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Culture

You know, they didn't always put a plastic baby in a king cake. Here's why they did.

mardis gras, kings cake, king cake, king cake baby
File:King Cake Baby.jpg - Wikipedia

In my humble opinion, the Mardis Gras king cake is by far the coolest holiday dessert. It’s got a little bit of everything: a fun design, bold colors, a rich history (more on that later).

Made with yeasty cinnamon flavored dough—and heaps of symbolism—this regal pastry-cake hybrid is usually oval shaped to resemble a crown, along with tri-colored icing in gold, purple and green to represent power, justice and faith.

And let’s not forget the piece de resistance: that miniature plastic baby, destined to be found by one lucky individual. Lucky in the sense that finding it means they now have the honor of providing the cake for next year.

However, there wasn’t always a baby hiding in the dough. Like most traditions, this one has evolved and adapted over time. And, of course, it began with pagans.


Many historians believe that the king cake has much older origins, beginning with the Roman winter festival Saturnalia.

File:Saturnalia by Antoine Callet.jpg - Wikimedia Commonscommons.wikimedia.org

During this winter solstice celebration, Saturn—the Roman god of agriculture—would be honored by using the gains of the season’s harvest to make ceremonial cakes. And instead of a miniature baby, one singular fava bean would be placed inside. And whosoever should find the bean would be named “king of the day.”

Which is a bit odd, considering in ancient tradition fava beans were regarded as omens of death. But other sources note that favas were considered magic and even used for voting. Certainly makes that infamous Hannibal line take on a whole new context.

In addition to baking, the festival would involve a raucous good time of booze, dancing, gambling and other, ahem, adult group activities.

Fast forward to the rise of Christianity, the ritual adopted a more religious context in France.

File:Edward Burne-Jones - The Adoration of the Magi - Google Art ...commons.wikimedia.org

In Roman Catholic tradition, the Epiphany denotes the day when the three kings first saw the baby Jesus. The king cake came to represent this day, even taking on the name of Epiphany cake.

So it stands to reason that if this sweet treat became associated with the celebration of baby Jesus, then of course the plastic baby was originally intended for such representation, right?

Wrong.

The baby wouldn’t make its appearance until the mid-1900s, and it was thanks to a clever salesman in New Orleans.

File:Mobile Mardi Gras Carnival, 1900.jpg - Wikimedia Commonscommons.wikimedia.org

By then, the king cake had already been a prominent Mardi Gras item.

The owner of one of the 20th century’s most famous bakeries, Donald Entringer of McKenzie’s, was approached by a salesman carrying a surplus of tiny porcelain dolls from France, according to food expert Poppy Tooker in an interview with NPR.

"He had a big overrun on them, and so he said to Entringer, 'How about using these in a king cake,’” Tooker told NPR.

Though a simple case of supply-and-demand isn’t terribly exciting, the way this simple concept has advanced to become the dish’s golden standard is pretty remarkable.

Plus, the fact that this Louisiana tradition is steeped in history of bawdy hedonism and sacred spiritualism, all with a healthy dose of capitalizing on the combo … I mean if that’s not New Orleans in a nutshell, I don’t know what is.

It’s not just beans and babies either.

Pecans, jeweled rings, gold coins and small charms have also been used. Some bakeries have even made their own customized trinkets. Others have started avoiding placing them inside altogether, attempting to thwart potential lawsuits. Baking with plastic is a tad more frowned upon these days.

Though most of us are familiar with the NOLA style of the king cake, other countries have their own versions.

There’s the French galette des rois, which is less colorful but oh-so-flaky, topped with a golden paper crown.

Also there’s Spanish rosca de reyes, flavored with lots of orange and topped with dried fruit.

There’s even a Greek version, vasilopita, that’s very similar to coffee cake. Not that you couldn’t have any of these cakes for breakfast, but there’s an excuse baked right into this one.

No matter what style you try, or whether or not you find that plastic baby, the king cake—along with its festive history and captivating lore—is definitely worth celebrating.

Pop Culture

Michelle Yeoh gave a perfect response to being rushed through her Golden Globes speech

Her reaction to the music cue was immediate, authoritative and hilarious.

Michelle Yeoh has been acting in films for 40 years.

