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The Surprising Passions of 11 Brilliant People

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You already knew everyone on this list was brilliant and accomplished in his or her chosen field. What you might not have known is that they were also truly devoted to their less publicized passions.

1) Teddy Roosevelt was a man with a lot of hobbies, including obvious ones like hunting, trust busting, and carrying metaphorical sticks. But he was also a passionate boxer and had a brown belt in judo. He once turned heads at a state luncheon by playfully chucking a Swiss diplomat with a judo toss.

2) Napoleon had no rival when it came to battlefield brilliance, so it’s a little surprising that he wasn’t great at his favorite hobby: chess. Although the general supposedly carried a board with him on his military campaigns, he never had much time to practice and was generally regarded as a middling player.

3) Emily Dickinson made more than just amazing poetry – she was also a celebrated baker! Despite being famously shy, Dickinson was sure enough of her bread to enter it in a local competition, in which she won second prize. Of course, since she was Emily Dickinson, poetry was always at play, even in the kitchen – many of her drafts are written on the backs of recipes or ingredient wrappers.

4) Amelia Earhart was passionate about a hobby that’s not usually associated with daredevils: stamp collecting. Earhart frequently carried pieces of mail on her landmark flights. As these pieces became highly collectible, Earhart got in on the fun, acquiring examples of mail she’d flown and showing them at stamp-collecting conventions.

5) Mozart fell ill with smallpox when he was 11 years old, an illness that required several weeks of rest for recovery. The young composer used the down time of his convalescence to pick up a new hobby: card tricks. A local chaplain visited the sick boy and taught him a slew of card tricks that the composer later used to delight his friends.

6) Thomas Edison had a surprisingly impractical passion: concrete. The great inventor so adored concrete that he created a system of molds that would enable builders to simply pour a whole, complete house from concrete. He even had patents for concrete furniture to fill his concrete houses! As you might have noticed, the idea never took off.

7) Thomas Jefferson is so celebrated as a statesman, writer, architect, librarian, and oenophile that it’s easy to miss the fact that he was a celebrated violinist. Jefferson took lessons for most of his life, starting as a young boy, and although accounts of his skill level differ, Jefferson was able to use his musical abilities to woo his wife.

8) Marie Curie stayed pretty busy in the lab – being one of history’s greatest chemists and physicists takes some time – but she also spent a lot of time on her bike. Throughout her life, Curie’s favorite way to unwind was hopping on her bike for long trips that let her explore the outdoors.

9) Abraham Lincoln would have been a surprisingly huge fan of Internet memes. Mary Todd Lincoln was once asked if her husband had any hobbies. Her simple reply: “Cats.”

10) Edith Wharton is remembered for award-winning novels like The Age of Innocence, but her first published book was actually a guide to interior decorating. Throughout her life, the author was a passionate and accomplished interior decorator and garden designer. Wharton even designed her own country home and gardens, “The Mount,” in Lenox, Mass.

11) John Quincy Adams was among our quirkier presidents – he enjoyed skinny dipping in the Potomac and kept a pet alligator in the White House. But he was also an avid collector of ancient coins.

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10 Trails Every Passionate Hiker Must Trek
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Lace up your boots and grab your walking stick. It’s time to climb!

1. Observation Point
With hikes like Angel’s Landing and the Narrows, Zion National Park in Utah is a goldmine for trail-lovers. But the best view is at Observation Point—your reward for climbing 2100 feet.

2. Tour de Mont Blanc
One of the most popular long distance hikes in Europe, the 100-mile trail passes through Switzerland, Italy, and France. It takes about a week to finish.

3. Appalachian Trail, US
Extending from Mount Katahdin in Maine to Springer Mountain in Georgia, this wild 2200-mile trail is a great way to see 14 states.

4. Kalalau Trail, Hawaii
There’s only one way to get to Hawaii’s secluded Kalalau Beach: you have to hike 11 miles to get there. The trail is a fantastic way to see Kauai’s rugged wild side.

