‘The Sporkful’ to bring unique take on food culture to Tufts

The "veggieducken" is a Thanksgiving meal explored by "The Sporkful," a WNYC food podcast hosted by Dan Pashman (A '99). Pashman will record his podcast live at Tufts tomorrow. The Sporkful via Flickr

Leave it to a Tufts alum to create a quirky and creative food podcast. Dan Pashman (A ’99), the creator of “The Sporkful” (2013-present) graduated from Tufts during a time when podcasts didn’t even exist. Tonight, Pashman will host a live recording in Cohen Auditorium —  the podcast’s first live show in the Boston area. 

Pashman explained that he discovered his passion for broadcast as a student working for the WMFO radio station.

I did have a show on WMFO my senior year,” he said. “It was called ‘After Hours with G Money and The Pash Man.’ That was where I fell in love with radio. There was no turning back after that. We were on Thursday nights — Friday mornings really — from 2 to 4 a.m. We’d go out to parties or bars, talk up the show, then when everyone went home and ordered pizza they’d turn on our show. I pulled some clips of that show that I’m going to play at the event Tuesday night.”

Pashman explained that he turned to podcasting after hitting barriers in radio work.

I worked in news radio and news talk radio for many years, and for a variety of reasons, shows I worked on kept getting canceled,” he said. “A lot of friends of mine were starting podcasts and encouraged me to do the same. I figured if I own my own podcast, at least nobody can cancel it but me.”

Though Pashman started “The Sporkful” as an independent side project in 2010, its popularity has recently skyrocketed. In 2014, it was picked up by WNYC/NY Public Radio, which also produces big names such as “Radiolab” (2010-present) and “Freakonomics” (2010-present). “The Sporkful” has fairly quickly become the No. 1 food podcast on iTunes —  a huge success that even Pashman didn’t expect. Pashman has even had stars such as Amy Sedaris, Jim Gaffigan, Rachel Maddow and “Weird Al” Yankovic guest-host the podcast.

I wouldn’t say I expected [the success], but I hoped it,” Pashman said. “It was a side project for three years, so it took up a lot of nights and weekends, and at times it was a real grind. I couldn’t have maintained my drive if I didn’t believe that the show had real potential … But there were definitely times when I questioned whether it was worth it and whether it would ever pan out. “

The James Beard Award-nominated podcast, which boasts the slogan “It’s not for foodies; it’s for eaters,” puts a unique spin on food-related commentary, Pashman explained.

I loved to eat, and I thought I had an idea for a way to talk about food that was really different — to obsess over the minutiae of eating everyday foods,” he said. “The second episode, I spent 20 minutes talking about ice cubes — ideal surface-area-to-volume ratio, how fast you want them to melt, best and worst shapes, etc.”

In addition to “The Sporkful,” Pashman also hosts the Cooking Channel web series “You’re Eating it Wrong” (2014), which will debut on the Cooking Channel this Friday.

Pashman explained that tonight’s live show presents its own challenges; not only must he put on an exciting live show, but he must also record a podcast episode that will translate well online.

“We’ll do some things just to make it a better live show that might not make it into the podcast,” Pashman said. “I try to stay in the moment and react spontaneously, but I’m less inclined to pursue some tangent with a guest that might not go anywhere. In the studio we can cut that out, but live on stage it can be deadly. I’m very focused on keeping things moving, making sure it never gets dull. But I love it — there’s nothing like the energy of doing a show in front of a crowd.”

There are still tickets available for the live recording, which is happening tonight in Cohen Auditorium at 7:30 p.m., as of press time. Tickets are free for Tufts students, faculty and staff, $10 for Tufts alumni and $20 for the general public. Special guests include comedian Myq Kaplan, DJ Rekha speaking on Diwali food and bhangra music and political science professor Rob Devigne. There will also be performances by three Tufts student groups: The Beelzebubs, Shir Appeal and Bhangra.