- Disgusting Food Museum5 months ago
- Valley of Fire State Park5 months ago
- Navajo Bridge5 months ago
- Gage Hotel5 months ago
- Nothing8 months ago
- Goldfield9 months ago
- Sam Houston Statue 9 months ago
- The Lumberyard Cafe9 months ago
- Edgewood Heritage Park Museum9 months ago
- Weekend Trip '18 April 12-149 months ago
- Cinderella Pumpkin Coach9 months ago
- Gas Station From Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)9 months ago
“Did you know that our churches are made from eggs?” asks April Evangelista, a local food guide, as we walk through the towering doorway of the Philippines’ Holy Rosary Church in Angeles City. “That’s how they’ve survived typhoons and volcanic eruptions."
The Holy Rosary Church dates back to 1877 and the Spanish colonial era, a period when, Evangelista explains, “Local churches were built with egg whites.” As evangelizing Spanish colonists built churches across the islands, laborers used egg whites as an emulsifier in the concrete. “Food is in the foundations here,” Evangelista adds.
As the well-attended Holy Rosary Church attests, this had a lasting influence on the country’s architecture and spiritual life. But its legacy is also on display in Filipino bakeries and home kitchens. Because what else is there to do with millions of leftover egg yolks but bake delicious desserts?
Just outside of Angeles, local chef Atching Lillian is hosting a historical cooking class. Her recipes date from the 16th century, and the most prominent ingredient is egg yolk. This curious relationship between egg whites, desserts, and Filipino churches can be traced back to the arrival of the first Spaniards, who brought not only Christianity but cooking techniques too.
Pia Lim-Castillo, a culinary historian from the Philippines, emphasizes that after the arrival from New Spain of Miguel Lopez de Legazpi in 1565, who later became the first governor of the Spanish Philippines, religious orders such as the Augustinians, Franciscans, and Jesuits were quick to follow. These religious orders built grand stone churches across the islands, as the Spanish looked to impose their religious beliefs across the archipelago.
The Spanish presence was a heavy one. For the Spanish Empire, the Philippines were an important trading center, connecting Chinese ports, the Spice Islands, and other parts of Asia to Spain through its territory in Mexico. The Spanish colonial era lasted from 1521 to 1898—time enough to build plenty of churches. “Taking into account all the churches built then,” writes Lim-Castillo, “the number of eggs used ran into the millions.”
The egg whites were needed to form a sort of mortar, known as argamasa, which binded and protected the building materials used to construct the churches. Egg whites were meant to make the mixture “more durable,” and historical records attest to this widespread practice.
“Records show that the dome of the Manila Cathedral was sealed in 1780 with a layer of lime, powdered brick, duck eggs, and bamboo sap,” Lim-Castillo notes in a paper titled “Eggs in Philippines Church Architecture and its Cuisine.” “Friar Mariano Gomes of Cavite listed duck eggs for the mortar in his expense list from 1824; his predecessor in 1808 also used duck eggs.”
It wasn’t just duck eggs, though. “Oral tradition tells us that … eggs from chickens and other poultry were solicited from the community,” writes Michelle Sotaridona Eusebio of the University of the Philippines Diliman, and “combined with lime, sand, water, and some special ingredients to make mortars.”
Across the Philippines, priests generally paid townspeople to provide labor and materials outside of planting and harvest times. The scene, as described by Regalado Trota Jose, author of Simbahan: Church Art in Colonial Philippines, was that “the menfolk hauled logs from the forest while women and children carried eggs and sand to the construction site.”
It is this history that Atching Lillian is helping to preserve in her kitchen, which is a treasure trove of historical artifacts and traditional cooking equipment. “I used to work as a chef in a five-star hotel,” she tells me as she prepares the dough for Pan de San Nicolas, a traditional biscuit dedicated to Saint Nicholas, the patron saint of bakers. But she tired of preparing foreign dishes and decided to instead preserve local recipes and history.
Before the Spanish arrived in the Philippines, the islands’ sweet tooth looked very different. “During pre-Hispanic times, the dessert or panghimagas of the Filipinos were just fruits served fresh,” writes Lim-Castillo, “like banana, coconut, watermelon, mango, guava, melon, and other tropical fruits.” She notes that her country’s fondness for sweets and desserts developed under Spanish colonialism. Lillian’s Pan de San Nicolas is just one example of cherished desserts introduced by the Spanish.
