Jaycelyn Brown, keyboardist from the Juno award winning band, Said the Whale. She dined with us and this episode has been a blast!

Aug 6, 2015

This is a mini episode from Food Non-Fiction. Because Lillian is getting ready for her Master's defence! This episode is a brief look at deep fried desserts. We talk about doughnuts, deep fried ice cream and even deep fried coke!



Jul 29, 2015

This Food Non-Fiction podcast episode talks about milk cartons. We speak to patent attorney, Matt Buchanan, about the inventor of the milk carton and his patent, which was granted in 1915 in Toledo, Ohio. We then talk to Dr. Joel Best, author of "Threatened Children: Rhetoric and Concern about Child-Victims", about the history of missing children milk carton campaigns.

Special Thanks to Guests:
Matt Buchanan (partner at Buchanan Nipper)
Dr. Joel Best (University of Delaware Professor of sociology and criminal justice)

Patent Blog
Dairy Antiques Website
Google Patent 1157462A
Google Patent 1123628A

Jul 15, 2015

In this podcast episode of Food Non-Fiction, we are talking about popcorn! Popcorn is made out of any variety of corn that can be popped. Corn was selectively bred from a wild grass called Teosinte, which was a very tough plant. So right from the beginning of the cultivation of corn, people were making popcorn, because corn kernels were a lot harder and popping it was one of the easiest ways to eat it. Corn spread over Central and South America because it was traded. One of the civilizations that ate popcorn was the Aztecs. They even had a word for the sound of kernels popping - "totopoca". During the Depression, popcorn was one of the few foods that actually rose in sales. This is because it became considered an affordable luxury. So vendors sold popcorn outside of theatres. Eventually, theatres started charging vendors to sell either right outside their doors or even inside the lobby. And then by around 1938, theatres started having popcorn machines inside.


New York Times



Popcorn Origins

Jul 7, 2015

In this podcast episode of Food Non-Fiction, we speak with world champion sumo wrestler, Byamba. He is 6'1'' and 350lb but he has gotten his body fat percentage down to 11%. Sumo wrestlers may look fat, but they have more fat free mass (this includes the weight of internal organs and skeletal muscle) than body builders. This means that underneath the external fat is a wall of dense muscle. We talk about chankonabe, otherwise known as sumo stew. This is the sumo wrestler's staple food. It is a healthy stew that is filled with meat and vegetable.

Special Thanks to Byamba and his manager Andrew for the fascinating interview!


Byamba website

Impressive match video

Music by:


Jun 30, 2015

In this Food Non-Fiction podcast episode, we tell the insane but true story of when Parisians ate zoo animals to survive the 1870-1871 Siege of Paris. We transport you back in time to those five months when Prussian soldiers surrounded Paris to starve the city into surrendering. The five months started in September, 1870. As the months went by, people went from eating cows, pigs and sheep to eating horses. Then they resorted to eating street rats, as well as their own pet dogs and cats. Finally, in December, the zoo put its animals up for sale and the rich bought the meat for exotic meals. The 2 elephants, Castor and Pollux were sold together for 27,000 francs. In one of the most fascinating historical meals, chef Choron created an epic Christmas dinner made of zoo animals. All this was paired with the finest wines. The very rich managed to feast in the midst of starvation.


Engines of Our Ingenuity

Defeated Flesh: Welfare, Warfare and the Making of Modern France by Bertrand Taithe

Chronicles of Old Paris: Exploring the Historic City of Light by John Baxter Translated Memoir of Balloon Pilot

The Medical Times and Gazette, Volume 2

Jun 23, 2015

In this Food Non-Fiction podcast episode, we tell the origin story of chopsticks. During a 1993-1995 excavation of Neolithic ruins in North China, archaeologists found sticks made of bone. They believe that these bone sticks are the first versions of chopsticks. Previous bone sticks were considered to be hairpins but these bone sticks were placed close to the hands, alongside other things used by the hands, such as pots and tools, whereas previous bone sticks were more polished and placed near the head at burial sites.

The first chopsticks may have only been used to cooking, but eventually it became the norm to use them to eat as well. This isn't surprising given some context. North China was dry and cold, so people ate foods that were both juicy and hot - foods like stews. They likely ate their stews while the food was still piping hot, so the time between cooking and eating was minimal. Chopsticks were used to stir the food while cooking and then people could have simply used those same chopsticks to just begin eating right away. The chopsticks norm would have been spread, because North China happened to be the political and cultural centre of China at the time.

