That's why Kimball has broken into an unlikely new medium.

"Radio is a more intelligent medium than television," Kimball says. With ATK Radio, Kimball hopes to create an antidote to what he sees as brainless food programming. "I'm annoyed all the time about everything. The food world is full of all this pap about if you have half an hour, you can have this wonderful dinner," he says. "It's bullshit!

"I think the reason I got into this 30 years ago was that I was frustrated; people weren't explaining stuff to me," he continues. "The radio show's just an extension of that — I want to understand things. . . . On TV I can't ask questions and go places. On radio, I can do anything I want."

And so, for the first time, America's Test Kitchen is getting political. Kimball is happy to venture into uncharted waters on the radio show. "There's only one other food show out there [on NPR], the Splendid Table, and they're not investigative," he says. "The food world is full of topics, and nobody is doing this kind of thing."

Kimball should tread carefully, says Wellesley College political scientist Robert Paarlberg, the author of Food Politics.

"You make enemies if you say anything at all about food from a sociological or a cultural or a political perspective," Paarlberg says. "It's highly polarized on a left-right spectrum. There are people on the left who don't want food to be produced by large, specialized commercial farms, they don't want it to be marketed by multinational food companies, they spend all of their time looking for the flaws of our current commercial-industrial food system, and they refuse to believe that it has delivered anything of value. Then there are those on the right who think those on the left are agrarian romantics who are being unrealistic about how we can feed the nine billion people on earth."

In addition to those divisions, Paarlberg says, food politics are framed by health claims, such as the health benefits of organic foods, safety concerns — think genetic engineering — and cultural issues like the ethics of eating meat. In short, talking about food is a minefield.

"If they take a position, they'll immediately lose part of their audience," says Paarlberg. "Of course, a lot of it will depend on Chris Kimball's politics."

So what are they? "We're going to be on the side of good food," Kimball says, leaving it at that.

America's Test Kitchen Radio airs on WGBH, 89.7 FM, on Sundays at 3 pm, or download the podcast on iTunes or at americastestkitchen.com/radio.

Eugenia Williamson can be reached at
ewilliamson@phx.com.

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