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Wikimedia Commons/Evan-Amos/Stu pendousmat
Wikimedia Commons/Evan-Amos/Stu pendousmat

30 Things Turning 30 in 2015

Wikimedia Commons/Evan-Amos/Stu pendousmat
Wikimedia Commons/Evan-Amos/Stu pendousmat

While 1984 was iconic, 1985 was an even bigger year for pop culture. When we think of a song or a movie that exemplifies “the '80s,” it’s very likely from 1985. If you made a mix tape of '80s songs, it would have a ton of stuff from 1985 (“Summer of ’69,” anybody? “Voices Carry,” perhaps? “Everybody Wants To Rule The World"? Anything on Tom Waits's Rain Dogs? Or how about Tom Petty’s “Don’t Come Around Here No More"?)

Without further ado, here are 30 things turning 30 in 2015. If you were born in 1985, you're in good company.

1. Back to the Future

The highest-grossing film of 1985 featured Michael J. Fox as a teenager traveling ... wait for it ... 30 years back in time. Now that it's 30 years later, the film holds up, though doing the math makes us feel extremely old (today's 1985 is as distant in the past as 1985's 1955).

Despite the feeling-old issue, we're huge fans of BTTF, having briefly interviewed co-writer Bob Gale, dug up the blooper reel, made a BTTF quiz, and written a list almost as long as this one about the movie. It's also worth noting that Back to the Future II took place in 2015, so we can check in on how the movie future compares with reality.

Bonus: Back to the Future included a cameo appearance by Huey Lewis, plus his new song "The Power of Love," written for the film. It became the #1 song on several Billboard charts in 1985.

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2. New Coke

In the early 1980s, Pepsi ran a killer marketing blitz: The Pepsi Challenge. It was a simple blind taste-test of Pepsi versus Coke, and upstart Pepsi won more than half the time. (While opinions differ as to why Pepsi won so often, the simplest explanation may be that it tasted sweeter.) So Coke fired back by discontinuing its original formula and introducing "New Coke," a sweeter formulation. Everybody hated it, despite intense marketing.

New Coke was such a flop that "old Coke" was reintroduced three months later as "Coca-Cola Classic." Eventually "New Coke" turned into Coke II (no kidding), and remained on store shelves until 2002.

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3. "We are the World"

Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie co-wrote "We Are the World" and, along with Harry Belafonte and Ken Kragen, recruited a mega-supergroup dubbed USA for Africa to record it. The purpose of the song was to raise money for famine relief in Africa—particularly in Ethiopia, where a devastating famine was raging. The song was a massive hit, reaching quadruple Platinum status, winning various Grammies, and raising tens of millions of dollars for the relief effort.

The supergroup performing the song included luminaries like Bob Dylan, Ray Charles, Tina Turner, Willie Nelson, Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder, Dan Aykroyd(!), Bette Midler, the Pointer Sisters, the Jacksons, Smokey Robinson, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Geldof, Huey Lewis, you name it.

Bonus: There were also two major charity concerts in 1985: Live Aid, again focused on aid for the famine in Ethiopia (with two concerts held—one in London and one in Philadelphia); and Farm Aid, helping American farmers. Here's Queen performing at Live Aid:

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4. WrestleMania I

The first WrestleMania event was staged by the World Wrestling Federation on March 31, 1985 at Madison Square Garden. In the main event, wrestlers included Hulk Hogan and Mr. T versus "Rowdy" Roddy Piper and "Mr. Wonderful" (Paul Orndorff). WrestleMania set the template for American wrestling events for decades to come, and it's still running today. (Incidentally, Liberace made an appearance as a timekeeper and Muhammad Ali was a referee!)

That year, Hulk Hogan’s Rock ‘n’ Wrestling appeared as a Saturday morning cartoon on CBS. Here's a taste of that amazingness:

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5. Pictionary

The party game Pictionary was designed by Robert Angel and released by Seattle Games in 1985. If you've been living under a rock for 30 years, the premise is simple: one player has to draw a picture, trying to get the other players to guess a common word, phrase, action, or personal/place/animal. It's a lot like charades, but with frenzied scribbling.

