Go Beyond the Grocery Store With These Seven Innovative Spice Companies

IN 2016, SANA JAVERI KADRI found herself at a crossroads. After moving from her hometown of Mumbai to California, she wanted to learn more about the historical forces shaping her own identity and experience as a queer woman of color in the United States. A food photographer, Javeri Kadri turned to culinary history to better understand…

The Chef Recreating 18th-Century Recipes From a Thrift-Shop Find

LUCINDA GANDERTON HAD THE BOOK hidden in the bottom of her shopping trolley. Around two years ago, she had taken a trip from London to Brighton, England, to visit Paul Couchman, a food historian and chef whom she met on Instagram. Ganderton, a textile artist whose family had once owned an antiques auction house, and Couchman,…

How to Recreate Your Lost Family Recipes, According to Historians and Chefs

Michael Twitty was leading a conversation on African diasporic food when the woman he was speaking to broke into tears. Twitty, a food writer, historian, and historical interpreter, had just explained that the word for “eat” in Wolof, a West African language, is nyam. The woman, a Massachusetts resident from an African-American and Puerto Rican family, had…

The Chef Bringing Native American Flavors to Communities in Quarantine

WHAT’S IN YOUR KITCHEN PANTRY? If you answered quinoa, green beans, or potatoes, you have, perhaps unbeknownst to you, been eating Native American heritage. “They might not know they have indigenous foods in their cupboard: might be canned corn, canned beans, squash,” says Brian Yazzie, a Twin Cities-based chef and food activist from the Navajo Nation,…

The Chocolate-Brewing Witches of Colonial Latin America

IT HAPPENED, PERHAPS, ONE HOT, humid night, mist over the mountains that bordered the colonial city of Santiago de Guatemala. Melchora de los Reyes, a young, mixed-raced woman, had sex with her lover. When she met him, she was a virgin, a doncella, a status that made her eligible for marriage in the strict, Catholic society of…

How to Feed a Megacity Like the Aztecs

WHEN CONQUISTADOR HERNÁN CORTÉS REACHED Tenochtitlan in 1519, he beheld a floating city. The temples and palaces of the Aztec capital gleamed white from an island in the middle of a vast lake, all spread under a searing blue sky. With an estimated population of 200,000, roughly the size of contemporary Paris, the city overflowed with people. Around…

A Pirate Botanist Helped Bring Hot Chocolate to England

IF YOU HAD MET HIM the year his famous book was published, you might have mistaken William Hughes for a mild-mannered gardener. By that time, he had settled into his role at the country estate of the Viscountess Conway, a noblewoman and philosopher, and had published a book on grapevines. But the old man was more…

Why an 1875 Map Imagined The U.S. As a Giant Hog

THIS STORY ENDS WITH AN eccentric entrepreneur distributing 2,500 maps of the United States in the shape of a pig to a gala of Civil War veterans. It begins with sewing machines. Grover and Baker sewing machines, to be precise. Read more at Atlas Obscura. Cover image: Porcineograph, Library of Congress, Public Domain.

Solved: The Mysterious Origins of Your Coffee’s Worst Nightmare

IN THE 1910S, COFFEE CROPS around the world began to suffer a mysterious ailment. When plucked from the tree, the coffee fruit, usually plump and crimson, was riddled with round holes, and the damaged beans inside were nearly useless. Growers soon discovered that the culprit was a small beetle, the coffee berry borer, which has spread…