The Girl Who Jumped Out of a Pie and Into a Gilded Age Morality Tale

Food, Sexual violence, Sexuality, trauma

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.

Read more at Atlas Obscura. Photo: Hugo Aitken/Unsplash.


The Promise and Perils of Resurrecting Native Americans’ Lost Crops


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.

Read more at Atlas Obscura/Photo: Christophe Maertens/Unsplash

How Did Cahokian Farmers Feed North America’s Largest Indigenous City?


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.

Read more at Atlas Obscura. Photo: Adam Dutton/Unsplash

The Swap-a-Fish Program That Traded Tilapia for Seafood Contaminated by Agent Orange

environmental justice, Food

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.”

Read more at Atlas Obscura. Photo: Rowan Heuvel/Unsplash.

This Engineer Is Preparing to Feed a World Without Sunlight


DAVID DENKENBERGER WANTS TO BUILD a system to feed eight billion people in a world without sunlight. His inspiration: the humble mushroom. In 2011, Denkenberger was reading a scientific paper that suggested that after such a catastrophe, humans would die out, while mushrooms would thrive in the dark. According to Denkenberger, his reaction was, “Well, why don’t we just eat the mushrooms and not go extinct?”

Read more at Atlas Obscura. Photo: Søren Astrup Jørgensen/Unsplash

When the U.S. Interned Italians in Montana, They Rioted Over Olive Oil


It started with suet. Some say camp administrators decided that Italian internees should cook with suet instead of olive oil to cut costs. Others say lower ranking internees, who had been crew members on the ships they were taken from, suspected that former officers were getting olive oil while they were stuck with beef fat. Either way, tensions hit a breaking point when a group of angry internees charged into the kitchen.

Read More at Atlas Obscura. Photo: Roberta Sorge/Unsplash