A cookbook seems an unlikely source for a podcast, and The Splendid Table is a show that’s older than the iPod. In the early 1990s, inspired by Lynn Rosetto Kasper’s award-winning cookbook, producer Sally Swift coordinated with her and Minnesota Public Radio to launch a Saturday morning call-in program “for people who love to eat.” Over the next two decades, in front of an ever-growing audience and through changing mediums, Kasper interviewed culinary creators from around the world.
At its inception, terms we now take for granted, such as “organic food,” had to be defined and explained. Discussions about sustainability and the importance of eating local food were just starting to take root, and The Splendid Table has won many, many awards for its work in facilitating those conversations in an inviting and entertaining way. Of course, the primary focus has always been and continues to be recipes and ingredients, tools and techniques.
And that’s how I learned I need a salad spinner.
Francis Lam (himself a culinary school trained, award-winning food journalist) took over hosting duties in 2018. Every Friday there is a new episode exploring food, food culture, and the lives of the people who live in and shape the food scene. While the show has gone far beyond its Midwestern roots and now reaches an international audience, it still finds time to answer questions called in by listeners, just like the old days.
For those of us who can only name two chefs (Julia Child and Guy Fieri), think Michelin Stars are tiers of tires for our cars, and try to make as minimal effort in the kitchen as possible, there’s still plenty to enjoy. We all love a good meal, and food shared with interesting people always tastes better. While the flavors are left to our imaginations, Lam’s interviews are as engaging as any lingering meal with a new, old friend.
Ultimately, the conversations around The Splendid Table are about more than food prep and cooking. Lam invites his guests to tell their stories related to the dishes they love. From the mysterious methods of grandmothers, to holiday traditions, to epic disasters, everyone has a story to tell. Through their memories we experience a wide variety of cultures and traditions. We get to see a sliver of life through someone else’s eyes, all because of food.
Still, life is frustrating, especially when it seems like we’re just putting in our time, in the kitchen or otherwise. Solomon, a man with significant appeties wrote, “For the living know that they will die; but the dead do not know anything, nor do they have a reward any longer, for their memory is forgotten” (Ecc. 9:5).
But he continues: “Go then, eat your bread in happiness, and drink your wine with a cheerful heart; for God has already approved your works.” While we are forever aware that our time here is limited, there are still rewards for our best efforts, not the least of which is a good meal. (American Public Media)