Beyond Soul Food: The True Story of Black Cuisine | Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street

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Episode 527
October 8, 2021

Beyond Soul Food: The True Story of Black Cuisine

Beyond Soul Food: The True Story of Black Cuisine

This week, the editor of 4 Color Books, Bryant Terry, describes the long history of veganism in Black communities and his hopes for a healthier food system. Plus, archaeologist Farrell Monaco reveals what the ashes of Pompeii can tell us about Ancient Roman food, Dr. Aaron Carroll weighs in on whether milk and juice are actually healthy beverages for kids, and we learn to make Cranberry and White Chocolate Soda Bread.

This episode is brought to you by Sleep Number and All-Clad.

Questions in this episode:

"I love butternut squash. However, I often get some residue on my knife and no amount of washing will get it off. Is there a way to clean my knife without damaging it?"

"I’m occasionally tempted to try a recipe that calls for deep frying, but I nearly always refrain because I don’t know what to do with the oil once I’m done. It seems wasteful to use that much oil for, say, a batch of falafel and then simply chuck it down the drain. I’m wondering: Can I reuse that oil to cook something else?"

"I love to fish and I’m planning a guided fishing trip to try to catch muskellunge (commonly called "muskie" for short), a very large species of pike. I want ideas for what to do with the fish."

"I made this really good cranberry liqueur, but now I have this container of alcohol-soaked dried cranberries that I don't know what to do with. Any ideas?"

Bryant Terry by Adrian Octavius Walker

Christopher Kimball: This is Milk Street Radio from PRX. I'm your host Christopher Kimball. Twenty years ago, Bryant Terry founded an after-school program that used cooking classes to teach high school students about healthy eating. Today, Bryant continues to educate communities around the country through his work as the chef in residence at the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco, and also as the editor of the New Publishing imprint 4 Color books. He joins us today to talk about their first book Black Food, a collection of essays and poems that explore the truth about black food history, from the food advocacy of the Nation of Islam, to the real story of soul food.

Bryant Terry: When people are talking about soul food, I often hear this idea that that’s slave food, you know, the kind of remnants of the plantation owners table the worst parts of the animals, you know, reducing it to just survival foods, but I think it's important for people to understand that the institution of slavery was very complex, and the way that people ate looked different in different parts of the black diaspora.

CK: Also coming up, we elevate traditional Irish soda bread with dried cranberries and white chocolate. And Dr. Aaron Carroll reveals if there's such a thing as a healthy beverage. But first is my interview with food writer and experimental archaeologist, Farrell Monaco, when Mount Vesuvius erupted nearly 2000 years ago, she preserved some of the cooking of ancient Pompei. Now feral is using the charred remains of bread found in the ruins to uncover the food culture and flavors of that time. Farrell welcome to Milk Street.

Farrell Monaco: Thank you so much, Chris. Pleasure to be here.

CK: You are an experimental archaeologist. What is an experimental archaeologist?

FM: I consider an experimental archaeologist to be someone who interprets archaeological objects or structures using more than just their eyes. My focus of courses is food in the classical Mediterranean. And what I enjoy is actually recreating foods using reproduced cooking tools, pots and pans, hearths, etc. Because it's my opinion, that when you actually handle it, and use the object and create the object, you have a much, much broader interpretive perspective.

CK: So is this part and parcel of a way to look at history which is not defined by the royalty and the kings and the upper classes, but to get a sense of what life was actually like, on the ground, let's say in Rome for the, you know, quote, unquote, average person.

FM: I believe that it is. I mean, when, when historians and archaeologists refer to just the literary record, you're looking at the accounts of the 1%, the 1%, who are literate, and the 1%, who are writing to each other and for each other. For example, we read so often that the poor and the working class of Rome, only ate pulse, which is a grain porridge, highly vegetarian diet, couldn't afford me. The patina that was excavated recently at Pompei tells us something completely different. They did eat meat, they had access to pork and to fish. And so, when you explore these working spaces, the popini of the bakeries, etc., and the food remains found in them, you can actually get much closer to what the lives of working Romans were like and what they actually ate.

CK: So, you mentioned popini, could you define exactly what that means?

FM: Sure. So pini singular popini is a hot food and drink beverage outlet that sells retail food and drink to the public. Cicero called them reeking stew houses. In my vision, I see them kind of like a pub. But the prevalence of these bars, these taverns gives us such a strong idea as to how common eating out was in Pompei. And this is necessitated by the fact that essentially on average, 50% of non-elite Pompeians did not have cooking facilities in their home. So, they had to eat in these highly social places where you'd gather together shoulder to shoulder and consume food together.

CK: So, Saturday night in the West End of London, okay, (yeah) so Vesuvius buries Pompeii, and you now have to work backwards from the remains to figure out for example, Pompeian bread. So exactly how do you do that?