The game was later adapted into several TV game shows. Here's the pilot for the 1989 TV version of Pictionary:

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6. Discovery of the RMS Titanic Wreck

On April 15, 1912, the RMS Titanic struck an iceberg and sank; the wreck wouldn't be discovered until 1985, when Dr. Bob Ballard and Jean-Louis Michel led a massive expedition employing a high-tech remotely-operated deep-sea vehicle named Argo. The key tactic that enabled the 1985 expedition to succeed where previous efforts failed was the use of cameras rather than sonar; by watching images, scientists were able to see the debris field from the Titanic and eventually find the wreck (in several parts).

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7. "We Built This City," Voted the Worst Song of All Time

I'm just gonna come right out and say that "We Built This City" has a great beat, it's easy to dance to, and it's great workout music. This opinion may be colored by the fact that I only owned three tapes in 1985, and Starship's Knee Deep in the Hoopla was one of them (the other two were Michael Jackson's Thriller and Weird Al's In 3-D). Released in August 1985, "We Built This City" was the kind of rock song that appealed to music lovers of the time, but almost immediately felt dated.

My personal opinion aside, "We Built This City" was voted the worst record ever in a poll of critics. Lambasted by Blender editor Craig Marks for "the sheer dumbness of the lyrics," the song made news for being a real stinker. (A similar Rolling Stone poll reached the same conclusion in 2011.) For the record, it was nominated for a Grammy in 1986.

Good song, bad song, or worst song of all time? Watch the video above and decide.

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8. Guns N’ Roses, DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, Indigo Girls, Jane’s Addiction, Crowded House

A bunch of bands that would later become big deals (or at least moderate deals) formed in 1985. Probably the most notable is Guns N' Roses (yes, that's the official capitalization and punctuation), which formed in Los Angeles when the existing bands Hollywood Rose and L.A. Guns merged. After several major lineup changes (including the addition of Duff McKagan and Slash), the band was signed by Geffen Records in 1986 and released Appetite for Destruction in 1987. Today, the only remaining member from the original lineup is Axl Rose.

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9. The Nintendo Entertainment System (in the U.S.), Super Mario Bros., and Duck Hunt

Although the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) had existed in Japan as the Famicom since mid-1983, it only became available in the U.S. in late 1985 (and even then, it was only in New York City, the first of several test markets). The big innovations in the U.S. release were ROB (Robotic Operating Buddy), the Zapper light gun, and the release of Super Mario Bros., the game that made America fall in love with home video game consoles again. (In later U.S. releases, the famous SMB/Duck Hunt split cartridge gave us a second fun game, although that laughing dog was kind of a jerk.)

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10. Mask (the Movie) and M.A.S.K. (the TV Show)

On March 8, 1985, Mask hit theaters, based on the true story of "Rocky" Dennis, who suffered from craniodiaphyseal dysplasia, causing his face to appear like a mask. Starring Cher, Sam Elliott, and Eric Stoltz, the movie won an Oscar for Best Makeup.

On September 16, 1985, the cartoon M.A.S.K. hit TV screens, based on the overuse of backronyms. (The title stood for Mobile Armored Strike Kommand—the good guys—who were battling V.E.N.O.M., the Vicious Evil Network Of Mayhem.) The cartoon was mostly notable for being a mashup of G.I. Joe and Transformers, leading to endless toy merchandising opportunities.

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11. Discovery of the Hole in the Ozone Layer

In May 1985, scientists from the British Antarctic Survey announced that there was a large "hole" in the ozone layer over Antarctica. Technically, it was more of a major thinning, but the term "ozone hole" stuck. Scientists reported that this hole had opened every spring since the 1970s, and suggested that chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), used in refrigerants and propellants (hello hairspray!) were causing it. The hole was a problem because it let extra UV radiation through the atmosphere.

Alarmed by this news, the world reacted, heavily regulating CFCs which ultimately reduced the ozone hole. (Some estimates say it could be gone entirely 50 years from now.)

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12. Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?

Brøderbund released the now-classic educational video game Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? in 1985. The game taught geography and basic research skills, while managing to actually be fun (see the play-through video above, while imagining you're a little kid in 1985). In the years following the initial 1985 release, the game was ported to tons of personal computer and game console platforms, including the NES, SNES, and various Sega consoles. It also continued the '80s trend of crazy backronyms, featuring the Villains' International League of Evil (V.I.L.E.).

If you're a fan, Wikipedia has an incredibly thorough list of the characters in the game (and subsequent adaptations, including later games and, of course, the TV game show).

