V Interesting

Spaghetti Sucks with Dan Pashman, V’s View from DC, Get a Job, Kid!

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Legislation is wildin’ these days. Fresh off their trip to Congress, V breaks down the who, what, and why behind the recent grilling of TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew. They also outline which states are introducing bills to get more teenagers into manufacturing plants and construction sites. Then, some penne for your thoughts: just in time for the announcement of this year’s James Beard Award finalists, V chats with past recipient Dan Pashman, host of The Sporkful podcast. From exploring the problematic origins of certain food branding to unpacking fine dining experiences, Dan shares all the ways he’s pushing kitchen table conversations in new directions. You don’t have to be a foodie to enjoy this conversation — just an eater.

Keep up with Dan at @thesporkful on TwitterTikTok, and Instagram and listen to The Sporkful whenever you get your podcasts.

Keep up with V on TikTok at @underthedesknews and on Twitter at @VitusSpehar. And stay up to date with us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram at @LemonadaMedia.

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V Spehar, Dan Pashman

V Spehar  00:01

Hey friends, it’s Friday, March 31 2023. Welcome to V INTERESTING, where we break down the viral and very interesting news you might have missed. I’m V Spehar and today, I’ll give you the behind the scenes and the behind show to shoulder look at the TikTok congressional hearing. We’ll also talk about the mysterious reasons that cancer shows up more in certain military members. And then we’ll be joined by Dan Pashman, the host of the sportful podcast and inventor of the coolest new noodle shape you ever did see, Dan and I talk all about the secrets and shenanigans of the food world. All that and more on today’s V INTERESTING from Lemonada Media. Let’s be smart together.

V Spehar  01:04

Hello, and Geez what a week huh? This was a wild week. And it seems like tick tock is still dominating the headlines. A lot of the chatter is based on something I literally had a front row seat to last week, the so called TikTok hearing. And by now you’ve probably noticed from all the memes, I was seated directly behind TikTok CEO showed you how did I get that seat you ask? Manifesting obviously with my very lucky girl vibes. No, just kidding. This is DC I paid a guy to go stand in line for me at 5am. And then around 9am. I walked up and thanked him and paid him and took the number one spot in line. DC culture is weird. Hiring a line standard is a fairly common practice for these kinds of things. And then after I took my seat, I made it super awkward for everyone else filing into the courtroom and made them just climb over my legs so that I could stay sitting right behind him. It was super important to me that as TikTok was seemingly going on trial in front of Congress. Many of those congress people who over the last year I have made TikTok’s with saw me there and saw me there as a representation of the community that they would destroy with a ban. And boy was this thing a doozy. Most of Congress set off on rants of uninformed accusations about NyQuil chicken challenges and why the app has to access your home Wi Fi show was barely allowed to answer any of their questions. Here’s the thing though. Through the magic of television, 150 million Americans who use TikTok were tuned into the circus. And since their Congress person did no favors and gathering information about tick tock, nor did they provide any clarity on the pending legislation to ban the app known formally as S686. The restrict act. TikToker’s had to do what we always have to do, take it into our own hands and get to researching. One thing this Congress did not count on was that TikTokers like me and 1000s of other educators on the platform, have spent the last three years educating the public on civics, politics, how to read a bill and how to make your voice heard. The hashtag #keepTikTok has over 100 million views as of this recording, and the hashtag #saveTiktok has over 3 billion views. And there are also explainers that break down the Restrict act that are getting 10s of millions of views. So what is the Restrict act? Well, the former Obama administration official argued that the restrict act could be the largest expansion of executive power in the name of national security since the Patriot Act was signed. For those of you who might not remember the Patriot Act was signed by George W. Bush in the wake of 911. And it basically allowed the government to surveil Americans via their phones. The restrict Act creates blanket authority with few checks to ban just about anything linked to a quote, foreign adversary. It could block not just TikTok but access to crypto trading, video games, online shopping, AI, FinTech, open source tools, and more. It limits judicial review of any grievance to the DC Circuit Court, which raises real questions about fairness and access to justice for Americans who would have to travel to DC to have their case heard. And the worst part is it doesn’t even protect the data or the sale of data. It simply allows the government near unchecked access to all of your online movements, keystrokes data and allows them to monitor and surveil you much the way the Patriot Act allowed the government to surveil and spy on Americans via their phone among liberals House members Jamaal Bowman, Ilhan Omar and Alexandria Ocasio Cortes have come out against an outright ban on Tik Tok, citing anti-Asian xenophobia and urging instead for more comprehensive data privacy for Americans in general. Does you know right now in the United States, there are no comprehensive data privacy laws. We already In close to on par with the protections the UK or Canada offers their citizens. Last week the Energy and Commerce Committee condescendingly thanked shochu for uniting the Democrats and Republicans on a tick tock ban. But apparently, they didn’t check with Senator Rand Paul, who voiced his concerns over the bill. Nor did they check with the Republican led House Committee on Financial Services, which also tweeted its opposition to the bill. Tucker Carlson, the Fox News personality said that the Restrict Act would give the government terrifying totalitarian power and should not be supported. This discussion is going to go on for several months. Now, Biden did come out in support of a ban, but he didn’t say when if ever, he would sign it. And maybe that’s because he’s got reelection on the mind. But Joey, do you really think you’ll get reelected with a ban pending? My guy, first, listen to the stories of 5 million business owners who make their livelihood on tick tock. Listen to the stories of military families who keep in touch with their member on tick tock, the mental health professionals who are saving lives via the app, or even the churches think of the churches Joe. Think of the faith leaders who built robust online ministries on the platform during the pandemic. Shutting down TikTok was described by Pastor Sarah as akin to burning down her church. And then give me a call when you want to regain the trust of Gen Z and millennial voters. I’ll be around to help you get back on track. And speaking of back on track has that whole student loan forgiveness thing coming along.

