How a Black-Owned 19th-Century Tavern Became the Birthplace of a Beloved Cookie

HERE IS WHAT HISTORIANS HAVE been able to piece together about the lives of tavern-keepers Joseph and Lucretia Thomas Brown. Lucretia Thomas was born in 1772 in Marblehead, Massachusetts, a rough-and-tumble seaport just south of Salem. She was most likely born free, but her parents had been previously enslaved by Continental Navy Captain Samuel Tucker. When Lucretia…

The 1700s Plague Cure That Inspired an Uncannily Contemporary Cocktail

WHEN NICOLE LABOUFF AND EMILY Beck first decided to create a modern version of plague water, the potent herbal liquor that early-modern Europeans believed could help prevent epidemics, they had no idea how contemporary their experiment would soon prove. It was spring 2018, two years before a novel coronavirus would lead to the worst global pandemic…

The Sake Master Reviving a Long-Forgotten Local Rice

EVERY YEAR FOR DECADES, SCIENTISTS at the Hiroshima Prefectural Agriculture Gene Bank have planted a small patch of hattanso rice. Its stalks are spring-green and spindly, its grains stubby, with a white core of endosperm visible in light. Hiroshima’s rice fields are fecund with Hattanso’s descendants, which farmers sell to sake brewers in dozens of prefectures across Japan….

The Culinary Legacy of Brooklyn’s First Free Black Community

SOMETIMES, WE CAN ONLY UNDERSTAND history from above. That, anyway, seemed to be the outlook of historian James Hurley and pilot Joseph Hays when, in 1968, they flew a plane over Brooklyn. They were looking for the remnants of a village founded 130 years earlier, the free Black community of Weeksville. Read more at Atlas Obscura. Featured…

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…

Eat Like a 1970s Radical With ‘The People’s Philadelphia Cookbook’

“A VERY GAY MEAT LOAF” requires several key ingredients. First, wrote Michael Goldberger, a gay activist and neuroscience researcher, combine ground beef, pork, and veal with spices. Then, add partially-cooked spinach and—if you have the money—mushrooms, taking care not to overmix. Hard-boiled eggs and sour cream top it off. Goldberger adapted the recipe from gay New York…