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5 Foods People Actually Die For

By Christa Weil

When making soup requires scaling a cliff, and grabbing a few olives involves avoiding gunfire, it's time to find some comfort food that's a little more comfortable.

1. Iwatake

The annals of Arctic exploration are filled with accounts of frostbitten limbs and near starvation. In fact, many adventurers have reported being so hungry that they've scraped papery-crisp lichen off rocks and boiled it into passably edible food. One outdoorsman even claimed that if braised shoe leather was in a taste-test with lichen, the shoe leather would come out on top. And yet, this very same survival food is considered a delicacy in Japan. There, iwatake (iwa meaning rock, and take meaning mushroom) is so highly sought-after that harvesters are willing to rappel down cliff faces for the precious growths. (It takes about a century for the lichen to get to a worthwhile size.) Needless to say, this is specialty work. As if the rappelling isn't tricky enough, iwatake is best harvested in wet weather, because the moisture reduces the chance that the lichen will crumble as it's pried off with a sharp knife. In its preferred preparation, the black and slimy raw material is transformed into a delicate tempura. And while iwatake in any form doesn't taste like much, it's esteemed for its associations with longevity. As for the harvesters? Their longevity's more questionable. "Never give lodging to an iwatake hunter," goes an old Japanese adage, "for he doesn't always survive to pay rent."

2. Bird's Nest Soup

800px-Birds_Nest_soup.jpgCantilevered high off cave walls and cliffs along the seas of Southeast Asia are the nests of the white-nest swiftlet—a bird that's managed to turn an embarrassing drool problem into a useful D.I.Y. project. The nests, sturdy constructions no bigger than the palm of your hand, are made from the birds' spit. Yup, these swiftlets have specialized saliva glands powerful enough to turn their tongues into avian glue guns.You'd think being stuck in caves high above the ground, and the fact that they're birds' nests, would protect them against humans—but no. Ever since sailors first brought the nests home for the Chinese emperor and his family in the first century CE, bird's nest soup has been a favorite among the country's elite. Never mind that it's virtually tasteless; the dish is revered for health reasons. Of course, acquiring the main ingredient is less healthy. Nest harvesters must stand on rickety bamboo scaffolding hundreds of feet off the ground in pitch darkness. They must also endure unbelievable heat and humidity as they try to avoid all the insects, birds, and bats that live in the caves. In addition, the extraordinary value of the nests means the zones are patrolled by machine-gun toting guards. Harvesting rights are multiyear, multimillion-dollar deals arranged with national governments, and poaching is ruthlessly prohibited. Unarmed fishermen have been shot dead after accidentally beaching in swiftlet territory, and local tour group operators pay exorbitant fees to avoid rifle-assisted leaks springing in their kayaks. It all underscores the fact that being a nest harvester is less of a career choice and more of a life sentence—especially considering that the skill is almost exclusively passed on from father to son.

3. West Bank Olives

2.Olives-Brined.jpgCome the November harvest season each year, Palestinian landowners on the far side of the Green Line (which bounds the pre-1967 border between Jordan and Israel) cope with the standard hazards of olive picking. They deal with raw fingertips, accidental falls from the upper boughs of the trees, and backaches from stooping to gather fallen fruit. All that effort to glean olive oil, which has fueled the local economy for centuries. But the latter-day olive harvest involves a much more deadly threat. Some Israeli settlers are intent on driving the farmers away from the groves, and they've armed themselves with rocks and scope rifles to block the Palestinian landowners from their livelihood. In recent years, Israeli police and Jewish peace activists have worked alongside the pickers to curb harassment, but the year-round tending of these ancient groves remains a life-threatening pursuit. Humans aren't the sole targets, either. According to the Jerusalem Post, vandals burned or otherwise destroyed more than 1,000 olive trees in the West Bank in 2005. Sadly, it will require plenty of time and hard work on the part of the governing bodies before the farmers' only concerns are workaday aches and pains.