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13. Madonna's Big Year

After releasing the album Like a Virgin in 1984, Madonna proceeded to blow up in 1985. She starred in the movie Desperately Seeking Susan (and appeared in Vision Quest!), released the hits "Crazy for You," "Into the Groove," and "Dress You Up" (among others), married Sean Penn, and started her first North American tour with the Beastie Boys as her opening act.

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14. Blockbuster Video

The first Blockbuster Video rental outlet opened in October 1985 in Dallas, Texas. The brand rapidly expanded, soon blanketing the U.S. and expanding its offerings to video games (including Nintendo cartridges) and eventually DVDs. At the height of its success, Blockbuster had over 9000 retail stores.

As home video offerings changed (hello, Netflix, cable, kiosks, and on-demand), Blockbuster declined. In 2010, it began the first of various bankruptcy filings. By January 2014, the last few hundred corporate-owned Blockbuster stores closed their doors, though a few franchises are still open.

Other notable businesses founded in 1985: Boston Market, Tommy Hilfiger, Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville, and Enron.

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15. The First Smoking Ban in U.S. Restaurants

AIGA / Public Domain

Settle in, children, as I tell you what used to happen when you entered a restaurant. You'd be asked, "Smoking or non?" and you'd choose the section of the room in which you'd like to sit. In other words, half of pretty much all restaurants were filled with cigarette smoke. This was entirely normal and common until the first U.S. restaurant smoking ban went into effect in Aspen, Colorado in late 1985. Part of this progressive move can be attributed to then-Surgeon General C. Everett Koop's Campaign for a Smoke-Free America; similar smoking bans were enacted throughout the '80s and '90s, becoming commonplace today.

And another historical tidbit: It wasn’t until 2000 that the government banned smoking on domestic flights.

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16. Calvin and Hobbes

On November 18, 1985, Bill Watterson's comic strip Calvin and Hobbes debuted. It ran for 10 years, following the adventures of Calvin, an imaginative kid, and his stuffed tiger Hobbes. The comic strip was an instant hit, and spread rapidly to hundreds of newspapers.

Calvin and Hobbes is notable mainly for its brilliant writing, focusing on the imagination of a little boy and his semi-imaginary friend. But it's also remarkable for its lack of merchandising. Although many books of Calvin and Hobbes collected comics have been made and sold, almost no licensed merchandise was created.

In 2013, the documentary Dear Mr. Watterson explored fan love for the strip (it's on Netflix). We also interviewed Watterson that year.

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17. Microsoft Windows 1.0

A year after Apple introduced the Macintosh, Microsoft shipped Windows 1.0, a graphical user interface that ran various DOS applications in crappy windows, alongside a handful of actual Windows-native applications (like Microsoft Paint, bundled with Windows 1.0). I actually ran Windows 1.0 on my PC, and it was painfully limited. On the bright side, it came with a game: Reversi. Steve Ballmer soon made a jokey promo video for Windows 1.0:

Also in 1985, Microsoft released its Excel spreadsheet package ... for the Mac. (Microsoft's Multiplan spreadsheet for PCs wasn't doing so well against competing spreadsheet software; eventually Excel took over, and made the leap to Windows.)

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18. The First Dot Com

On March 15, 1985, the first "dot com" domain name was registered. Symbolics.com was the new online home of Symbolics Inc., a computer company based in Massachusetts. By comparison, it took IBM more than a year to get around to registering IBM.com, but that was typical—having an Internet domain name in the mid-'80s was not exactly mission-critical. The .com top-level domain joined a handful of other TLDs including .edu, .gov, .mil, .net, .org, and .arpa. Of course, in the years since, .com has pretty much dominated the domain name world.

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19. Books: Contact, The Handmaid’s Tale, White Noise...

It was a good year for books: Carl Sagan's Contact was published, as was Don DeLillo's White Noise. Orson Scott Card released Ender's Game and Margaret Atwood gave us The Handmaid’s Tale. Other notables include Lonesome Dove, Blood Meridian, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, The Cider House Rules, Dogsong, The Polar Express, and Lake Wobegon Days. Many of 1985's biggest books were later (sometimes much later) adapted into movies.  

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20. The Brat Pack (First Seen in The Breakfast Club)

It's hard to pick a single movie that defined 1985 (and this list already devoted entries to Mask and Back to the Future, so you can tell we're not trying too hard to be exclusive). But among the '85 standouts is John Hughes's The Breakfast Club, which helped define the Brat Pack, a group of actors who appeared in tons of teen-centric films. The group included (at least) Emilio Estevez, Anthony Michael Hall, Rob Lowe, Andrew McCarthy, Demi Moore, Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald, and Ally Sheedy. A subset of these actors appeared in both The Breakfast Club (February 1985) and St. Elmo's Fire (June 1985).