FM: So, the infamous Pompeian bread they found 81 almost identical loaves in the oven at the bakery Modestus that were abandoned on the day of the eruption. You're looking at an object that is ornate, it is beautiful, but it speaks very highly to function. It was used to soak up your soup, wipe up your plate. And then when it went stale, you could drop it into milk, wine, water, in order to turn it back into some sort of a porridge and still consume it right? I have examined the physical remains themselves quite closely at the Museum of Archaeology in Naples. And then I've studied the written references about that particular bread, as well as the frescoes the pictorial representations of it. So, I study what the ingredients were and then the main bakery context where they were found at Pompei.

CK: So how do you know the recipe, in other words, in the written record somewhere, someone's talking about what's in the bread? Or what kind of flour they use? Or can you get some of this from remains still in Pompeii, is that able to tell you something about the bread itself?

FM: Absolutely. So, a certain volume of common bread wheat was found in one of the mills on the day that the bread was also locked into the oven. The crumb is leavened, it's lightly leavened, you can see air pockets inside of the crumb. The literary record also tells us a few other additives that went into these particular loaves.

CK: So, is there anything it's been 2000 years so is there anything in modern Italian baking, that harkens back to what they might have done in Pompeii, or is that history so lost, and bread baking’s changed so much, there's no link to the past?

FM: No there most certainly is. And it's absolutely beautiful to behold once you trace it back, and you can understand where it comes from the tavallo for example, the Talarini, the little ring crackers that we can buy easily in North America, there at all the Italian deli, sometimes they're even at, you know, at the at our grocery stores. That tiny little ring cracker, the exact same shape was excavated I think it was in the 1980s from Puglia, from when the Greek colonies were in place around 300 BC. And it was from a ritual context. So, it was offered to one of the gods, perhaps Demeter. And the women of Pulia today and over millennia, have obviously still made them in the same exact way. So, to think about how Italian food culture has preserved these breads over time, is just, it's just unbelievable. And it speaks to the relationship that Italians and in particular, Southern Italians have with their food culture, that they pass down generation after generation. Nothing needs to change because it's already perfect. It's already beautiful.

CK: It's so exciting to bring history to life. Now I have to go bake some of that bread. Farrell thank you so much for being on Milk Street.

FM: You are so welcome. I appreciate it, Chris.

CK: That was experimental archaeologist Farrell Monaco. Now it's time for my co-host Sara Moulton, to answer some of your cooking questions. Sara is of course the author of Home Cooking One on One. She also is the star of Sara's Weeknight Meals on public television.

Sara Moulton: So, Chris, now that your little humans at home are getting a little older, tell me what do they each like to eat?

CK: My four-year-old is like my older son, you know, it has to be white or brown. He looks at it. And if it doesn't look like the right color, it's not going in his mouth. My two-year-old on the other hand, she always looks over to my plate. Like I had _____sauce or something that is you go like, well, that looks good. So, she'll eat fish, she'll you know, she'll eat almost anything. I got one for two. Yeah, I'm going to 50% deal here. But it's interesting. I mean, my older kids have obviously had a lot of different foods. We've traveled a lot. But I don't think any of them are particularly adventurous eaters.

SM: I sort of believe you're born with your palate, you know, and then it evolves if you let it and it doesn't if you don't, that's why you have two kids who are so different two little kids.

CK: Well, I don't you know, I know like j Kenji Lopez Alt talked to him. He's got a three-and-a-half-year-old daughter, four-year-old daughter, and he and his wife serves her exactly what they eat and she's everything.

SM: Yeah. never worked for me.

CK: I'm going to let all parents off the hook. Don't worry about it.

SM: They'll eventually eat everything

CK: They will, or they won't.

SM: Yeah, that's not the end of the world. they'll survive. Yes.

CK: So, this is our parenting show.

SM: Okay, yes

CK: Not. Time to take a call.

SM: Welcome to Milk Street who's calling?

Caller: This is Erin from Raleigh, North Carolina.

SM: how can we help you today?

Caller: I love butternut squash, but I hate that sticky sap substance. And so, I usually wear a glove when I cut it but I peel and cut it with my chef's knife and that substance sticks to my blade and no amount of washing takes it off. I hand wash my knife so I'm nervous to use something more abrasive to get it off. So, I wondered if you had any tips on cleaning it off or just protecting it in the future when I prepare butternut squash?

SM: Well, I have two thoughts. One of them is before you start cutting the squash spray it with some vegetable oil. Of course, it's going to be a little slippery. And as we all know, butternut squash has a very, very hard skin so you've got to be very careful. But that might help to insulate it. My other thought is something my uncle used to do when he used to cut branches in the forest with his knife and he'd get SAP on his knife is he would clean it with alcohol, you know rubbing alcohol, isopropyl. And that seemed to work pretty well. Chris, do you have any suggestions?

CK: Well, the six lawyers the next room just came in and hit me over the head. I need to say that you should probably not spray the squash because that cutting through butternut squash is one of the more dangerous things

SM: I didn't say the squash, I said the knife.

