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Episode 158: Karan Mahajan, The Association of Small Bombs (plus a bonus “Fall of Food” segment)

This week’s book is the second novel by Karan Mahajan, The Association of Small Bombs, which came out earlier this year and has been widely praised. The book was long-listed for the National Book Award, and made a bunch of Best Of 2016 lists, prompting us to talk about how those lists are constructed, and whether they accurately represent a given year’s best literature.

smallbombs

In the second half of the show, we wrap up our Fall of Food by eating some snacks sent to us all the way from Japan. A listener mailed an entire box of treats, including boozy Kit Kats, spongy egg bread, a drink that looks like watery milk, and some dried salted fish.

We’ve also got a sponsor this week. Check out M.B. Manthe’s website, All the Parts of My Life, where you can learn more about her book of poetry and her other publishing ventures. She wanted us to point people in particular to this post, which explains why she’s donating a percentage of the money she makes from book sales to an organization that supports people with depression.

As always, you can stream the new episode below, or you can download the mp3 file. Or check us out in the iTunes store, where you can subscribe (for free!) and never miss another installment.

Thanks for listening!

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Episode 155: Fall of Food, “Who Owns Southern Food?”

This week we’re discussing a recent essay from The Oxford American, co-written by John T. Edge and Tunde Wey, called “Who Owns Southern Food?” It’s a response, in a sense, to both this article from Eater and the backlash it fomented from certain (white) corners of Charleston, S.C. We’d certainly recommend reading both, but as usual you should be able to follow along with the discussion without doing the reading.

On the one hand, the essay is a bit afield of the stuff we normally talk about on the show. On the other hand, it sparked a lot of discussion, and dovetailed with a number of issues we’d both been thinking about lately, about politics and race and appropriation. It also made Mike consider how little he learned, growing up in Charleston, about the history and culture of the Gullah people who were all around him.

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In the second half of the show, we eat some snacks, as is our wont (at least until fall is officially over). This week we challenged ourselves to bring in regional foods from the places where we grew up. Mike made some cheese grits–our first homemade snack!–and Tom provided Tastykakes. We also ate some Middleswarth chips, sent in from friend-of-the-show Dave Housley. We’d eaten, and enjoyed, the Central Pennsylvania company’s BBQ offering, on several occasion, but this was our first experience with the other flavors.

Here are links to two articles on John Raines, the Temple prof Tom discusses at the start of the show: a profile in the NYT and afn article by Raines himself on the role of whites in fighting for civil rights.

As always, you can stream the show here on our site, or download the mp3 file. You can also find us in the iTunes store, or wherever you usually get your podcasts. Download back episodes (always free!) or subscribe (also free!) so you never miss another installment.

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Episode 153: Fall of Food, Canada! (Alice Munro, “Family Furnishings”)

A listener recently sent us a box full of Canadian snacks, so this week we’re devoting the entire episode to America’s friendly neighbor to the north. We discuss an Alice Munro story (“Family Furnishings,” which is in her collection Hateship Courtship Loveship Marriage). In particular, we look at how the story uses food, and family meals, to explore the relationships between its characters. We consider the ways in which food can be a marker of social class, and specific periods in time, and we also talk about our own families’ eating habits.

Then, in the second half of the show, we eat some fucking snacks. Ketchup-flavored chips! Hickory sticks! Canadian Smarties! Some weird thing called a Big Turk that may have scarred us both for life!

We realize it might seem like an odd coincidence for us to be talking about Canada just a few days after the American election. But we’re not planning to move there. In fact, during the episode we talk briefly about why that knee-jerk reaction tends to grate on our nerves (short version: the privilege of being able to pick up your life and move to another country, and the better uses to which you could put that privilege).

But our plan to stay in America doesn’t mean we’re not great admirers of Canada. Its (mostly) peaceable nature, its beautiful landscapes, its love of gravy-covered fries and cheese curds. Pictured below, two of our Canadian listeners argue about which of the country’s favorite snacks is the best.

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“Talk to the hand, ’cause the face don’t want no more of that King Turk bullshit.”