V Spehar  06:40

Now, some apps and technology do have some serious problems and one particular tool is growing at an unprecedented rate, which means we can’t even anticipate the problems that might come of it. And that tool is called ChatGPT. ChatGPT is a chat bot which might sound pretty rudimentary like something from the days of aim. But this bot is made by the company open AI. It’s powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning, which means it gets smarter every time it takes a new information to improve it relies on people using it. And wow, do people keep using it? Every interaction with the bot is a conversation. You ask it a question, it pulls from the depths of its knowledge to spit out a unique response. People have used it to explain complicated science in layman’s terms, come up with original jokes and even diagnose a dog’s illness based on its symptoms. Past chatbots might have only had a dozen boilerplate answers to choose from, and they can only respond to certain topics similar to the virtual assistant you’re encouraged to use for your customer service needs before you inevitably just get frustrated and call the company anyway or just give up entirely. It goes without saying that chat GPT is lightyears beyond that. But since this is still a bot and not a human, it can make some strange missteps. You can trick it into giving out dangerous information. You can say wild things that someone would never say in a normal conversation. And sometimes it is just straight up wrong. Something might go awry as it synthesizes information. And suddenly it’s telling you that a celebrity died in 1978 when they are still very much alive. As you might expect screenshots of these bizarre interactions go viral, and then more people try it out. And this thing has just caught on like wildfire. According to Time Magazine, it is the fastest growing web platform ever. There’s no way that regulation will keep up with the speed. The bot has only been out in the public for a few months. And all those glitches I mentioned have already turned up. Plus, just last week, the bot malfunctioned and it leaked a bunch of user conversations. There’s a whole other kind of risk to nefarious human behavior. It’s not just technology in isolation, that can be a problem. It’s what people choose to do with it. Already schools have banned ChatGPT because of its flagrant potential for cheating, it can solve math problems and a snap, it can make convincing arguments, it could write a whole dang essay for you if you ask it to. And you don’t even have to ask it nicely. There are plus sides to the technology it’s currently being tested to help visually impaired people identify objects in place of a human helper. It’s a good source of inspiration for creatives who need to get those juices flowing. And it can be used to generate more conversational responses for folks who have trouble typing or speaking. And it could also just make you laugh. Some of the stuff that says is real goofy. And as public interest swells, lots of other companies are rushing to put out their own version of an AI Chatbot. And yet, there is still so much we don’t know about it. I mean, despite that we’re still out here telling it fart jokes to generate complex poetry. This machine needs us to learn it’s fed by our thoughts, which is of course not creepy at all. TikTok imaginary robot friends these The issues that we’re hearing about most in the news right now, but something super important is not getting the attention it needs. A new study out of the Pentagon showed significantly higher cancer rates in US military air crews and their ground crew compared to the general population. Like listen to this military members who flew had an 87% higher occurrence of melanoma 87% higher and sure, you might think like, okay, V, well, they’re like up there in those jets. Is it because they’re so close to the UV rays? No, and I’m going to raise you two points. We don’t know. The causes haven’t been studied yet. And these cancers do not stop at melanoma. Also, among air crews, there are 16% higher rates of both prostate cancer and breast cancer. And ground crews who serve as the vehicles and dispatch flights from the ground had higher rates of brain cancer, thyroid cancer, and kidney or renal cancer.

V Spehar  10:54

Like come on, you know. And like I said, this study doesn’t trace causation only occupation. That deeper dive will be part of a second study of the same population. But reporters and analysts have started to speculate, because there are many dangers to military personnel that might be to blame. There’s the powerful radar technology and radiation. There’s the proximity to jet fuel and fumes. There’s the toxic solvents that are used to clean the machinery. And there’s even the possibility that these folks just have higher rates of smoking or genetic predispositions to cancer. While there are still lots of questions. It’s remarkable that we have any answers at all. Because what eventually became of this government funded study has its origin with a single person. This investigation was spearheaded by the late commander Thomas Boot Hill, he was spurred to action by seeing many of his military friends die over the years, and he personally started gathering data about them. A reporter who worked closely with Hills said that by the time he died, he had listed out several decades worth of pilots who had been diagnosed with cancer, a tragic but powerful example of citizen science at work, Congress took the baton to conduct this first round study, and it’s up to them to facilitate the second so that we can understand the vital information about why this is happening to our military population. I know I’m biased, but this year sounds like a much better way for Congress to use their time than trying to ban TikTok or make new robot friends. Whether it’s chat bots or carcinogens. Sometimes we just don’t know enough about a thing to make rules about it. Was that another dig at Congress taking on tick tock when they don’t understand the Internet? I’ll let you decide. But as I was saying, sometimes we don’t know enough about a thing to make rules about it. Other times we do know enough. We understand well, how regulation makes certain environments better or safer. And yet we still choose to do without it. May I present to you the lowering of safety barriers 2023 edition. across the US legislators are looking around and seeing labor shortages. And in recent weeks, multiple states have introduced legislation to put kids to work in Arkansas new governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders, um did a decades old precedent of child labor regulations. Now 14 and 15 year olds no longer have to get work permits, and their ages don’t have to be verified by the state. In Iowa State Senators are supporting a bill to expand when and where teens are allowed to work. It would mean greater permission to work long shifts before or after a school day, as well as for young people to work in manufacturing plants. It also removes existing rules against 14 and 15 year olds working in freezers or meat coolers. Critics fear that this type of deregulation will cause fatigue and put kids in physical danger. They also oppose the idea that teenagers should have to solve a state’s labor shortage. And they point out that we’re already seeing an all-time high of child labor violations. Employers are putting literal 12 year olds in meat processing plants. And experts are out here trying to tell us that this needs to stop. Not ramp up. Arkansas and Iowa though seem to disagree, and apparently so does Minnesota. The state legislature just introduced a bill to allow 16 and 17 year olds to work on construction sites. And sure, Ron Swanson from Pawnee Department of Parks and Recreation probably would be proud. But don’t you think these restrictions have been in place for a reason? Also, Ron Swanson is not real. Let’s not forget that adults already have plenty of accidents in the workplace. There are spills and falls in chemical exposures. And in a scene straight out of a Roald Dahl novel. Two workers at an M&M Mars factory literally fell into a vat of chocolate. They were fine, but OSHA found that the workers weren’t even authorized to work in those tanks and that they hadn’t gotten proper safety training. Case in point, folks, the dangers of an unregulated work environment can and will be much more severe than taking in an accidental chocolate bath, safety might be boring and procedural but it literally saves lives. After all, it’s the exception and not the rule that when you go willy nilly all you get is Willy Wonka ID. After the break, we’re going to talk a lot more about food and in a much more pleasant way, I promise. So stick around, there’ll be no meat packing, no chocolate drops, because when we get back, I’m going to be chatting with Dan Pashman of the sportful podcast and you do not want to miss it.

