The Atlantic Daily: Six Podcast Episodes to Stream This Weekend

Grab your headphones. Our staff suggests a few classic podcast episodes for this final weekend of January.

A podcast microphone on a purple background with a photo of lips up to it
Getty; The Atlantic

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You’ve heard of podcasts? Joe Rogan has one, and Neil Young is not a fan. This week, Young issued an ultimatum to Spotify, which carries Rogan’s controversial—and enormously popular—show, threatening to pull his music off the platform if it didn’t dump Rogan for promoting misinformation about the coronavirus and vaccines. Rogan’s podcast remains on Spotify; Young’s music does not.

Podcasts may have opened up their own little front in the culture wars, but many provide a respite from the relentless news cycle. And that’s what these six standout episodes, selected for you by our newsroom, offer. You won’t hear Joe Rogan in any of them—or anything about the coronavirus, for that matter.

Gastropod, “Remembrance of Things Pasta: A Saucy Tale

Here is a terrible secret: I play with my food. I poke it. I squish it. I think I’ve even swirled, swizzled, and crushed it. It’s fun, and it’s a delightful reminder that texture plays a huge role in shaping our experience of the things we eat. No podcast episode out there celebrates this tactile weirdness better than Gastropod’s deep dive into the world of pasta—the science of how it’s made, the history of its hundreds of varieties, the secret to its toothsome squidginess. Even if you’re not a pasta nut, there’s a good chance you’ll dig this episode, and you’ll never look at strozzapreti the same way again.

Katherine J. Wu, staff writer covering science and health

Dolly Parton’s America, “Dollitics

When the podcast creator (and radio host, for those who remember that time) Jad Abumrad gracefully took a bow this week and announced that he was leaving WNYC’s Radiolab after 20 years, my thoughts went immediately to the ferocity with which I gobbled up his and Shima Oliaee’s series, Dolly Parton’s America. The whole show is spectacular, but, given how many Americans are questioning their relationship with work right now, I decided to revisit this episode. I promise you want to hear about the making of the song “9 to 5.”

Claudine Ebeid, executive producer for audio

Radio Rental, Laura of the Woods

There’s nothing like a good horror-podcast-induced stress-sweat to shake up the monotony of a pandemic winter weekend. Radio Rental, created and hosted by Payne Lindsey, takes listeners through artfully produced, immersive tales of unforgettable close encounters with the occult. In episode four of the series, a young boy befriends Laura, a little girl from the “mystery house” next door. Years later, he uncovers the truth about his childhood friend. I highly recommend that you do not listen to this episode alone.

Rebecca Rashid, podcast producer on How to Build a Happy Life

Off Menu With Ed Gamble and James Acaster, “Ep 109: Nicola Coughlan

Whenever I’ve trapped someone on a long car ride, I almost always introduce them to Off Menu, and almost always pick this episode with the actor Nicola Coughlan to do so. The basic premise (a guest runs through their favorite-ever starter, main course, side dish, drink, and dessert) spirals into chaos when Coughlan gets locked out of her own apartment in the middle of recording. Yet, this moment is just one of many notable mishaps and inside jokes that listeners have come to expect from the podcast. What started as my lockdown distraction has blossomed into a weekly communion of sorts with the comedians and hosts Ed Gamble and James Acaster. No matter what else happens in a week, there will be something to laugh about, and the stakes will never be higher than debating whether it’s okay to order a cheese plate for dessert.

Kate Lindsay, newsletter engagement editor

Life Kit, “If You’ve Always Wanted to Write a Book, Here’s How

I didn’t make any formal resolutions this year—as my colleague Faith Hill has written, “resolutions are not the vibe for 2022.” But I’ve still been looking for ways to better myself, which led me to binge Life Kit for advice on topics such as how to re-create cherished family recipes and how to better understand my credit score. Each episode has easily digestible tips and feels like a warm conversation with friends. As someone who struggles to find time for creative pursuits, I especially loved this episode hosted by the late NPR books editor Petra Mayer, in which she breaks down a daunting goal—writing a book!—into achievable, and enjoyable, steps.

Morgan Ome, assistant editor

Maintenance Phase, “The Body Mass Index

Diet culture is insidious. In January especially, companies encourage us to pick up “healthy habits” and new “wellness routines,” which all inevitably boil down to losing weight. On the hilarious and informative Maintenance Phase, hosts Aubrey Gordon and Michael Hobbes examine fitness and nutrition trends past and present (keto, the Master Cleanse), call out influencers (Rachel Hollis and, yes, even Oprah) who have profited off of fatphobia, break down misconceptions and inaccuracies taken as gospel, and ultimately affirm for listeners that all bodies are normal. Last year’s history of BMI makes for a good entry point into the show.

Karen Ostergren, deputy copy chief

Finally, we’d be remiss if we didn’t plug our own excellent Atlantic podcasts here:

Explore winter around the world. Our senior editor Alan Taylor curates photographs from this year’s chilly season.

Read. In this week’s Books Briefing, our associate editor Faith Hill explores how poetry lets us remember.

Watch. Maggie Gyllenhaal’s The Lost Daughter challenges common conceptions of motherhood.

Sundance Film Festival, which is happening this week, offered a preview of more exciting films to come. Here are 16 indie projects to get excited about this year.

If you’re looking for a classic to snuggle up with, it’s never a bad time to revisit our critic David Sims’s list of comfort films.

Make time to make art. Doing so should be a habit, not a luxury, our happiness columnist, Arthur C. Brooks, argues.


Every weekday evening, our editors guide you through the biggest stories of the day, help you discover new ideas, and surprise you with moments of delight. Subscribe to get this delivered to your inbox.