To make the San Nicolas cookies, Lillian shapes the dough using heavy wooden moulds, some of which she explains are more than 100 years old. “These were religious cakes,” she explains, “baked by the nuns during the Spanish time.” The moulds imprint the image of San Nicolas on the dough, and then she bakes the cookies in a Kalan, a traditional clay oven.
The primary ingredient for San Nicolas Cookies? Egg yolks of course. A lot of them.
Lillian mentions that she also has a favorite recipe for leche flan, one of the most popular Filipino desserts. This is another egg-centric dish that was brought to the Philippines by the Spanish. And in these and other cases, the availability of egg yolks, leftover from church construction, greased their adoption.
“The extensive use of egg white and eggshells brought about the ingenuity of the Filipino women who saw all these egg yolks being thrown in the river,” writes Lim-Castillo. “Recipes were created to make use of the egg yolks, like pan de San Nicolas, yema, tocino del cielo, leche flan, pastries, and tortas.”
The introduction of concrete in the late-19th century made egg-white construction a thing of the past. But by then, eggy desserts were on a solid foundation. Lim Castillo describes them as “comfort food for Filipinos” that have survived to today, and many have taken on distinctively Filipino adaptations. Perhaps the best example is halo-halo, a frozen Filipino dessert that mixes a rainbow of ingredients and flavors, including leche flan, which often tops the treat.
In her restaurant, Lillian brings out her finished San Nicolas cookies. They are soft, sweet, and almost buttery. She then unveils the leche flan she has been hiding. As I dig into this hearty Filipino dessert, she laughs and says, “You can always taste the egg yolks.”
The San Nicolás Tolentino temple of Actopan is one of the oldest churches on the American continent, constructed in 1548 in the decades that followed the Spanish conquest of Mexico. One of the highlights of visiting this timeworn former monastery is to see the extraordinary murals painted on its open chapel.
The open chapel was built to "serve" the local indigenous communities. They would be crowded into the courtyard to listen to the sermons of the friars and, it was hoped, be indoctrinated into the Christian worldview and become submissive colonial subjects.
At that time, the region was rife with indigenous rebellions and guerilla raids by Chichimeca tribes who resisted religious conversion and often targeted the monasteries with tremendous ferocity, burning them to the ground and murdering the priests. The Augustinian order in the early years of the colony of New Spain therefore had good reasons to be terrified by the prospect of a similar uprising occurring among the local Otomi tribes and set about indoctrinating the native communities with a particular fanaticism.
Because the indigenous peoples were illiterate and either spoke Spanish as a second language or, frequently, not at all, the murals were thought to be a particularly effective visual complement to the sermons. Various biblical scenes are depicted on the walls of the open chapel, including Adam and Eve being deceived by the serpent; Noah's flood; the peace and tranquility of Heaven; the fires of Purgatory; and the brutal torments of Hell.
Curiously, certain details painted in the scenes of Hell make a direct reference to aspects of the pre-Christian indigenous worldview. They include depictions of a pre-Colombian pyramid and figures clearly meant to portray Aztecs about to fall into the fires of Hell. Another curious detail is the jaws of a monster painted near a door leading to the interior of the cathedral. This image was presumably intended to make the attendees form a psychological association between the church and a safe haven from damnation.
An unusual artifact sits within Mexico City’s Museum of Anthropology. Fitted fragments of turquoise, carnelians, and white seashells cover the upper half of the skull. Pine resin binds the decor to the bone, creating a colorful mosaic.
Turquoise was an important commodity to many MesoAmerican cultures. It was often valued higher than gold, and its striking blue-green pigment was believed to be a sacred color of the gods.
The turquoise was sourced from the people who lived in territories the Aztecs had conquered, such as present-day Oaxaca, Veracruz, and Guerrero. Huge quantities of the mineral were sent to Tenochtitlan (now Mexico City) every year as a tribute to Emperor Moctezuma. Artisans then used the turquoise to create religious art.
The skull itself likely belonged to the male victim of human sacrifice. Its top has been sawn away to create a hollow vessel, which was probably used to collect the blood from sacrifice victims or to hold other sacred substances.