V Spehar  15:42

Welcome back friends. I am here with the sensational Dan Pashman. He’s the host of the sportful podcast, which has been making us hungry since 2010. He started the show after getting laid off from six radio jobs in just eight years. The sportful has even won a couple of awards from my former employer, the good old James Beard Foundation, very cool. Dan is also the mastermind behind a new pasta shape. And let me tell you, making something like that is not easy, and we’re gonna get to hear all about this three year quest to make the impossible happen. Sidenote snacking is encouraged through the rest of this interview, Dan, hello. I’m so excited. You’re here, friend, but let everyone who’s listening at home and now hopefully has a snack know who is Dan Pashman?

Dan Pashman  16:28

Oh, wow, that’s a big question, isn’t it V. So my original sort of main job is that I host this food podcast called the spork […]. We like to say it’s not for foodies, it’s for eaters and sort of started out. I mean, 13 years ago, now with me nerding out on the finer points of eating, I’m not a chef. I just love to eat and nerd out on the details of eating. And over the years, the shows changed and evolved and become more substantive. We get into all kinds of issues of identity, culture, race, economics, history, science, all through the lens of food. But we also still like to like nerd out on what’s the best way to layer the ingredients of a PB and J. This is controversial. I go for jelly peanut butter jelly.

V Spehar  17:10

Wow, how do you get the peanut butter to not just slip all around the jelly though?

Dan Pashman  17:14

I get it. That’s it. Everyone asked. And I don’t know. It’s just not that hard. To me. It’s a little bit messy. But I’m also the I don’t care if there’s a little jelly in my peanut butter jar. Okay, you know, like I that’s not cross contamination is cross pollination. Because the next time you go to for peanut butter, you’d be like, oh, the jelly is already in there. Yeah, so I’m not saying double jelly, the normal amount of jelly just split it in half, which in the top and the bottom. That way some of the jelly is on the bottom. So it lands on your tongue to accentuate the sweetness. Because you don’t want peanut butter on the top that sticks to the roof of your mouth. So the jelly is also a lubricant. And so by having jelly on top and bottom, you get you get more sweetness without adding extra sugar. And you also get lubrication that prevents peanut butter from sticking in your mouth. And I also like the way that the jelly kind of sinks into the bread a little bit and kind of crystallizes the bread ever so slightly makes a little bit soft. To me that’s there’s more magic that happens between jelly and bread and peanut butter and bread.

V Spehar  18:10

See, I’m gonna take the opposite stance in this debate that we’re kicking off with. Because like as a as a kid who has parents worked, I was taught to make the peanut butter and jelly peanut butter on both sides of the bread so that the bread wouldn’t get soggy by the time I was eating my second sometimes peanut butter and jelly of the day later in the afternoon. So it became like a barrier. So I was building like a peanut butter wall.

Dan Pashman  18:31

That’s fair. And I think it depends on what kind of bread you’re using.

V Spehar  18:34

The cheapest white bread possible. Damn, that’s the only that’s the appropriate bread.

Dan Pashman  18:37

Yeah. And I mean, if you got like, even like a slightly more dense white bread, you’d be okay. But I hear you’re gonna wonder bread, then you’re gonna have issues.

V Spehar  18:45

Yes. So tell me about this podcast, though. Because I’ve already so interested. So you debate what is the finer points of peanut butter and jelly were taught you said you are taking on issues of race and culture ethnicity cooking styles. That’s a lot to digest. Pun intended.

Dan Pashman  19:01

Yeah, it is. But I mean, to me, that’s what makes it still fun to make our show. I mean, I launched in 2010. So now we’re just past our 13 year anniversary. So what makes it still fun in a way I’m still excited to make it is that the show keeps changing and evolving and going into new areas. So after a couple of 100 episodes are debating the best way to layer peanut butter and jelly I just started pushing in new directions. And yeah, so like some of it is sort of long form storytelling. We did an episode this past fall about this couple who found a half full bottle of scotch at an estate sale like they bought this bottle of scotch in a dead man’s house. And they started googling the brand and couldn’t find any record of it ever having existed. So it’s like this ghost whiskey. And so we set out on this like year long journey to try to find out like where did this come from? And it sort of unlocked this whole story about this bar owner in New Jersey. This like beloved local guy and we found his family like it was it’s a whole big saga which was like a really fun episode to work on. And you know, so that’s only like a good example of it. You know, a few years back, we did some things that were more like specifically overtly race culture identity things, you know, we did an episode about the use of the word plantation in food branding. So like plantation mint tea, was a popular kind of tea the Bigelow made until recently and sort of explore like, what do white people who use this word on the name of their tea, or like they’re posting recipes online for plantation peanut butter cookies, or whatever it might be. What do they think that they’re evoking when they use that word? And how does it actually sound in particular, to Black Americans? And what’s the sort of history of that? How and why is it that the word plantation came to have very sunny, romantic associations for so many white Americans, and it turns out, it’s not an accident, it was a concerted effort. And so we explored that. So that’s sort of example of some of the more substantive kind of, you know, race and identity topics that we’ve covered. Certainly, we’ve done some things on body image and eating disorders. And we also talked to comedians and joke around a lot like we’re, it’s kind of all over the map. And it sounds like it’s not only one thing that’s by design, that makes it fun. For me, I like the I like the feeling that, like, you’re gonna come to this pork full podcast feed when the show comes up on Monday, and you don’t know what it’s gonna be. All you know, is there’s gonna be food involved, and you’ll probably be hungry at the end.

V Spehar  21:22

And that’s the magic of it. Right? So that’s the magic of these kitchen table conversations is that you’ll never run out of stuff to talk about when you’re talking about food.

Dan Pashman  21:29

For sure. And I think you can get into any topic when you start with food. And I think on our show, even in the more serious episodes, at some point, you’re gonna laugh, Something funny is going to happen. We did this years ago, did a two part series all about this sandwich shop in Aleppo, Syria. And there was beloved, and then we thought that it was destroyed in the war. And we tried to find it. And that’s another sort of like big saga that we spent a huge amount of time on. And that was, you know, a great multi part story. Even in that was like had very, very serious, very dramatic, sad moments also had very hilarious moments.

V Spehar  22:03

You have to find those moments. And through this podcast, you won the coveted James Beard Award for a podcast that had to be like a pretty new category for the beard, folks.

