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Who Invented Deep Dish Pizza?

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April 5 is National Deep Dish Pizza Day. Although some months have passed, you don't need an excuse to indulge in one of Chicago’s favorite foods. But who came up with the idea, anyway? 

Unfortunately, there is no official documentation about the original inventor of the delicacy, so the origin story is largely speculation. What we do know for sure is that the Chicago chain Pizzeria Uno plays an integral part in the story. According to the Chicago Tribune, following a paper trail about the pie's creation leads you back to a 19th century mansion on 29 E. Ohio St. The mansion is now home to Pizzeria Uno. 

Business partners and mansion residents Ike Sewell and Ric Riccardo wanted to open a restaurant. Their first idea was a Mexican establishment, but the trial runs left Riccardo physically ill. Riccardo was Italian, so the duo decided to make pizza their plan B. 

Originally called The Pizzeria, their restaurant opened in 1943 and wanted to serve an Americanized version of pizza that was unique to Chicago. The result was a thick, cake-like pizza pie with gooey cheese and sausage in its center, and sauce on top. 

Of course, Chicagoans had been eating pizza before the birth of deep dish. The first American pizzeria opened in Manhattan in 1905, and enjoyed a boom in popularity shortly after World War II. The food was not uncommon in Chicago during the '40s, but pie from The Pizzeria (which changed its name to Pizzeria Uno in 1955) stood out due to its unique construction, and sheer weight. 

Sewell and Riccardo may be the founders of the restaurant that popularized deep dish, but they probably didn't create the new style of pizza themselves. Neither of them had any cooking experience, so it’s unlikely they were able to concoct an entirely new recipe. 

So who’s the mystery chef behind the Chicago favorite? One strong possibility is Adolpho "Rudy" Malnati, Sr. The Italian-born employee worked as a bartender for Pizzeria Uno. His son, Rudy Malnati Jr. has a 1956 news clipping that refers to his father as the one who established Pizzeria Uno. In 1991, the younger Malnati opened his own pizzeria—the famous Pizano’s. 

Other Pizzeria Uno employees are also suspected of having created the new style; many moved on to make deep dish pizza at other locations. Alice May Redmond, a former cook for Uno’s, eventually went to bake pies at Gino’s East. 

Unfortunately, the world may never know what individual created the Chicago treat. "It's an enigma, wrapped in a pie crust. Every day, it feels a little more lost to history," Jeff Ruby, co-author of Everybody Loves Pizza told the Chicago Tribune.

(Note: This story first ran on April 5, 2015—National Deep Dish Pizza Day!)

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Big Questions
Why Is the American Flag Displayed Backwards on Military Uniforms?
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In 1968, famed activist Abbie Hoffman decided to crash a meeting of the House Un-American Activities Committee in Washington by showing up in a shirt depicting the American flag. Hoffman was quickly surrounded by police, who ripped his shirt off and arrested him for desecration of the Red, White, and Blue.

Hoffman’s arrest is notable today because, while it might be unpatriotic to some, wearing the American flag, burning it, or otherwise disrespecting it is not a violation of any federal law. In 1989, the Supreme Court ruled that it would be unconstitutional to prosecute any such action. Still, Americans have very fervent and strict attitudes toward displaying the flag, a longstanding symbol of our country’s freedom. According to the U.S. Flag Code, which was first published in 1923, you shouldn’t let the flag touch the ground or hang it upside-down. While there’s no express prohibition about reversing the image, it’s probably a safe bet you shouldn’t do that, either.

Yet branches of the U.S. military are often spotted with a seeming mirror reflection of the flag on their right shoulder. If you look at a member in profile, the canton—the rectangle with the stars—is on the right. Isn’t that backwards? Shouldn’t it look like the flag on the left shoulder?

The American flag appears on a military uniform
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Not really. The flag is actually facing forward, and it’s not an optical illusion.

When a service member marches or walks forward, they assume the position of a flagpole, with the flag sewn on their uniform meant to resemble a flag flapping in the breeze. With the canton on the right, the flag would be fluttering behind them. If it were depicted with the canton on the left, the flag would be flying backward—as though it had been hung by the stripes instead of the stars nearest to the pole. The position of the flag is noted in Army Regulation 670-1, mandating the star field should face forward. The official term for this depiction is “reverse side flag.”

As for Hoffman: His conviction was overturned on appeal. In 1970, while at a flag-themed art show in New York, he was invited to get up and speak. He wore a flag shirt for the occasion.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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Big Questions
What Causes Sinkholes?
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Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

This week, a sinkhole opened up on the White House lawn—likely the result of excess rainfall on the "legitimate swamp" surrounding the storied building, a geologist told The New York Times. While the event had some suggesting we call for Buffy's help, sinkholes are pretty common. In the past few days alone, cavernous maws in the earth have appeared in Maryland, North Carolina, Tennessee, and of course Florida, home to more sinkholes than any other state.

Sinkholes have gulped down suburban homes, cars, and entire fields in the past. How does the ground just open up like that?

Sinkholes are a simple matter of cause and effect. Urban sinkholes may be directly traced to underground water main breaks or collapsed sewer pipelines, into which city sidewalks crumple in the absence of any structural support. In more rural areas, such catastrophes might be attributed to abandoned mine shafts or salt caverns that can't take the weight anymore. These types of sinkholes are heavily influenced by human action, but most sinkholes are unpredictable, inevitable natural occurrences.

Florida is so prone to sinkholes because it has the misfortune of being built upon a foundation of limestone—solid rock, but the kind that is easily dissolved by acidic rain or groundwater. The karst process, in which the mildly acidic water wears away at fractures in the limestone, leaves empty space where there used to be stone, and even the residue is washed away. Any loose soil, grass, or—for example—luxury condominiums perched atop the hole in the ground aren't left with much support. Just as a house built on a weak foundation is more likely to collapse, the same is true of the ground itself. Gravity eventually takes its toll, aided by natural erosion, and so the hole begins to sink.

About 10 percent of the world's landscape is composed of karst regions. Despite being common, sinkholes' unforeseeable nature serves as proof that the ground beneath our feet may not be as solid as we think.

A version of this story originally ran in 2014.

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