Episode 636: Corn and Eels

On the Overthinking It Podcast, we discuss how we came to cook food, and what it means to us to know how to cook.

Support Overthinking It by becoming a member for $5/month!

Peter Fenzel, Jordan Stokes, and Matthew Wrather are too many chefs in the kitchen, overthinking—but not overcooking!—how they learned to cook, what it even means to “know how” to cook, and how cooking has changed in isolation.

Download (MP3)

Subscribe: iTunes Other Apps

Further Reading

4 Comments on “Episode 636: Corn and Eels”

  1. Mark Lee OTI Staff #

    I’m always bummed when I miss any recording, but in this case it is perhaps appropriate, because as a Korean male, I was raised with near total alienation from the kitchen and the preparation of food that happened within. (Traditional Korean culture has traditional gender roles, amplified many times over what Americans are used to due to the small homogeneous nature of the society, amplified many times over within immigrant communities in diaspora…it’s a whole thing.)

    As a young adult, I eventually learned to cook a few dishes competently and get some basic technique down, but aside from a few breakfast dishes, I rarely take true pleasure in cooking a meal.

    Anyway, that’s a long preface to my answer to the question of which celebrity chef has the greatest impact with my relationship to food, and for me, it’s Maangchi, the Korean-American YouTube phenomenon.

    Read this article for general context:


    But personally, for me, Maangchi serves as a critical bridge to recipes that I was cut off from when my Korean mom passed away shortly after I graduated from college. The whole thing sound really obvious — take recipes, write them down, film some cooking videos and make the whole package fun and accessible to English speakers — but there was really nothing quite like it before Maangchi, and she has legions of devoted fans ranging from Koreans like me in search of some heritage as well as the broader audience of People on the Internet who just want to eat delicious Korean food.

    Anyway, TL;DR: try a Maangchi recipe and make a Korean dish that you previously thought was exotic and unaccessible. If I can do it, you can.


  2. Margo #

    What, no mention of the great Martha Stewart?

    My favorite recipe franchise/ personality is the Australian Donn Hay. Perhaps, or because, I have never seen her on TV but know her work only through her gorgeous magazine and cookbooks. Simple (In comparison to Martha’s fussiness) yet imaginative recipes and the best food photography anywhere. Calling it food porn seems debasing, it’s more like tasteful (in all ways) food erotica.

    The New York Times food section is also excellent.

    In terms of food procurment, I will never take my local Farmer’s Market’s for granted again. In Nova Scotia during the COVID lockdown of Spring 2020, the Grocery Stores were left open yet the Farmer’s Markets were closed, causing hardship for Farmers and consumers alike. Hopefully such a retrograde policy will be reconsidered if another lockdown becomes necessary.


  3. Mike O #

    As I’ve got older, I’ve become more (for lack of a better word) spiritual in all things. This includes cooking. Cooking is a thoughtful preparation of a substance that will be put into your body, and become part of your body. It’s a very intimate act.
    Spiritualty also breeds holy war. So when I think of junk food pushed on us, made from chemicals that shorten our life, this is an intimate violation, a rape.


  4. John C Member #

    Weirdly, I grew up watching a lot of PBS cooking shows (and still object to the telegenic cable shows–like, if you like Alton Brown, you’re cheating yourself by not watching America’s Test Kitchen, where he gets his material) but not really caring about food, because it was the ’70s and ’80s, and almost all food was terrible, either basically a slab of overcooked meat and a pile of over-boiled vegetables or spaghetti with meat sauce, plus slices of industrial white bread with either, but with fried chicken basically being the big treat.

    Then my college dorm had a full kitchenette and my lack of experience led to fouling up those pouches of noodles with sauce. So I started experimenting and spending afternoons with PBS and Graham Kerr’s (former PBS Galloping Gourmet from my childhood, via reruns) Discovery show, during the “private money can do better PBS than PBS” stage of cable TV to get moving. Graham Kerr is worth hunting down from any part of his career, by the way, since he goes from the richest and heavy of the rich, heavy dishes, and then took some health scares to heart to try to get the same flavor out of dishes that weren’t as obviously dangerous. Even if you never opt to eat healthy, it’s a worthwhile thought process on the flavor side.

    That made it a lot easier to follow (non-baking, because that was always just blindly following directions) a recipe, but mostly just wing it, now that I’ve gotten a better sense of how fast things the different ingredients cook through and how the surface-to-volume ratio of the bits of each ingredient changes that. Even when I find recipes to work with (https://www.budgetbytes.com/ has some great stuff), I usually rearrange it so that I’m not working with multiple pans.

    When people are around for holidays, I’ll usually cook something big, but since it’s been harder to get people physically together, I don’t get to host as much. I’ll tell you, though, you get to avoid a lot more family arguments on holidays if you hole yourself up in the kitchen monitoring things that don’t actually need attention…


Add a Comment