Dan Pashman  22:13

Yeah. Yeah. I mean, the first couple times I was nominated, it was like, audio show slash podcast. So it was like, we were up against this American life and whatever. But yeah, like that’s, it was amazing. And, and I don’t miss an opportunity to remind my wife that I want a James Beard award or to, you know, like, if I’m like, oh, I think the pasta might be done. And she’s like, No one needs another minute. And I’m like, I’m sorry, looking around her. I don’t see your medal anywhere.

V Spehar  22:42

You wear the medal when you’re cooking?

Dan Pashman  22:44

Oh, always. Excuse me, let me just bring this out. Oh, this must have ended up behind my sweater. Let me just go ahead and pull this to the fore.

V Spehar  22:55

Do you think that in a post-pandemic world there’s been this question, do awards have a place? Do we still care? Do they still hold meaning? There was an idea of eliteness that came from the pandemic, right. So when all of the world stopped, and we were trying to sell like prime rib to go and all of these very fancy restaurants that are used to having like the chef and the atmosphere and everything within it, were failing, the idea was food didn’t fail. In fact, some of the most resilient folks were the people who might not ever qualify for a Michelin star might not ever qualify for a James Beard award just because of the nature of what type of food gets awarded. And in a post-pandemic world, did we want to go back to this idea that some chefs are award worthy, and other ones are not? And is there equality in that? Is there an equitable illness in that?

Dan Pashman  23:41

Yeah, for sure. I mean, we actually just did an episode on this portfolio a couple of weeks ago called should fine dining exist, right, that dug into some of these questions about the economics about unpaid labor, about who gets fast tracked to, to culinary stardom, and who doesn’t. And I think among that super, super elite world, like that’s not a world I’m interested in. And so I don’t really care whether what happens to it. But I do think that there’s I am interested in what I would consider like the upper middle level of restaurants, which is like, very good restaurants that I wouldn’t maybe eat out every single week, but I can afford to go there, I can get a table there. It’s not a status symbol to go there. It’s just really good food. Those are the kinds of places that I love. You know, I get very turned off by the way that food and restaurants has become so much about status. And it’s so much about bragging about which place you’ve been to who want to go to the place on the on the Michelin star list or the James Beard list because they can put it on Instagram or TikTok and brag that they went there. They don’t even know what they’re eating.

V Spehar  24:44

Sometimes it’s not even good. You and I have both been to award winning restaurants and then got McDonald’s on the way home I know that we have for sure it’s like the food is either too little or it was too hyped up or it was just an off night or it wasn’t your vibe or whatever. And you paid you know, however much money to go to the school Let’s eat dinner and then you’re like, I gotta I gotta get a double cheeseburger on the way home.

Dan Pashman  25:03

That’s what they said in that episode we did. We were talking to a well-known restaurant critic about Noma, this famous restaurant in Copenhagen. That’s like, always ranked number one in the world. And they just announced it’s gonna close. And that and he had been there. And he said that it’s a known thing that after you leave, Noma paying like $500, a person for like, mold, literally, that’s like a dish that sell is mold. You hooked up to a good shawarma. Yep, afterwards, and I’m like, I would just want to skip to the shawarma. I feel that just give me the shawarma. I don’t need $500 mold. I have free mold in my basement.

V Spehar  25:36

I know when they started coming out with a foams too. I was like, man, we are really like just licking the air and paying people for the pleasure to do so, goofy, I’m glad we didn’t get away from a little bit of that. I mean, it was a fun experience to get into like all that kind of like molecular gastronomy stuff and just sort of be part of that scientific food experience era. But I’m definitely glad that we’re getting a little bit like more meat and potatoes on the right.

Dan Pashman  26:00

But you know, what I think it is V, is that it’s like, there’s a difference between, like eating with your mind and eating with your gut. And like, yes, you know, I’m sure there are some people and I’m not really one of them who can eat some very out there concoction that was that involves foams and all kinds of machinery and very obscure ingredients. And intellectually these people might say, this is very interesting. I’ve never tasted something like this, and they could appreciate it on an intellectual level. But like, that’s not why I eat. That’s not why I enjoy food. I enjoy food on a gut level. And even if it tastes really good, you know, like, I could listen to a piece of music and be like, ha, that’s really interesting. But like most of the time, I’d rather have the music that just makes me want to like jump up and down. I want the food that makes my stomach jump up and down.

V Spehar  27:07

Did you work in the food industry before you were doing the sportful? Like, have you ever been like a waiter or chef or worked in the line or anything like that?

Dan Pashman  27:14

I’ve never been a chef. No, I’m no professional cooking training. I did wait tables for a good number of years in college and right after college. I was a waiter at pizzeria Uno and Porter square that was no longer there, sadly. And then I was a waiter at Legal Seafoods in Boston for about a year and a half. So I was working those jobs. Early in my media career, I was kind of like hosting an internet radio show that nobody listened to and writing for a newspaper. Nobody read. But I loved working in a restaurant you did too, right?

V Spehar  27:43

Oh, yeah, my first job was for two cheese. I was hitting up the for two cheese. We’re already fighting peanut butter beat now we’ve got party cheese, or who knows debate all these Massachusetts chains. No, I love that job. And I got all my friends the job there. And just the culture of the restaurant was so important to me. And that I worked in restaurants for years and years, working at a restaurant in any form, right? Even if you did it for a month, it becomes such a part of like your identity and such a part of like, a time in your life that you maybe really liked or that you really started to feel like you were a part of something unique, like restaurant culture. Such a weird, unique, fascinating little world to be in. And then I’ll have friends who didn’t work in restaurants. And they’ll be like, Oh my God, did you have to watch the bear? You have to watch the menu and I’m like, I’m honestly never gonna watch those shows. I cannot go back. Like I can’t live that again. I can’t watch somebody else go through what I feel like I graduated out of or went through. Right. So do you watch any of the like the food movies? Or how do you get around not watching?

Dan Pashman  28:49

I did watch the bear and the menu. You know, because I wasn’t like did you cook also were you a chef?

V Spehar  28:55

Oh yeah, no, I cooked I was on the line. Years and years.