CK: Yeah, I still don't think you want anything more slippery around a squash. I mean, it probably would help but the danger factor is probably pretty high. One thing I use now is this peeler from a small store in Tokyo. They designed it they've been around for 100 years. And it is unbelievable. It will peal anything like butter, and even butternut squash. That would be the best way to get the peel off without any other problem. Because you don't have the big flat blade to get all mucked up. That's what I would try that I think the alcohol rubbing alcohol I probably take it off. I would agree with you. I wouldn't use an abrasive substance on the knife, of course in our household not that I'm outing anybody in my household but I often find my knives in the dishwasher.

SM: Oh no

CK: I know. I know. I know. I know. Don't even get me started.

SM: Oh dear. Ah, that's like nails on a blackboard.

CK: I know. It's like I opened the dishwasher. Oh no.

SM: Also, I just want to throw out one other thing in terms of the danger of cutting a butternut squash since Erin, you say you really like them. I've recently been nuking them for five minutes or six minutes, and then there's so much easier to cut in half. The whole point about cutting and being safe is making something that's round to be flat. So, when you cut the squash in half, if you do it lengthwise, it's because you're going to roasted cut side down. If you, do it crosswise, it's probably because you're going to peel it. But if you nuke it for five minutes, it's not really going to cook it. But it makes it so much easier to cut in half without killing yourself.

CK: That's a good idea. I would also suggest the Chinese cleaver, there are two kinds. There are the very thin bladed ones that are very delicate. You could even slice garlic with it. But there are other brands out there like Tojiro that make a heavier blade. And those are really safe because they're heavy. You can get your hand on top of the blade and push down. You're not going to hurt yourself and it'll go right through butternut squash. So, I think a good Chinese cleavers really good thing to have around for that.

Caller: Great.

SM: All right. Well, Aaron, thank you

CK: There you go

Caller: Thank you so much. You gave me a lot of tips and the internet had failed me. So, I appreciate you guys giving me a lot to try.

CK: Our pleasure. Thanks, Aaron.

SM: Yes, thank you

Caller: Have a good one.

SM: Okay.

CK: This is Milk Street radio. If you have a question, please give us a call. Our number is 855-426-9843 that's 855-426-9843 or you can email us at questions at Milk Street

SM: Welcome to Milk Street who is calling?

Caller: Hi, this is David Rebel from Chatham New York.

SM: Hi, David. How can we help you today?

Caller: Well, I've got a question about falafel and my problem with that is the deep frying. It really seems objectionable to me to put three quarts of oil into a Dutch oven and then when I'm done just throw it out. So, my question is, what do you do with all the extra oil?

SM: You don't have to throw it out, keep the temperature where it should be. You don't want it to go above the smoke point of the oil. Because if it does that oil denatures then the flavor becomes more off but also its smoke point lowers but as long as you maintain the temperature below its smoke point you're fine. And if you do and you're not like say frying naked fish, which would flavor the oil something like falafel will not flavor the oil all that badly. All you need to do is let it cool off the oil. Then strain it well. And then I actually would store it in your refrigerator or just a cool dry place and you could use it several times as long as (a) you get all those little bits out and (b) you don't overheat it Can I talk now?

CK: Can I talk now?

c Yeah, go ahead,

CK: Chris. First of all, you can shallow fry, especially falafel, you could do it in half as much oil. Secondly, the problem is vegetable oils, even when not use for frying go bad fairly quickly. So, oil it's been fried or heated is going to go bad fairly quickly. If you want to fry and I think frying is great. Just throw out the oil, I wouldn't worry about a few dollars of oil, because you're really unlikely to use the oil again. Now, if you do fry all the time, like every week, that's different. If you think about oh, I'll go out for dinner for falafel or anything else versus making home. It's so much cheaper to do at home, it's hard to take a container of oil, use it once and throw it, I understand that. But the hard reality is if you're not going to use it, then you just have to own up to it at the front end and just accept it. Because otherwise you're just going to store oil for three months and then throw it out. So, I think I think this is a moment of truth. Right?

Caller: It sounds like it. And you have helped me reach the conclusion that I was heading towards anyway, which is if I'm going to do it, do it because there's not much to do with the oil afterwards.

CK: Exactly. guilts a terrible thing, even in the kitchen.

Caller: Well, thanks for the therapy, Chris. I appreciate it.

CK: It's okay. It's free. David, thanks. Take care.

Caller: Thank you so much for your help, guys. Bye. Bye.

Caller: All right. Bye bye.

CK: You're listening to Milk Street Radio. Up next, I'm chatting with vegan chef and food activists, Bryant Terry. That's right up after the break. This is Milk Street radio. I'm your host Christopher Kimball. Right now, it's my interview with Chef and food activist Bryant Terry. He recently launched a new publishing imprint, called 4 Color books, and edited its first project. Black food stories, art and recipes from across the African diaspora. Bryant, welcome to Milk Street.

Bryant Terry: Thank you for having me on, Chris. It's a pleasure and an honor.

CK: Well, congratulations, because you just have a new imprint 4 Color Books from Penguin Random House. And you have a first book from that imprint Black Food. Just give me the quick summary of what what you're trying to do with this book.

