The Woman’s Hour studio has a kitchenette in the corner which, a bit like the kiln in your local primary school, is a little unloved. Cooking on the radio has been a mixed affair, with only The Kitchen Cabinet attempting to refresh the format in recent years. And yet there’s still very little ‘on-air’ cooking going on.
That changed when Lucy Dearlove produced ‘Let’s Eat…‘ for the Guardian and sponsored by McCain. The brief for this short series was to explore the wonders of communal eating through classic scenarios: date night, Sunday lunch, TV dinners and more.
I was delighted when I heard about this project. As an avid listener and maker of food-related audio I feel like there’s a real lack of podcasts themed around cooking and eating in this country and jumped at the chance to do something about it on such a huge platform.
I believe we can tell so many wider stories through the lens of food; and not only that, but cooking in a domestic kitchen provides an environment that people feel safe and at home in, and so often stories and experiences are shared unexpectedly simply because it feels right to do so.
Food also provides such a rich soundscape; while we often focus on the visual aspect of cooking, the sonic element is arguably just as tantalising. Just the sound of onion and spices frying, or the oven being opened when we know it is full of roast chicken can make our mouths water.
I think we’re all also fundamentally nosy, and so hearing what someone eats for Sunday lunch, or how they cook their eggs is genuinely compelling to us, and with Let’s Eat I wanted to recreate an environment where the listener was somewhere between eavesdropping and a part of the conversation.
It’s also really important to me to celebrate the rich and diverse food culture in the UK, only really made possible by those who have moved here from overseas and made it their home – it seems more important than ever to do this now.
Hosting these fine diners was Hersha Patel. I’d met Hersha through an episode of The Modern Mann (our independent show that continues to discover great new talent) and knew she’d be great for the role of presenter. Her background as a TV producer, and as a cook with her own YouTube channel, made her a great fit for the Guardian.
The Guardian doesn’t have a kitchen in its studios, which is understandable, so we recorded in my flat in west London with a remote set-up I use for lots of other podcasts.
Lucy makes the excellent Lecker podcast – and much like that show, listeners are plunged ears-first into stirfrys, gravy trays and steamers. It’s a treat for the senses and a feast for the belly.
The guests are also a delight – from food writers, cooks and entrepreneurs, to their mums and partners… Let’s Eat offers up tasty morsels from their private lives across the dinner table.
You can hear out the show now on the Guardian’s Culture podcast feed, or sample a tasty morsel below.