Dan Pashman  28:59

Chefs, I’ve talked to had a similar reaction to the bear that it was like so like almost too real. I was in like corporate chain restaurants where I think that they’re a little more but like the kitchens. Certainly there were some debauchery but it wasn’t quite so absolutely chaotic as it was in the bear. And I also wasn’t cooking so I wasn’t exposed to all of it. I liked the bear. I didn’t love it. But I did like it. I love the menu. I love the menu because to me it parodied all the things I just talked about the food as status, restaurants as status, all these people in this place who don’t even know what the hell they’re eating, but yet all want to be there and want to be able to show off in one way or another how great they are. That they managed to get in the door that they can afford to eat there that they have the connections to eat there to go over and over again on their private jet. So I thought the menu was hilarious and did a really good job was sending that up.

V Spehar  29:49

Yeah. Anytime we get to the part in the show where the chef is sitting out by the dumpsters drinking out of a deli container like about ready to cry. I’m like don’t show people that I feel so exposed. Like, you’re not supposed to know about that. That’s our private time. What do you think makes a chef really interesting? Like when you’re looking for a restaurant? What’s something that you’re like? I really, I’m looking for this, like, you’re going to a new city and you’re like, where am I going to eat? When I’m here? What am I trying to find? Like for me in Detroit, I was like, I want to find the grandmas that make the perogies. I want to find that person. That’s what’s interesting to me. Like, what’s your approach? Maybe like, even when you’re taking your kids out to dinner? Like, how are you saying, like, hey, we’re gonna have a culinary experience tonight? Like, what’s your process for identifying something worth going to?

Dan Pashman  30:37

Yeah, I mean, you know, there is sort of an art to reading online reviews. And you got to know which media outlets in which writers you trust, and which ones line up with your taste, you know, like, some of them are more concerned with the trendiest thing and like, I live in the New York area, and when I go to a lot of other places, and they hear that I work in food, and then I’m from New York, they’re like, oh, they want to they want to send me to the places that are like their highest and trendiest sort of like, Brooklyny type places. And I’m like, no, I don’t want that. I’m like you. I’m like, what are the parolees? You know, my older daughter has become, in the last few months obsessed with Kpop. She’s 12. She’s obsessed with Kpop. And that’s led her to become very interested in all types of Korean culture more broadly. I already love Korean food. So I’m like, great, let’s go eat some Korean food. You know, you don’t need to tell her twice. So like, when we were in LA, a month ago, we had not been we’ve been recruit for Korean food a few times that I mean, I go out often, I hadn’t taken her that much. So I was like, let’s go to Korean barbecue. And you know, there’s LA has the biggest Korea Town, I believe, of any city in America. And so I was doing a lot of research, where’s the best Korean barbecue and I’m reading. So to me, I always look for local food writers. If the place you’re going to still has a newspaper, and hopefully they do. The food writer from the newspaper is always the person that I would trust the most. So I looked at the LA Times, and I was reading their articles, and I found this place parks barbecue. And it was like, fantastic. And it was super fun. Like, you know, they cook the meat, they got the grill going. It’s interactive, the kids like that. So that’s sort of my process. You know, but then don’t you find Loviisa is like sometimes your mood. You can’t you can’t plan your meals too much too far in advance, because you don’t know what kind of mood you’re going to be in.

V Spehar  32:24

That’s very true. No. And sometimes I’ve planned like entire culinary trips to a place like Raleigh, North Carolina has got a ton of great restaurants, lots of James Beard award winners, lots of great of just barbecue, lots of country kind of style food out there as well. And you get there and you’re like, I’m going to hit all these different places. I want to go to like the lantern I want to go to like Ashley Christensen’s restaurant. And then he’s just like in the mood for I don’t know, French fries. So you end up at like some random little brewery somewhere and it ends up being the best lunch you’ve ever had. Then you just like think Patron Saint Anthony Bourdain down some terrible alley to the best food you’ve ever had in your life.

Dan Pashman  32:58

Right, right. Yeah, no, for sure. Like I was just in California a few weeks ago. So I’m working on my first cookbook. I’ve never done a cookbook. And we did the photo shoot. And it’s all pasta dishes and pasta sauces and things. And all day long we’re cooking these pasta dishes and to photograph them so I’m eating pasta all day long. And then at the end of the day, I’m counting what do I want to eat and like, I don’t really feel like I had any meals. But I also don’t feel like I’m hungry at all. You know, your stomach isn’t very weird, like snacking all day long. And I’m like, I just want pizza, which is the strangest thing to want after a day of eating pasta. But you know, and I was in like the bay area where there’s a lot of good food and not a ton of great pizza. And I ended up eating a very mediocre pizza. And I wish I could have that meal back.

V Spehar  33:41

Okay, you say you’re not a chef, and you’re not a cook. But you just described exactly how cooks eat, which is just like little bits of everything all day, like not a complete meal and completely mindlessly and like stuff that doesn’t go together. But it makes sense to you. But you invented a pasta for a guy who’s not a chef saying that they’re not you know, super cook. What made you think like the world needs new pasta?

Dan Pashman  34:01

Yeah, so it started out a number of years ago, kind of in the early days of the podcast, boom. And everyone was there were all these big stories like cereal when the podcast show first came out. The serialized, epic stories. And I was like, What would my version of that be like, I would love to tell a big, ambitious, epic story on this portfolio that would be food related in some way. There was a podcast called startup about this guy starting a business and I thought, what if I started a business? What if I made a food and I thought that could make for a really good story. And then it also tapped into like, you know, like a certain amount of like imposter syndrome that I feel like, oh, I have a food podcast at that time. I had one James Beard Award. And still, I’m like, a decent home cook and nothing more. So it’s like, you know, and I would like to build this career and all this food opinions and yet like to actually know what I’m talking about. I’ve ever really put anything to the to the test, like not really like maybe I’m just full of it. So I thought if I can invent a food, and if it’s good, that would also like be a cool accomplishment. So then it became like, well, what food. So I wanted a food will be shelf stable, and inexpensive. And basic, because I wanted something that would easily be able to be shipped to sportful listeners all over the country, I wanted everyone to participate in this, I didn’t want it to be something that you’d have to go to some like super fancy upscale market only in certain days. I didn’t want that I wanted anyone to be able to click online and have it show up at their door wherever they are. And I didn’t want I didn’t want to be something super expensive unit, even expensive pasta is an affordable luxury, I think for a good number of people. So that was a lot of the thought process. But the other thing that I started thinking about pasta is that I’m just generally dissatisfied with most pasta shapes. So I came up with these three criteria that I used to judge all pasta shapes. So their forkability, which is how easy is it to get it on your fork and keep it there. Sauceability, which is how well the sauce adhere to the pasta, and tooth sync ability, which is How satisfying is it to sync your teeth into it. And I think you can judge all postures shapes on these three criteria. And I think a lot of shapes are good at one, maybe two of these things. Very few nail all three. And some of the most commonly eaten shapes are some of the worst like spaghetti. Spaghetti. It’s very ordinary, like it’s very primitive. It’s not easy to get it on your fork, you get too much or too little on the fork, you have danglers then up all over you. And it doesn’t hold any sauce, you eat spaghetti with meat sauce, when the spaghetti is God and you got a river of sauce in the middle your plate. It’s not a well-designed shape. And it was designed hundreds of years ago and people have not improved upon it. So I set out with this goal in mind and it ended up being much harder than I anticipated to come up with a new shape.