Other notable movies from 1985: Brazil, The Black Cauldron, Clue, Fletch, The Goonies, The Color Purple, Pee-wee's Big Adventure, Out of Africa, Weird Science, Witness, Ladyhawke, Return to Oz, and Cocoon. It was a pretty sweet year for Stallone sequels too, with Rambo First Blood Part II and Rocky IV.

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21. Peak Levels of David Lee Roth in the Rockosphere

David Lee Roth left Van Halen on April Fool's Day in 1985, at the peak of the band's popularity (the previous year's album, 1984, had spawned the hits "Jump," "I'll Wait," "Panama," and "Hot for Teacher"). This moment marked Peak Roth, a cultural instant when David Lee Roth was as relevant and famous as he would ever be. He also released an EP of standards entitled Crazy from the Heat, including "California Girls" (complete with backing vocals by Beach Boy Carl Wilson!) and a medley of "Just a Gigolo/I Ain't Got Nobody," both of which were hits. These days, David Lee Roth is back with Van Halen.

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22. The First Commercial AIDS Blood Test

In early 1985, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration licensed the first commercial blood test to detect HIV antibodies in blood. Blood banks immediately began screening blood donations using the test, at a cost of about $6 per test. That year also marked a series of major moments in the early story of AIDS: Larry Kramer's play The Normal Heart debuted Off-Broadway; Indiana teen Ryan White was barred from his middle school after contracting the disease from a blood transfusion; GLAAD was formed; and Rock Hudson died aged 59 from AIDS-related illnesses, bringing a very mainstream face to the disease.

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23. Anna Kendrick, Michael Phelps, Raven-Symoné...

By Alex Calderon (originally posted to Flickr as Raven Symone) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Lots of actors, entertainers, and sports stars were born in 1985. Doing this research, I found it surprising that all these people are the same age. See if you're similarly baffled. Here's a list:

Lily Allen

Reggie Bush

Colbie Caillat

Lana Del Rey

Zac Hanson (of the band Hanson)

Kris Humphries

Calvin Johnson

Carly Rae Jepsen

Anna Kendrick

Keira Knightley

Emily Kinney

Bruno Mars

Michael Phelps

Amanda Seyfried

Rooney Mara

Carey Mulligan

Jack Osbourne

Alison Pill

Cristiano Ronaldo

Raven-Symoné

See? Isn't it weird that Keira Knightley, Bruno Mars, Raven-Symoné, and Jack Osbourne are the same age?

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24. Thundercats! Jem! The Golden Girls!

Jem and her true identity Jerrica Benton / Wikimedia Commons

OK, so 1985 was the wellspring of awesome kids' TV, plus some grownup TV too. Here's a grab bag of shows that debuted in 1985:

Alfred Hitchcock Presents (The Reboot)

Amazing Stories

The Care Bears

Club MTV

EastEnders

G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero

The Golden Girls

Growing Pains

It's Punky Brewster (not to be confused with the live-action Punky Brewster)

Jem

Larry King Live

MacGyver

Moonlighting

Mr. Belvedere

National Geographic Explorer

She-Ra: Princess of Power

Small Wonder

Star Wars: Droids

Star Wars: Ewoks

The Twilight Zone (the reboot)

Thundercats

We should also pour one (or two) out for The Dukes of Hazzard and The Jeffersons, both of which ended their runs in 1985.

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25. VH1, Nick at Nite, Elmo, and the First Letterman "Top 10 List"

VH1 premiered on New Year's Day, offering a slightly smoother/grown-up alternative to MTV (its first video was Marvin Gaye's awesome 1983 performance of "The Star-Spangled Banner," shown above). Nick at Nite debuted in July, showing reruns starting at 8pm, sharing the same station as Nickelodeon (the logic being that kids should be in bed by then, or at least not watching TV). Nick at Nite's plan was to create the first "oldies TV network" in the same vein as oldies radio. After years of trying to find a character (including talking with a hilariously gruff voice), in 1985 Elmo became the high pitched, hyper friendly red monster we know and love. And David Letterman aired his first "Top 10 List," with the subject: "Top Ten Words That Almost Rhyme With Peas," which you can watch below:

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26. Portlandia (Statue)

In Portland, Oregon, the statue Portlandia was installed on October 6, 1985, after being floated up the Willamette River on a barge. Sculpted by Raymond Kaskey, Portlandia is a 34-plus-foot copper statue of a woman holding a trident. Although it was obviously famous to Portland residents at the time, it became nationally notable when the TV show Portlandia borrowed its name and likeness (after negotiations with Kaskey).