4. Snapping Turtle

Asnapper-soup2.jpgTurtle soup was a staple of 19th-century gourmets, usually ladled out of huge tureens for the first course. And no wonder; turtle meat is tasty, fibrous, and chewy—kind of like barbecued pork. But getting the meat in the quantities Grover Cleveland and his ilk demanded meant getting the biggest turtles around, and in most of the United States, that meant going after snapping turtles. The traditional means of capturing the giant creatures (which grow up to 180 lbs.) is called noodling, which involves brave souls trawling along the banks of rivers, lakes, and ponds, and occasionally wading neck-deep to stick a boot into the turtles' lairs. If a noodler hits shell, next in are the hands, which try to haul the critter out while avoiding its famously strong jaws.

On-the-job accidents come with the territory. According to outdoor expert Keith Sutton, author of Hunting Arkansas, "noodlers are nicknamed "˜nubbins' as the result of unfortunate encounters with snappers." Amazingly, the job isn't over once the turtle is captured, either. Turns out, killing the animal is another exercise in raw nerve. We'll spare you the details, except to say that it's ill-advised to handle the animal's head until at least a day after its execution. Even decapitated, the snapping turtle has a long memory.

5. Gooseneck Barnacle

800px-Barnacle.JPG.jpgYou've probably never seen gooseneck barnacles on a menu in the States, but it's only a matter of time. Besides being a popular Christmastime appetizer in Spain and Portugal (where it's known as percebes), it's gaining ground in America and being harvested off the coast of the Pacific Northwest. But harvesting this rock-dwelling crustacean is no simple matter. Barnacle fishers typically tie themselves to the rocks in a surge zone along the ocean and pry the creatures off between waves. To do this, they have to use a crowbar to break the animals' self-adhesive, which is so resistant to tampering that scientists were long mystified by its chemical makeup. In other words, removing a barnacle takes lots of traction, which, given the waves, can be tricky. A poorly maintained tether, or a harvester too impatient to tie in, can easily end with a call to the Coast Guard. Of those brave enough to harvest gooseneck barnacles, one Coast Guard official said, "The best we can do is retrieve the bodies."

Editor's Note: Christa Weil is the author of Fierce Food: The Intrepid Diner's Guide to the Unusual, Exotic, and Downright Bizarre (Plume, 2006), available in bookstores nationwide.

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8 Allegedly Cursed Places
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Some of the most picturesque spots in the world hide legends of a curse. Castles, islands, rivers, and more have supposedly suffered spooky misfortunes as the result of a muttered hex cast after a perceived slight—whether it's by a maligned monk or a mischievous pirate. Below are eight such (allegedly) unfortunate locations.

1. A WALL FROM MARGAM ABBEY // WALES

An 800-year-old ruined wall stands on the grounds of a large steelworks in Port Talbot, Wales. The wall is surrounded by a fence and held up by a number of brick buttresses—all because of an ancient curse. The story goes that when King Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries in the 16th century, one of the local Cistercian monks evicted from Margam Abbey told the new owners of the site, in a bid to protect it, that if the wall fell, the entire town would fall with it (it's unclear why he would focus on that particular part of the structure). Since then, the townsfolk have tried hard to protect the wall, even as an enormous steelworks was built around it. Rumors abound that the hex-giving monk still haunts the site in a red habit, keeping an eye on his precious wall.

2. ALLOA TOWER // SCOTLAND

Alloa tower in Scotland
HARTLEPOOLMARINA2014, Wikimedia // CC BY-SA 4.0

Alloa Tower in Clackmannanshire, Scotland, has reportedly been subject to a curse for hundreds of years. In the 16th century, the Earl of Mar is said to have destroyed the local Cambuskenneth Abbey and taken the stones to build his new palace. The Abbot of Cambuskenneth was so furious he supposedly cast a multi-part curse on the Erskine family—ominously known as “The Doom of Mar." It is said that at least part of the curse has come true over the years, including that three of the children of the Mar family would “never see the light” (three of the earl’s ancestors’ offspring were reportedly born blind). The curse also supposedly predicted that the house would burn down, which occurred in 1800. Another part of the curse: The house would lay in ruins until an ash sapling grew from its roof. Sure enough, around 1820 a sapling was seen sprouting from the roof, and since then the family curse is said to have been lifted.