V Spehar  36:51

So tell me about the shape. It’s Cascatelli because it looks like a little waterfall.

Dan Pashman  36:55

Yeah. So it was a three year process. I had to find someone to make a dye for me the dyes like the mold. And there’s only one guy of it’s expensive. And so there’s only one guy in America still doing it. And he was busy making diet like he’s the same guy who makes the dyes for like, Kraft, literally Kraft mac and cheese, Campbell’s chicken noodle soup. So he didn’t have a whole lot of time for like a podcast with a dream. He’s this guy makes pasta dyes that are the size of airplane engines. Yeah. And I’m like, can you make a little tiny one, so I can make a few boxes to try. So but finally he was nice enough to give me the time of day I had to find a company then to manufacture and sell the pasta. So I hooked up with this company called […] an artisanal pasta company in upstate New York. It’s in a good number of stores around the country. And then I had to come up with a good shape that you could physically produce. That was another whole process. I’d eat all different postures and isolate variables like do I like long or short ruffles or ridges, tubes or flats. And I narrowed it down an hour at a time and I ended up with the shape called […] it’s a short shape. And it’s curved, kind of like a coma. Or it also going with like half a heart, the way you draw heart and around the outer spine it has these ruffles sticking out. And those are perpendicular to the rest of the shape. So they’re like sticking out. And there’s two of them parallel so they create like a canyon between them. And I call it the sauce trough and they’re these ruffles all the sauce goes in there and it cannot get out. It’s like teeth, the ruffles grab on to that sauce, and I really wanted ruffles in my shape. I was inspired by this shape called Mafalda. It’s a long flat noodle with ruffles down the edges. And I was using that in my testing and I was like God, this shape is so good. I love Mafalda and I love the ruffles, ruffles hold sauce really well. Everyone wants to use tubes to hold sauce. And they do that pretty well. But ruffles hold sauce just as well. And they also hold little bits and pieces. And on top of that they’re just fun. They’re fun in your mouth, they create a pleasing, textural sensation that is enjoyable. And so I knew I wanted ruffles and slept for three years, and a lot of failure. And my wife’s continued skepticism over whether this was a good use of my time or our money, and a lot of things going wrong and a lot of delays and COVID and all that. Just about exactly two years ago, the pasta came out […] came out and kind of went bananas on me.

V Spehar  39:21

It is so fascinating to me that you just on a dream. We’re like I’m gonna start a CPG business with a pasta that’s highly competitive for shelf space. And I’m going to create a completely new shape and it’s going to be whimsical and practical. And you did it. And I am like a speechless honestly as a person who was in the food world and trying to teach people how to start food businesses because it is so unlikely that you’ll see success because it’s so hard to want to have the endurance to follow that dream through. So congratulations on that and that’s awesome. But also to find investors and people who believe in you and who People who will fund this dream were their early supporters of the […]?

Dan Pashman  40:04

I mean, like, well, so I should say like, part of my strategy going into it was that I’m not going to try to launch a brand, right? I want to partner with an existing pasta company, because they already have the machinery and they already have the distribution and they already have the shelf space. I didn’t want to have to deal with all that stuff like I don’t you know, so I rented the shape, I patented it, I trademarked the name, and I can license it to different pasta companies, which means I make less money than I would make if I owned the whole company. But it also means like when the truck breaks down on the side of the highway, and someone’s not getting their delivery, they don’t call me, right. Like I don’t want, I don’t want to be that guy. So I didn’t get any investors, I invested about $9,000 of my own money. The biggest thing that I invested was my time. I mean, as I said, it was three years, not full time, but a lot of time and a lot of stress that took its toll on me and my whole family. And it took a long time for me to get the pasta designer to give me the time of day and to find a pasta company. I mean, it’s Fellini were the ones who also invested time and effort and resources. Because once I had the die, they had to test it and refine it, they had to pay for the boxes upfront not knowing if anyone’s going to buy this. So they also invested but you know, in retrospect, considering how well it went, it was a relatively small investment of dollars. And we didn’t it was just me and Fellini, you know, it was more of the investment of time, the initial run of pasta, we made like 3700 boxes of pasta, which was like the fewest we could make and have it make any sense cost wise. And we put that on sale and it sold out in less than two hours.

V Spehar  41:38

Was it an online sale thing? Or did you have in store also?

Dan Pashman  41:41

It was only online. But we told the story of the making of the pasta in the spork full podcast and was a five part series. It’s still up, you can check it out. It’s called Mission Impastable. We’ve now done a few update episodes, I recommend you started episode one. It’s a fun story. And it culminated with the pasta going on sale. So went on sale this pork full listeners, and they bought it sold out within less than two hours. And then and then press started coming.

V Spehar  42:08

Yeah, what was the media response to this?

