Originally published on Sat August 31, 2013 10:57 am
A week without water can easily kill the average person.
But a garden that goes unwatered for months may produce sweeter, more flavorful fruits than anything available in most mainstream supermarkets — even in the scorching heat of a California summer. Commercial growers call it "dry farming," and throughout the state, this unconventional technique seems to be catching on among small producers of tomatoes, apples, grapes, melons and potatoes.
Originally published on Fri October 4, 2013 11:15 am
Big questions about the origins of consciousness and culture may not be everyone's cup of tea, but if these are things you find yourself thinking about, there's nothing like a seriously composed and compelling novel about prehistoric life — both for illumination, andfor some of the most intelligent entertainment you can find.
More than 20,000 crows, by recent estimates, live alongside the 13 million human inhabitants of Tokyo; Tokyo Waka tells their story — and meditates on the meaning of their persistence in one of the world's greatest cities.
Conan O'Brien has probably had the most unusual career trajectory of any current late-night host. When he joined NBC's Late Night in 1993, replacing David Letterman, he had virtually no on-air experience. He did, however, have comedy-writing chops: O'Brien edited the humor magazine The Harvard Lampoon as a student, then wrote for Saturday Night Live and was a writer and producer for The Simpsons.
In 1992, when Jay Leno took over from Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show, he was already a familiar presence, having served as one of Carson's regular substitute hosts. Despite that experience, Leno's first few years on Tonight were rocky.
"When he started, when he was up against Letterman, Letterman beat him for the first couple of years," critic David Bianculli tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "But once Leno came ahead, he was unstoppable. He never lost that audience."
Originally published on Tue August 27, 2013 9:03 am
The government's Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results Program (SEER) tracks state cancer incidence and mortality rates. So it was only natural that George Johnson would pore over their latest data to gain some insight for his incisive new book, The Cancer Chronicles: Unlocking Medicine's Deepest Mystery. "Concentrating on overall cancer rates can smear over some interesting details," he writes, "and I wondered what might be lurking underneath."
Tortellini — small circles of rolled dough folded around a filling — are one of the most renowned members of the Italian pasta family. In the land of their birth, the region near the Italian city of Bologna, they're strictly served as broth-like dumplings.
Possibly no foodstuff in Italian cuisine is surrounded by so much history and lore.
Jan Scannell, former accountant, has taken on a new identity as "Jan Braai," a South African TV show host and media personality promoting the idea of National Braai (barbecuing) Day, celebrated each year on Sept. 24.
Credit Sarah Isaacs / Courtesy of Sarah Isaacs
For Jan Scannell, the classic South African boerewors is an emblem of national unity. Spices (nutmeg, clove, coriander) brought by former slaves from the East, sausage-making skills imported by settlers from the West, cooked in the classic African style: Over an open flame.
Nelson Mandela is officially "improving," though still in critical condition at a South African hospital. His long battle with a lung infection has South Africans anxiously contemplating their "post-Mandela" future in a still racially divided country. In a unique strategy, one man is hoping to help heal those divisions with a pair of barbecue tongs.
Jan Scannell is a 32-year-old former accountant with a dream: To establish a national holiday in South Africa like July 4 called Braai Day.
Originally published on Mon August 26, 2013 1:33 pm
There is still debate as to whether the hot dog evolved from lesser sandwich forms or is the work of an intelligent designer, but everyone can agree it's a marvel of simplicity. At the Gapers Block Hot Dog Cookoff earlier this summer in Chicago, though, five chefs were challenged to reinterpret the humble tube steak, and we were challenged to eat them all.
The chefs were told to "start with Vienna Beef hot dogs" and "use them in any way imaginable." Those instructions, when you think about it, are frighteningly open to interpretation.
When we first started thinking about dumplings for NPR's Dumpling Week, we presumed that there wasn't much to the little balls of dough. They seemed simple, universally beloved and unencumbered by controversy.
But the semantics of the dumpling turns out to be far more fraught that we imagined. This became clear when we started wondering whether tamales, or samosas, counted as dumplings. The deeper we waded into the pool of quasi-dumpling snacks, the more we realized we needed some expert input to set us straight.
Imagine David Letterman sitting in the reception area where you work, going virtually unrecognized. That's how it was in 1981 when Letterman visited WHYY in Philadelphia to be interviewed by Terry Gross on Fresh Air, then a local program.
Patina Miller first got noticed on the theater scene in 2009 as the star of Sister Act: A Divine Musical Comedy. She earned rave reviews for playing the accidental nun who led a choir to stardom. Now she's center stage again in the Broadway revival of Pippin, the musical first launched in 1972. Miller takes on the role of Leading Player, the circus artist who guides a young prince in finding meaning and magic in his life. She won this year's Tony Award for best leading actress in a musical. You can also hear her on the newly released CD of the show's songs.