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27. The WELL

The WELL (Whole Earth 'Lectronic Link—another backronym) is one of the original online communities. Founded by Stewart Brand and Larry Brilliant, it began as a BBS (Bulletin Board System) accessible via dialup modem, and evolved over the years as online services did. The WELL set the template for how people could interact online. There's a good summary above, and here's a much longer panel discussion covering topics including the WELL:

 

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28. Phil Collins, No Jacket Required

In 1985, Phil Collins released his most successful solo album, No Jacket Required. It became a Diamond record (more than 10 times Platinum) and won three Grammys, including Album of the Year. He performed tracks from the album at Live Aid that year. Here he is performing "Long Long Way to Go" with Sting at London's Live Aid:

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29. The First Million-Selling CD

Compact Discs became available in the early 1980s, but it took until 1985 for them to go mainstream. Dire Straits' Brothers in Arms sold a million copies on CD, outselling its vinyl release. This was likely due to it being an early DDD (all-digital) recording, intended for the relatively new CD format. My favorite song from the record? "Money for Nothing," of course:

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30. Studio Ghibli

Studio Ghibli was founded in June 1985 by directors Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata and producer Toshio Suzuki. It has created animated classic movies including Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki's Delivery Service, Castle in the Sky, Princess Mononoke, Howl's Moving Castle, Ponyo, and lots more. If you haven't seen a Studio Ghibli film, you're missing out; here's the trailer for My Neighbor Totoro, my favorite of theirs:

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Food
The Origins of 5 International Food Staples

Food is more than fuel. Cuisine and culture are so thoroughly intertwined that many people automatically equate tomatoes with Italy and potatoes with Ireland. Yet a thousand years ago those dietary staples were unheard of in Europe. How did they get to be so ubiquitous there—and beyond?

1. TOMATOES

For years, the wonderful fruit that’s now synonymous with Italy was mostly ignored there. Native to South America and likely cultivated in Central America, tomatoes were introduced to Italy by Spanish explorers during the 1500s. Shortly thereafter, widespread misconceptions about the newcomers took root. In part due to their watery complexion, it was inaccurately thought that eating tomatoes could cause severe digestive problems. Before the 18th century, the plants were mainly cultivated for ornamental purposes. Tomato-based sauce recipes wouldn’t start appearing in present-day Italy until 1692 (although even those recipes were more like a salsa or relish than a sauce). Over the next 150 years, tomato products slowly spread throughout the peninsula, thanks in no small part to the agreeable Mediterranean climate. By 1773, some cooks had taken to stuffing tomatoes with rice or veal. In Naples, the fruits were sometimes chopped up and placed onto flatbread—the beginnings of modern pizza. But what turned the humble tomato into a national icon was the canning industry. Within Italy’s borders, this business took off in a big way during the mid-to-late 19th century. Because tomatoes do well stored inside metal containers, canning companies dramatically drove up the demand. The popularity of canned tomatoes was later solidified by immigrants who came to the United States from Italy during the early 20th century: Longing for Mediterranean ingredients, transplanted families created a huge market for Italian-grown tomatoes in the US.

2. CURRY

Bowl of chicken curry with a spoon in it

An international favorite, curry is beloved in both India and the British Isles, not to mention the United States. And it turns out humans may have been enjoying the stuff for a very, very long time. The word “curry” was coined by European colonists and is something of an umbrella term. In Tamil, a language primarily found in India and Sri Lanka, “kari” means “sauce.” When Europeans started traveling to India, the term was eventually modified into “curry,” which came to designate any number of spicy foods with South or Southeast Asian origins. Nonetheless, a great number of curry dishes share two popular components: turmeric and ginger. In 2012, traces of both were discovered inside residue caked onto pots and human teeth at a 4500-year-old archaeological site in northern India. And where there’s curry, there’s usually garlic: A carbonized clove of this plant was also spotted nearby. “We don’t know they were putting all of them together in a dish, but we know that they were eating them at least individually,” Steve Weber, one of the archaeologists who helped make this astonishing find, told The Columbian. He and his colleagues have tentatively described their discovery as "proto-curry."