Dan Pashman  42:10

I mean, it was huge. It was huge, you know, obviously looking at help that I was already had a podcast and was like, had a little bit of name recognition in the food world. So it wasn’t, you know, a guy in a basement. But I think it also just, you know that there’s an old Steve Jobs line, like I’m paraphrasing, but don’t give the people what they want, give them what they didn’t know they want it. And I think that’s part of why this hit. I mean, it helped that it was like March 2021. It was like post-election, it felt like the world like the skies were opening up a little bit, people wanted a fun story. But also just in the early days of the sporkful podcast, when I would have one of these debates like about peanut butter and jelly, or the best way to slice a grilled cheese sandwich or the idea of surface area to volume ratio of ice cubes, or one of the other many topics that we very, very pressing topics of our day that we took on one of the responses that would get from people if they would listen. And they would say, I never knew I had such strong opinions about that. And I always love getting that reaction. It’s not just I have strong opinions about that. It’s I didn’t know I had such strong opinions about that. And that’s why it’s interesting, because it’s like, you’re the listener, you’re learning something about yourself. And you’re like uncovered and so I think a lot of times you’re eating food, and you’re maybe not paying as much attention to it as you should. But on a subconscious level, you are developing opinions, and sometimes you’re liking it more than other times, but you’ve never just taken the time to stop and think about why you like one more than another. And then someone comes along and says, you know, something spaghetti kind of sucks. And here’s why. And you’re suddenly like, you know, I’ve eaten hundreds of pounds of spaghetti in my life. And he’s right. And when you get that reaction, so I think that realization, that light bulb for people of like, you know, I’ve eaten so much pasta in my life, and so much of it hasn’t been so special. Sure, it’s good because shoving carbs in your face is good, always. But was it great? Was it memorable? Or did all of those plates of spaghetti just kind of run into this kind of, you know, giant bolus of nothing. And so I think that when people had that realization, and the media picked up on it, like that’s what made it kind of fun. And different was like was people having this realization of like, wait a second, like this really basic thing that everybody knows? There’s actually so much more to it. And we actually have strong opinions we didn’t know we had. And I think when you tap into some like that, that’s when it sort of caught fire.

V Spehar  44:32

Did you get a ton of fan mail? Did you get any hate mail for the pasta? What was the like, general public’s reaction to cooking with it?

Dan Pashman  44:38

I mean, the general public is overwhelmingly positive. And I mean, some of the most touching I mean, the reactions I didn’t expect. Partly like first of all, it was just really cool that like my kids who were 10 and 7 when it launched, you know, like most of the time you do something good in your work like your kids don’t care. Like this is something they could care about and their friends were excited about so that it was really cool to have a son Success in my job that my kids could take pride in and care about, but also like, so of my three metrics of the forkability, sauce ability and to sink ability in my head sauce ability and […] ability, and most important, but I’ve gotten multiple emails from people like, who have a disability, or parent whose kid has a fine motor delay or something like that. And it’s thrust for those people. They don’t want to be fed and they don’t want to be infantilized, and they want to be able to enjoy a plate of pasta with everybody else at the table. And the fact that this pasta that you could get it on your fork easily. It was like very moving for a lot of people like I got emotionally, this two year old who was so proud that he could eat a pasta by himself. And he couldn’t do that with spaghetti. I got an email from a woman whose husband is like partial paralysis. And so he struggles to eat but he’s still mostly in good shape and doesn’t want to be fed. You know, like he’s an adult. And so being able to just post on his own was like very special in the order like 24 boxes of it. You know, that was really amazing. If I got any negative feedback, I don’t know that I got hate mail. But there’s a lot of skepticism from the Italians.

V Spehar  46:11

That’s what I say. We’re Mario and Luigi coming out to be a game, like with a known as pissed about this where they were like, wait a minute.

Dan Pashman  46:19

I don’t know that they were pissed, but like very skeptical. very skeptical. I was in Italy last summer doing research for my cookbook. And gonna look I don’t walk into a room and say, Hey, I invented a pasta shape, you know, but without density. But like, you know, you’re chatting, you start chatting with people and they say, why are you here? What brings you to Italy? Where do you know, and you start of course, you talk about food when you’re in Italy. And it would come up from time to time my wife, the skeptic, Janie is now like my number one PR agent. So she’ll be like, oh, by the way, he invented a pasta shave. You should check it out. Here it is on Google. She’s bringing up the pictures. And they just did not know what to make of it. It was some combination of like, competition and curiosity and sort of feeling slightly threatened but also not taking it seriously. Janie summed up their reaction to me as basically like, oh, you’re cute. Like, that’s cute. You know, like, not really an awareness. Like, it’s actually like 2500 stores in America now. Like, if you look on the Wikipedia page of pasta shapes, I made it to Wikipedia like that’s the mountaintop right there.

V Spehar  47:24

What do you see as like the future of food, and the sense of like, we’re coming out with new pasta shapes. We’re seeing a lot of this third cuisine we interviewed. Chef John Kang from Detroit, really incredible chef love him to death. And he was talking about how for him the future of food is third cuisine being the child of immigrants where you weren’t a third culture kids. Yeah, right out their own third cuisine. For other folks. It’s getting away from designer vegetables. For other folks. It’s been stuff like incorporating old style cooking, and not making it fusion cooking. Like just actually doing the old thing. Right? What do you see the future of food for you?

Dan Pashman  48:04

I mean, first of all, in general, like, there’s always gonna be trends coming in and out. Culture will always evolve. They’ll always be new ideas. So most will like some of them more than others. I just hope we never get to like, just take this pill and you will instead of eating because like that’s just such a sad way to live like food is so much good brings me so much pleasure. You know that like when there was that sort of movement, it still exists to a point of this sort of like Silicon Valley Tech, bro, kind of like, just drink this shake, because eating is a waste of time. And it cuts back on your efficiency.

V Spehar  48:35

Dan, I got trolled. I got a problem, I have to interrupt you to tell you it is not going to get better. The jimbros are eating dog food for the protein. Now we just covered this on under the news. Some guy figured out there’s like 600 micrograms of protein, or milligram or whatever it is of protein in dog food. And so he was like, well, I’m just going to eat that. And there’s a whole series of the jimbros eating dog food. I can’t believe I had to say that to your beautiful face.

Dan Pashman  49:02

Oh, god, that’s hilarious.

V Spehar  49:05

But I agree like eating is pleasure, right? It’s not just about efficient.

