Podcasts of the week: food, the Theranos trial, and 9/11
Featuring Kitchens, The Dropout, and 9/12
Podcasts about food bring obvious challenges, said Fiona Sturges in the FT. “If you can’t see it, or indeed smell or taste it, is there any point?” The answer is a resounding yes – as is amply demonstrated by Lucy Dearlove’s excellent podcast Lecker (the German for “delicious”) which has been exploring all aspects of food and the way we eat since 2016. Kitchens, her new mini-series under the Lecker banner, explores how the design and make-up of kitchens affect our diets, our social lives, and our quality of life. Her “masterstroke” is to interview not just experts but “everyday people who talk eloquently and revealingly about their relationships with their kitchens and the impact of kitchens on their relationships”. It sounds “niche”, but the series’ themes are “universal” – age, class and wealth loom large – and it has “profound things to say about the way we live”. Listen, and you “won’t look at your kitchen the same way again”.
Elizabeth Holmes is the Stanford University dropout who founded the US medical technology firm Theranos, and claimed to have revolutionised medicine with a radically new blood-testing process. Enough people believed her to send the value of the firm soaring to $10bn. But it all came crashing down, said Hannah J. Davies in The Guardian, and now she is on trial for fraud. The roller-coaster story of Holmes, Theranos, and her business partner (and ex-boyfriend) Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani, is told in The Dropout, an “acclaimed” ABC News podcast which is currently being made into a TV series starring Amanda Seyfried. It’s a “gripping” listen – and as the trial progresses, you can keep up with its developments via new episodes released each Tuesday.
Several new TV documentaries were released earlier this month, to mark the twentieth anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks. Dan Taberski’s superb new Wondery podcast, 9/12, is not about that terrifying day, nor is it about the political fallout from it. Instead, it explores the “ripple effect of 9/11 on US culture”, said Miranda Sawyer in The Observer. “How it changed the way Americans approached their lives. Their reaction. The societal aftermath.” Taberski is a prolific and inventive podcaster – his previous productions include Missing Richard Simmons, Surviving Y2K and The Line – and a “warm, shrewd” interviewer. The mood is respectful, but not solemn, as he discusses, for instance, how the satirical magazine The Onion covered 9/11 in its issue days later (sample headline: “Hugging Up 76,000 Percent”); the evolution of conspiracy theories; and a CIA wheeze in which Hollywood screenwriters and directors were asked to help forecast what the bad guys might do next.