Proof, Episode 1 Recap: Celery

How did this former “it” vegetable go from fashionable to forgettable?

Published Nov. 1, 2018.

In Proof, the new podcast from America's Test Kitchen, we aim to solve food mysteries one story at a time. Every episode goes beyond recipes and cooking to investigate the foods we love (such as deep-fried oreos and tiki drinks) and don't love (like once-in-vogue celery and the meteoric rise of the grain bowl); ask the big questions (where do food cravings come from?); and uncover the hidden backstories that feed your food-obsessed brain.


In our very first episode, we take a deep dive into the former “it” vegetable of the Victorian era: celery. That’s right, before it was relegated to a bloody Mary garnish, celery was considered a status symbol and displayed proudly on restaurant menus and well-to-do families’ tablescapes. So what caused the vegetable’s fall from grace? And is it poised for a comeback?

Proof, Episode 1


How did celery fall from grace—and is it poised for a comeback?
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Five Things You’ll Learn

1. The Pride of Kalamazoo: According to urban legend, at the end of the 19th century, boys in Kalamazoo, Michigan, would gift their dates bouquets of celery instead of roses. The city was once known as the world celery capital, and its celery was considered the finest by fancy restaurants all over the country.

2. The Proof Is in the Price: Celery was the third most popular menu item in New York City restaurants in the late 19th century, and in some instances, it cost more than caviar.

3. The Rich Past of Celery Servingware: Serving your celery in a celery vase—yes, a celery vase—was viewed as a status symbol until it was renounced as “too messy” by the fashionable upper class and replaced by celery dishes.

4. Celery Soda, Then and Now: And how its story is steeped in America’s development and social class.

5. The Future of Celery: One man’s plan to get consumers as excited about heirloom celery as they get about heirloom tomatoes, and one restaurant’s dogged quest to make celery leaves the star ingredient on their cocktail list using “nitro-muddling.”

Who You’ll Hear From

Every episode features top-notch reporting and a cast of fascinating experts. Here’s the list of sources who helped us recount celery’s rich history and shared their expectations for its future:

Notable Quotes

“My feminine mind says that celery is just tasteless.” —Bridget Lancaster, with her thoughts on celery

“If you lived in an upper-class household on the East Coast in the last part of the 19th century, it's pretty likely that you had some very expensive cut crystal whose only job was to show off your celery.” —Maya Kroth, on celery's former chicness

“Coffee is number one. Tea is number two. And then to the surprise of many, celery is number three." —Rebecca Federman, on the most popular dishes found on New York City restaurant menus in the late 20th century, according to the website "What's On the Menu"

“I think for celery to survive into the next century, we’re going to have to find new ways of preparing it.” —William Woys Weaver, sharing his celery predictions

“There’s very few things on earth fresher than the freshness of fresh celery. Some people hate it and some people don’t care about it. But, you know, there’s no mirepoix without friggin’ celery!” —Dave Arnold, on the value of fresh celery

What did you think of the first episode? Do you have a food mystery you think we should investigate on Proof? Let us know in the comments! And if you like what you heard, leave us a review on iTunes. And visit Proof's website every Thursday for an all-new episode.

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