Kitchens is a documentary podcast series exploring the past, present and potential future of…you guessed it…the kitchen! Produced by Lucy Dearlove, it’s a companion show to her award-winning food podcast Lecker, and it takes a look at the history and architecture of the room often called ‘the heart of the home’. We spoke to her to find out all about it…
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your new show?
I’ve been making a food podcast called Lecker since 2016, which I often record in people’s kitchens, and after a while I started to notice how similar most people’s kitchens were. It didn’t really matter where they were from, what sort of food they regularly cooked, whether they were disabled or not; their kitchen would still be the same standard fitted design with 36 inch high continuous work surface that you need to be standing up to use, high and low cupboards, everything built into the corners etc. And so I just got really interested in where this design had come from and how we all ended up with such similar kitchens when other rooms in our homes allow for much more personalisation, even for renters. But I didn’t want to make a straight-up history show – the interesting thing about the fitted kitchen is that it’s really based on design innovations that happened around 100 years ago, and hasn’t really changed that much since. So it was important to me to show how people today live with this design, and all the implications of it, and also how we might approach kitchens differently in the future.
Kitchens is a self-contained series (although it sits on the Lecker feed), and the first time I’ve made something that’s quite like this. Each episode focuses on a different aspect of kitchen design, but they’re all interlinked and themes come up throughout the series that relate to other episodes. I’ve also edited a print zine featuring original illustrations and writing around the theme of kitchens from around 20 different contributors, which is available to order from leckerpodcast.com/kitchens from 16th August. I’ve done a collaborative zine before for the podcast and it went down really well so I thought a second one would be an interesting companion to the series.
On a personal level, Lecker is the overlap on the Venn diagram of the two things that interest me the most: audio and food. I’ve been working in audio (first radio, then podcasting) since around 2011, but before that I worked in hospitality and did a lot of cooking for a living. It was such an interesting job, both in terms of what I learned about food, and also of the people that I met during that time. It definitely laid the early foundations for starting Lecker.
Why podcasting? What is it about the format that appeals to you?
A question I’m often asked is how difficult it is to make a food podcast, since food is such a visual thing. But I’d argue that it’s only very recently that we’ve started taking such an aesthetic approach to cooking and eating, and there’s actually a much longer established oral tradition of sharing recipes and talking about what we like to eat. So I think podcasting is a great format to continue this tradition and it’s actually kind of liberating to not have to consider what a dish looks like before you post it on Instagram, for example; it’s equally if not more exciting to hear someone talk about what that food means to them and why they love it. In general I love the medium because of how varied it is, and how it can encompass so many different styles and content of audio.
Which podcasts do you take inspiration from?
For this series Avery Trufelman’s work was a big inspiration. I loved Articles of Interest so much, and her architecture series for Curbed, Nice Try, was something I listened to while figuring out how Kitchens was going to sound. I love the tone of her work – she’s very switched on to digital pop culture and the internet, and she explores quite academic subjects from that perspective which always makes her podcasts really fresh and exciting, as well as very informative. I also love the work of Lory Martinez, who runs a Paris-based podcast studio called Studio Ochenta and does extremely exciting things in multilingual audio storytelling. I love everything that the podcast Farmerama does, they’re such an inspiration for what you can achieve as a small independent team covering what is on the surface quite a niche subject, but manage to make every episode have such wide-ranging appeal.
There is a great mix of people you speak to in the first series, how did you chose who to feature?
It was important to me that each guest felt like someone who could talk very naturally about themes that I was interested in exploring. For example, Ruby Tandoh is someone I’ve wanted to speak to for Lecker since it started, and this felt like the perfect opportunity, as her new book is all about rejecting aspirational ideas in cooking and kitchens, and celebrating what you have and what you personally can do in the kitchen. This meant that rather than the interview being a more general or biographical conversation, we could get a lot more specific about things like…why so many cookbooks have such an aspirational aesthetic and why she’s not interested in doing that herself, along with her experiences as a working class food writer, and cooking in rented kitchens her entire life.
I wanted to make sure there was a good balance of ‘experts’ and people who could speak from personal experience (I put expert in scare quotes as all the experts featured in the series also spoke very eloquently about their own personal experiences and interests in the field too). So I was delighted to have the opportunity to speak to people like Professor Deborah Sugg Ryan, who’s a design historian and a total authority on kitchens, along with Johnny Grey, a legendary kitchen designer renowned for his ‘Unfitted’ kitchen designs for people like Sting and Steve Jobs. But I also spoke to lots of people who aren’t kitchen experts at all, and maybe even haven’t thought that deeply about their kitchen before, but actually, it turns out, have a lot to say about it. Our kitchens are where lots of different ideas overlap but they’re also such a consistent presence in our lives that often we don’t give them a second thought. So it was really exciting speaking to Katie Pennick, who is an accessible transport campaigner, about how ideas about inclusive design might apply to kitchens, and how the layout of most kitchens symbolises lots of really negative assumptions that society makes about disabled people. I honestly learnt so much making this series!
Do you have a dream guest for future series?
I’m not yet sure whether there will be a series 2 of Kitchens! We will see. But I have lots of great plans for Lecker over the next year or so, including a three part series I’m making in collaboration with the great audio producer Katie Callin later this year about food and folklore on the Isle of Man. We’ve been funded by the Manx heritage foundation Culture Vannin to make it which is very cool. No guests confirmed yet but it will involve lots of herring.
Where can the Pod Bible readers find out more about you?
The Lecker website has a whole page bringing together everything Kitchens related! Find it at leckerpodcast.com. Lecker is on Twitter and Instagram and here’s the Podfollow for your podcast platform of choice.