Arts and culture

The New England area where the Pilgrims first settled is cranberry country.

And these early colonists likely enjoyed a version of cranberry sauce on their autumn tables — though it probably took the form of a rough, savory compote, rather than the sweet spin we're most familiar with.

For ideas on using this bitter red berry of the season in new ways this Thanksgiving, NPR Morning Edition's Renee Montagne turned to Chris Kimball, founder of America's Test Kitchen.

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Listen now as a 14-year-old boy sets a new world record to complete a Rubik's Cube at a competition in Maryland.



It's a heart-stopping scene: The protagonist of The Good Dinosaur, an 11-year-old Apatosaurus named Arlo is chasing a little thief who's been stealing his family's food. Arlo's not looking where he's going and he slips and falls into a river. Panic-stricken, he gasps for air as his body goes hurtling down the raging rapids. The splashes, the currents, the rocks, the sound, the details are so vivid — you feel real fear for this animated dinosaur.

Move over, turkey. Step aside, stuffing.

Green Bean Casserole, an iconic Thanksgiving dish, turns 60 years old this year, and it's as popular as ever.

Love it or loathe it, the classic Midwestern casserole has come to mean more than just a mashup of processed food sitting next to the mashed potatoes.

For a glimpse of Memory Theater in microcosm, it wouldn't hurt to flip first to the book's back pages. There, you'll find "a partial glossary of potential obscurities" — where the names of Italian Renaissance-era philosophers mingle with British post-punk bands, medieval Christian holy women and even a deceased cat called Frances, a moggy lauded for being "elegant, beautiful and fastidiously small."

There's also an entry for a man that reads, simply: "As far as I'm aware, he did not exist."

It sounds like a fairy tale: Five beautiful sisters with long flowing hair are locked up together and forced, one by one, into marriage. But it's not a fairy tale — it's the story of a new movie called Mustang set in a contemporary, rural Turkish village.

Domingo Martinez, author of The Boy Kings of Texas, recommends the podcast Crybabies, particularly the episode in which the hosts talk to comedian Guy Branum about the things that make him cry. For more great podcast recommendations, and another one of Martinez's favorite Crybabies episodes, visit

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Mary Gaitskill writes tough. Her characters are almost always "users" — users of drugs and other people; they're often mean and manipulative and flooded with self-loathing. In short, to quote the title of her debut short story collection, Gaitskill writes about people who are no strangers to "bad behavior." You have to write tough — and brilliantly — to pull off a novel like The Mare.

Sam Phillips, founder of the label Sun Records, didn't care much about making flawless recordings.

SPOILER ALERT: This column discusses events from Sunday's Walking Dead episode. Read with care if you haven't already seen the show.

It was the biggest head fake in recent television history.

Fans of The Walking Dead Sunday finally got an answer to the question that had been on their lips since late October, when long-running character Glenn Rhee was shown tumbling into a crowd of flesh-eating undead from the top of a dumpster with a hapless friend who had just shot himself.

Like many of the stops on one of the world's great trade routes, the Silk Road, Trabzon used to be a lot more important than it is today. But the old market streets of this Turkish Black Sea port city still ring with sounds that could have been heard when ancient Greeks and Romans walked these streets.

He's known for his starring roles on screens both big and small, but it's his lifetime role that inspired his latest book — that of a father.

Taye Diggs joined NPR's Michel Martin for a conversation about his new book, Mixed Me, which is inspired by his son, Walker, and focuses on a day in the life of a mixed-race child.

Interview Highlights

On what inspired him to write the book

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Every day of the year is a good time to experiment with new recipes. Except, arguably, one.

Thanksgiving is when Grandpa's grease-spattered gravy recipe is pulled from the file and your mother-in-law makes the sweet, sticky pecan pie her grandchildren expect. The sweet potatoes are boiled and peeled for their annual bath of maple syrup, nuts and, yes, marshmallows.

Some erstwhile creative home cooks and food professionals are just like everyone else at the Thanksgiving table.

'Black Dragon River' Charts History Along The Amur

Nov 22, 2015

"Here be dragons" warns a widely misunderstood inscription, originally in Latin, on a 16th century globe. The phrase has become a legendary reference to unknown pockets of the earth, where who knows what strange beasts lurk. But it turns out the globe in question probably wasn't warning against immense, fire-breathing winged creatures, but the Kingdom of Dagroian, described by Marco Polo as a place where "people feasted upon the dead and picked their bones." In other words, human beings are quite odd and ferocious enough. We need not go looking for mythic beasts.

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It has been quite a year for journalist and author Ta-Nehisi Coates:

Lisa Randall is a theoretical physicist and professor at Harvard. In 2007 she was named one of the 100 most influential people by Time. She's recently written a book called Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs. Randall studies multiple universes.

It's common wisdom that families should avoid talking about politics around the Thanksgiving table.

But if you're reading this, you might be in an NPR family. And coming up on election year — with polls and gaffes every day — won't it be hard to talk about Car Talk the whole night?

So we turned to Miss Manners, aka writer Judith Martin, to ensure our etiquette's up-to-date this holiday season.

For Martin, the age-old rule, "don't talk politics," still stands.

The journey a film score takes, from the composer's brain to what comes out of the speakers at your local theater, is a long and complicated process. In the case of the new Pixar film The Good Dinosaur, the work began seven months ago. Audiences will hear it for the first time on Thanksgiving Day.

Mastery And Mystery Mix It Up In 'Prado'

Nov 21, 2015

Just because we see something doesn't mean we understand it. Even more to the point, just because we find something beautiful doesn't mean we've understood it. These are messages underscored in in Javier Sierra's unusual, intriguing new novel The Master of the Prado, a work of fiction interleaved with reproductions of some of the title museum's greatest treasures, including paintings by Botticelli, El Greco, Velasquez, and Bosch.

When the idea to write a Nordic cookbook landed on Magnus Nilsson's desk, he was against it. He says it was offensive that someone would think all of Nordic cuisine could fit, let alone belong, in one book.

"The Nordic is a geographical region, not really a cultural region," says the author, who's also head chef at the Michelin-starred Faviken restaurant, 400 miles north of Stockholm. "It's too big, and too varied." (It includes Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden and several groups of autonomous islands.)

He eventually came around.

Carly Simon was born into what looks, from a distance, like a charmed life: Her father Richard was the co-founder of Simon & Schuster, the family moved in glamorous circles, and she eventually came to record some of the most personal, poetic and popular songs of our time. But as she makes clear in her new memoir, there have been plenty of tumbles, too.

For those who like to try new recipes at Thanksgiving, let Clay Dunn and Zach Patton be your guides. They're the couple behind the food blog, The Bitten Word, and every year before the holiday, they scan 10 leading food magazines to identify recipe trends.

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This next story comes with a huge spoiler alert for fans of "Scandal." I repeat - spoiler alert. Got it, "Scandal" watchers? You've been warned.

Marvel's Jessica Jones, a powerful Netflix series debuting today, is about a broken ex-superhero. She seems like every other angsty crime fighter on film and TV, until you learn why she's so wracked with PTSD she drinks herself into a stupor most nights.

One of the most popular books in France this week is a classic: A Moveable Feast, by Ernest Hemingway. Its title in French is Paris est une fete — or "Paris is a party." The book is finding new readers — and it's also being left as a tribute to those who lost their lives one week ago.

The Hemingway memoir, published posthumously in 1964, is being celebrated for what it, in turn, celebrates: Paris as an exciting place of ideas, a nexus of people who love life and the arts. The book is set in the 1920s, as Paris recovered from the oppressions of World War I.