A very early computer, quite unlike any other, is discreetly hanging in the sacristy of a small chapel in the heart of Turin, the beautiful Italian city at the foot of the Alps. Thousands of people pass by every day along Via Garibaldi, one of the main shopping thoroughfares in town, but hardly anyone knows it is there. That is because the tiny baroque jewel that owns the artifact is hidden in plain sight, and the church only opens on Saturday afternoons and Sunday mornings for mass. Still, anyone in-the-know or curious enough to find it will be awestruck by the Perpetual Calendar of Giovanni Antonio Amedeo Plana.
Built by the astronomer and mathematician in 1831, the Perpetual Calendar took 10 years to complete, from planning to assembly. The device, which resides in the Chapel of Bankers and Merchants, operates via a simple wooden crank under the adorned golden frame, a crank that hides a stunningly accurate universal mechanical calculator spanning the years 1 to 4,000. Want to know the day of the week that the Western Roman Empire fell to the barbarians, on September 4, 476? The calendar will tell you that it was a Monday. Or maybe the phase of the moon on the day you were born? Or the date of Easter a thousand years from now (April 18, 3019)? All of this information can be accessed by a pre-internet machine made of fragile wood and paper, and communicated through 46,000 little numbers carefully arranged around nine cylinders. Each of these is linked to a central one—the only adjustable part of the device—where the user can input the year. That cylinder synchronously regulates all the others through gears and chains.
The display of the calendar actually looks like a painting, though a visually dense one, and it includes a range of fixed information: a chronology of popes, from St. Peter to Gregory XVI (the pontiff of Plana's time); portraits of Julius Caesar and of Pope Gregory XIII (progenitors of the two main Western calendar systems); and depictions of Leopold II, Grand Duke of Tuscany, and King Charles Albert of Sardinia, two Italian sovereigns who were supporters of science in the 1830s. As for the mechanism, its results appear in windows running down the center of the device. They indicate lunar and solar cycles, moveable Catholic holidays, days of the week and of saints for the year in question.
According to Giovanni Demichelis, a longtime member of the congregation of the Chapel of Bankers and Merchants, "This is the first calculation system run by fixed-program set of codes ever constructed." (That’s not entirely certain, but it's definitely early and anomalous.) Demichelis became an appassionato about Plana's machine some 20 years ago, when a group of Japanese researchers from the Tokyo Polytechnic University came to Turin in order to have a look at how the calendar works.
"They spent a whole morning here studying it and then offered to buy it for their museum of electronic machines, because the concept with which this was built is exactly the same as the one behind the first electronic calculator made after World War II," he says. The chapel did not sell. Demichelis recalls that one members of the Japanese team asked if the calendar does indeed date to the 1830s. Upon confirmation of that, the visitors simply bowed in its direction.
Details of how the device actually works were more or less a secret until very recently. Plana, for all his assiduousness, did not leave any written material describing the mechanism inside. So in 2015 the prestigious Polytechnic University of Turin challenged its students to parse the algorithm that governs the machine. Four teams responded to the call. "This challenge has shown itself a useful way of valorizing the territory, proposing the use of engineering disciplines to improve the fruition of cultural goods," the university’s vice dean of research, Enrico Macii, said in a statement at the time.
The winning team of three students—Meysam Nasiri, Roberto Cappato, and Sergio Spano—spent months unraveling the device’s mysteries. "They came here a few times mainly to take pictures and do experimentations," says Demichelis. "After photographing all the calendar's columns, they have done their research and found the algorithm."
"To decode the mechanism, to perceive by intuition the functioning, almost without being able to touch it, because of its fragility,” Nasiri described the process to local newspaper Corriere della Sera, “going down a path of reverse engineering to go back to the origins, to the logic of that time, to the secrets." Nasiri, originally from Iran, wrote his thesis on the industrial design of the calendar. As part of their project, the three students built a smaller replica of the Perpetual Calendar with modern materials, which now resides alongside the original, as well as a digital version.
They were astounded by the precision of the original. It accounted for the 10 days (of October 1582) obliterated by the conversion from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar (with blank spaces), accounts for leap days (every four years, except for years divisible by 100 and not 400), and tracks the phases of the moon and feast days through all of it. Notably, the calendar stops at the year 4,000. Some think Plana simply got tired of performing calculations, but Demichelis has a different theory.
