The Burnt Toast podcast, which has just kicked off a second season, is hosted by James Beard Award-nominated host and producer Kenzi Wilbur. The show is all about the ways food intersects with our lives, often in more complicated arrangements that the traditional hand-to-mouth system. With the unimpeachable goal of supplying listeners with "the perfect pieces of cocktail party fodder," the agreeably lo-fi show is a genuine charmer, especially if you like slightly retro synth music (which I do.)
Case in point: the latest episode is titled "Why Is There No Pie Emoji?" While this may sound like a set-up for a dreary comedy routine, in fact Wilbur has put together a rather beguiling audio essay on how and why certain items of food make it for consideration as emoji ideograms, and others don't. (A collage of soundbites gathers a collection of voices asking after other conspicuously missing food-based emojis, including bagels, dumplings, samosas, and chorizo.)
Her guest is Jeremy Burge, who runs the Emojipedia site, and sits on the Unicode Emoji subcommittee that gets to decide which proposed glyphs will graduate to the agreed-upon set. Burge talks about the origins of emojis in the 90s, how the original set of 176 has bloomed to over 1800, and why it is that there are so many trains to choose from. (Burge notes he was himself initially unsure why a there was an Easter Island statue emoji, until he realized it actually referenced a landmark at a Tokyo train station.)
Food is difficult, though. Burge shares the story of the paella emoji (or, to be specific, the "shallow pan of food" emoji), which pictures a flat pan loaded with chicken and prawns. Spanish users, however, recoiled at the ingredients shown, and asked that the glyph be redesigned to represent the more traditional ingredients.
All of this is lead-up to host Wilbur's actual submission to the Unicode Emoji Committee: pie. What kind of pie? Fruit or meat? A slice or a whole pie? You can see how this gets interesting. Burge says the onus is on the person submitting the emoji for consideration: he or she has to prove via search volume and hashtag usage that their idea is sound.
Past episodes have focused on Kit-Kat bars, meatloaf, and thousand-year-old eggs. It's not a foodie show so much as a really interesting podcast that happens to be about food.
Title: "Burnt Toast"
Episodes Available: 42
Episode Length: 20 minutes
Where to Download: Stitcher
Host: Kenzi Wilbur