In all seriousness, listeners: this has been a rough week. We anticipate even rougher weeks to come. Sorry if that strikes some of you as melodramatic, but both of us are full right now of equal parts sadness and outrage, and both of us are exploring–as individuals, and as a show–what good, helpful things we can do with those emotions. We’ll let you know as we figure it out. But in the meantime, if you’re looking for places to channel your own energies, and your money, poet Tommy Pico has been assembling a big list of organizations that will likely need your help even more in the coming months than they already do.

As always, you can listen to today’s episode right here on our site, or you can download the mp3 file and take it with you. Or, visit us in the iTunes store, or wherever you normally get your podcasts, and subscribe (for free!) so you never miss another weekly installment.

If you want to reach us, feel free to send us an email, or hit us up on Twitter, or just leave a response here on the site.

Thanks so much for listening!

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Episode 151: Halloween Spooktacular 2016

In celebration of Halloween, we’re talking this week about two spooky stories: Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” (read for free here) and Joe Hill’s “Abraham’s Sons” (read for free here). The former is a classic of the genre, though somehow Mike had never read it before, and didn’t even really know what it was about. The latter is a newer story, from a collection that’s received much praise from fans of literary fiction and people who like being scared.

We talk about what scares us–in stories, and also in life. We also talk about what makes a good horror story, and whether the really memorable ones always feel somehow old-fashioned and archetypal.

It’s still the Fall of Food, so we also devote some time in the second half of the episode to a discussion of Halloween candy. What are the best candies? The worst? And what’s the deal with those weird candies that seem to only exist on Halloween? Mary Janes, Sixlets: we’re looking in your direction here.

As always, we’re happy to hear your feedback. Did we get Halloween candy wrong? Do you have opinions about the stories we talked about? Do you want to give us your own All-Time Desert Island Top 5 list of candy bars? You can email us, hit us up on Twitter or Facebook, or just leave a comment here on the site.

You can stream this week’s show right here on our site, or download the mp3 file. Or check us out in the iTunes store–or in basically any of the available podcast apps–where you can always download back episodes and subscribe (for free) so you’ll never miss a new weekly installment.

Thanks for listening!

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Episode 149: Fall of Food, Anthony Bourdain (“Don’t Eat Before Reading This”)

Hola, Book Fight amigos. How’s life been treating you? We’re knee deep now in the Fall of Food, and there’s no going back, even if eating weird snacks threatens to kill us.

This week we’re discussing an Anthony Bourdain essay, “Don’t Eat Before Reading This,” which introduced America to the concept of bad-fish Mondays and helped launch Bourdain’s career as a writer and eventual television personality. We talk about the impact the essay had on the food-writing world, and how it’s aged in the nearly twenty years since it was first published.

Here’s a photo of the author enjoying a beer and bundling himself against the Scottish cold (side note: has anyone noted that as Anthony Bourdain ages he looks more and more like Leonard Cohen?)

bourdain_scottland

In the second half of the show, we try some oddly flavored snacks. The prompt we gave ourselves this week was to find snacks with unusual or unexpected flavors. No spoilers, except to say that at least one of them turns out to be real gross.

As always, you can stream the episode right here on our site, or download the mp3 file and do with it what you will. You can also find us in the iTunes store, or wherever you usually get your podcasts, where you can catch up on back episodes and subscribe (for free!) so you never miss another installment.

Thanks for listening!

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Episode 147: Fall of Food, Stuart Dybek (“Pet Milk”)

Do you like food? Do you eat it several times a day in order to live? Then you’ll love this next season of Book Fight! For the next few months we’ll be reading stories and essays in which food plays a prominent role, and we’ll also be talking about various food-related topics. This week: Stuart Dybek’s “Pet Milk,” a story in which food is just one element of a swirling nostalgia for lost youth, lost love, and a version of Chicago that no longer exists.

We also spend some time talking about our own childhood food memories, and meals for which we feel some nostalgia. Plus, both of us brought in a nostalgic snack to try.

Here’s a photo of Stuart Dybek, taken just moments after he ate a delicious meal:

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As always, we’d love to hear what you thought about the episode, and our various ill-informed opinions. You can email us, hit us up on Twitter, or just leave a comment right here on the site. If you’ve got suggestions for stories or essays we should read, or snacks we should try: ditto.

You can stream the episode right here on our site, or download the mp3 file. Or, visit us in the iTunes store, or wherever you normally get your podcasts, and you’ll be able to subscribe (for free!) and never miss another installment.

Thanks for listening!

Stream:

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