BT: You know, I don't know how quickly I can do the summary because his book is a long time coming. But I'll say that one of the major inspirations for this book project is my chef residency that I've had at the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco since 2015. And, you know, since the beginning of that program, what we have done has been so groundbreaking and brilliant and thought provoking. I've always thought about how we could share this with the world and how we can bring in people throughout the black diaspora and beyond into this brilliant programming that we're doing in San Francisco. And so in 2020, following the murders of George Floyd and Brianna Taylor and the uprisings that were happening across the country, and also some of the revelations of the the ways in which a lot of the food media had been failing to support black food creatives and some of the white supremacist cultures that had been revealed and many of these institutions, I felt like this was the time you know, this is the time for Black Food, the book project which really gave voice to many black food creatives, and having this imprint that could further help diversify food media. And really formalize what I've been doing since I started working around health food issues specifically since I became an author, which is supporting budding authors. So having the resources and power to actually publish books by people that I believe in, I think is just going to take everything to the next level.

CK: You know, cookbooks are not known for great writing. But there's a lot of great writing in this book, which I really appreciate. There's a topic I want to start with, which I find I just find fascinating, which is about black food and health. You talk about the Black Panther party's food advocacy. Elijah Muhammad, the Nation of Islam actually, I think helped establish farms was very much into taking back the power of food into the community. I spoke to Alice Randall and Caroline Randall Williams, they talked about black Seventh Day Adventists being vegan, and their bean loaf, which was famous. So, there is a long history, at least going back 100 years anyway, sure, like food and health.

BT: Yeah, well, that that legacy, and that history is something that I've been uplifting since I started this work. And a part of it is in response to the way in which, you know, it's very hard for many people to imagine black vegans. And so, I'll start there. When my agent and I were shopping, Vegan Soul Kitchen, my first solo book, we shopped it to around a dozen publishers. And the reason that we heard most often from these publishers who turned down the book project was that we were cutting the pie too thinly, you know, vegan, black people, or black people, even vegans, like how is this going to work. But, you know, even if we look back to the traditional diets in western Central Africa, and even the American South, which is so odd, you know, that African American cuisine is so often vilified. It's just being the most artery clogging unhealthy cuisine. And I think, you know, these are unfair vilification of, you know, these very complex and diverse food ways. And, you know, when I think about my own introduction to veganism, it was from Seventh Day Adventists, friends of our family, you know, and these were black folks. And so, when people are talking about soul food, I often hear this idea that that slave food, you know, the kind of remnants of the plantation owners table, the worst parts of the animals, the worst parts of the vegetables, you know, reducing it to just survival foods. But I think it's important for people to understand that, you know, the institution of slavery was very complex. And the way that people ate looked different in different parts of the black diaspora, you know, I think it's about reeducating all of us, because black folks are suffering from some of the highest rates are preventable diet related illnesses. And I would argue that we need and look any further than our own cultural foods for our own healing and liberation.

CK: You have this great quote, you say people default toward consumer change, you're talking about buying organics or going to the farmer’s market. But this is your quote, we aren't going to find liberation in the bottom of a basket. What does that mean?

BT: I am very excited that we're at a point where a lot of people understand the power that they have as consumers, and I don't want to undervalue the role that we do play as consumers. I think, you know, you're aware and I hope, increasingly more people are aware that when we spend our dollars in alignment with our values, and go to the farmers market, for example, you know, I often like to stay start here, when I'm talking about reasons why we should be eating locally. It's much more delicious. I mean, the food that you're getting from the farmers market is just that the flavor is going to be so much more robust than the kind of industrial food that a lot of people are getting in these corporate supermarkets. So, I like to start there because a lot of people are self-interested in just having good food. I remember, you know, several years ago when they first opened is really beautiful farmer's market in downtown Memphis. And it had been there several years and many of my family members, they weren't shopping there because it's just it wasn't part of the rhythm of them purchasing food, and I would often mention the market and say, hey, you guys should check it out. It's great food, you know, local, you can get heirloom tomatoes, all the type of foods that you grew up eating because papa and granny and Medea and granddad used to grow it at home. And, you know, not much movement. But I remember the time that I convinced a number of my family members to start going there. It's when I brought a bag of peaches that I got from the farmers market to a family gathering. And you know, I swear to you, some of my aunts and uncles told me they hadn't had peaches that delicious and like 30 years. So, you know all that to say is, I'm excited that a lot of people are understanding the benefits of going to farmers market and shopping locally and you know, buying things that are fair trade, and generally, you know, trying to shop in alignment with one's values. But I think that we think about, you know, the systemic problems within our food system. That's when I have to remind people that consumer change isn't enough to transform our food system to one that works for everyone. Sure, if you have a lot of disposable income, and you know, you can spend as much money on food as you want, then it's fine. But what about people who are living in communities, where there are a number of physical and economic and geographic barriers to accessing any, I mean, look, fresh food, let's, we don't even have to talk about organic or fair trade, we can talk about fresh food, you know,

CK: The shoe box lunch, I'd never heard of that. Which, again, is a recipe for a fairly complicated actually version of it with lots of things. But this was a way for if you were, if you were black and traveling, it was a way for you to bring really good food with you. Because it might be very difficult to find food on the road.

