With their podcast Gastropod hitting earbuds every two weeks, journalists Nicola Twilley and Cynthia Graber—who is also a Somerville resident—serve their hungry listeners stories of food, science and history. Consider this chat your appetizer before the duo hits the Museum of Science for a live show on Feb. 7.
How do you choose topics for the podcast? Nicola: There are a few different ways. We get awesome listener suggestions, so we have a running list of those that we turn to. There are sometimes things that each of us has been passionate about for a while or want to do. … We try to have a good mix of different topics so it’s not all just like, “This is an episode about a particular food.” But then it’s not all heady or abstract topics like school lunches. Cynthia: And as part of the mix we want to make sure we’re not just covering Western topics and Western food. We want to make sure that we have a diverse mix of voices. We cover issues of social justice; we cover stories about farming and sustainability. So when we’re looking at the mix of the next 10 episodes or so, we want to make sure that these are all the things that are playing in our heads to balance out.
What are your favorite meals? Cynthia: That’s such a hard thing to ask people who are so obsessed with food. You know, I’ll eat something and say, like, “This is the thing I’ll want to eat forever!” And then you eat something else and think, “No, no, this is the thing I’ll want to eat forever.” [Laughs.] Nicola: I’m not prepared to commit to an absolute favorite. But in my final week’s worth of meals—I’m not just doing my last meal on death row, I’m planning the entire week—I would definitely have a roast chicken dinner. I grew up in England, and a roast is very important, with roast potatoes and vegetables and the whole shebang. Cynthia: For me, my comfort food is more Mediterranean. I lived in Israel for three years. I grew up eating a lot of foods that are very Mediterranean. I make hummus at home; I make shakshuka at home. Lentils and rice and fried onions. Mejadra is a comfort food dish for me.
What is your live event going to be like? Nicola: It’s really fun. It’s really interactive. We structure it as a three-course meal so there are three separate sections about different topics. This year, we’re talking about aphrodisiacs, about pasta shapes and about hacking taste. And there’s interactive tastings and questions and guests coming up on stage and special guest experts throughout. Cynthia: It’s not literally a three-course meal. It’s a three-course feast of ideas and you get a tiny taste of food in the show. Don’t come hungry. Do eat dinner beforehand. [Laughs.]