3. A WORKERS' CEMETERY // EGYPT

In the fall of 2017, archeologists reopened an almost-4500-year-old tomb complex in Giza, Egypt, that contains the remains of hundreds of workers who built the great Pyramid of Giza. The tomb also contains the remains of the supervisor of the workers, who is believed to have added curses to the cemetery to protect it from thieves. One such curse reads: "All people who enter this tomb who will make evil against this tomb and destroy it, may the crocodile be against them in water and snakes against them on land. May the hippopotamus be against them in water, the scorpion against them on land." The complex is now open to the public—who may or may not want to take their chances.

4. RUINS OF THE CHATEAU DE ROCCA SPARVIERA // FRANCE

A chateau just north of the French Riviera may sound like a delightful place to be, but amid the ruins of the Chateau de Rocca-Sparviera—the Castle of the Sparrow-Hawk—lies a disturbing legend. The tale centers around a medieval French queen named Jeanne, who supposedly fled to the castle after her husband was killed. She arrived with two young sons and a monk known to enjoy his drink. One Christmas, she went into the village to hear a midnight mass, and when she returned, she found that the monk had killed her sons in a drunken rage. (In another version of the story, she was served a banquet of her own children, which she unknowingly ate.) According to legend, Jeanne then cursed the castle, saying a bird would never sing nearby. To this day, some travelers report that the ruins are surrounded by an eerie silence.

5. THE PEBBLES OF KOH HINGHAM // THAILAND

Stopped off at a small uninhabited island that, according to Thai mythology, is cursed by the god Tarutao. If anyone dared to even take one pebble off this island they would be forever cursed! 😈 I heard from a local that every year the National Park office receive many stones back via mail from people who want to lift the curse! I was never much of a stone collector anyway... ☻☹☻☹☻ #thailand #kohlanta #kohlipe #kohhingham #islandhopping #islandlife #beachlife #pebbles #beach #speedboat #travelgram #instatraveling #wanderlust #exploringtheglobe #exploretocreate #traveleverywhere #aroundtheworld #exploringtheglobe #travelawesome #wanderer #earth_escape #natgeotravel #serialtraveler #awesomesauce #picoftheday #photooftheday #potd

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The tiny uninhabited island of Koh Hingham, off the coast of Thailand, is blessed with a covering of precious black stones. The stones are not precious because they contain anything valuable in a monetary sense, but because according to Thai mythology the god Tarutao made them so. Tarutao is said to have invoked a curse upon anyone who takes a stone off the island. As a result, every year the national park office that manages the island receives packages from all over the world, sent by tourists returning the stones and attempting to rid themselves of bad luck.

6. INITIALS OUTSIDE THE CHAPEL AT ST. ANDREWS UNIVERSITY // SCOTLAND

The "cursed" PH stones of St. Andrews University
Nuwandalice, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The initials PH are paved into the ground outside St. Salvator’s Chapel at St. Andrews University in Scotland. They mark the spot where 24-year-old preacher and faculty member Patrick Hamilton was burned at the stake for heresy in 1528—an early trigger of the Scottish Reformation. The location is therefore supposed to be cursed, and it is said that any student who stands on the initials is doomed to fail their exams. As a result of this superstition, after graduation day many students purposefully go back to stand on the spot now that all danger of failure has passed.

7. CHARLES ISLAND // CONNECTICUT

Charles Island, Connecticut
Michael Shaheen, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Charles Island lies off the coast of Milford, Connecticut, and is accessible from the mainland via a sandbar when the tide is low. Today it's home to a peaceful nature reserve for local birds, but its long history supposedly includes three curses. The first is said to have been cast in 1639 by the chief of the Paugussett tribe, after the nation was driven off the land by settlers—the chief supposedly cursed any building erected on the land. The second was supposedly laid in 1699 when the pirate Captain William Kidd stopped by the island to bury his booty and protected it with a curse. Shortly afterward, Kidd was caught and executed for his crimes—taking the location of his treasure to his grave.

