For Amrita Gupta, food journalism was a mainstay since 2010, whether it was working at Time Out Bangalore, as the food and drink editor or at Mint Lounge in Mumbai, or her one-year stint at BBC Good Food India .
While she worked on everything from local to national trends / business-based food stories, Gupta wanted to find a different way to write about what she was passionate about. In newspapers, there are separate sections for food and restaurants, and agriculture and economy. But she felt these needed to be connected in a way that regular Joes like you and I could care about issues like the impact of climate change on wheat, or GMO regulation, or whether there is a label on junk food. “It felt like the coverage was alienating, and we needed to have more of a connection,” she says. Deciding to go back to school (she did her master’s at NYU in Food Studies) and approaching the subject academically was a reset.
Gupta’s focus inher master’s was South Asia and food systems, which she says is reflected in the pilot episodes of her podcast, Food Radio Project (FRP). The three episodes so far look at food in a way that regular consumers don’t — there’s one about Sikkim becoming India’s first fully organic state, another about food waste and a riveting one about oyster culture in India.
Shifting to an evolving journalistic medium like the podcast might sound unsettling, but Gupta says she “was in a space where I was looking to develop skill sets that were more suited to other opportunities”. So by doing courses on video journalism and podcasting, and interning with a podcast network in Brooklyn, she looked at multimedia platforms through which she could tell stories.
If you think about, podcasting takes us back to an ancient form of storytelling: oral. “There’s this boom everywhere [in the US], but it hasn’t yet taken off in India,” despite being a “young population”. “I feel optimistic, though, because the medium, unlike video, is more accessible, less resource intensive and can be consumed while we are working out, commuting or cooking,” she believes.
To fund her project initially, Gupta started working with Nature inFocus. A few months ago, she was awarded a fellowship with Nature India, for whom she’s making a set of podcasts on food systems and their intersection with science.
She hopes that with FRP, the podcasts will be compelling enough for someone who’s not interested in food policy to learn something fascinating or realise they care about the issues raised. She doesn’t picks topic in the traditional sense of simply taking stories off the news cycle. She prefers to look at issues that interest her, which can come from something she has read.
All of this boils down to one thing: that we should all be asking more and different questions. Gupta talks about a recent piece she wrote on coffee and certifications. “We need to do more than that as journalists and as consumers. That’s what I tried to do with my piece. If more people start asking more questions and seeing that food is connected to everything, that it’s not just that meal that you eat at the restaurant, to me, that would be impactful,” she says.
The Real Food Podcast
Veteran food writer Vikram Doctor helmed India’s first food podcast in 2016. Each episode was an immersive journey through ancestral kitchens and gourmet restaurants, peppered with tidbits of fascinating food history and culture. Hopefully, he’ll be back with new episodes soon. Onaudiomatic.in and soundcloud.com
What’snot to love about a podcast devoted to chocolate? Journalist and author Simran Sethi highlights the people, places and processes behind the chocolate industry. In this fascinating podcast, you’ll hear about everything from chemistry and conservation, to climate change and global markets.
Food is political, and this podcast reminds us we’re all better off when we can acknowledge this, and debate the implications intelligently. Hosts Soleil Ho and Zahir Janmohamed discuss race, gender and class in the food system. Don’t miss the episode that unpacks the loaded sentiments behind the word ‘curry’.
Target Zero Hunger
TheUN Food and Agriculture Organisation’s podcast seems to be on hiatus, but old episodes are certainly worth checking out. They’ve covered everything from slavery on industrial fishing vessels to why pulses are a neglected superfood to how the use of charcoal in cooking can be made moresustainable.
BBC Radio 4: The Food Programme
Aninvestigation and celebration of the food industry in Britain,The Food Programmeis a long-running, award-winning radio show that looks at everything from food waste to shopping habits.
Bite, from Mother Jones, brings writers, farmers, scientists and chefs into the recording studio to explore the politics and science of what we eat, and why. How can you know if you’re a super taster? And what would you serve guests you’re about to murder? Listen in to find out.
Food without Borders
This isa weekly podcast on how immigrants make the US food system more vibrant, diverse, and delicious. Food, we are reminded, can connect us to our past, and strengthen our futures. These are stories from the people we most often overlook.
The Food Chain
What doesn’t kill you
A taste of the past
Radio Cherry bombe
The Eater Upsell
Milk Street Radio
The Splendid Table