Beer cheese. Once you know it exists, it’s shocking that no one dreamed it up until the 1940s. If ever there was a culinary machine designed for maximum comfort and (satisfied) bloating, it’s this creamy, savory blend from central Kentucky.
Accounts of the emergence of beer cheese vary, but the standard narrative stars Johnnie and Joe Allman. Johnnie, who opened the Driftwood Inn in 1939, began serving his cousin's “snappy cheese” at the Winchester, Kentucky, restaurant. The concept was simple: a lean (yet thick) mix of cheddar spread, flat beer, garlic, and cayenne pepper.
It caught on, to say the least. Today, more than 70 years after the Driftwood’s closing, eight veritable establishments line the “Beer Cheese Trail” in Winchester, each offering its own unique twist on the snack, which is most often used as a dip for pretzels, vegetables, and crackers. Full Circle Market, for example, serves a gluten-free beer cheese, while the Waterfront teases a “secret” formula based on letting the ingredients sit for a while at room temperature. You’ll have to try ’em all at Winchester's annual Beer Cheese Festival.
Like any good advocates for a regional staple, Kentuckians ardently insist that you can’t experience the real thing outside the area. Still, you might see an attempt at the dip pop up on menus in Cincinnati, Michigan, Chicago, and Brooklyn, and a variety of recipes are available online.
In the University of Oxford’s Bodleian Library, amid a vast collection of medieval texts, there is a manuscript known as The Ashmole Bestiary. It’s a particularly lavish example of one of the most popular kinds of texts in the European Middle Ages: a book of beasts, describing animals—real and imagined—and their meanings within the time's Christian belief system.
In one of the illustrations, a fox pretends to be dead in order to attract birds; once they are close enough, it leaps to life to devour them. In another, a spotted panther attacks its only enemy—the dragon. In yet another, a lion breathes life into its dead, three-day-old cubs. These were more than mere illustrations; they were Christian allegories. According to the new edition of The Grand Medieval Bestiary—a 620-page behemoth by Christian Heck and Rémy Cordonnier, devoted to medieval creatures great and small—the fox was commonly portrayed as untrustworthy, and ensnared birds the way the devil traps sinners. The panther symbolized Christ, with the ultimate serpent—the dragon—as the devil. The life-giving lion was, of course, related to the resurrection.
The blueprint for medieval bestiaries arose long before the Middle Ages. The Greek text Physiologus, written in Alexandria sometime between the second and fourth centuries, linked particular animals to Christian morals and stories. In the seventh century, Isidore of Seville produced his 20-volume Etymologies, an encyclopedic tome on a range of subjects, from...
The Pinang Peranakan Mansion is one of the best-surviving examples of the lavish lifestyle of a prominent community that thrived in 19th-century Malaysia.
The Peranakan, also known as the Baba Nyonya in Penang, are largely the descendants of Chinese men who came to the Malay archipelago centuries ago and married local Malay women. During the colonial era, they mainly engaged in trade and business, making them extremely wealthy in both currency and exposure to other cultures.
Their opulent homes speak to the wealth and high status they enjoyed. The Pinang Peranakan Mansion is a particularly exquisite example of their culture, which has begun to decline in Malaysia and Singapore.
The Pinang Peranakan Mansion belonged to Chung Keng Quee, who was among the wealthiest residents of Penang in the late 1800s. His fortune was derived mainly from his businesses in mining. His mansion was built in a style unique within this part of the world, as it's an eclectic mix of Chinese and European design elements.
Today, it serves as a museum dedicated to Peranakan culture. Inside, a large collection of furniture, silverware, dresses, decorations, collectibles, and appliances is kept on display. This collection provides fascinating insight into the culture's lifestyles and customs.
Beer has been an essential aspect of human existence for at least 4,000 years—and women have always played a central role in its production. But as beer gradually moved from a cottage industry into a money-making one, women were phased out through a process of demonization and character assassination.
It’s telling that the oldest-known beer recipe comes from a Sumerian hymn to the goddess of beer, Ninkasi. It also includes a description of how the fermented beverage was made in ancient times:
[...]It is you who bake the beerbread in the big oven, and put in order the piles of hulled grain. Ninkasi, it is you who bake the beerbread in the big oven, and put in order the piles of hulled grain.
