99% Invisible | Podcast Review | October 30, 2015 | By

99% Invisible: “War and Pizza”

You have the US Military to thank for Easy-Mac.

A few times over the last month, my phone would buzz just as I hopped into bed, a notification. I knew who it was. But I just couldn’t check it; I couldn’t engage. I had to do what was best for me. But there it was there, lurking. It once vibrated so intently my phone slid off the end table where it had been perched and clattered to the floor. I left it. Then it buzzed again. I picked it up. I had to, it insisted upon my mind at every moment. It had been so long since I had even opened our app—days, weeks; each felt like a decade. I caved, punching each number in my unlock code with the focus and precision of someone defusing a bomb: I had to get the numbers right, I couldn’t wait any longer. I was in.

My fingers started to tremble now. I slid down the notification tray: “Roman Mars has uploaded a new track to Soundcloud. Check it out now.”

I’ve missed you 99% Invisible. As those of you who follow my grouching on Twitter already know, I’ve been away for a month finishing my thesis. Yes, it was exhilarating—thank you for asking. But it took focus, hours upon hours of it. Fighter pilot meets brain surgeon meets cat-chasing-laser-pointer focus. Anyway, I had to cloister myself away to write the thing, and that meant no radio. The sacrifices we make, the challenges we take on. But I’m back. I’m back at last. 1

Speaking of challenges, look how cool that coin looks in the featured image. Radiotopia, the podcast empire to which 99% Invisible is the capital city, is in the middle of its pledge drive. As an incentive to donate they’re offering a challenge coin (à la the totems given out by armed services members, featured “Coin Check“) meant to signify commitment and loyalty. (Roman suggests that when people approach him to say they love the show, he is going to “coin check” them: ask them to present their coin to prove their fandom.) Great idea, cool pledge drive gift, and available at the $4/month level in their campaign. I think $48 a year is steep for most shows, but considering how much people love this show, I think they’ll do just fine.

…Wait, right—I actually have a show I am supposed to review. This one is called “War and Pizza.” Pretty good: the story follows the history of food preservation, which leads, surprisingly quickly, into the sphere of military rations. It has always been difficult to feed soldiers in times of war—a fact that, in a “necessity is the mother of invention” kind of way, has lead to many of our food preservation innovations. It lead the French to canning and the US to MREs—Meals Ready to Eat. These are the food rations that have a shelf life of years, and help to ensure that there is never a need to ramp up domestic food production rapidly, a dilemma that led to major hang-ups in World War II.

And as it turns out, the US Military is directly responsible for the innovations behind much of the snack food we probably wish we didn’t eat so much of. So next time you indulge in one too many Cheetos, you know who to thank.

  1. I’ll be working to make up the missed episodes of 99% Invisible—Atmosphereons, Coin Check, and the Third Coast Fest-award winning Structural Integrity—and Planet Money over the next few weeks. Get excited for more content than you’ve ever seen. ^

About the Author

Eric McDaniel is the founder of Audiologue, where he covers 99% Invisible. Right now, his favorite shows are Mystery Show and Cortex. Find him on Twitter @ericmmcd, or by email at eric@audiologue.xyz.

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