BT: Yeah, I mean, you know, it may not be difficult, because there are a number of restaurants. But the question is where we welcome into those restaurants. So that's it, I just want people to be clear about this history of black people having to, you know, be very careful when traveling, because it's specifically during the Jim Crow era, because of the real possibility of violence. And that meant that certain towns had to be avoided. That meant that, you know, towns that you one might visit you had to leave before the sun went down as is I think people might have heard of sundown towns. And so, you know, there was this, this, the Green Book, which was literally a book that was created in order to help black people navigate traveling throughout the south and identify restaurants that were open and friendly to black folks. So, they know that that's when they can go in and get a bite to eat or whatever they needed to do. But in the instance that we're not might not be able to stop, then you know, you had to have food that was prepared and something that you can eat on the road. And that's where these shoe box lunches developed.

CK: You know, food is obviously inherently political, for obvious reasons, right. But I got into this field because I thought food was way bringing people together. And I'm actually totally devoted to the idea that cooking is transformative. And people you wouldn't normally sit across the table from you will you know, if you are sharing recipes and food, is there a way for food to be political, but also a way for to bring people together at the same time?

BT: Sure. You know, my guiding mantra when I started doing this work was start with the visceral to ignite the cerebral and end with the political. And for me, I think that, you know, food and politics are inseparable. I don't think we can talk about food without talking about politics. Let me give you an example. When I first moved from Brooklyn to the Bay Area, I was living in Berkeley, and then I moved to Oakland. And two blocks from where I live was an independently owned corner store. But they were kind of aware of the gentrifying population, so they had lots of boat grains and legumes and organic greens and whatever fancy you know, chips that people want it. And then around the lake, there was a new 8000 square foot Whole Foods. You go further around the lake every Saturday, there was a farmers’ market. The Grand Lake farmers market, lots of young farmers, immigrant farmers, you know, a diversity of amazing produce. But then if you were to just go maybe 15 minutes in the opposite direction of that new Whole Foods, you'd be in West Oakland, California, the same place that the Black Panther Party for self-defense was found in West Oakland, California, when I moved here had 57 corner stores and liquor stores, and not one single supermarket, right? And so what do you find in corner store and liquor stores, you find a lot of alcohol and cigarettes, tobacco, and a lot of processed and packaged foods and to add injury to insult the same items that you might find in some of these corner stores they're double the price of the ones that you find in corporate on supermarket and so you know, this idea that if people should just do better, it just it doesn't understand the complicated politics.

CK: You've been doing this a long time. 20 years or so anyway. Where are you now? versus when when you started there, you're more hopeful, less hopeful, more enthusiastic? Because I mean, you you put in the the the hours here, right? Yeah, you put in your 10,000 hours on this topic. So where do you stand today about the future?

BT: That's a great question. I don't know if I've thought about that for a while, in some ways, there is a bit of pessimism, just because generally, where we're headed as a society as a country, with our economic system, that's further widening the gap between the haves and the have nots, the growing corporate concentration. You know, some people might argue, well, why shouldn't corporations be involved, and I'm not I'm not saying that there isn't a role for businesses and corporations in our food system, but they shouldn't have so much power and control within our food system. I mean, you know, corporations, they get to set pricing, they determine the seeds that are available, and that can be planted. And, you know, the the thing that's most frustrating to me, and this kind of brings together a lot of the threads in my work, working with young people, working with people in vulnerable communities, you know, just even now, with the growing interest in, you know, plant based eating, specifically among African Americans, you know, the idea that these corporations can even manipulate our understanding of what's healthy. And the fact that, you know, they know that there are certain trends and people are invested in eating more healthfully, but you know, they can use these terms that have, they don't have a legal definition, healthy, natural, or, you know, all these things, and

CK: my favorite is cage free,

BT: there it is

CK: which means absolutely nothing.

BT: So that part is a little disheartening. But I'll tell you what's exciting to me, the fact that you have organizations who aren't necessarily squarely working on food issues, that understand the need to talk about food issues. I'll give you two examples of organizations that I think are brilliant in having a more holistic understanding of kind of chipping away at the systemic issues, Movement Generation, which is a group out here in Berkeley, California, and the movement for Black Lives. And if you look at their platforms, yeah, they're they're talking about police violence, but they're also talking about addressing food apartheid, they're talking about ending climate chaos, and really reimagining our relationships to nature and energy. They're talking about reparations, you know, in recognizing how modern capitalism was largely fueled by the institution of slavery. And so, you know, I'm hopeful and I'm feeling good that black food will further help some of the communities, some of the people who are most impacted by food insecurity, and a lot of these issues to think about how they can change their habits and attitudes and politics and be more deeply invested in changing this food system.

CK: Bryant, thank you so much. It's been a pleasure and an honor. Thank you.

BT: Thanks for having me, Chris.