It is you who soak the malt in a jar; the waves rise, the waves fall. Ninkasi, it is you who soak the malt in a jar; the waves rise, the waves fall.
It is you who spread the cooked mash on large reed mats; coolness overcomes. Ninkasi, it is you who spread the cooked mash on large reed mats; coolness overcomes [....]
Sumerian women brewed low-alcohol beer for religious ceremonies (including ones dedicated to Ninkasi) as well as for daily food rations. Ancient Egyptians worshipped a beer goddess named Tenenet, and hieroglyphics have been found depicting women brewing and drinking beer. Baltic and Slavic mythology both include a goddess, named Raugutiene, who provided...
To the layperson, oatmeal may not seem like a particularly glamorous breakfast food. But every year, porridge pundits from across the globe flock to the small town of Carrbridge, Scotland, to compete in the Golden Spurtle, the annual worldwide porridge-making championship. The heat is low, but the stakes are high—the winner will walk away not only with the newfound confidence of an oat extraordinaire, but also with a highly-coveted golden spurtle in hand.
What’s a spurtle, you ask? Though it sounds more like a newly-discovered amphibian than a kitchen gadget, the spurtle is a traditional wooden porridge stirring stick used to keep the mixture from clumping. Stirring porridge may seem pretty straightforward, but there are some rules when it comes to spurtle handling. One oft-repeated superstition is that a cook must stir clockwise with their right hand to avoid summoning the devil.
But at the Golden Spurtle competition, love is the last thing on anyone’s mind. The rules are strict and the competition is fierce. Prospective porridge champions can enter one of two competitions: the traditional competition, where only water, salt, and oats are allowed (no quick nor rolled oats), and the winner is determined by taste, texture, and color. In the specialty competition, which is more flexible with regard to ingredients used, porridge performance is judged on innovation and taste. Winners of the traditional competition often credit the water that they use, or the way in...
What does home smell like to you? It's a simple question, but the answer for any individual person can be as unique as a fingerprint. We recently asked Atlas Obscura readers to tell us about the specific scents that always transport them home, and we received hundreds of responses—no two exactly alike.
Many of you described a blend of several aromas, while others were triggered mostly by cooking smells (turns out an awful lot of you grew up in homes that smelled like cabbage). Below, we've collected some of our favorite responses. As you read, perhaps you'll be inspired to try to recreate your own smells of home, at, well, home.
Moth balls, arthritis cream, and boiled cabbage
“My 80-year-old little Polish immigrant grandmother came to live with us and brought these with her. I was a 12-year-old American boy coming of age and of course for me, at first it was an invasion, until I got to both appreciate her as a person and also eat her delicious cooking almost every day! Forty years later, if I smell any of these I can see her still in the kitchen in her apron singing polkas to herself and rolling out dough.” — Joseph Healey, Edwardsville, PennsylvaniaPine Sol cleaner, freshly mowed grass, cigar smoke, and Mom’s perfume tray
“Pine Sol permeated the air in the kitchen on Mondays and Wednesday mornings. On Saturday, the...
On June 7, 1916, the polar explorer Roald Amundsen took a moment to christen his new ship. As in many places, sailors around Vollen, Norway generally did this by smashing a bottle of champagne over the bow. But Amundsen, who intended to take the ship to the North Pole, changed this tradition a bit.
"It is not my intention to dishonor the glorious grape," he reportedly said, "but already now you shall get the taste of your real environment. For the ice you have been built, and in the ice you shall stay most of your life, and in the ice you shall solve your tasks." He then crushed a block of the stuff against the front of the ship, and named it Maud, after the Queen of Norway.
Amundsen was a little too correct. Although Maud never made it to the North Pole, it did spend most of its life in the ice, either stuck, sunk, or conscripted into labor. This Saturday—August 18, 2018, over a century after it first set out—Maud will finally creak back into Vollen.
The ship's life "represents a big, but quite unknown, part of polar history," writes Jan Wanggaard in an email. Wanggaard is the leader of Maud Returns Home, a project dedicated to bringing the ship to Norway from Nunavut, Canada, where it foundered in the early 1930s. At press time,...
Today, Zambia is over 90 percent Christian—but the first mission in the country only took hold in the 1880s. This defunct church on the shores of Lake Tanganyika may no longer be active, but it remains a potent historical marker of how British colonialism changed Zambia forever.
