I’ve wept in public as Ellen Burstyn talked about her mentally ill ex-husband on Death, Sex, and Money, felt my heartbeat quicken as Adnan talked about that weird deserted park on Serial, and run an extra mile to hear the end of Esther Perel upend everything I thought I knew about relationships when I first heard her interviewed on Dear Sugars.
Sometimes, though, the time just isn’t right for public ugly crying or upending any of my ideas, like when I’m in and out of the car, if the kids need snacks/toy ownership mediation/an extra pirate to crawl around with them for awhile. Sometimes real life gives me me enough tricky emotions for one day and I just want to hear some grown-ups talk about something interesting but three out of ten, tops, on the intensity scale. For these occasions, I favor the following rotation, perfect for keeping you sane while mixing it up:
Food podcasts: The Sporkful might be the perfect thing if you’ve been overdosing on politics podcasts lately. Host Dan Pashman asks celebrities about their favorite foods from childhood, debates whether you can put tomatoes in the fridge, and has every version of the best-burger debate. America’s Test Kitchen isn’t doing any more new episodes, but you can find their archive on the Stitcher app and pick up a few tips you never knew you needed here and there.
Parenting podcasts with a lot of banter: Coffee and Crumbs is like the mom friend I always run into and love chatting with at the park but won’t ever be best friends with because she kind of has enough church friends already. One Bad Mother also takes a good ten minutes or more in the first part of each episode before they get to their guest to vent and catch up. They drop a few more f-bombs than the Coffee and Crumbs ladies, so best to keep One Bad Mother for when little ears can’t hear.
Music podcasts: If I’m feeling a little talked-out but the effort of choosing an exact Spotify mood playlist is also a bit too emotionally overwhelming, I love a good music-themed podcast. You get a little nudge in the direction of bands that might not have been in your rotation, and some music to break things up. I love the band interviews on All Songs Considered, like a recent one with R.E.M. on the 25th anniversary of Automatic For The People. On Song Exploder, artists from Lorde to Metallica tell the story of a single song, from how they experimented with a chord to the nature of the heartbreak that inspired the lyrics. Host Hrishikesh Hirway is a musician himself, and he pushes his interviews just far enough into musician-nerd-mode but never loses me.
Trivia! Of course Wait Wait Don’t Tell me and Ask Me Another are always good go-to’s, and I also like Good Job, Brain for it’s themed-trivia episodes. I can say I learned something about spices, acronyms, and Oscar winners on my last mini-binge of this one when everyone was getting a little hangry and zombied-out on a long car trip.