Dan Pashman  49:09

just please let it always be about pleasure. But um, the Third Culture cuisine concept, I think is 100%. True. It’s something I continue to be very fascinated by. And we’ve done a number of episodes in this workflow touching on this, which is the idea that you can track the assimilation and the perceptions of a certain immigrant group by looking at how that cuisine is perceived. And part of that is socio economic. So certain cuisines people in America are more accustomed to paying more money for. And there’s research that shows that that’s not really a function of like how much the cuisine costs or how much it’s worth. It’s a function of we tend to make this leap in our minds, like if the people that we see that we associate with that cuisine with have money. If they’re higher up in the socio economic ladder, then their culture is perceived as more worthy, and people will spend more money for it. By contrast, if the people that we see from a certain group are tend to be working class, then we assume then there’s a perception that food should be cheaper, which, of course, is a, you know, problematic on a number of levels and like is not a fair indication of which food actually involves skill and artistry and high quality ingredients, which are the things that should make food costs more. So, like, for instance, look at like Indian food versus Mexican food. So something like 70% of Indian immigrants to America have college degrees among Mexican Americans and Mexican immigrants to America, it’s a lower percentage. And so there’s a perception, there’s a class difference in these groups in America, and there’s a perception. So Indian food, on average, there’s more quickly become an assumption like, oh, you go to an Indian restaurant, it’ll cost you it may cost $20 an entree, whereas people think tacos should be cheap. What’s interesting is that India as a country is actually much poorer than Mexico on average. Mexico is really a middle class country. Statistically speaking, it’s just that the people from those different places who are coming to America are from a certain specific subset. And so it distorts our perceptions of what these places are, and who the people are. So I do think we’re making some progress in breaking down some of these unfair, frankly, racist barriers. I think that people are starting to gain a deeper appreciation for cuisines like Mexican food as being one that has a huge amount of variety and breadth and regionality. And skill. But I’m also just like, super interested in like the International aisle of the grocery store.

V Spehar  51:37

How is it everything but French? And Italian is my thing? Like, why is the International aisle? Yeah, just call it what it is.

Dan Pashman  51:44

It basically means brown. But what’s really screwed up about it is that like, the rates in which different cultures foods have assimilated into mainstream American culture has not been equal. So you know, German immigrants came to America in large numbers starting in the late 1800s. Now, what does that you know, and hotdogs are German in their descent? And what do we all, you know, Fourth of July, hot dogs, and people don’t wave German flags and say, like, Oh, we’re having German food for the Fourth of July? No, they wave American flags. And they, people have come to accept the idea of the hot dog as a quintessential piece of Americana. And yet Chinese immigrants were in America, in large numbers, long before German immigrants, hundreds of years, especially in the western half of America. And yet, you go to the international aisle of the supermarket, and you’ll see all the Chinese ingredients. Well, why? Why is that international, and by classifying that as international that keeps Chinese Americans among others perpetually foreign, no matter how many generations they’ve been in America, and yet, you know, like, and so like, there shouldn’t be an international aisle. And there’s more and more talker on this. And I think like, that’s what I’m excited to see is that sort of the Third Culture concept is really like breaking down these walls between what’s foreign and what’s quote, unquote, American. And I’m trying to do the same thing with my cookbook, which is all pasta dishes. But like, I cook with Indian spices and Chinese spices, and I love kimchi, and I’m gonna put kimchi and pasta, you know, and I’m working with a range of recipe developers who have experienced with these different cuisines and being sure to like, you know, honor the history of these dishes and explain the source inspiration. I wouldn’t take credit for having invented any of these ideas go to a place called Pizza Palace in LA. Because Indian American sports bar, they’re doing malai rigatoni and tandoori spaghetti. So like these ideas are out there, they’re only going to be more and more out there. And hopefully my cookbook will be one tiny contribution to it. Hopefully soon, there won’t be any international aisle or any global flavors Island certainly help no ethnic aisle that needs to die. So to me the breaking down of these barriers is, I guess that’s the great challenge for food, you know, because you see it play out in the aisles of the grocery store, the same question like this, this fundamental question of who’s considered American plays out in food. And so the idea of young chefs breaking down those barriers and saying, I’m going to pull from this culture, and that culture and this cuisine of aqua zine, and take inspiration from all the things like that, to me is very exciting. Hopefully, we’ll make some contribution to breaking down some of those invalid and sometimes racist divisions.

V Spehar  54:26

And also just expose this to a whole new layers of flavor. It like continues to impress me that in the 40 years of my life, I have tried foods and they continue to come out with new stuff all the time, like you came out with a new pasta, it feels like we’re discovering new spices or rediscovering new cooking techniques. And that is the fun part of food. And that’s the thing where everybody can feel included in the conversation. It’s a great place like we used to say that I’m caught hangry for nothing, you should feed people who want to talk about difficult topics because as soon as you share a meal with somebody, you have created an intimate bond that cannot be broken and you will feel connected to them. You’re more willing to listen Mostly because you want to take a bite so you have to listen so that you have time to chew. Where can people find you? Where can they hear more about your food journeys and your pastas and your dreams?

Dan Pashman  55:11

So you know, sporkful podcast and where you get your podcasts and if you go to sporkful.com. We have links to where you can buy all the pasta but you can also get it right through sfoglini.com it also just launched in 1200 Walmart’s it’s in it’s coming this summer to Whole Foods nationally, it’s in the fresh market, bunch of other stores like so. There’s a good chance it’s in a store near you. But if not just ordered from sfoglini’s website they’ll ship it right to your door.

V Spehar  55:40

And do you know when about this cookbook of pastas coming out?

Dan Pashman  55:43

Still probably a year away. Spring 2024

V Spehar  55:47

All right. Awesome. Thanks Dan.

Dan Pashman  55:49

Thanks V, appreciate it.

CREDITS  55:53

is anyone else just like so hungry right now? I’m gonna have to like immediately truck off to get some of this pasta, what a fun little thing to do. Life is a whimsical sometimes what a delight. Well, while I’m off shopping, make sure you get excited for next week’s episode, where we dig into the headlines you might have missed leave us a five star rating on whatever platform you’re listening on. Follow me at @underthedesk news on TikTok, Instagram and YouTube and guess what friends there is even more be interesting with Lemonada Premium, subscribers get exclusive access to bonus content, like the truth Dr., Dr. Courtney Tracy explaining the right way to use personality tests. Subscribe now in Apple podcasts. V INTERESTING is a Lemonada Media Original. Our producers are Rachel Neel, Xorje Olivares, Martín Macías, Jr. And Dani Matias. Executive Producers are Stephanie Wittels Wachs and Jessica Cordova Kramer. Mixing and Scoring is by Brian Castillo, Johnny Evans and Ivan Kuraev. music is by Seth Applebaum. Please help others find the show by rating and reviewing wherever you listen and follow us across all social platforms at @VitusSpehar and @UnderTheDeskNews, also, @LemonadaMedia. If you want more be interesting, subscribe to Lemonada premium only on Apple podcasts.

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