Around that time in the future, our slightly inaccurate way for accounting for the true length of a year (leap years) will catch up with us—and the calendar will be off by a full day. Demichelis guesses Plana had surmised this and decided to halt the calendar there to maintain its accuracy, just in case. “If true,” he says, “it shows even better the greatness of this scientist.”
Plana was no shy, solitary researcher. From the Piedmont, he was educated at the École Polytechnique in France. He was the head of astronomy at the University of Turin and director of the local observatory. In 1832 he published a book in French, Théorie du mouvement de la lune, in which he describes his formula to calculate the position and cycles of the moon—any day, any year. Plana was famous and received many honors and awards for these contributions (maybe the greatest being the lunar crater later named for him), which impacted religion, for addressing moveable holidays tied to lunar and solar cycles; agriculture, for tracking planting and harvests; and navigation, for calculation of longitude and anticipation of tides. Naturally, commerce, war, and politics were influenced by all of these. The English Royal Navy, the most powerful in the world at the time, asked Plana for a fresh lunar chart every new year. His device, certainly, cut down on calculation time.
"I think his wife might have said to him, ‘You spend all night at the observatory and all day making calculations,” Demichelis guesses, laughing. “Do something out of it." As to how the device ended up in the Chapel of Bankers and Merchants, it is believed that a relative may have donated it upon becoming a member of the congregation around 1845 or 1850. Demichelis says that at the time, people thought the device an intriguing mechanical curiosity, rather than a landmark in the history of a technology that would change the world. Now we know better.
While the English Civil War raged an ocean away from the Caribbean, the conflict had an unexpected effect on the expansion of Britain's colonial empire: the settlement of the Bahamas.
In 1646, a cohort of approximately 70 Puritans fled Bermuda to avoid persecution from the island’s Episcopal-Royalists. This group of religious refugees, led by Bermuda’s former governor and Oliver Cromwell loyalist, William Sayle, would eventually become known as the “Eleutheran Adventurers.”
At some point during the voyage, the Adventurers’ ship encountered severe weather, causing it to hit the Devil’s Backbone Reef off of the Bahamian island now known as Eleuthera. William was able to lead survivors of the shipwreck to shelter in a nearby cave, where the Adventurers created a permanent settlement. Still visible to visitors today, the settlers hewed a pulpit from a rock formation within the cave, giving the area its name, Preacher’s Cave.
The Preacher’s Cave colony was able to survive due to the support of New England Puritan communities in the American colonies, who after hearing about the plight of the Adventurers, sent provisions to Eleuthera. Grateful for their assistance, the Preacher’s Cave community sent 10 tons of valuable Brazilwood back to their patrons, stipulating that the proceeds from the selling of the wood be donated to Harvard University. As for Sayle, he would eventually move to South Carolina in 1669, found the city of Charleston, and become the first governor of South Carolina the following year.
Preacher’s Cave was the first British settlement of the Bahamas, but the island of Eleuthera and the cave itself were inhabited long before the arrival of William Sayle and the Puritans. Several recent archaeological excavations at Preacher’s Cave yielded not only the skeletal remains of some of the Eleutheran Adventurers, but also those of the indigenous Lucayan-Taíno Indians. In some cases, the remains of the Lucayan individuals predate the Preacher’s Cave settlement by several centuries.
The London-based Hudson’s Bay Company and the Montreal-based North West Company fought for fur trading supremacy in Western Canada during the early 19th century.
In 1809, the North West Company built its Fort Gibraltar at the confluence of the Red River and Assiniboine River in Manitoba. The trading post was captured and destroyed in 1816, but was rebuilt the following year. In 1821, the North West Company and Hudson’s Bay Company merged, and Fort Gibraltar became Fort Garry a year later.
Fort Garry was a pivotal post for the Hudson’s Bay Company and a major factor in the economy and political culture of the area. A major flood destroyed Fort Garry in 1826, prompting the fort to be rebuilt in 1835 further inland from the river and being dubbed Upper Fort Garry to differentiate from Lower Fort Garry further downriver, which was rebuilt in 1831.
No longer serving economic or military use, Fort Garry was gradually demolished between 1881-88. Today, the only surviving piece of the fort—Governor’s Gate—is the major feature of Upper Fort Garry Heritage Provincial Park.