3. THE BAGUETTE

Several baguettes

A quintessential Gallic food, baguettes are adored throughout France, where residents gobble up an estimated 10 billion every year. The name of the iconic bread ultimately comes from the Latin word for stick, baculum, and references its long, slender form. How the baguette got that signature shape is a mystery. One popular yarn credits Napoleon Bonaparte: Supposedly, the military leader asked French bakers to devise a new type of skinny bread loaf that could be comfortably tucked into his soldiers’ pockets. Another origin story involves the Paris metro, built in the 19th century by a team of around 3500 workers who were apparently sometimes prone to violence during meal times. It’s been theorized that the metro foremen tried to de-escalate the situation by introducing bread that could be broken into pieces by hand—thereby eliminating the need for laborers to carry knives. Alas, neither story is supported by much in the way of historical evidence. Still, it’s clear that lengthy bread is nothing new in France: Six-foot loaves were a common sight in the mid-1800s. The baguette as we know it today, however, didn’t spring into existence until the early 20th century. The modern loaf is noted for its crispy golden crust and white, puffy center—both traits made possible by the advent of steam-based ovens, which first arrived on France’s culinary scene in the 1920s.

4. POTATOES

Bowl of red, white, and black potatoes on wooden table

Historical records show that potatoes reached Ireland by the year 1600. Nobody knows who first introduced them; the list of potential candidates includes everyone from Sir Walter Raleigh to the Spanish Armada. Regardless, Ireland turned out to be a perfect habitat for the tubers, which hail from the misty slopes of the Andes Mountains in South America. Half a world away, Ireland’s rich soils and rainy climate provided similar conditions—and potatoes thrived there. They also became indispensable. For millennia, the Irish diet had mainly consisted of dairy products, pig meats, and grains, none of which were easy for poor farmers to raise. Potatoes, on the other hand, were inexpensive, easy to grow, required fairly little space, and yielded an abundance of filling carbs. Soon enough, the average Irish peasant was subsisting almost entirely on potatoes, and the magical plant is credited with almost single-handedly triggering an Irish population boom. In 1590, only around 1 million people lived on the island; by 1840, that number had skyrocketed to 8.2 million. Unfortunately, this near-total reliance on potatoes would have dire consequences for the Irish people. In 1845, a disease caused by fungus-like organisms killed off somewhere between one-third and one-half of the country’s potatoes. Roughly a million people died as a result, and almost twice as many left Ireland in a desperate mass exodus. Yet potatoes remained a cornerstone of the Irish diet after the famine ended; in 1899, one magazine reported that citizens were eating an average of four pounds’ worth of them every day. Expatriates also brought their love of potatoes with them to other countries, including the U.S. But by then, the Yanks had already developed a taste for the crop: The oldest record of a permanent potato patch on American soil dates back to 1719. That year, a group of farmers—most likely Scots-Irish immigrants—planted one in the vicinity of modern-day Derry, New Hampshire. From these humble origins, the potato steadily rose in popularity, and by 1796, American cookbooks were praising its “universal use, profit, and easy acquirement.”

5. CORN

Corn growing in a field

In the 1930s, geneticist George W. Beadle exposed a vital clue about how corn—also known as maize—came into existence. A future Nobel Prize winner, Beadle demonstrated that the chromosomes found in everyday corn bear a striking resemblance to those of a Mexican grass called teosinte. At first glance, teosinte may not look very corn-like. Although it does have kernels, these are few in number and encased in tough shells that can easily chip a human tooth. Nonetheless, years of work allowed Beadle to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that corn was descended from teosinte. Today, genetic and archaeological data suggests that humans began the slow process of converting this grass into corn around 8700 years ago in southwestern Mexico. If you're wondering why early farmers showed any interest in cultivating teosinte to begin with, while the plant is fairly unappetizing in its natural state, it does have a few key attributes. One of these is the ability to produce popcorn: If held over an open fire, the kernels will “pop” just as our favorite movie theater treat does today. It might have been this very quality that inspired ancient horticulturalists to tinker around with teosinte—and eventually turn it into corn