CK: That was Bryant Terry. His book is Black Food: Stories, Art and Recipes from Across the African Diaspora. You know, history is complicated, and so is black culinary history. And so, the notion that soul food, no meats, overcooked greens, and sugary desserts dominated the black culinary experience in America is in fact, a myth. Meat was expensive and not usually part of the daily diet. And many black families grew their own fresh food and ate right out of the garden. So, if you want to change what and how we eat, Bryant Terry is asking us to start with the truth about our past. You know, history is a great place to start when trying to change the future. You're listening to Milk Street Radio, it's time to chat with Lynn Clark about this week's recipe, cranberry and white chocolate soda bread. Lynn, how are you?

Lynn Clark: I'm doing well, Chris.

CK: I'm big on soda bread. for Thanksgiving. I make a whole wheat soda bread I've made every year. But you have something I've never seen before. This is almost like a Christmas style soda bread.

LC: It is I like to refer to it as a more festive soda bread than probably what you're used to. And that's because it was created at a bakery in London called The Luminary Bakery, which is actually a social enterprise that supports disadvantaged women. They have a training program there where they teach them the skill of baking and that provide jobs and outreach. It's a great organization. They created this right before Christmas, their head, Baker created it trained everybody on how to make it and it's a very popular holiday soda bread, but it's also great anytime you want something really easy to put together with a lot of flavor.

CK: What's the basic concept?

LC: So, soda bread is really simple bread, but there's no yeast. As you know, it's the baking soda that causes the rise. So, we've got whole wheat flour mixed with all-purpose flour that adds a little bit more complexity. And then baking soda salt that gets mixed together with buttermilk, and that's kind of what activates the baking soda and causes the rise. We are adding here, a little bit of orange zest, and then cranberries get plumped in the microwave with some orange juice that softens the cranberries and then also adds a lot of orange flavor into the cranberry itself. And then there's white chocolate in here as well.

CK: Is that because someone just you know, had exploded? I've tasted this and it's actually wonderful, but it's different, right?

LC: That's right. You know, I'm not going to speak for someone else. But I think what is great about it with the white chocolate is, you know, soda bread is a lean bread, there's usually no butter or fat in there other than from the buttermilk. What I like about this is those little pockets of chocolate, add a little bit of creaminess and some sweetness. And you want to make sure when you're chopping your chocolate, you make them kind of bigger pieces, otherwise they just kind of melt into the bread. You really want to get those little pockets of chocolate.

CK: It's like getting little presents around Christmas.

LC: That's right.

CK: You know sometimes culinary surprises are not a good thing. But in this case, it's definitely a plus.

LC: It is.

CK: Lynn thank you a cranberry and white chocolate soda bread. I thought I heard of everything in the world of soda bread, but evidently I've not.

LC: You're welcome, Chris. You can get this recipe for cranberry and white chocolate soda bread at Milk Street

CK: This is Milk Street radio. Coming up. Dr. Aaron Carroll answers the question are milk and juice part of a healthy diet. We'll be right back. I'm Christopher Kimball, you're listening to Milk Street radio. Right now, Sara Moulton and I will be answering a few more of your cooking questions.

SM: Welcome to Milk Street who's calling?

Caller: This is Craig calling from Lynchburg, Virginia.

SM: Hi, Craig, how can we help you today?

Caller: So I'd like to fish although I'm not great at it. And I'm planning a guided trip to go after muskmelon which are a sport fish that can get incredibly big. And so, I just am thinking in terms of recipes to use up that much fish.

SM: Wow. Well in a minute, and Chris will weigh in because he's the fisher person. But I believe now that's a large kind of pike, right?

Caller: That's correct. They're typically going to be in the 20-to-30-pound range or state record is 45.

SM: So, pike is a mild white fish. So it lends itself to sort of many many preparations and there's obvious things like fish cakes, put them in tacos, put them in salads, you can pickle them, you know battered and fried or battered and sauteed. Put it in linguini also now back to French root of course you can put on a beurre blanc, but you could also make them into a fish mousse, puree the fish and add cream and other flavorings. Now, Chris, the fishermen here he comes

CK: Well a few things. I mean, if you have that much fish, I would think about easy ways to deal with lots of it. I was in Tobago years ago, near Barbados with a little fishing village and they brought back a couple of very large fish and they made a fish stew they use plantains and potatoes and other things and so you know a very simple big fish stew is a great way to do it. Vietnamese caramel fish you know you start with a little sugar water in a skillet. Cook it into caramel sauce and seven or eight minutes Add fish sauce, Ginger scallions. Add the fish and cook it for just a couple of minutes and finish it off with some herbs that's really great.

Caller: That sounds amazing

CK: That's an amazing recipe. I do that with shrimp all the time. Vietnamese scallion sauce, you use, like tons of scallions to make this amazing sauce. And that's when oil and other things that's really great. I think things that are simple and quick and use up a lot of fish quickly. Those would be my quick suggestions.

Caller: Sure, thank you.