Open year-round, the park is a modern urban green space that also allows visitors to take a trip back in time. There’s no reconstruction or reenactments; the story of Upper Fort Garry is told through interpretation, technology, and art.
While visiting Pensacola, Florida, you might find yourself driving through a shadowy tunnel of oak trees, headed for what was once Sacred Heart Hospital. As you cruise down 12th Avenue, you'll notice the looming structure of sandy gray stone, now known as Tower East. Built in 1915, the late Gothic revival building looks more like a castle than a medical facility. After the hospital relocated to another site in 1965, the building has become the home of small businesses, a pizza parlor, and, according to local rumors, a few ghosts.
Housed in the basement, O'Zone Pizza Pub has an old-school charm that differs from your average neighborhood joint. But it's not just the ambience that draws in ghosts—ahem, guests. There's a large craft beer menu as well as classic and unique pies. The Ponderosa Stomp, for example, comes with cheddar, barbecue sauce, chicken, bacon, green pepper, diced onion, and honey, with the option of adding cream cheese and jalapeños.
After eating, visitors can explore other parts of the former hospital. The first three floors are open to the public and house display cases filled with antique medical equipment and other curiosities. Black-and-white pictures of nuns in a chapel and surgical rooms hang on the walls, along with an eclectic mix of huge, spooky paintings.
Rising from a moist field on a patch of land just outside of Bangkok, five blotched concrete mini-mansions have sat abandoned for over 20 years. The mansions were once part of a planned upscale subdivision construction project to build homes for the wealthy in the quiet suburb of Nakhon Pathom, just a stones-throw away from the bustling capital city.
These abandoned homes are one of many casualties of the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis, with the construction company filing for bankruptcy mid-build. The 300 rai (120 acres) of land surrounding the homes has become more expensive in recent years, its price has skyrocketed after the 2011 floods. The area was proven to not be affected by floodwaters that ravaged the region, deeming it a safe location to construct homes & businesses.
The houses meant for the affluent, now host two families of modest means who have been living rent-free as caretakers of the property for the past 15 years. The company that owns the site provides the caretakers with free electricity & water, along with a small monthly stipend. The caretaker families occupy two of the houses nearest the road, while the three others in the back of the property, including the largest with a pool and wet-bar, remain boarded up and unoccupied. According to the patriarch of one family, the uninhabited dwellings are seen as haunted, with the families keeping clear of them for the most part.
The people there are very kind & welcoming, common traits of many ‘everyday’ people living in rural areas across the Kingdom. The family members happily go about their daily routines of washing up, preparing food, playing with pets, and doing some motorbike maintenance. The interiors are sparse of furnishings, aside from basic necessities, but the inhabitants live pleasantly with plenty of living space for their extended families.
During the classical period of the Maya, from approximately 250 to 900 A.D., chocolate was a cornerstone of daily life. It was currency, a ritual ingredient, and a pleasurable drink. But until recently, the details of Maya life were fairly opaque, largely due to the destruction wrought by the conquering Spanish. In the 1980s, after intense effort by Mayanist scholars, there was breakthrough after breakthrough in deciphering Maya glyphs, the written symbols that survived in codices, stone carvings, and pottery. One milestone was the examination of a remarkable ancient vessel, which was found, by an unlikely party, to contain chocolate.
In 1984, archaeologists discovered a pristine Maya tomb in the Río Azul region of Guatemala. Among the royal offerings, they found an exquisite pot. Topped with a twist-top and a handle painted like jaguar skin, it contained an intriguing residue. One member of the excavation told the New York Times that had it been “sold in New York, [it] would bring enough to finance a year's worth of excavations.'' Several Maya glyphs adorned the sides and lid.
It was two of these glyphs that stuck out to Mayanist David Stuart.
Even though he was only a teenager, Stuart was already an old hand. He began studying Maya writing as a young child, and received the MacArthur Fellowship (also known as the “genius grant’) at the age of 18. Now professor of Mesoamerican Art and Writing at the University of Texas at Austin, he recalls it as an exciting time in the field. “Everything was kind of breaking open in those years in terms of deciphering,” he says.