The third curse is said to have come all the way from Mexico. In 1525, Mexican emperor Guatimozin was tortured by Spaniards hoping to locate Aztec treasure, but he refused to give up its whereabouts. In 1721, a group of sailors from Connecticut supposedly stumbled across the Aztec loot hidden in a cave in Mexico. After an unfortunate journey home in which disaster after disaster slowly depleted the crew, the sole surviving sailor reportedly landed on Charles Island, where he buried the cursed treasure in the hope of negating its hex.

8. THE GHOST TOWN OF BODIE // CALIFORNIA

A house in Bodie, California
Jim Bahn, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Bodie, in California's Sierra Nevadas, sprang up as a result of the gold rush. The town boomed in the late 19th century, with a population nearing 10,000 people. But as the gold seams ran dry, Bodie began a slow and steady decline, hastened by a series of devastating fires. By the 1950s, the place had become a ghost town, and in 1962 it was designated a State Historic Park, with the the buildings kept in a state of “arrested decay." Bodie's sad history has encouraged rumors of a curse, and many visitors to the site who have picked up an abandoned souvenir have reportedly been dogged with bad luck. So much so, the Bodie museum displays numerous letters from tourists who have sent back pilfered booty in the hope of breaking their run of ill fortune.

But the curse didn't start with prospectors or spooked visitors. The rumor apparently originated from rangers at the park, who hoped that the story would prevent visitors from continuing to steal items. In one sense the story worked, since many people are now too scared to pocket artifacts from the site; in another, the rangers have just succeeded in increasing their workload, as they now receive letter after letter expressing regret for taking an item and reporting on the bad luck it caused—further reinforcing the idea of the Bodie curse.

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21 Other Royal Babies Born In The Last 20 Years
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by Kenny Hemphill

At 11:01 a.m. on April 23, 2018, the Royal Family got a new member when it was announced that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have welcomed their third child, a (yet-to-be-named) boy, who will become fifth in line to the throne. While William and Kate's three children may be the youngsters closest to the throne, they're not the only pint-sized descendants of Queen Elizabeth II to be born in the past 20 years. Here are 21 more of them.

1. ARTHUR CHATTO

Arthur Robert Nathaniel Chatto, who turned 19 years old February 5, is the younger son of Lady Sarah and Daniel Chatto. He is 23rd in the line of succession—and has been raising some royal eyebrows with his penchant for Instagram selfies.

2. CHARLES ARMSTRONG-JONES, VISCOUNT LINLEY

The grandson of Lord Snowden and Princess Margaret, and son of the 2nd Earl and Countess of Snowdon, Charles—who was born on July 1, 1999—is the heir apparent to the Earldom of Snowdon.

3. LADY MARGARITA ARMSTRONG-JONES

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II (R) speaks to Serena Armstrong-Jones, Countess of Snowdon (L), David Armstrong-Jones (2L), 2nd Earl of Snowdon, and Lady Margarita Armstrong-Jones (2R).
JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP/Getty Images

Born on May 14, 2002, Lady Margarita is sister to Charles Armstrong-Jones, and great-niece to the Queen. She's 20th in line to the throne.

4. LADY LOUISE WINDSOR

Lady Louise Windsor is the eldest child and only daughter of Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, and Sophie, Countess of Wessex. She was born on November 8, 2003 and is 11th in line for the throne.

5. ELOISE TAYLOR

The third child of Lady Helen and Timothy Taylor, Eloise Olivia Katherine Taylor was born on March 2, 2003 and is 43rd in line for the throne.

6. ESTELLA TAYLOR

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge chats to Estella Taylor on the balcony during Trooping the Colour - Queen Elizabeth II's Birthday Parade, at The Royal Horseguards on June 14, 2014 in London, England
Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Eloise's younger sister, Estella Olga Elizabeth Taylor, was born on December 21, 2004. She is the youngest of the four Taylor children and is 44th in succession.

7. JAMES, VISCOUNT SEVERN

The younger child of Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, and Sophie, Countess of Wessex, James Alexander Philip Theo Mountbatten-Windsor—or Viscount Severn—was born on December 17, 2007 and is 10th in line for the throne.

