The Tuscan Town Famous for Anarchists, Marble, and Lard

Food, Gastro Obscura, Politics

AT FIRST GLANCE, THE APUAN Alps of northwest Tuscany’s Carrara region are pure white. Alison Leitch first saw them from a train window when traveling through Italy in the early 1980s. From a distance, she writes, their dazzling tops looked like snow. Her seatmate told her otherwise: The blinding whiteness was actually marble dust, a powdery byproduct of the famous quarries that gash through the mountains. Then Leitch’s seatmate explained that the Apuan quarries were the source of another legendary tradition. “That’s where the anarchists live,” she said.

Read more at Atlas Obscura. Photo credit: B. Gramulin, CC BY-SA 2.0

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Eat Like Royalty With This Cookbook From the Emperor Who Built the Taj Mahal

Food, India

IT WAS THE MID 1600S, and Friar Sebastian Manriquea, a Portuguese priest who had come to visit the Mughal Court, wanted to witness a royal supper. It was a rare sight. The Mughal emperors, who ruled territory across the northern Indian subcontinent, usually didn’t dine with anyone but their wives and concubines. But on this day, Shah Jahan—the Mughal ruler who commissioned the Taj Mahal—would be dining with his wazir, advisor Asaf Khan.

Read more at Atlas Obscura. Photo credit: Public domain.

German Researchers Are Investigating the Science Behind Soft-Pretzel Scent

Food, Gastro Obscura

WORKING NINE TO FIVE IS no way to make a living, so why not quit your job and become a professional food smeller? These highly trained sensory savants are regularly hired by food manufacturers and scientists. They analyze the subtle pepper notes in coffee, the juicy, pear-like aroma of fine white wine, and—as in a study recently published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry—the delectable whiffs of sweat and malt in freshly baked soft pretzels.

Read more at Atlas Obscura. Photo: Wesual Click, Public Domain

After Hurricane Katrina, Home Gardeners Saved New Orleans’ Iconic Squash

Culture, Food, Gastro Obscura, social justice

“WE NORMALLY DON’T HAVE A spring crop,” says Paul D’Anna, a home gardener in Metairie, Louisiana. But this year—maybe it’s the weather or, though he’s loathe to talk himself up, maybe it’s his green thumb—he got lucky: His backyard vines have already produced around 70 fruits.

Read more at Atlas Obscura. Photo:  David Monniaux, CC BY-SA 3.0

Can Nigerian Drumming Teach You to Pick the Perfect Watermelon?

Culture, Food

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.

Read more at Atlas Obscura. Photo: Kenogenic/CC BY-SA 4.0

Australia’s Growing Camel Meat Trade Reveals a Hidden History of Early Muslim Migrants

Food, labor

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.

Read more at Atlas Obscura. Photo: National Museum of Australia/Public Domain.

This British Colonial Report Offers a Rare Glimpse Into India’s Historic Cannabis Cuisine

Food, India

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.

Read more at Atlas Obscura. Photo: San Diego Museum of Art/Public Domain.

How Lesbian Potlucks Nourished the LGBTQ Movement

Food, Sexuality

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.

Read more at Atlas Obscura. Photo: Brooke Lark/Unsplash.