But he has a soft spot for the Río Azul vessel. “I was actually the person they brought on to read all of the hieroglyphs that they found in their excavations, which was a pretty cool job to have,” Stuart says. While Stuart only saw photographs of the pot, he was nevertheless struck by it. “Wow, that is one bizarre vessel,” he remembers thinking. Not only did it have an unusual shape, but the glyphs adorning it were remarkably well preserved. “And then it was like, ‘Wait a minute, two of them spell out the word kakaw.’”
Cacao: that is, chocolate. “It's one of the few words we use that's actually Mayan,” Stuart says. The Maya glyph for cacao, as it appears on the Río Azul vessel, looks like a fish. But “it turns out the fish is a phonetic sign,” Stuart says. He recognized that the glyph combining a fish (ka), a comb or fin (ka), and the sign for -w(a) was, of course, kakaw. While Mayanist Floyd Lounsbury was the first to phonetically decipher a cacao glyph a decade prior, deciphering the cacao glyph on a Maya vase was a breakthrough.
Mayanists had long debated the meaning of glyphs upon ceramic vessels from the Classical Maya period. Some believed they had little meaning, while others considered them mostly “prayers, or you know, orations to dead ancestors,” says Stuart. “I was like, ‘Wait a minute, if they're talking about chocolate, it's probably not a prayer to the dead.’” Having noticed the same glyph on other vessels, Stuart thought they could be chocolate pots.
The archaeologists and anthropologists working on the Río Azul project mused over whom to send the residue to for analysis. “Okay, well, who knows the chemistry of chocolate really well?” Stuart says with a chuckle. So, they called the number on the back of a Hershey’s bar and got in touch with W. Jeffrey Hurst, an analytical chemist at the Hershey Food Corporation Technical Center. The chocolate company had labs full of PhDs, where Hurst and chemist colleague Stanley M. Tarka tested the residue.
Sure enough, says Stuart, “they ran the chemical signatures, and they were spot on.” Hershey chemists found caffeine and theobromine in the residue. “The only plant or organic material in all of ancient America that can produce those two chemical signatures together are cacao.”
The vessel wasn’t adorned with prayers at all. Instead, it and similar containers were emblazoned with the name of who it belonged to, and its usage. “We realized they're not writing esoteric stuff. They're writing down something like ‘This is his cup for chocolate,’” Stuart says. Kings and other elite members of society “were trading them around. They were kind of like souvenir mugs.” The glyphs also reveal that the vessel belonged to K’inich Lakamtuun, an early ruler of Río Azul who likely lived around 400 A.D. Other glyphs refer to two different varieties of chocolate, which perhaps are “long-lost place names that gave particular growing-spots, like our wine varieties,” Stuart notes in an email.
At the time, cacao residue from Río Azul was the earliest discovered chocolate. But that didn’t last long. After Stuart and others published papers on the vessel and its residue, other people started testing ceramics as well. It turned out that cacao was the most common glyph upon Maya ceramics. The Río Azul vessel “jumpstarted a lot of research in the decipherment of what’s written on pots,” Stuart says. Later, Stuart would write that much of the progress in the 1980s and early ‘90s was due to the study of “repetitious and highly formulaic pottery texts.”
While many historians and linguists once doubted that Maya glyphs had much to say, scholars can now read over 90 percent of them, and they have provided historical, political, and anthropological insights. Today, the Río Azul vessel resides in the Museo Nacional de Arqueología y Etnología in Guatemala, having played its own small but sweet role.
In the center of Stockholm's Old Town, you can find a strange sign covered with Viking runes that leads down a staircase into a dark basement. Once inside, you'll encounter a hall with large, sheepskin-covered wooden benches and walls decorated with weapons, shields, and furs. Welcome to Aifur, a restaurant devoted to Viking food, drink, and decor.
Those who booked in advance will get announced by horn and receive a loud welcome from the other diners. When you sit down and look through the menu, you'll notice that each item is tied to Viking history and legend, with many dishes utilizing ingredients available during the Viking Age (800 to 1050 CE). Diners can feast on beautifully arranged meals featuring root vegetables, reindeer heart, and lamb, quenching their thirsts with mead, ales flavored with bog myrtle and fir, and sweet juices.
Aifur is the brain child of E-type, a famous musician in the Eurodance genre, who opened the restaurant in 2011. He can still be seen eating there regularly and generally likes being recognized. So don't feel bad walking up to talk to him.