FOR OGBODO NKIRUKA, THE SLAP of a hand hitting a watermelon is a welcome melody. A fruit vendor who’s been selling watermelons from a roadside stand in the Nigerian city of Enugu for 15 years, she identifies the ripeness of her wares by ear. Each melon has its own music, a deep, hollow thump—ba ba, ba, ba— indicating a fruit that’s perfectly ripe.
THERE IS A CAMEL IN Hanifa Deen’s kitchen. He looks down at her as she cooks, eyes proud yet warm, delicately flared snout smelling dinner. While the creature is merely an image on a poster, Deen, who has written several books on Islam in Australia, regards him affectionately.
THICK, SUGARY, AND CREAMY, RICH with saffron and almonds, bhang thandai is so sweet that at first it’s hard to pinpoint the drink’s secret ingredient. After a sip or two, however, the telltale taste lingers: spicy and slightly musky, it’s the signature whiff of cannabis. After a few minutes, the high comes, dreamy as the rainbow play of Holi colors.
JEN MARTIN AND LIZ ALPERN lived in “that house.” Many queer friend groups have one. It’s the kind of place where a pot of soup is always boiling, where bread is always in the oven, where someone is always willing to read your tarot cards. Friends stopped to visit the Brooklyn apartment on weeknights. It was a space to cook and eat, to work and relax.
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ON MAY 20, 1895, 16-YEAR-OLD Susie Johnson, wearing nothing but gauze and haloed by a flock of live canaries, burst through the crust of a giant pie. It was polo player John Ellliot Cowdin’s 10th wedding anniversary, and the dinner was lavish: 16 courses from clams to coffee, each punctuated by champagne. Two models entertained the male guests. There was a later rumor—likely apocryphal—that their hair color was coordinated with the wine, the brunettes pouring red, the blondes pouring white. Susie Johnson, dancing out of double-crust pastry, served herself.
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FOR A FEW WEEKS EACH spring, a lone guard monitors the moors of northern England. This warden pitches a tent in a remote field to watch over a prize so rare that collectors have been known to break laws, trek into deep jungles, and risk capture by guerillas in its pursuit.
ELIZABETH HORTON NEVER INTENDED FOR Plum Bayou to become a testing site for recovering lost crops. By planting historical staples such as Chenopodium berlandieri, a type of goosefoot and a cousin of modern-day quinoa, she sought to teach visitors about the agriculture of the Toltec Mounds Archeological State Park’s original inhabitants. Yet Horton’s plants aren’t originals—they’re wild cousins of the crops that fed North America since at least 3900 BC.
JUST OUTSIDE ST. LOUIS, VISITORS can witness the monumental earthen mounds that mark Cahokia, the largest indigenous city north of Mexico. There’s a persistent myth that the original inhabitants of what is now the United States were all hunter-gatherers living in small communities. Yet these mounds—likely used for ceremonial and housing purposes by people of the Mississippian Culture—reveal an often-neglected history: an organized, socially diverse, Pre-Columbian city.
ALANA DAO COULDN’T FIGURE OUT which was worse: going to school with a lunch box full of hummus, or pulling out Chinese pork floss buns in front of her classmates. In the 1990s, Sugar Land, Texas, was a steak and potatoes kind of place.
AS IT GLINTS IN THE afternoon sunlight, Newark, New Jersey’s Passaic River looks peaceful. But a plaque along the boardwalk has a warning for visitors. “The river remains full of life,” it reads. “Try to spot these creatures, but until the pollution is removed from the river, be careful NEVER to catch or eat any of them.”