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When Celery Was More Special Than Caviar

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Jan 07, 2019

This week's episode of The Sporkful podcast is up! Listen through the player, Stitcher, or Apple Podcasts. (And please subscribe!)

Celery doesn't get a lot of love these days. But it was the avocado toast of the late 1800s and early 1900s.

"There was all this intrigue in celery," says reporter Maya Kroth (below). "[People thought] that it has these magical powers and people [were] really, really into it."

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Maya is a freelance writer and radio producer, and she is obsessed with celery.

She wanted to know why it fell from grace. So she did this story for the new food podcast Proof (from our friends at America's Test Kitchen).

Maya's first stop on her celery investigation was the New York Public Library's historical menu archive. It turns out, celery was the third most popular dish on NYC menus back in the day, behind only tea and coffee (as we can see on the menu below, from a ball at Madison Square Garden in 1913).

"Celery was a featured item at one out of every four restaurants, and it comes in so many different forms on these menus," Maya says. "There was celery-fed duckling, mashed celery, fried celery, celery tea. ... I mean, they were really getting creative with celery!"

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So why did celery fall from grace? And can this once vaunted vegetable make a comeback?

This week on The Sporkful, we explore the rise, fall, and possible redemption, of celery.

Today's sponsor:

Interstitial music in this episode from Black Label Music:

- "Rooftop Instrumental" by Erick Anderson

Photos: FlickrCC/Suzie's Farm and courtesy of Maya Kroth and America's Test Kitchen/New York Public Library

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