CK: And there's also a there's a sauce, a matcha sauce, m-a-c-h-a from Mexico, which has dried chilies and nuts in oil in it. And it's phenomenal and it's cooked very quickly and then put in a blender. It's an unusual pairing but with a very plain white fish like this. We just have tremendous flavor instead of putting a sauce on it or something so salsa matcha m-a-c-h-a is another thing you might try.

Caller: Alright, thank you.

CK: There you go. Is this trolling? Is this casting, is this how do you fish for?

Caller: It’s going to be fly fishing.

CK: Oh, good for you

Caller: We go after very large flies.

CK: That's fun, because it'll take you about 20 minutes to reel it in a 20-pound fish and you'll need a fly rod. And good for you. That's really great. It sounds terrific

SM: I think Chris is a little jealous. Frankly,

CK: I'm not a little jealous. I'm very jealous. Well, anyway, best of luck. I hope you catch something.

SM: Yes. I do too.

Caller: All right, thank you.

SM: Bye bye.

CK: This is Milk Street Radio. If you need a bit of culinary inspiration, give us a ring anytime that number is 855-426-9843 one more time 855-426- 9843 or email us at questions at Milk Street Welcome to Milk Street who's calling?

Caller: Hi, my name is Cindy.

CK: How can we help you?

Caller: I have a question about dehydrated cranberries that were rehydrated with vodka and sugar. I made this really good cranberry licquor. But now I have a container of alcohol-soaked cranberry, so they don't know what to do with them and I don't want to waste them. So, I'm looking for some advice.

CK: Well, I'm a huge apple pie fan or any apple dessert. So, I would say alcohol infused cranberries and apples would be the perfect marriage. We also did a buckle which is kind of like a yellow cake with stuff in it. Cranberry and candy ginger buckle. This week's recipe cranberry and white chocolate soda bread that's on Milk Street, that's also really good, but I think apple and those infused cranberries are just matter of fact I may have to go do this myself. I think they would be the perfect combination with apples. Sara?

SM: Well yeah, I'm getting excited the idea of this liquor Cindy, do you want to send us some. Oh geez. I'd say you could use them anywhere you’d use fresh berries as long as kids aren't eating it. Pie, as Chris said paired with apples, pancakes, muffins. Shortbreads, crepes.

Caller: Okay, so alcohol wouldn't be too strong a flavor throwing him into stuff?

SM: That's why I think actually it's a good idea to combine it with another fruit. I mean, in muffins hey, you could have alcoholic muffins why not? Yes. Or in pancakes. I could see that. But in a pie no, you need it with something else. That sounds in shortcakes. Likewise,

CK: Also, you know a mince pie, which now is dried fruit. Right alcohol. It's perfectly absolutely perfect. And no one makes mince pies. I just made one recently and they're lovely. Or you know when a Christmas pudding, or in a I hate to say fruitcake, because everyone hates fruitcake, but uh, but a really good fruitcake is really good. Yeah. Anyway, those are a few few ideas.

SM: Yeah,

Caller: I think I'll try it with the apple pie. Thanks so much

CK: Yeah, that's a good idea. Okay, Cindy, thanks so much. Good luck with it

Caller: Thank you.

SM: Thank you.

Caller: Take care guys.

SM: Bye bye.

CK: This is Milk Street Radio and now it's time for some culinary wisdom from one of our listeners.

Caller: Hi, my name is Iris Brody. And here's my tip. When I blanch vegetables, I always plunge them into ice water to set the color and stop the cooking. But if I have a lot like green beans right now from my garden, it takes a lot of ice cubes. So, in advance I fill a quart container like from yogurt with water and freeze it. Then while the blanching water is coming to a boil, I put the frozen block in a big bowl of cold water. The ice bath stays very cold through many rounds of blanching. Thank you.

CK: By the way, if you'd like to share your own cooking tip right here on milk street radio, please go to 177 Milk Street com slash radio tips Next up, it's time to hear from Dr. Aaron Carroll. Dr. Carroll, how are you?

Aaron Carroll: I'm doing well. How are you?

CK: It's been quite a while and you must be brimming with news from the world of food.

AC: Well, it seems there's always something to talk about. And this time, I thought we might address the benefits or perhaps lack thereof of consuming lots of milk and or juice.

CK: I didn't know milk and juice should be in the same category. So okay.

AC: Well, it's funny because I watch all the time as especially when we talk about obesity. And even with kids, you know, there's so many pushes, even in healthcare settings to remove beverages that have calories in them things like, you know, sugar sweetened beverages, like soda in meals. But for some reason, milk and juice always get a pass. They always seem to be like, you know, get rid of all these other ones. But you know, it's totally fine to drink milk and juice, and especially with young kids. Look, I mean, of course, when you have a newborn baby, breast milk is best no one questions that and even as babies grow, if they are, we know breast milk, still, we advise that they drink milk in the first few years of life, because that's where they get so much of the fat that they need for good brain development. But outside of the neonatal period, there really are no mammals on earth that consume milk anymore. I mean, it's a beverage of infancy, and then you're just shift to water. I mean, we obviously have to go to other animals to get our milk, because we're the only mammal that does it

CK: So when you say neonatal, you're saying a child up to what age should still drink milk?