Spoons actually came before chopsticks, but as the popular foods changed from millet porridge to the foods of dim sum (eg. dumplings), spoons became less important.

How to hold chopsticks (quoted from the book "Chopsticks: A Cultural and Culinary History")

“First, chopsticks users generally believe that the most effective and elegant way to hold the sticks is to place the lower one at the base of the thumb and secure this position by resting it between the ring and middle fingers in order to keep the stick stationary. Then the upper stick is to be held like a pencil, using the index and middle fingers for movement and the thumb for stabilization. In conveying food, the two sticks are worked together to grasp the food for transportation and delivery.


The book "Chopsticks: A Cultural and Culinary History" by Professor Q. Edward Wang

Special thanks to Professor Wang for granting us an interview!

Jun 16, 2015

In this podcast episode of Food Non-Fiction, we talk about the baker's dozen. When someone says "a baker's dozen" they mean 13. But why is it 13 when a dozen is actually 12? The history of "a baker's dozen" goes back to medieval England. In 1266, King Henry III revived an old statute called the "Assize of Bread and Ale", which set the price of bread in relation to the price of wheat. To make sure that even the poorest of citizens could buy bread (because it was a staple food), bread was priced at a quarter penny, a half penny or a penny. In years when wheat prices went up, the loaves got smaller, but you could still always buy bread for a quarter penny. The Worshipful Company of Bakers was the name of the baker's guild - one of the oldest guild in England. They were given the power to enforce the Assize of Bread and Ale and would punish bakers that sold underweight bread. In order to make sure they wouldn't be punished for selling underweight bread, bakers gave customers extra bread. Extra slices were called "inbreads" and extra loaves were called "vantage loaves".


The Worshipful Company of Bakers
Phrase Origins
Bakers in the Middle Ages

Jun 9, 2015

This Food Non-Fiction podcast episode is about the founding foodie, Thomas Jefferson. More specifically, we talk about his gardens at Monticello. Jefferson collected crops from all over the known world in his time. He planted a huge variety of fruits and vegetables and helped to spread the seeds. The south-facing design of the Monticello gardens allowed him to plant crops from cold to tropical climates as the location captured a lot of sunlight and tempered the cold winters. Jefferson enjoyed salads and even grew sesame seeds so that he could make salad dressing oil out of them. The Monticello gardens are indeed amazing, but they would not have existed without the work of slaves. In this episode we talk about 2 people who were kept as slaves and worked at Monticello. The first is James Hemings and the second is Edith Fossett - both were trained as French chefs and cooked amazing meals.

Thomas Jefferson's ice cream recipe (typed out)
Thomas Jefferson's ice cream recipe (handwritten original)


Jun 2, 2015

This Food Non-Fiction podcast episode is all about mangos! This is our first listener requested episode so thank you Spencer! Looking at fossils, we can trace the appearance of the first mangos to around 30 million years ago in Northeast India, Myanmar and Bangladesh. Looking at old Hindu writings found in Southeast Asia and India, we can trace mango cultivation (for domestic use) back to 4000 B.C.E.  so that’s 6,000 years ago. Buddhist monks were amongst the first to cultivate the fruit and it is said that Buddha himself often meditated under the shade of a mango tree. Looking at historical records, we can see how the fruit spread. Mangos were spread over the world by traveling with people. They needed to travel with humans because their seeds are so big that they can’t be dispersed by animals eating them and pooping out or otherwise discarding the seeds further away / and the seeds definitely can’t travel by blowing in the wind. 

One mango is around 135 calories and will hold most of your daily recommended vitamin C as well as almost a third of your daily recommended Vitamin A. Actually the vitamin content changes depending on ripeness - when the mango is less ripe/more green, its vitamin C content is at its highest and when it is more ripe, its Vitamin A content is at its highest. Mangos contain over 20 different vitamins and minerals and are a great source of fiber. 

Health Benefits
Mangos nutrients support a healthy immune function, normal blood pressure, good vision and strong bones. There are studies that also claim added protection from certain cancers as well as stroke.

