The Sporkful podcast’s Dan Pashman visited Richmond for 2019’s Fire Flour & Fork Festival to record a live podcast about wine and (vegan) cheese from right here in the river city.
“We’re not for foodies, we’re for eaters,” Dan Pashman, host of The Sporkful podcast, announces at the beginning of each week’s episode. The Sporkful is a podcast that takes a much deeper examination into food and the culture behind it, and asks the question – what can we learn about each other? Earlier this month, Pashman learned a lot about Richmond and why it is growing into a booming food mecca at 2019’s Fire Flour & Fork Festival, presented by the Virginia Museum of History and Culture.
Pashman originally began his career as a journalist and in radio, ultimately with an end goal of having his own radio show. As times and media evolve quickly, he eventually realized podcasting was the way to go – then got a radio show in the end after all. The Sporkful initially began with his desire to dig into the grittiest and most absurd details about food.
Food is heavily tied to our cultures and who we are as beings. To Pashman, the easiest way to learn about another person really comes down to a very simple question.
“You can learn everything there is to know about a person by just asking ‘What do you like to eat and how do you like to eat it?’,” said Pashman. “What a person eats tells you where they’re from, where their family is from, what they grew up eating, and also what choices they make as an adult now. It tells you where they’ve been and where they’re going.”
It’s Pashman’s opinion that, through food and the willingness to ask strangers food-related questions, we can learn that the mouse was right, and it really is a small world after all.
“Every part of your identity is reflected in what you eat,” said Pashman. “It might be the salient stand-in for identity.”
But what did Pashman learn about Richmond during his time in town? Probably that we will happily stand in line for wine and cheese samples, no questions asked. Pashman was at Fire Flour & Fork on Sunday to record a live episode of his popular podcast, which featured two Central Virginia residents – Matthew Finou of King Family Vineyards, and UnMoo founder Josh Kadrich. They were on The Sporkful to discuss, respectively, wine and (vegan) cheese — what else?
For the podcast, Pashman interviewed Kadrich and Finou separately, focusing on not only their expertise but what their knowledge revealed about them as people.
Kadrich shared the story of the way his vegan cheese company, UnMoo, came about even though he himself is not a vegan. The story stretched from his early days working in a lab to the realization that he needed to find a significantly less costly avenue for his boyfriend’s goat cheese addiction. Finou shared not only the not-so-secret explanation for orange wine, but also established his wine philosophy, which is that it should never be that serious.
Ideas like the ones shared in the live podcast — such as why vegan cheese should never be a substitute, or what exactly the sorcery behind rosé might be — come to Pashman from various places. Everyone from production staff to listeners suggest lines of food-related thought to pursue. And the most unexpected ideas have at times resulted in the show’s strongest, most important episodes — like the recent series about the word “plantation” and its use in marketing.
“Our mantra for every episode is: we want people to learn something and to feel something,” said Pashman. “In those two plantation episodes, I think that people felt a lot and learned a lot.”
Fire Flour & Fork was flooded with attendees of all stripes — industry folks, food fans, and curious outsiders. A variety of these folks attended The Sporkful’s podcast recording, which featured both established fans and newcomers to the podcast. While many in attendance could tell you their favorite episodes, Pashman had trouble narrowing his down.
“The first plantation episode is pretty high on the list,” said Pashman. “The donut king, the Syrian Sandwich, [among others]. Then there’s some silly ones, like our April Fool’s one that I want to play again at the end of the year — because it’s a lot funnier when you know it’s a joke.”
Whether you identify yourself as a foodie, an eater, or both, The Sporkful’s live taping and Fire Flour & Fork were great places to be. Richmond’s local food scene continues to prove itself as one of the best in the country. We’ll have to wait a bit before The Sporkful’s Richmond episode goes live, but thankfully, we have plenty of delicious local snacks to keep us busy in the meantime.
Top Photo: Matthew Ficou of King Family Vineyards speaks to Dan Pashman of The Sporkful podcast at Fire Flour & Fork Festival, by Ash Griffith