Taking it to the limit

The Splendid Table’s Francis Lam once flew to a city just to eat at a specific restaurant, and felt that was going far – figuratively and literally – in pursuit of food. Inspired by his own obsession, Lam decided to ask others how far they would go for food-related items. The results are fascinating.

Lam interviews photographer Melanie Dunea, who tells us the story of how in 2015 she ended up deep in in Afghanistan, in Taliban territory, to learn about the burgeoning saffron farming industry. The trip involved a lot of planning and logistics, not the least of which is traveling with a guide who had a chip implanted under her skin so the government could track the movements of their group. It was scary stuff to get a photograph of the world’s most expensive spice, but Dunea says the magnificent vistas of the saffron fields were worth the risk.

Not all of the stories involve international travel and safe houses. Joe Gitter from America’s Test Kitchen discusses the staggeringly complex process to get what appears on its face to be a simple thing: making perfectly clear ice. It turns out that getting clear ice is really difficult and involves numerous variables including the type of water, the freezing temperatures, the direction of the freezing, and more.

There are two other intriguing stories in the episode. One is a tale of recipe R&D that includes trying to get the white out of an egg in its shell without disturbing the yolk, injecting a broth to replace the white, and cooking the entire thing in a water bath so it would be a self-contained ‘egg drop’ soup. The other focuses on a cross-country adventure of man, woman — and curry tree.

Photo of Cliff old fashioned [Dave Arnold] from Food52 Genius Recipes

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  • MarciK  on  January 15, 2020

    I’m taking a second trip back to Portland, ME this Spring because I miss the donuts at The Holy Donut.

  • Skamper  on  January 17, 2020

    I found the photographer’s story distasteful. She put many people’s lives in danger essentially to get a selfie. This kind of self-centered recklessness should not be celebrated.

  • MarciK  on  January 17, 2020

    As a photography hobbyist, I had to respond to Skamper. This photographer likely was not in Afghanistan for personal purposes, although some of the most beautiful photographs you’ve seen were not possible without the photographer putting themselves at risk or enduring physical challenges to capture the picture. In a situation like this, it is likely a paid assignment for a publication that is reporting on the saffron farming industry. Publications such as the very popular National Geographic, how do you think they get the amazing photos that are in the magazine? Also, the guide she was with is likely a local who could travel safely, and the story doesn’t indicate whether there was anyone else present.

  • Skamper  on  January 18, 2020

    MarciK it sounds like we may have listened to different versions. In the podcast the photographer says on the day they were to go to the fields her local guide said it was too dangerous and they shouldn’t go. She was so disappointed that he took 6 members of his family so it would be easier to pass it off as a family outing, and she said directly that they put their lives in danger. She said it was her idea to visit the fields, but doesn’t say whether she then pitched it to a magazine that paid her way. At any rate, we may just have different opinions and that is a-ok.

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