Their natural tenderizing properties make mangos a great ingredient to marinate meat in.

Refrigerate mangos when they’re perfectly ripe. If you haven’t cut them, they’ll stay good for around five days. If you’ve peeled and chopped them, keep them in the freezer in an airtight container. They can last about 6 months like that.

- Check firmness. Push against the mango’s skin and look for something in between squishy and hard.
- You should also be able to smell its fruity aroma on the stem end. 

Useful References

Mango Food Nutrition
Fruits Production Statistics
History and Production

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May 26, 2015

This Food Non-Fiction podcast episode tells the history of food trucks. The forerunners to food trucks are the chuckwagons of the cowboy cattle drives and the pushcarts of busy cities. Chuckwagons were invented by Charles Goodnight in 1866 to feed cowboys during long cattle drives that sometimes lasted for months. Chuckwagon cooks were called "cookies" and they would wake up bright and early to stoke a fire with firewood from the chuckwagon and prepare food with surfaces and supplies provided by the chuckwagon. Pushcarts have been around for ages and have a fascinating history of clashes with law enforcement. Since the 1600's New York has passed several laws to try and manage pushcart vendors and the current food truck laws are reminiscent of the pushcart laws. The food truck laws in New York haven't been changed since 1965 and the NYC Food Truck Association is pushing for changes to make the laws more modern. We interviewed 2 food truck owners in Durham - Saltbox Seafood Joint and Tootie. They gave us on insight on the business of food trucks.

Chuckwagon Cooking Recipes:

Chuckwagon recipes blog page

Legends of America recipes

Chronicle of the Old West recipes

American Chuckwagon cooking


Saltbox Seafood Joint (Facebook Page)



NYC Food Truck Association

NYC Food Truck Regulations

Food Truck Startup 101 (in Toronto)

Food Truck Startup Infographic (for Toronto)

Cattle Drives after Civil War

Encyclopedia - cattle drives

Pushcart/Street Vendor History

Street Vendor History

New York Times - The Food Cart Business Stinks

Book: Street Foods

Book: Start Your Own Food Truck Business

May 18, 2015

This podcast episode takes a look at the trending food alternatives - Soylent and Ambronite. These 2 liquid meal replacements were both created in 2013, one in the US and the other in Finland. Soylent is a sort of futuristic food - its formula is open source - and the aim is to be as cheap and efficient as possible. Ambronite also aims to be as efficient as possible but its ingredients don't compromise quality for price.


William the Conqueror's Diet
Rob Rhinhart's blog
Meghan Telpner's Soylent Criticism
Soylent's Ingredients

May 10, 2015

This episode starts with the true story of Ryan Shilling and the huge food fight in his UK school, Jarrow, in the town of Jarrow. We then piece together the history of food fights, starting with the creation of the pie-in-face gag from the Vaudeville era to the first pieing scenes in silent films to our modern day idea of food fights in schools. Next, we tell you about the world's greatest food fight - La Tomatina in Bunol, Spain. We interviewed Rafael Perez, the organizer of the event.

Special thanks to our interviewees:

Thank you Ryan Shilling!
Thank you Rafael Perez!

Promised Links:

3 Stooges Pie Fight 
Telegraph article on the Colombian La Tomatina 
La Tomatina-esque events in the US

Other References Used:
La Tomatina
Colorado Tomato War
The Salt Blog history of food fights
Evolution of Pieing
Web Urbanist list of food fights

Contact us at:

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May 3, 2015

In "Save the Salmon Part 2" we explain why environmentalists talk about the drastic loss in salmon populations even though salmon seems to be abundant in grocery stores and sushi restaurants. We talk about the differences between wild and farmed salmon. This episode also discusses the pros and cons in the debate on using farmed salmon as a way to provide salmon to the masses and alleviate the fishing of wild salmon. Should you be buying farmed or wild salmon? Which one are you getting at restaurants? How do you know what the best choice in salmon is? We cover all this in this super informative and thought-provoking episode.

Special thanks to the amazing musician, Jetty Rae, for letting us use her music. Click here to visit her webpage.