8. ALBERT WINDSOR

Albert Louis Philip Edward Windsor, born September 22, 2007, is notable for being the first royal baby to be baptized a Catholic since 1688. He is the son of Lord and Lady Nicholas Windsor, and grandson of the Duke and Duchess of Kent. According to the Act of Settlement, which was passed in 1701, being baptized Catholic would automatically exclude a potential royal from the line of succession. But there was some controversy surrounding this when, up until 2015, the Royal Family website included Albert.

9. XAN WINDSOR

Lord Culloden, Xan Richard Anders Windsor, is son to the Earl of Ulster and Claire Booth, and grandson of the Duke of Gloucester. He was born on March 2, 2007 and is 26th in succession.

10. LEOPOLD WINDSOR

Like his older brother Albert, Leopold Windsor—who was born on September 8, 2009—is not in line to the throne, by virtue of being baptized a Roman Catholic (though he, too, was listed on the Royal Family's website for a time).

11. SAVANNAH PHILLIPS

Autumn Phillips, Isla Phillips, Peter Philips and Savannah Phillips attend Christmas Day Church service at Church of St Mary Magdalene on December 25, 2017 in King's Lynn, England
Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Savannah Anne Kathleen Phillips, the Queen's first great-grandchild, was born on December 29, 2010 to Peter Phillips, son of Princess Anne and Mark Phillips, and Autumn Kelly. She is 14th in line for the throne.

12. SENNA LEWIS

Senna Kowhai Lewis, who was born on June 2, 2010, is the daughter of Gary and Lady Davina Lewis, elder daughter of Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester. She was a beneficiary of the Succession to the Crown Act 2013, which abolished the practice of giving sons precedence over daughters in the line of succession, regardless of when they are born. As a result, she is 29th in succession.

13. LYLA GILMAN

Daughter of Lady Rose and George Gilman, and granddaughter of Prince Richard, 2nd Duke of Gloucester, Lyla Beatrix Christabel Gilman was born on May 30, 2010. She is 32nd in succession.

14. COSIMA WINDSOR

Lady Cosima Rose Alexandra Windsor was born on May 20, 2010. She is sister to Lord Culloden, daughter of the Earl of Ulster and Claire Booth, and granddaughter to the Duke of Gloucester. She's 27th in line for the throne.

15. RUFUS GILMAN

Lyla Gilman's brother, Rufus, born in October 2012, is 33rd in line for the throne.

16. TĀNE LEWIS

Tāne Mahuta Lewis, Senna's brother, was named after a giant kauri tree in the Waipoua Forest of the Northland region of New Zealand. He was born on May 25, 2012 and is 30th in line for the throne, following the Succession to the Crown Act 2013.

17. ISLA PHILLIPS

Princess Anne, Princess Royal, Isla Phillips and Peter Phillips attend a Christmas Day church service
Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Peter and Autumn Phillips's second and youngest daughter, Isla Elizabeth Phillips, was born on March 29, 2012 and is 15th in succession.

18. MAUD WINDSOR

Maud Elizabeth Daphne Marina Windsor, the daughter of Lord Frederick and Lady Sophie of Windsor and granddaughter of Prince and Princess Michael of Kent, was born on August 15, 2013 and is 47th in line for the throne.

19. LOUIS WINDSOR

Louis Arthur Nicholas Felix Windsor, who was born on May 27, 2014, is the youngest child of Lord and Lady Nicholas Windsor, and brother of Leopold and Albert. As he was baptized into the Roman Catholic church, he's not in line to the throne.

20. MIA GRACE TINDALL

Mike Tindall, Zara Tindall and their daughter Mia Tindall pose for a photograph during day three of The Big Feastival at Alex James' Farm on August 28, 2016 in Kingham, Oxfordshire.
Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images

Daughter of Zara Phillips and her husband, former England rugby player Mike Tindall, Mia Grace Tindall was born on January 17, 2014 and is 17th in the line of succession.

21. ISABELLA WINDSOR

Isabella Alexandra May, the second and youngest daughter of Lord Frederick and Lady Sophie of Windsor, was the last addition to the royal family. In July 2016, she was christened at Kensington Palace wearing the same gown worn by both Prince George and Princess Charlotte (it's a replica of the one that Queen Victoria's children wore). Looking on was celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, who is one of Isabella's godparents.

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