“For those of us who have tried (and doubtless failed) to write about the culture wars in a spirit of honest, open-minded good faith”, Jon Ronson is “something of an icon”, said James Marriott in The Times. His 2015 book So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed remains the “definitive” account of online cancellation, and its warnings of ever more rancour to come have proved “depressingly prescient”.
Now he is back with Things Fell Apart, a superb BBC Sounds podcast about the genesis of the culture wars. Ronson starts by looking for their “pre-Twitter history”, and finds it in the battles the US’s religious Right fought against abortion and gay rights in the 1970s and 1980s. He identifies this conflict as the “first important intersection of moral fury and new technology”, when Evangelical Christians took to the new mass medium of satellite TV to try to ban books and stir moral panic. It’s a bleak but riveting listen.
Aimed at adults and older children (it includes bad language and “uncensored” accounts of gruesome and violent events), Let’s Talk About Myths, Baby! is a millennial’s take on Greek and Roman mythology, said Charlotte Runcie in Prospect. This is first-class educational entertainment: witty and sarcastic commentary from a modern-day perspective is mixed with rigorous scholarly research.
On a completely different subject, I’d recommend Bad Cops, a BBC World Service series in which Jessica Lussenhop, of This American Life, looks at one of the US’s most corrupt police units, the Gun Trace Task Force in Baltimore, in an effort to find out why good cops go bad.
The world is awash with cookbooks, but “milestone recipes – the true keepers” – are rare indeed, said Dale Berning Sawa in The Guardian. The Genius Recipe Tapes, a weekly pod by Kristen Miglore of the website Food52, explores one such recipe per episode, and talks to its creator. Listening to her descriptions of what she loves about these recipes – from the way “Rachel Roddy slow-cooks her beans in the oven, to the whole lemon Ruth Rogers puts in a startling strawberry sorbet” – is a lip-smacking pleasure in itself.
Another great podcast for home cooks is Recipe Club, from the American chef David Chang and the journalist Chris Ying. The fun of this one is that many of the recipes discussed are “sourced the way most of us decide what to cook for dinner: by Googling”. It’s “a bit millennial, a bit punk, very entertaining”.
Less recipe-focused – and more discursive – is Honey & Co: The Food Sessions. London restaurateurs and columnists Itamar Srulovich and Sarit Packer talk to guests drawn from the food scene, mostly in Britain, ranging freely across food-related anecdotes, tips and experiences.