BONUS: TEA

Person sitting cross-legged holding a cup of green tea

The United Kingdom’s ongoing love affair with this hot drink began somewhat recently. Tea—which is probably of Chinese origin—didn’t appear in Britain until the 1600s. Initially, the beverage was seen as an exotic curiosity with possible health benefits. Shipping costs and tariffs put a hefty price tag on tea, rendering it quite inaccessible to the lower classes. Even within England’s most affluent circles, tea didn’t really catch on until King Charles II married Princess Catherine of Braganza. By the time they tied the knot in 1662, tea-drinking was an established pastime among the elite in her native Portugal. Once Catherine was crowned Queen, tea became all the rage in her husband’s royal court. From there, its popularity slowly grew over several centuries and eventually transcended socioeconomic class. At present, the average Brit drinks an estimated three and a half cups of tea every day.

All photos courtesy of iStock.

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12 Pieces of 100-Year-Old Advice for Dealing With Your In-Laws
Hulton Archive // Getty Images
Hulton Archive // Getty Images

The familial friction between in-laws has been a subject for family counselors, folklorists, comedians, and greeting card writers for generations—and getting along with in-laws isn't getting any easier. Here are some pieces of "old tyme" advice—some solid, some dubious, some just plain ridiculous—about making nice with your new family.

1. ALWAYS VOTE THE SAME WAY AS YOUR FATHER-IN-LAW (EVEN IF YOU DISAGREE).

It's never too soon to start sowing the seeds for harmony with potential in-laws. An 1896 issue of one Alabama newspaper offered some advice to men who were courting, and alongside tips like “Don’t tell her you’re wealthy. She may wonder why you are not more liberal,” it gave some advice for dealing with prospective in-laws: “Always vote the same ticket her father does,” the paper advised, and “Don’t give your prospective father-in-law any advice unless he asks for it.”

2. MAKE AN EFFORT TO BE ATTRACTIVE TO YOUR MOTHER-IN-LAW.

According to an 1886 issue of Switchmen’s Journal, “A greybeard once remarked that it would save half the family squabbles of a generation if young wives would bestow a modicum of the pains they once took to please their lovers in trying to be attractive to their mothers-in-law.”

3. KEEP YOUR OPINIONS TO YOURSELF.

In 1901, a Wisconsin newspaper published an article criticizing the 19th century trend of criticizing mothers-in-law (a "trend" which continues through to today):

“There has been a foolish fashion in vogue in the century just closed which shuts out all sympathy for mothers-in-law. The world is never weary of listening to the praises of mothers ... Can it be that a person who is capable of so much heroic unselfishness will do nothing worthy of gratitude for those who are dearest and nearest to her own children?”

Still, the piece closed with some advice for the women it was defending: “The wise mother-in-law gives advice sparingly and tries to help without seeming to help. She leaves the daughter to settle her own problems. She is the ever-blessed grandmother of the German fairy tales, ready to knit in the corner and tell folk stories to the grandchildren.”

4. IF RECEIVING ADVICE, JUST LISTEN AND SMILE. EVEN IF IT PAINS YOU.

Have an in-law who can't stop advising you on what to do? According to an 1859 issue of The American Freemason, you'll just have to grin and bear it: “If the daughter-in-law has any right feeling, she will always listen patiently, and be grateful and yielding to the utmost of her power.”

Advice columnist Dorothy Dix seemed to believe that it would be wise to heed an in-law's advice at least some of the time. Near the end of World War II, Dix received a letter from a mother-in-law asking what to do with her daughter-in-law, who had constantly shunned her advice and now wanted to move in with her. Dix wrote back, “Many a daughter-in-law who has ignored her husband’s mother is sending out an SOS call for help in these servantless days,” and advised the mother-in-law against agreeing to the arrangement.

5. STAY OUT OF THE KITCHEN. AND CLOSETS. AND CUPBOARDS.

An 1881 article titled "Concerning the Interference of the Father-in-Law and Mother-in-Law in Domestic Affairs," which appeared in the Rural New Yorker, had a great deal of advice for the father-in-law:

“He will please to keep out of the kitchen just as much as he possibly can. He will not poke his nose into closets or cupboards, parley with the domestics, investigate the condition of the swill barrel, the ash barrel, the coal bin, worry himself about the kerosene or gas bills, or make purchases of provisions for the family under the pretence that he can buy more cheaply than the mistress of the house; let him do none of these things unless especially commissioned so to do by the mistress of the house.”

