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Electric Jell-O, Futuristic Chickens, Alcohol Embalming, and More Long Reads

Worthy weekend reading material

Scott Olson/Getty Images

What's it like to live on only bottled water? Which type of booze work best for preserving a British war hero? This week, food writers find inspiration in topics both deeply sad and funny — like eating elk at a wedding. Catch up on all of this week's top food-inspired long reads below.

What It's Like to Live With Only Bottled Water
National Geographic

Spend a couple days talking to people in Flint, and it becomes clear that one question lies in wait behind most every conversation here: Was it the water? A chemical worker whose girlfriend miscarried last year wondered: Was it the water? When a local magazine editor's child, who has mild cerebral palsy, began to have stronger symptoms, she wondered: Was it the water?

The Scandalous Decision to Pickle Admiral Horatio Nelson in Brandy

Atlas Obscura

By keeping Nelson's remains in brandy and ethanol—"spirit of wine" in the lingo of the day—Beatty was setting himself against popular wisdom. As a scientist, he knew Nelson's body had the best chance of surviving the journey if he used the strongest proof liquor on board. But if it didn't work—and there was no guarantee it would—standard rum was the politically safer choice.

Electric Jell-O

Southern Foodways Alliance

It became obvious that Jell-O stood out in the minds of rural mountain women because it signaled the time when power lines finally snaked their way up rural mountainsides. The appearance of Jell-O in remote Appalachian kitchens was a direct result of rural families connecting to mainstream American culture through the very real connectivity of going on the grid.

What Long-Distance Swimmers Eat

Lucky Peach

"If you waste time on a feed, a big strong tide or current could push you off course and add time to your swim," she says. A good open-water swimmer can feed in five to ten seconds, while a world champion can do the same in two or three. It's an acquired skill—especially when you're out of breath, facing cold and tides.

Are these the chickens of the future?

Financial Times

The long-term plan of Sang and her team is to develop a healthier genetic blueprint for a bird whose physiology has suffered over decades of selective breeding. By creating a more resilient chicken, they hope to help producers meet the rise in global demand without sacrificing animal wellbeing. "Society has to respond to the demand of an increasing, and increasingly wealthy, population," says Sang. "Our ultimate goal is to improve the chicken, and to improve the lot of the chicken."

Kurt Timmermeister Dairy Farming Dream

Life and Thyme

He bought a cow named Dinah, and that changed everything. A cow meant he was a farmer. Dinah was a living thing that needed to be cared for, tended to. There was no turning back now. Timmermeister milked her twice a day for years. From her, rich milk. From that milk, cheese. Soon, he turned that hobby into a full-time job. He no longer owns a restaurant; he's a dairy farmer, through and through.

Remember That Wedding Where We Ate Elk?

The New York Times

Recently he served 200 deboned quails. He placed them in terrine molds, which were cooked sous-vide and then wrapped in pancetta. Chips were made from the birds' skin. "It was a huge hit," he said. "People scratched their heads and said, ‘Wow, what's this?'"