Monosodium glutamate (more commonly known as MSG) is a commonly occurring non-essential amino acid found in everything from seaweed to tomatoes, potatoes, mushrooms, and Parmesan cheese. In the early 1900s, Japanese scientists were able to extract MSG from kombu seaweed into a crystalline form, thereby inventing an instant umami ingredient that became ubiquitous in Asian cuisine, including Chinese restaurants in the US. But with Americans complaining of "Won Ton Soup Headaches" beginning in the late 1960s, MSG earned a harmful reputation. On today's Please Explain, we'll learn about this history, why MSG got a bad rap, and whether or not it is safe to consume. We'll also learn how to use it in our own cooking, and why MSG can be so useful – and delicious – in the kitchen! We'll be joined by Red Farm owner and operator Ed Schoenfeld and Ian Mosby, a food historian and postdoctoral fellow at McMaster University.
Our latest Please Explain is a master class in men's fashion! A renowned fashion expert on men's apparel, G. Bruce Boyer teaches us about the art of getting dressed. In his latest book, True Style: The History and Principles of Classic Menswear he lets readers know when a turtleneck is appropriate attire and that it isn't actually a sin to wear dress shoes without socks. He'll discuss the essential elements of the male wardrobe and how best to employ them.
Cockroaches: They've Been Around Forever, And They Aren't Going Anywhere
Our latest Please Explain is all about cockroaches! Even as our efforts to exterminate them have developed into ever more complex forms of chemical warfare, roaches' basic design of six legs, two hypersensitive antennae, and one set of voracious mandibles has persisted unchanged for millions of years. In The Cockroach Papers: A Compendium of History and Lore, Richard Schweid explores their astonishing diversity, how they mate, what they'll eat.
For this week's Please Explain, we'll get a guided tour of New York's bird life, neighborhood by neighborhood. Leslie Day and Beth Bergman talk about the diverse birds living in the city, from Staten Island to the Bronx, from Central Park to Borough Park. Leslie is the author of Field Guide to the Neighborhood Birds of New York City, with photographs by Beth. Events: Leslie Day and Beth Bergman will be speaking at the NYPL Mid-Manhattan Library, 455 5th Ave, New York, NY, Monday, 24 August 2015 at 6:30 PM. Leslie Day will also be leading a street tree walk on Saturday August 29th 9:30- 11 starting at the entrance to fort Tryon Park at the Margaret Corbin Circle. Tell us what birds you see in your neighborhood. Share your your New York bird photos with @LeonardLopate on Twitter and Instagram! @LeonardLopate a Common Yellow Throat in #centralpark pic.twitter.com/2jy6Eli412 — LaBergholm (@lberghol) August 21, 2015 @LeonardLopate Tufted Titmouse in #centralpark pic.twitter.com/yrpnWkcyJn — LaBergholm (@lberghol) August 21, 2015 @LeonardLopate An under appreciated Grackle in Green-wood Cemetery pic.twitter.com/zth51V2hGy — LaBergholm (@lberghol) August 21, 2015 @LeonardLopate Duck on the rocks along the Hudson, in Weehawken, NJ pic.twitter.com/sTX7BFIQCW — WNY Tara (@WNYTara) August 21, 2015 @LeonardLopate A Prothonotary Warbler who got lost and ended up in Green-wood Cemetery this spring! pic.twitter.com/1cGUlPxSKt — LaBergholm (@lberghol) August 21, 2015 @LeonardLopate redtail hawk on the roof, Washington Heights June 2015: birds of New York pic.twitter.com/IngpaYewnh — Nora Barnacle Joist (@lacunalingua) August 21, 2015 @LeonardLopate for the birds of New York...my afternoon window view in Inwood pic.twitter.com/LJDPj09KwM — NoraQ (@NoraQuinonez) August 21, 2015 @Khantipala @LeonardLopate#Cardinal in my yard, Baldwin, N.Y.. pic.twitter.com/CuB36yTx8C — L.Parrish (@Purplemind36) August 21, 2015 @LeonardLopate for The Birds of New York ... a Cardinal in Prospect Park, April 2015 pic.twitter.com/FDIHPiJ1vJ — dale fuller (@Khantipala) August 21, 2015 @LeonardLopate Here's a hawk having lunch in Central Park. More of my photos at http://t.co/k1fUrgOClB pic.twitter.com/TNtsR43gNA — Michael Ortega (@artofparts) August 21, 2015 Producer @TimestepJess snapped this mom & duckling photo in the courtyard of @UnionSeminary http://t.co/Sx9vzfboOY pic.twitter.com/kKbJq1vq9K — Leonard Lopate (@LeonardLopate) August 20, 2015
Eight Armed Mischief: The Deeply Intelligent Octopus
There are around 300 species of octopuses and their strength and knowledge combine to make them a serious force to be reckoned with... instead of merely a summer appetizer. Sy Montgomery discusses her latest book The Soul of an Octopus for this week's Please Explain. Montgomery immersed herself in the world of octopuses at the New England Aquarium, the reefs of French Polynesia, and the Gulf of Mexico. She befriended several of these creatures, revealing their strikingly different personalities. She also discusses how scientists are learning more about the deep intellect of these creatures, despite having a hard time measuring this intelligence. Octopuses have been known to escape their enclosures or spray researchers that they don't like, and generally have a reputation for misbehaving. And don't forget to check out a compilation of the best octopus occupations, assembled by the Lopate team.