Inspired by the travels and writings of missionary explorer David Livingstone, several different missionary societies moved to establish missions in the central African regions he explored. The London Missionary Society, with which Livingstone first began his travels, was the first of these organizations to establish a mission in what would become Zambia.
The mission’s lakeside location positioned it to readily welcome travelers arriving by boat, causing it to flourish. It did so well that between 1895 and 1896, the mission upgraded to a large stone church overlooking the lake.
The church served as a place of worship continuously until 1908, when the mission moved inland to avoid the sleeping sickness carried by tsetse flies near the lake. The original church has been declared a national monument in Zambia. It's the oldest surviving stone church in the country. Though its walls still stand, the roof is no more.
Tours of Belfast tend to focus on things like the Titanic and the Troubles, but one building bears hidden scars from another moment in history. Look out for a plaque on the Telegraph building, and you’ll find lingering damage from the German air raids of 1941.
Belfast was hit hard during World War II. In the spring of 1941, German planes flying over the city killed around 900 people, injured thousands, and destroyed more than 50,000 homes, churches, and businesses.
Not much remains to be seen from this horrific period. But the Telegraph building bears remarkable witness to this terrible destruction, and tells an incredible story of civilian resilience. Somehow—through the terror, despite the damage—the paper continued to publish without delay or interruption.
On April 19, 1941, after hundreds of people had already been killed, and before the bombings were through, the Telegraph published its famous “Carry On, Belfast” message, which concluded by quoting what a local businessman had painted on his destroyed building: "Business as usual. I never liked window-dressing anyway. Now I’ve got a good a good excuse for not doing it. CARRY ON, BELFAST."
The Telegraph no longer operates out of this building,...
Wisconsin's supper clubs tend to be known for their steaks and fish fries. But the Dreamland Supper Club is known for another specialty entirely, which might seem more at home at the county fair than a restaurant: french-fried turkey breast.
Combining the heartiness of Thanksgiving dinner with the sweetness of a pancake at Sunday brunch, the meal consists of a piece of turkey breast that's been dipped in sweet batter and deep-fried. Then, it's served with drawn butter, tangy cranberries, and a baked potato. While that in itself might be a struggle to finish, Dreamland goes big in the true supper-club manner. Along with your deep-fried turkey, you'll receive soup, a salad, and a relish tray.
This incredible, little-known sanctuary is found within an ancient natural cave, on the side of a rocky mountain near Lake Varano.
Like is better-known counterpart in Monte Sant'Angelo, the Santuario Grotta di San Michele, or Grotto Church of Saint Michael (also known as Saint Michael's Cave), is dedicated to Saint Michael the Archangel, who features prominently in the sacred cavern.
On the floor of the cave is the main altar, featuring a statue of the Archangel. Behind the altar there is a natural fountain, a basin filled with rainwater dripping from the ceiling. The water is said to be blessed and have miraculous healing properties.
The grotto is about 170 feet deep and just 10 to 20 feet tall. The walls are covered in mosses, small stalagmites and stalactites, and beautiful faded frescoes. The dark sanctuary evokes a strong feeling of spirituality and mysticism, even among those who may not be looking for it. It is a uniquely peaceful space that inspires reflection.
In fact, the cave was a place of worship for centuries before it was dedicated to the cult of Saint Michael. Based on ancient artifacts discovered at the site, the cave has been inhabited since the Paleolithic era, and was used by pagan cults until the Middle Ages.
Every year near the end of June, residents of the small town of Haro in the Rioja region of Spain rise with the sun in anticipation of a wine-slinging battle that Bacchus himself would be proud of.
Whether waking early or carrying on from the night before, participants, clad in white shirts and red bandanas, follow the mayor and his trusty steed up to the Hermitage of San Felices de Bilibio, which sits at the edge of a cliff. After mass at the holy site, everyone arms themselves with buckets, water pistols, bottles, and sprayers filled with wine, and the whole scene erupts into a messy spree of liquid grapery. Tankers of wine, donated by local winemakers, supply the ammunition, as friends become rivals in the battle to cover every inch of each person in a panoply of purple. There is, of course, plenty of drinking, as some revelers are known to take a few sips mid-battle. Finally, soppy masses of violet bodies travel down the hill to the Plaza de la Paz, where performances and more drinking provide distraction from the sticky, stinky carnage left after battle.
