The Bagel’s Complicated Journey Into Israeli Cuisine

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Xoho, a sun-drenched café in central Tel Aviv, is one of only a handful of places in Israel where you can find what most of the world considers a quintessential Jewish food: bagels.

“Many Israelis here order the bagels, but they don’t even realize the Jewish connotation,” says Xoli Ormut-Durbin, Xoho’s Canadian owner and manager. Every morning, her peppy international staff boils small batches of bagels in malt syrup to achieve the delicate chewy-to-fluffy ratio found in a New York bagel. She says this cafe has “come a long way” in getting Israelis to accept the bagel.

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The bagel traces its roots to Poland’s bagel-like obwarzanek krakowski, which were stacked on strings and sold individually by market peddlers. Although not an exclusively Jewish food, since … Read the rest

The Conqueror Who Longed for Melons

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Zahir al-Din Muhammad, the 16th century Central Asian prince better known as Babur, is renowned for his fierce pedigree and proclivities. Descended from both Timur and Genghis Khan, he used military genius to overcome strife and exile, conquer northern India, and found the Moghul dynasty, which endured for over 300 years. He was a warlord who built towers of his enemies’ skulls on at least four occasions. Yet he was also a cultured man who wrote tomes on law and Sufi philosophy, collections of poetry, and a shockingly honest memoir, the Baburnama, in which he appears to us as one of the most complex and human figures of the early modern era.

Through the Baburnama, we learn that Babur was versed in courtly Persian … Read the rest

The Quest to Save Baltimore’s Iconic Berger Cookie

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In 2018, an Obama-era ban on trans fats will come into effect, and it will likely affect at least one of your beloved childhood snacks: Oreos, Cheetos, Pillsbury biscuits, and even Girl Scout cookies. But for one Baltimore bakery, the stakes of the ban are much higher, as their product, Berger Cookies, happens to be one of the city’s most adored food icons.

Trans fats, a man-made fat that improves the shelf life of a product by converting vegetable oils to solid fat, have long been a source of controversy in the packaged foods industry. Research has shown that they contribute significantly to heart disease, diabetes, and high cholesterol—more so than other, more natural sources of fat.

The packaged food world relies on trans fats to … Read the rest

It’s Sea Slug Census Time Again!

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Nelson Bay, a biodiversity hotspot off Port Stephens in New South Wales, Australia, has a number of garish occupants. There’s Pteraeolidia ianthina, or the “Blue Dragon,” which is covered in neon spines. There’s also Chromodoris splendida, which, with its striped horns and bright red spots, looks like a devilish clown. These creatures are nudibranchs, marine mollusks famed for their crazy shapes and colors and diverse lifestyles.

But the people of Port Stephens have a lesson for us all: Don’t censor the nudis, census them instead! This weekend, citizen scientists will join forces with experts to search out, document, and photograph as many nudibranches and other sea slugs as they can for the area’s annual sea slug count.

As the Port Stephens Examiner writes, … Read the rest

The Hidden Memories of Plants

Monica Gagliano began to study plant behavior because she was tired of killing animals. Now an evolutionary ecologist at the University of Western Australia in Perth, when she was a student and postdoc, she had been offing her research subjects at the end of experiments, the standard protocol for many animals studies. If she was to work on plants, she could just sample a leaf or a piece of root. When she switched her professional allegiance to plants, though, she brought with her some ideas from the animal world and soon began exploring questions few plant specialists probe—the possibilities of plant behavior, learning, and memory.

“You start a project, and as you open up the box there are lots of other questions inside it, so then … Read the rest

How a 17th-Century Naval Engineer Revolutionized Set Design

In 1660, the stage designer Gaspare Vigarani came into an unexpected windfall. The Louvre was expanding, and the Grande Salle du Petit-Bourbon—a massive theater that had housed operas, plays, and ballets for nearly a century—was being destroyed to make room. Vigarani was told to grab everything he could from backstage and move it to his own theater, the Salles de Machines, which was then under construction.

Vigarani could have jumpstarted his new venture with a warehouse’s worth of set dressings, stage machinery, dropcloths, and everything else a young theater could ask for. Instead, he burned all of it to cinders—”ay, to the very least,” as the actor and theatrical historian La Grange wrote afterwards.

Why did he do this? Pure professional jealousy. As La Grange … Read the rest

Found: 381 New Amazon Species

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About a week ago, late in August, the government of Brazil announced that it would open 17,800 square miles of the Amazon, an area known as the National Reserve of Copper and Associates, or Renca, to commercial mining. The reserve is known to be a rich resource of gold and other valuable minerals, but it’s also rich in other natural resources—rare birds, plants, insects, frogs, fish, and other creatures.

As if to underscore the point, the Mamirauá Institute for Sustainable Development and the World Wildlife Fund released a new report this week detailing the discovery by science of hundreds of incredible Amazon species, reports The Independent. According to the report, in 2014 and 2015, scientists identified 381 previously undescribed species, putting the rate Read the rest

Author Terry Pratchett’s Unfinished Works Have Been Crushed With a Steamroller

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Prolific author and satirist Terry Pratchett, creator of the classic Discworld fantasy-comedy universe, died in 2015 after a heart-wrenching battle with Alzheimer’s disease. But one small saving grace of his slow decline was that he was able to communicate his wishes for what would become of his work after he was gone. Specifically, he wanted his unfinished work to be taken into the street and crushed by a steamroller.

Pratchett’s request was recently carried out during the Great Dorset Steam Fair in Tarrant Hinton, England, a celebration of steam-powered vehicles. According to The Guardian, the hard drive containing his unfinished works was rolled over by a vintage steamroller named Lord Jericho. Fellow author and close friend Neil Gaiman (they cowrote the popular 1990 novel Good Read the rest

The 19th-Century Freakout Over Steam-Powered Buses

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In the 1830s, the transportation industry of the United Kingdom took a dramatic turn. Large, clunking, hissing steam-engined vehicles—which looked like a cross between a carriage and a trolley car—began to rumble along the roads. Alarmed by their appearance, some people threw rocks at them. Others wrote furious letters to the local government. Still others used stones to block the paths of traveling steam buses.

These salvos were part of a battle between old-fashioned horses and high-tech steam: horse-drawn omnibuses, from which we get our modern word “bus,” had been the public transportation standard, but now the steam-powered bus threatened to take their place. And that would not do. Horse-bus drivers and their supporters opposed the steam-powered bus technology so much that in the mid 1800s … Read the rest