Please Explain from WNYC New York Public Radio

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From WNYC, New York Public Radio: Please Explain, where Leonard Lopate and a guest get to the bottom of one complex issue. History, science, politics, pop culture or anything that needs some explanation!More from Please Explain from WNYC New York Public Radio »

Most Recent Episodes

A Beginner's Guide To Kosher And Halal Food

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.

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The Weapon In Your Kitchen

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

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Pulling the Perfect Shot

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.

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Understanding those 4th of July Missiles That Explode Into Colors: Fireworks

Each 4th of July many of us crowd on rooftops, waterfronts and around televisions to watch the explosive magic of fireworks. Although large, professional pyrotechnic displays are a favorite, some people also enjoy setting off fireworks on their own. This year is the first time since 1909 that New Yorkers in certain counties can legally light fireworks for the Fourth of July (although the change in the law still prohibits New York City residents from putting on their own pyrotechnic shows). Joining us for a Please Explain look at fireworks is journalist and historian Jack Kelly, author of the book Gunpowder: Alchemy, Bombards & Pyrotechnics, and Phil Grucci, CEO of Fireworks by Grucci, which has provided pyrotechnic displays for US presidential inaugurations and will be putting on fireworks shows in 24 municipalities this independence day.

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The Secrets of Ramen

Ivan Orkin knows his Ramen. His restaurants have been named one of the ten best by Pete Wells at The New York Times, and Ryan Sutton wrote in Eater that his Ramen is so good "it will make your eyes explode." He talks to us about his secrets for making Ramen, along with Chris Ying, co-author of the book Ivan Ramen with Orkin, and editor in chief of Lucky Peach (subscribe here).

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The Fats and Oils That Give You the Perfect Meal

For today's Please Explain, we'll talk cooking with fats and oils. Picking the right cooking oil is crucial when cooking, and oils vary in their health properties. As delicious as that coconut oil or schmaltz is, it might not be the best for your body. Daniel Gritzer, culinary director at Serious Eats, discusses which oil or fat is best for which purpose, from pie crusts, to roasting, to sautéing, to cooking a steak. He'll explain what a smoke point is and why it differs between fats, the particulars of frying, how to render fats and how to store them. Rebecca Blake, Director of Clinical Nutrition at Mount Sinai Beth Israel, will cover the nutrition component, explaining which oils and fats ones are better for you and why.

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From Fast Food to Foie Gras: The Rise of the Burger

The hamburger used to be the symbol, and cornerstone, of fast food, and all the ills associated with it. But as the movement for fresh, organic, locally sourced food rose, so did the lowly hamburger. For this week's Please Explain, we are talking all about the history, and the future, of the hamburger, with Benjamin Wallace, the author of "The Play-Doh of Meats" in the June 1-7 issue of New York Magazine, and Pat LaFrieda, of Pat LaFrieda Meat Purveyers. Adam Kaye, Vice President of Culinary Affairs at Blue Hill, also joins us to talk about the red-headed stepchild of the burger family: the veggie burger. Do you have a favorite burger recipe or secret tip you want to share with us? An opinion on where to find the perfect burger? Leave us a comment below or call us at 212-433-9692 after 1:20 PM EST

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Unclipping The History Behind Our Office Supplies

Office supplies. Cluttered around your desk, holding notes and lists, they seem not only indispensable, but universal. But there is a hidden history behind the sticky note, the stapler, and the paper clip. James Ward, the cofounder of The Stationery Club and the Boring Conference, discusses the stories behind our everyday office supplies in The Perfection of the Paper Clip: Curious Tales of Invention, Accidental Genius, and Stationery Obsession. Leonard's in studio paper clip collection! Today's please explain is about office supplies. Tweet us your photos! pic.twitter.com/BZMwOuxpZj — Leonard Lopate (@LeonardLopate) May 29, 2015 @LeonardLopate Here's my desk drawer dedicated to filled notebooks. Just can't bear to part with them. pic.twitter.com/qF5iQsxPHa — Katherine Milsop (@KMilsop) May 29, 2015 @LeonardLopate @WNYC @iamjamesward i sort my paperclips by size pic.twitter.com/eL5L8kJxfB — Tara Hart (@Tara_Hart28) May 29, 2015 @LeonardLopate pic.twitter.com/WIha0GDgN7 — MJfromBuffalo (@mjfrombuffalo) May 29, 2015

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Understanding Cults

Cults have been around for thousands of years, and they exist throughout the world, but when news reports break about a cult, it often seems like they have sprung up out of nowhere. For this week's Please Explain, we will be examining the world of cults. Ian Haworth of the Cult Information Centre and Dr. Steve K.D. Eichel, president of the International Cultic Studies Association discuss what a cult is, why people join them and how to exit one.

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From Lobo to Fido: The Story of Domestication

Evolution is commonly seen as a process that happens in the wild, far away from human involvement. But humans and animals have evolved alongside each other for ages. The reason your dog understands you so well is largely due to evolution, and specifically the evolution of domestication. For this week's Please Explain, we turn our lens on the science of domestication with Richard Francis, the author of Domesticated: Evolution in a Man-Made World.

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