AC: Probably up until two years of age, you're still drinking whole milk, and then there's a transition into nonfat milk. And then after that, it's still interesting, because if you talk to pediatricians, they will still often push that. You know, milk is something that we advocate, that kids drink, but the evidence for how much kids should drink is pretty thin. And especially once you get to adulthood, the evidence is really thin. There have been studies after study after study that shows that you know whether or not we get people to drink more milk, they don't have greater bone health, they aren’t less likely to have fractures, they are less likely to have bone disease. In fact, sometimes the more milk you drink, actually, the more likely you are to have some problems with bones and bone issues. So, I mean, just the evidence is shockingly thin that milk is something that adults need in order to have a healthy diet or to have good bone strength or teeth strength or anything else. And of course, people will point to the fact that oh, well, then where will they get calcium? Calcium is in lots of foods, no point to the fact that so many people are vitamin D deficient? Well, first of all, research would argue that people are not nearly as vitamin D deficient in a way that affects their life, as people would think. And so, you wind up with this beverage, which has calories and sometimes fat that is probably not necessary in our diet, but we keep pushing the people drink as if it's somehow healthy. And it just really isn't.

CK: But let me just drill down to vitamin D, because about five years ago, all of a sudden, out of the clear blue sky, my doctor goes like your vitamin D deficient. And I noticed that like all of a sudden this was the thing. And in for 20 years, he'd never mentioned it. But why did vitamin D become the hot vitamin all of a sudden?

AC: Well, there's a bunch of theories behind that one of them is a little cynical in the sense that some of the physicians who have pushed it have actually might have questionable financial ties to some of the tests that are used to pick it up. But you're correct, this has become the vitamin de jour but supplementing doesn't appear to do much for us. And certainly, drinking milk absolutely doesn't appear to do much for us now having said that, as with all things look have knock if you want to, you know what else you going to dunk an Oreo in and you know, it tastes delicious with with many desserts, and what else you're going to put on cereal, all of those things are fine. I'm not trying to say that milk is going to hurt you. But you should have it because you want it not because you need it.

CK: Let's talk about juice. Juice is just sugar water, really?

AC: juice is a processed food. I mean, I don't know again, why we are so worried about processing in so many foods. But that's basically it's all you're getting all the sugary goodness out of fruit without any of the work of eating it. And you get none of the fiber, you get none of any other sort of beneficial things from fruits, people will point to again, where you get antioxidants, or you can get that in fruit. And again, the benefits that you're getting are probably not outweighed by the fact that you've just found a way to consume a fairly large amount of calories without any effort. A large glass of orange juice has about as much sugar in it as a coke. And yet you would never think about giving the later to a small child but people give juice to kids all the time. And no one should be under the illusion that this is something it's good for adults or children to have.

CK: You know, there's a theme here which is a wolf in sheep's clothing, right? I mean milk sounds good and healthy. Juice sounds good and healthy, but you're getting fat. Where you're getting sugar, which you're not getting many of the benefits that one ascribes to what seems like natural liquids

AC: That's exactly right. I mean, I think in general, you know, water is the beverage of choice, and everything else is just empty calories. I like to think about any calorie laden beverage the same way I do alcohol, it's perfectly fine in moderation because you want it. But no one should be under the illusion that it's something that's required for health. We should also recognize that, especially with milk, a lot of this is politics. Organizations, like Dairy Management Incorporated, which was a nonprofit, created by the government in 1994. exists to increase dairy consumption, they came up with the Get Milk campaign, and it's all part of the USDA’s role in promoting dairy export since the 1983 dairy production and Stabilization Act, which made it the business of the government to carry out a coordinated program of promotion to strengthen the dairy industry's position in the marketplace. So, this is partially politics. It's partially marketing, but it's advocating that we all get something that we don't necessarily need.

CK: Doctor Carroll, thank you very much. Dunk a cookie in milk. Juice, just eat an orange. Good advice. Thank you.

AC: Thank you.

CK: That was Dr. Aaron Carroll. He's the professor of pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicine. Also, a regular contributor to The New York Times Upshot column. If you tune into later just want to listen again. You can download and subscribe to Milk Street Radio on Apple podcast Spotify, wherever you find your podcasts. To learn more about Milk Street, please go to 177 Milk Street com there you can download each week's recipe watch the latest season of her television show in order our latest cookbook Vegetables. You can also find us on Facebook at Christopher Kimball's Milk Street on Instagram and Twitter at 177 Milk Street. We'll be back next week and thanks as always for listening.

Christopher Kimball's Milk Street Radio is produced by Milk Street in association with GBH, executive producer Melissa Baldino, senior audio editor Melissa Allison, producer Sarah Clapp and Jason Turetsky. Production assistant, Amelia McGuire, and production help from Debby Paddock, additional Editing by Sidney Lewis audio mixing by Jay Allison at Atlantic Public Media in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. The music by Toubab Krewe. Additional music by George Brandl Egloff. Christopher Kimball's Milk Street Radio is distributed by PRX