More special thanks to our incredible interviewees:

Laurel Marcus of Fish Friendly Farming
Dana Stolzman of the Salmonid Restoration Federation
Kari Burr of the Fishery Foundation of California
Scott Greacen of Friends of the Eel River
Ron Reed of the Karuk Tribe and the Department of Natural Resources

How to Choose Sustainable Salmon:

Sea Choice
Seafood Watch

Other Resources used include:

David Suzuki's page on salmon farming
Surface Mining and Reclamation Act of 1975
NPR Salt blog article

Apr 24, 2015

This episode is a timely look at California's drought and how it has affected salmon runs. Specifically, we look at the Chinook salmon, also called the King salmon. These salmon can grow to be the size of a small person - up to 58 inches (4.8 feet) in length and up to 129 pounds. You don't find them in regular sushi places, because they're a more high-end species of salmon. They have the highest fat content of any salmon and that makes them delicious! 

Special thanks to our guest, Kari Burr, a biologist from the Fishery Foundation of California.

Apr 18, 2015

This episode covers Benjamin Franklin’s love of food. Benjamin Franklin was a very conscientious eater. At around the age of 16, he became a vegetarian for ethical and frugal reasons, but began eating meat again soon after, while traveling by ship from Boston to New York. He popularised Parmesan cheese in America and introduced soybeans, tofu, and rhubarb to the colonies.

Milk Punch Recipe (recipe written by Benjamin Franklin himself)
Benton Brothers Fine Cheese (cheese experts/shop in Vancouver, BC)
Special thanks to Brent Bellerive, General Manager at Benton Brothers, for letting us interview him!
Benjamin Franklin Book of Recipes
Tori Avey
Thomas Tryon quotes
International Vegetarian Union

Apr 9, 2015

Intro 0:00

John lying to his Mom 0:17

Undercover Restaurant Reviewers 0:29

Michelin Guide Restaurant Reviewers 1:31

How the Michelin Guide began 2:14

Current use of the Michelin Guide 3:52

Michelin stars and symbols 4:10

Bib Gourmand 5:18

Mystery of the process 5:41

Anonymous Michelin Server 5:49

    Preparing for a Michelin Reviewer 5:59

    Characteristics of a Michelin Reviewer 6:12

Controversies around Michelin Guide 6:55

    Pascal Remy "The Inspector Spills the Beans" 7:01

    Bias for French Cuisine 8:04

    Lax standards for Japanese restaurants 8:39

    Secretive nature of the inspectors 8:58

New Yorker interview with Inspector M. 9:25

Inspector background requirements 9:56

Michelin Guide Social Media Attempts 10:32

    Famously Anonymous 10:43

    Twitter 11:20

Michelin Guide Locations 11:52

Honor of the Michelin Star 12:18

Chefs that do not want the Michelin Star 12:37

Anonymous Michelin Server 12:49

    Excitement of being reviewed 12:49

    Backslide in interest 13:08

Pressure of expectations 13:33

Star stats 14:29

Digital Age vs. Guide books 15:04

Anonymous Michelin Server: Zagat vs. Michelin 15:15

Michelin Guide earnings and losses 15:29

Future of Michelin Guide to 15:48

Final words- contact us at 16:00

Other References Used:

Financial Times
New Yorker "Death of a Chef"
The Telegraph

Apr 2, 2015

Intro 0:00 

Recap of last episode 0:12

The ick factor 0:49

Six Foods story 1:27

Chirps 1:46

Harvard Innovation Lab pitch competition with mealworm tacos 3:12

Cricket flour 4:30

Massachusetts Innovation Nights 6:20

Ofbug (Kathryn Redford) 9:46

What to feed insects 12:20

Partnering with UBC’s Entomology & Toxicology Lab 13:10

Canadian law on insects as food 14:24

How Kathryn farms insects 15:20

David George Gordon (The Bug Chef) 17:43

What factors affect how an insect tastes 18:59

Backyard insects & pesticides 21:02

Final words - contact us at 22:42


Mar 25, 2015

Intro 0:00

Eating insects as a hot topic 00:26

Edible Insects - Future Prospects for Food and Feed Security 00:48

Time Magazine names insects one of the top food trends of 2015 1:40

FDA allows insect fragments in food 2:19

Theories on why we don't eat insects 3:02

BBC Documentary "Can Eating Insects Save the World" 5:13

Founders of Six Foods 6:07 

Insect nutrition 7:06

The Bug Chef explains ECI 8:02

Contact us at 9:33



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