Origins of this messy tradition are unclear. While some say the battle was born out of a territorial dispute between Haro and its neighbor, Miranda De Ebro, others point to pilgrims who visited the San Felices hermitage. As the story goes, one day pilgrims were enjoying a wine-filled lunch after mass at the hermitage when...
Great Cumbrae is a small island with a circumference of just about 10 miles. It magnetically attracts holidaymakers, day-trippers, and retirees in abundance. Millport, its only town, has also attracted a bizarre stone beast.
The site of a crocodile in Scotland is certainly something shocking. Fortunately, this one’s more amusing than alarming. When exactly the crocodile came to be is uncertain, though it’s known that its creator was publicly thanked for his work on it in 1913.
A local man named Robert Brown was the mastermind behind this unusual beachside attraction. One day while returning from the pub after some lunch and a few beverages, he noticed that a group of rocks along the shore seemed to resemble a certain reptile. Armed with paint and a brush, he set out making a thing now called the Crocodile Rock.
It’s unclear if he really thought the Crocodile Rock would last. But more than a century after its creation, it’s still a beloved landmark that has thrilled generations of locals and tourists alike. Kids get their kicks clambering atop the goofy stone reptile. The crocodile gets painted every few years, though these touch-ups follow Brown’s original design. In 2013, a massive party was held to celebrate the rock’s centennial.
You won’t find any shushing librarians at this library. Instead, you’ll find shelves packed with a medley of tools that will bring any construction project clanging to life.
Berkeley residents or property owners over the age of 18 can check out a variety of tools from this unusual library. Its most recent home is attached to the Berkeley Public Library’s South Branch, though the collection has lived elsewhere within the decades since it was founded.
The tool library was established in 1979, thanks to funding from a federal grant. It was first run out of a portable trailer that stocked about 500 different tools. Borrowing from the humble collection was free to those of low or moderate income, and cost between 50 cents to $3.00 for all others.
Over time, the library continued to grow, expanding into a small assembly of trailers and sheds. Now its thousands of tools fill a space right next to a more traditional, book-based library. And thanks to the city’s 1988 property-based library tax, borrowing a tool is free for any Berkeley resident or property owner.
The small hub is packed with rakes, shovels, demolition hammers, wheelbarrows, clippers, ladders, and even cement mixers, making it perfect for those who want to tackle a project but might not have the money or space for tools. It's also a great way...
After the signing of the armistice of World War I on November 11, 1918, it took three days for German forces in East Africa to learn of the end of the war. On November 14th, German General Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck was delivered a telegraph informing him of the end of hostilities, and was ordered by British forces to march north to the town of Abercorn to formally surrender his forces.
A memorial in Abercorn, modern-day Mbala, marks the rough location where the German forces laid down there arms. The small monument, situated on a small grassy circle in the middle of a roundabout in the center of town, features two plaques commemorating the historic event.
During the war, General von Lettow-Vorbeck had led an effective guerrilla campaign to keep British forces occupied and away from the front lines in Europe. At the end of the war, his forces entered the British colony of Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) and captured the town of Kasama. There, the general finally learned of the armistice that had been signed in Europe three days prior. This event is marked by the Chambeshi Monument in Kasama.
The British command then ordered General von Lettow-Vorbeck to march his forces to Abercorn, approximately 155 miles to the north, near the border of German East Africa (modern-day
Stroll down Suicide Alley south from Kelele Square and you'll pass a short flight of marble steps leading up to a heavy wooden door, its elaborate but weathered carvings hinting at the home's former glory. This was the residence of Tippu Tip, a slave trader, ivory merchant, and plantation owner who was once a mighty figure in Zanzibar and a force to be reckoned with on the African continent.
The story of Tippu Tip, whose real name was Hamad bin Muhammad bin Juma bin Rajab el Murjebi, is straight out of the adventure books of old. Born in 1832 to a family of some standing, he left for Central Africa at an early age in search of slaves and ivory. His quest was fruitful, and he returned to Zanzibar with the spoils of his plundering.
Tippu Tip then went on to build himself a vast trading empire, his ruthlessness and financial acumen turning him into one of the region's leading merchants. Along the way, he encountered explorers such as David Livingstone and Henry Morton Stanley. He claimed the Eastern Congo for the Sultan of Zanzibar, and was made governor of the Stanley Falls District in the Congo Free State. He led troops in the Congo Arab War, and all the while maintained control of his extensive assets.