The American Southwest is a land of great mystery. One of the most baffling riddles is why the ancient native tribes of the Four Corners, having occupied the region for more than 5,000 years, abandoned their homeland in the 14th century. David Roberts, an award-winning author, veteran mountain climber, and scholar of the American Southwest, will discuss the latest archaeological evidence and what we know about why these people disappeared. His latest book is The Lost World of the Old Ones: Discoveries in the Ancient Southwest. (Courtesy of the publisher)
What is Meat? Changing the Answer Might Change the Planet.
Industrial agriculture and livestock are big contributors to greenhouse gasses. Making one hamburger requires hundreds of gallons of water. As more studies highlight the environmental impact of meat, some scientists and entrepreneurs are rethinking meat as we know it. For today's Please Explain, we'll talk to a few of them. Professor Mark Post is a faculty member at Maastricht University, and a leader in making Cultured Beef. He is working on a process that makes a beef hamburger using stem cells. Ethan Brown is the CEO of Beyond Meat. The company makes plant-based meat substitutes that replicate beef and chicken, attempting to make plant proteins behave nearly identically replicate meat proteins. Ethan Brown, CEO of Beyond Meat (Courtesy of MBooth) A burger made from Cultured Beef, which has been developed by Professor Mark Post of Maastricht University in the Netherlands. (David Parry/PA)
Why isn't New York City's tap water kosher? What makes the corner gyro stand halal? Where do the two standards agree and what sets them apart? For today's Please Explain we dive into the rules and regulations of dietary laws. We are talking to Lara Rabinovitch, food editor at GOOD Magazine and self-styled "Doctor of Pastrami," Rabbi Avrohom Marmorstein, director of Mehadrin Kashrus, and Mohammad Adil Khan, president and founder of the US Halal Association.
Knives have evolved and been domesticated over the years. Predating the fork and spoon, the earliest knives were used as weapons. But as our culture (and culinary tastes) developed over the centuries, so did the ways we use our knives, as did our knives' shape and design. For today's Please Explain, we will be speaking to Jack Bishop, Editorial Director of America's Test Kitchen, Sarah Coffin, Curator and Head of the Product Design and Decorative Arts Department at the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, Mari Sugai, sales consultant at Korin, and Moriah Cowles, knife maker and owner of Orchard Steel in Burlington, VT. READ: The Cook's Illustrated Guide to Building the Best Knife Set
The arrival of the humble espresso marked a dramatic shift in the way people consumed caffeine across the world, and when espresso and espresso-based drinks became popular in the United States, coffee culture was forever changed. For this week's Please Explain, we are talking all about espresso: the history of espresso, the technique of making espresso, as well as how, and why, it has taken off in this country. We will be talking to Erin Meister, a writer, and journalist who has spent 14 years in the coffee industry, and Erin McCarthy, a technician at Counter Culture who has worked as a barista and trainer for years, and in 2013 was the first American winner of the World Brewers Cup Champion.