When President Obama walked out of the Oval Office earlier this year, he left behind more land protected under federal law than any of his predecessors. President Trump appears intent on challenging that legacy, recently ordering a sweeping review of national monuments with an aim to “balance” the protection of these lands. (The Bureau of Land Management also recently added banners to its website to evoke the wondrous vistas of coal mining and oil drilling.)
It’s not yet clear whether Trump will actually try to revoke Obama-era designations—or whether he’d succeed if he does—but the land protected under federal law has been a mix of majesty and mystery ever since Ulysses S. Grant signed the Yellowstone National Park Protection Act designating the nation’s first national park. Writers have used their craft to ask fascinating questions and expose the weird underbellies of national parks, monuments, and federal lands since long before Trump ever expressed an antipathy toward them.
Below, our favorite stories of the week. Kindle and Readmill users, you can also get them as a Readlist.
It is always hard to narrow down my favourites from a full 12 months of longreading, so here are five—but certainly not all—of the standouts from the last year. They’re food-themed, mainly because my last year has also been focused on writing and learning about food.
I’ve sent this article to more people than I can count, and love the responses I’ve received “Ketchup comes from China?!” The full piece is worth reading, in part because what makes food so fascinating is not only where it is eaten but also where it came from, and how it is what it is today. Ketchup, once a fermented fish sauce from China, is now a sweet tomato condiment we all know and many of us love. You’ll never look at a bottle the same way again once you read this great piece.
Adjika holds a special place in my heart, having brightened up many a meal and been a source of great conversation on the road. A red and fiery condiment from the Caucuses, adija is brought to life beautifully in this Roads & Kingdoms piece.
“It was like the sun had risen in my mouth. Instead of the cold lumpiness of wood pulp, there was a spreading glow of summer: garlic, chilli, salt, and a dozen other spices I could not identify. I looked up in amazement and picked up the little dish of red sauce to smell it. The old woman smiled again.
“That’s adjika,” she said.”
Worth a read for anyone who likes food and travel.
As a Canadian, I grew up referring to Kraft Macaroni & Cheese as “KD”, and had no idea this was not a worldwide phenomenon until midway through 2010, and I was appalled to hear that my American friends did not adopt this affectionate nickname. I’m not the only one. As author Sasha Chapman notes: ”The point is, it’s nearly impossible to live in Canada without forming an opinion about one of the world’s first and most successful convenience foods. In 1997, sixty years after the first box promised ‘dinner in seven minutes — no baking required,’ we celebrated by making Kraft Dinner the top-selling grocery item in the country.”
The Walrus investigates the history and current state Canada’s strange love for KD.
A beautiful piece about communal bakeries in the Middle East and how these centuries-old traditions become new again during times of war.
A must-read about a tiny silvery fish called the menhaden and how crucial it is to the ecosystem of our oceans.
Our Top 5 Longreads of the Week—featuring The New York Times Magazine, Washington Monthly, The New Yorker, Spirit Magazine, Stanford Medicine Magazine, plus fiction and a guest pick by TIME’s Kate Pickert.
The political battle over the disappearance of the menhaden, a silvery, six-inch fish that’s food for larger fish and farmed for omega-3 oils and fertilizer:
Harvested by the billions and then processed into various industrial products, menhaden are extruded into feed pellets that make up the staple food product for a booming global aquaculture market, diluted into oil for omega-3 health supplements, and sold in various meals and liquids to companies that make pet food, livestock feed, fertilizer, and cosmetics. We have all consumed menhaden one way or another. Pound for pound, more menhaden are pulled from the sea than any other fish species in the continental United States, and 80 percent of the menhaden netted from the Atlantic are the property of a single company.
Which would be worse: Iran developing a nuclear weapon, or waging a war to prevent it? An examination of both scenarios:
Given the momentousness of such an endeavor and how much prominence the Iranian nuclear issue has been given, one might think that talk about exercising the military option would be backed up by extensive analysis of the threat in question and the different ways of responding to it. But it isn’t. Strip away the bellicosity and political rhetoric, and what one finds is not rigorous analysis but a mixture of fear, fanciful speculation, and crude stereotyping. There are indeed good reasons to oppose Iranian acquisition of nuclear weapons, and likewise many steps the United States and the international community can and should take to try to avoid that eventuality. But an Iran with a bomb would not be anywhere near as dangerous as most people assume, and a war to try to stop it from acquiring one would be less successful, and far more costly, than most people imagine.
How the uprising in Bahrain failed, and how the United States looked the other way:
What this silence conceals is the story of what really happened in the Gulf kingdom last year, and the full story of America’s halfhearted attempts to intervene, which ultimately went nowhere. What it also obscures is that last year’s events may mark an ominous turning point in the tiny country’s history. Bahrain’s uprising grew out of a long-running conflict between the country’s Sunni ruling class and its marginalized Shiite majority. But its aftermath has taken on the dimensions of something darker still—a vastly asymmetrical battle that, in the words of Marina Ottaway, a scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, has assumed the “ugly overtones of ethnic cleansing and collective punishment.”