A stream of fiction and stories written by reclusive author J.D. Salinger will be published between 2015 and 2020, according to a new biography about the writer of The Catcher in the Rye, who died in 2010. Some of the books will reportedly revisit beloved Salinger characters such as Holden Caulfield.
The claims come from David Shields and Shane Salerno, co-authors of the biography Salinger, which will be published next week. Days later, Salerno's documentary film of the same name will be released (and in January, it will air on PBS).
From Warsaw to Wuhan, people around the world love dumplings. They're tasty little packages that can be made of any grain and stuffed with whatever the locals crave. But where did they come from?
No one knows for sure, but Ken Albala, a food historian at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, Calif., thinks dumplings have been around for a very long time. "Almost without doubt, there are prehistoric dumplings," he says.
On her 7th birthday, a little girl named Claire disappears in a seaside Haitian village. Through Claire's fictional journey, award-winning author Edwidge Danticat shares glimmers of her own childhood in Haiti.
In Claire of the Sea Light, the protagonist's mother died during childbirth, and her father is a poor fisherman, struggling to make ends meet. Just moments before his daughter disappears, Claire's father had agreed to let a local woman adopt her in hopes of giving his daughter a better life.
Patricia Polacco has written and illustrated more than 90 picture books. Her young readers are drawn to her stories about family and growing up. She has won many awards for her illustrations, which are done in gorgeous, full watercolor. Polacco's latest book is called The Blessing Cup.
Polacco tells NPR's Jacki Lyden that early life had a profound effect on her work. Many of her books feature her grandmother, called "Babushka" in Yiddish, and take place on her grandmother's farm in Michigan.
Just after he graduated from college, Tony Danza was working out at a boxing gym when somebody said to him: you ever think about being on TV? Since then, he's been a fixture on TV with the hit series Taxi and Who's the Boss?, not to mention his own talk show, his own song and dance stage show, and now a new movie called Don Jon.
We've invited Danza to play a game called "Who's The Boss?": We'll tell him about three companies and three people who might be the head of those companies. He'll have to guess who's the boss.
Aimee Bender is no longer the whiz kid of the American short story. The Color Master is her fifth work of fiction, and along with the idiosyncratic George Saunders she now stands as one of the reigning masters of the eccentric American short story. Fortunately, she's showing no signs of growing up. This latest collection offers a goodly number of one-of-a-kind stories, beautiful in their dreaminess and imaginative vision, a vision that ranges — you'll discover as you read — from stories about the origin of things to stories with an apocalyptic flavor.
Naomi and Sally Durance are heroes of the Great War, that war which was supposed to end all wars. It didn't, but it did help these two Australian sisters overcome sibling suspicion and grow closer to each other.
In a time when recollections can be reduced to just a few words, Jean Shepherd delivered monologues, soliloquies and musings. He was a raconteur.
Shepherd served in the Army during World War II — that same Army that stormed the beaches on D-Day, though Shepherd and his unit would never see the front lines. They were the homefront Army: stocking, re-stocking, sending, schlepping and training for a war they helped win — but only at a distance.
If you've been to a fancy restaurant, you've probably seen a sommelier — those wine experts who make sure you get the best possible match for your meal. But what if you don't want a chardonnay or pinot? What if you want a nice cold beer?
A new program is working to bring this same level of knowledge to the world of malt and hops by turning out batches of certified beer experts known as Cicerones.
Bread and Puppet Theater performs during a protest in New York in June 1982.
Credit Mark Dannenhauer / Bread And Puppet Theater
The Bread and Puppet Theater, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, performs "The Total This & That Circus" on Sundays this summer.
Credit Massimo Schuster / Bread And Puppet Theater
In honor of its 50th anniversary, Bread and Puppet staged a revival of a show they first performed in 1971 called "Birdcatcher in Hell." Forty-two years after the first performance, the revival starred many of the original actors.
Credit Toby Talbot / AP
Bread and Puppet performs during a rally on the Statehouse lawn on Aug. 24, 2011 in Montpelier, Vt.
Bread and Puppet Theater has been a familiar presence at political demonstrations since the anti-war protests of the 1960s. Its giant puppets and raucous brass band also marched against wars in Central America, Afghanistan and Iraq. In 1982, Bread and Puppet led a parade in New York that, according to police estimates, consisted of more than a half-million anti-nuclear protesters. Though massive street protests may be a thing of the past, Bread and Puppet's work is still unapologetically political as it celebrates its 50th anniversary.
The World's End is a world-shaking, genre-bending, sci-fi comedy, and a splendid capper to what British writer-director Edgar Wright and actor-writer Simon Pegg call their "Cornetto trilogy," for an ice cream they eat on their side of the Atlantic. This one's arguably the best of the three, but who wants to argue over gorgeous satires like Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and The World's End? It's like ice cream flavors: Have them all.