By his mid-50s, Tippu Tip realized that the growing European influence in Africa was changing the trading dynamic on the continent. His...
Pictures of the fantastic Golden Bridge outside of Da Nang went viral as soon as they appeared online. This unique structure, backdropped by beautiful scenery, makes for a stunning sight, as if it was plucked from a fantasy world.
The giant hands supporting the bridge symbolize something divine, mythical, or godlike. It does look as though they are lifting the bridge as a gift from the ground. The bridge's principle architect, Vu Viet Anh, has even said that the goal of the design was to "invoke the sensation of walking along a thread stretching through the hands of God."
Building the footbridge was an engineering challenge in order to not damage the cliff below and make the structure blend in with the forest around it. The hands are supported by frames modeled after anatomical structures and covered with decorative fiberglass. The position of each finger was carefully chosen to invoke the desired effect.
It's no secret that the construction of the Golden Bridge is a part of a $2 billion investment to lure more tourists to the area. With a bridge this spectacular in such a stunning landscape, it might just succeed.
Casa Sperimentale has been crumbling within a coastal town on the outskirts of Rome since its builder passed away in 1995. The eclectic building is made from a mishmash of shapes and building materials, creating a striking geometric masterpiece.
Giuseppe Perugini, with the help of his wife Uga De Plaisant and their son Raynaldo Perugini, built the unique structure in the late 1960s. They used the construction of their holiday home as an opportunity for a reflection on living spaces and a test of the technical feasibility of some of Perugini’s ideas.
The home is elevated and built around the surrounding pine forest. It's only accessible by one bright red staircase, which functioned as a drawbridge and could be lifted to cut off the outside world. It's sometimes referred to as the “repeatable house” or the "un-finishable house," since it was completely modular and could be expanded on at any time.
These days, the home is a showcase of graffiti and local flora, although it's been rumored that the home may be turned into an event space sometime soon.
Found at the top of a red stone cliff overlooking River Lugar, it's said Peden's Cave once hid Alexander Peden, a famous Covenanter minister from the 17th century.
Alexander Peden—also known as Prophet Peden— was a very wise man who was born in 1626 and studied at the University of Glasgow. He started a post as a Minister at New Luce in 1660 before going on to lead the Covenanter movement in Scotland. After Charles II assumed the throne, Alexander had to flee his post and avoid being captured.
Peden wandered Scotland and Ireland for 10 years preaching to followers, hiding his identity by wearing a cloth mask—on display at the Museum of Scotland—and hiding in caves. It's alleged Peden would often preach in the woods.
After years of escaping capture, Peden was caught and sentenced to four years and three months imprisonment on the Bass Rock, and then another 15 months in the Edinburgh Tollbooth. Later, he was sent to the American plantations as a form of banishment.
It is said that Peden spent the last years of his life between Scotland and Ireland. Today, the cave that he once hid bares his name. The cave is just six feet high and four feet wide and features steps leading up to it and a human-made bench cut from the rock inside.
Every fall, hundreds of chefs from all around the country head to Bentonville, Arkansas, to take part in a heated competition. They baste, emulsify, marinate, and flambé. They make everything from bratwurst to lollipops. But they all have something in common: They're cooking with squirrel.
Over the past decade, Bentonville has become a hotspot for "high South" cuisine, which is characterized by local ingredients combined in unusual ways and tends to come at a relatively high price point. "To keep us somewhat grounded, I wanted to show the public that . . . we also still have the ability to cook squirrel," says Joe Wilson, who organized the inaugural World Champion Squirrel Cook-Off in 2012.
It's now an annual event, drawing hundreds of squirrel-cookers and thousands of spectators. Chefs compete in teams of two or three, and have 2.5 hours to prepare a squirrel-based main dish, along with a side. All prepping, marinating, and cooking occurs on-site. Judges rate dishes based on presentation, texture, and "use of squirrel," and the winners take home a cash prize. (The remaining proceeds are donated to charity.)
Squirrel meat has been a part of the American palate since before the colonial era, but Wilson has done his best to rebrand the protein for the current age. "We call it 'tree bacon' and 'limb chicken,'" he says. "I...