The article further advises that if a father-in-law "thinks that the daughter-in-law or son-in-law is wasteful, improvident or a bad manager, the best thing for him to do, decidedly, is to keep his thought to himself, for in all probability things are better managed and better taken care of by the second generation than they were by the first. And even if they are not, it is far better to pass the matter over in silence than to comment upon the same, and thereby engender bad feelings.”

6. NEVER COHABITATE.

While there is frequent discussion about how to achieve happiness with the in-laws in advice columns and magazines, rarely does this advice come from a judge. In 1914, after a young couple was married, they quickly ran into issues. “The wife said she was driven from the house by her mother-in-law,” a newspaper reported, “and the husband said he was afraid to live with his wife’s people because of the threatening attitude of her father on the day of the wedding.” It got so bad that the husband was brought up on charges of desertion. But Judge Strauss gave the couple some advice:

“[Your parents] must exercise no influence over you now except a peaceful influence. You must establish a home of your own. Even two rooms will be a start and lay up a store of happiness for you.”

According to the paper, they agreed to go off and rent a few rooms.

Dix agreed that living with in-laws was asking for trouble. In 1919, she wrote that, “In all good truth there is no other danger to a home greater than having a mother-in-law in it.”

7. COURT YOUR MOTHER-IN-LAW.

The year 1914 wasn’t the first time a judge handed down advice regarding a mother-in-law from the bench. According to The New York Times, in 1899 Magistrate Olmsted suggested to a husband that “you should have courted your mother-in-law and then you would not have any trouble ... I courted my mother-in-law and my home life is very, very happy.”

8. THINK OF YOUR IN-LAWS AS YOUR "IN LOVES."

Don't think of your in-laws as in-laws; think of them as your family. In 1894, an article in The Ladies’ Home Journal proclaimed, “I will not call her your mother-in-law. I like to think that she is your mother in love. She is your husband’s mother, and therefore yours, for his people have become your people.”

Helen Marshall North, writing in The Home-Maker: An Illustrated Monthly Magazine four years earlier, agreed: “No man, young or old, who smartly and in public, jests about his mother-in-law, can lay the slightest claim to good breeding. In the first place, if he has proper affection for his wife, that affection includes, to some extent at least, the mother who gave her birth ... the man of fine thought and gentle breeding sees his own mother in the new mother, and treats her with the same deference, and, if necessary, with the same forbearance which he gladly yields his own.”

9. BE THANKFUL YOU HAVE A MOTHER-IN-LAW ... OR DON'T.

Historical advice columns had two very different views on this: A 1901 Raleigh newspaper proclaimed, “Adam’s [of Adam and Eve] troubles may have been due to the fact that he had no mother-in-law to give advice,” while an earlier Yuma paper declared, “Our own Washington had no mother-in-law, hence America is a free nation.”

10. DON'T BE PICKY WHEN IT COMES TO CHOOSING A WIFE; CHOOSE A MOTHER-IN-LAW INSTEAD.

By today's standards, the advice from an 1868 article in The Round Table is incredibly sexist and offensive. Claiming that "one wife is, after all, pretty much the same as another," and that "the majority of women are married at an age when their characters are still mobile and plastic, and can be shaped in the mould of their husband's will," the magazine advised, “Don’t waste any time in the selection of the particular victim who is to be shackled to you in your desolate march from the pleasant places of bachelorhood into the hopeless Siberia of matrimony ... In other words ... never mind about choosing a wife; the main thing is to choose a proper mother-in-law,” because "who ever dreamt of moulding a mother-in-law? That terrible, mysterious power behind the throne, the domestic Sphynx, the Gorgon of the household, the awful presence which every husband shudders when he names?"

11. KEEP THINGS IN PERSPECTIVE.

As an 1894 Good Housekeeping article reminded readers:

“Young man! your wife’s mother, your redoubtable mother-in-law, is as good as your wife is and as good as your mother is; and who is your precious wife's mother-in-law? And you, venerable mother-in-law, may perhaps profitably bear in mind that the husband your daughter has chosen with your sanction is not a worse man naturally than your husband who used to dislike your mother as much as your daughter’s husband dislikes you, or as much as you once disliked your husband’s mother.”

12. IF ALL ELSE FAILS, MARRY AN ORPHAN.

If all else fails, The Round Table noted that “there is one rule which will be found in all cases absolutely certain and satisfactory, and that is to marry an orphan; though even then a grandmother-in-law might turn up sufficiently vigorous to make a formidable substitute.”

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