5. Haute Randonnée Pyrénéenne
Winding back and forth between France and Spain, the 497-mile footpath travels the length of the Pyrenees—and at high altitudes, too.

6. Cape Wrath Trail
Considered one of the toughest trails in the UK, the 200-mile hike in the Scottish Highlands attracts people the world over.

7. Semien Mount Trek
This National Park in Ethiopia is a World Heritage Site, and with mountains almost topping 15,000 feet, it’s one of the few places in Africa that sees snow regularly.

8. Laugavegurinn
Connecting two nature reserves, the 50-mile Icelandic trail crosses over mountains, glaciers, hot springs, lakes, and rivers. There are 20 waterfalls in just the first seven miles!

9. Copper Canyon
Forget the Grand Canyon. Mexico’s Copper Canyon is deeper, wider, and longer. On one trail, you’ll loop 38 miles and see 20,000 feet of elevation change!

10. Santa Cruz Trek
One of the best ways to see the Andes Mountains, Peru’s 30-mile trek requires you to pass through a 15,617 foot mountain pass.
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Want to see your passions and connections to your friends? Check out Nissan's Passion Genome to create your interactive Passion Portrait and share the passions that make you, you.

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9 Kitchen Techniques Passionate Chefs Should Master
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Want to kick your kitchen game up a notch? Learn these nine techniques and watch as your food gets even more delicious.

1. Searing

Searing can add a tasty caramelized crust to your favorite dish. Start with a hot, hot pan. Add a thin coat of oil—enough to make the pan gleam—and add what you’d like to cook. Let it hiss and watch the crust form, then flip.

2. Dicing An Onion

Halve the onion from top to bottom and place the flat sides down on the board. Peel off the skin, face the root end away from you, and make vertical cuts. When you’re done, make horizontal cuts. Don’t cut all the way through the root.

3. Make Pan Sauce

After searing, put those extra brown morsels on the bottom of your pan to use. Add wine, stock, or vinegar to your hot pan. Scrape up those leftover bits on the pan let the sauce simmer for a few minutes. Remove it from the pan and stir in some cold butter cubes. Season.

4. Make Roux

Roux will amp up your gravy dishes. Melt some butter in a saucepan until it foams, and then add an equal amount of flour. Whisk until the concoction is smooth and cook for three minutes. Cook longer for a darker, nuttier roux.

5. Tempering

Every cook should now how to blend ingredients that are different temperatures—especially if they work with eggs or chocolate. When chocolate isn’t tempered, unsightly white blotches of cocoa mighty appear. So heat your chocolate, and let it cool by stirring in a solid chunk. When the chocolate is about 88 degrees Fahrenheit, remove the remaining chunks and dip away!

6. Make Vinaigrette

Here’s the secret: One part vinegar, three parts oil. Add a pinch of salt to the vinegar and a little Dijon mustard. Now use both hands—one to pour the oil and one to whisk the mixture. Keep going until it’s all blended.

7. Blanch Vegetables

To soften the taste of your veggies, blanch them! Boil a pot of very salty water and dump the vegetables into it. Once they’re cooked plunge them into ice water. This will stop the cooking process and make your veggies cool and crisp.

8. Make Your Own Stock

Throw some chicken in a pot of water with onion, carrots, and celery. Bring it to a boil, reduce the temperature, and let it simmer for a few hours. Skim off the fat, strain it through a sieve, and put it in the fridge. Your soups and sauces will never be the same.

9. Make whipped cream

Become a master of desserts with this skill! Put your metal mixing bowl and whisk or beaters in the freezer. When they’re cold, pour a pint of heavy cream and whisk aggressively until the mixture becomes cloudy. As it thickens, add some powdered sugar and vanilla for extra flavor.

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Want to see your passions and connections to your friends? Check out Nissan's Passion Genome to create your interactive Passion Portrait and share the passions that make you, you.

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