Michelle Yeoh won the award for Best Actress in a Comedy at the 2023 Golden Globes for her leading role as Evelyn Wang in the acclaimed film "Everything Everywhere All at Once." It was a moment the actress had been waiting 40 years to have, and she wasn't about to let anyone rush her through it.

Yeoh, 60, has been acting in action films in Hong Kong since the 1980s and in the U.S. since the late '90s, kicking martial arts butt alongside the likes of Jet Li, Jackie Chan and Pierce Brosnan's 007. With major roles in "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," "Memoirs of a Geisha" and "Crazy Rich Asians," among other films, she's become a well-recognized face to any regular filmgoer. But until "Everything Everywhere All at Once," she had never played the lead role in a Hollywood film.

Winning the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Comedy was Yeoh's moment to revel in her success after decades of uphill battles as an Asian actress in an industry filled with underrepresentation and misrepresentation. So when the music cue indicated she needed to wrap up her acceptance speech at the two-minute mark, she simply wasn't having it.

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Source: Library of Congress
True

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is known for many things—but perhaps his greatest legacy is sparking an unshakable hope that someday, change will come.

Just two months before his assassination in 1968, Dr. King spoke to a crowd in Washington, D.C. and famously said, “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” Spreading (and keeping!) that hope is exactly what Meta aims to accomplish with their latest VR for Good project, MLK: Now is the Time, a 20-minute documentary VR experience featuring the use of hand gesture-based tracking technology.

Developed by TIME/TIME Studios and Flight School Studio for Meta Quest, MLK: Now is the Time drops you into a thoroughly modern interpretation of the March on Washington. Viewers hear first-person stories and can interact with key moments in history, showing them what it means to be an activist. Limbert Fabian, the director of the project, felt inspired to develop something fresh and different that would catch the attention of a new generation. As a parent, he knows what mediums are most likely to engage young people.

“I wanted the audience to walk away feeling that Dr. King's words are relevant today. Perhaps even motivate them to engage in activism at a local level,” said Fabian. “I imagined that one day a high-school social studies class somewhere is going to be diving into that time in our nation's history and our project would be a tool that we can offer them to dive in deeper to look at not the day but the ideas that fueled that gathering, and how the words were meant to push into a future for the country.”

TIME Studios worked closely with the King estate to maintain the integrity and accuracy of the original moment. Audio from the “I Have A Dream” speech is layered throughout, culminating in an encounter with Dr. King and a call to continued action around his vision of one day living in a nation where people are no longer judged by the color of their skin, but by their character.

Because the rules for VR technology are still being written, this project is on the cutting edge of merging the past—in the form of archival footage—and the present. There is a sense of intimacy in the VR world; it’s a space where a person can “drop in” and feel as if they are somewhere else, immersed in a world of activism. But even more importantly, the creators want to inspire a sense of hope, just like Dr. King did every time he spoke.

Some of the key, impactful moments in the film include a simulation of getting pulled over by police, as a person of color. Many people may not regard the police as a threat, but in this VR experience, getting pulled over feels authentic for the user. Their heartbeat may heighten. Their palms may get sweaty. That’s something that will stick with viewers and give them something to think about.

Another aspect, Fabian says, is the ability for people to use their hands to add to the immersion experience. “It’s seamless,” said Fabian. “The act of raising a fist holds weight in a lot of different ways: empathy, defiance, an act of contribution…it’s a gesture that’s easily recognizable. I don’t have to say anything and you instantly know.” This engagement is what makes the experience so unique.

“I want people to leave this experience with a renewed spark of hope. What type of hope that is is not for me to decide. However, for so many, King represented a hope for our nation, and I want people to remember that the legacy of hope did not die when he did,” said Andrina Smith, the writer for the project.

Even though it’s been nearly sixty years since Dr. Martin Luther King delivered his iconic "I Have a Dream" speech, it’s as relevant today as it was when he first uttered those words. Racial inequities and injustices persist; the work is far from over. And this, my friends, is why hope is such an important piece of the puzzle.

Celebrity

'Harry Potter' alum Rupert Grint builds his Target-obsessed toddler her own mini store

'She does love Philly. She loves hoagies, she loves water ice. And I mean the big one is Target. She is obsessed with Target.'

The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon Twitter

Rupert Grint's 2-year-old is obsessed with Target.

Who doesn't love perusing the aisles of Target? For many moms it's like a mini-vacation if you can manage to get out of the house without children. You grab a coffee and walk down every aisle touching anything that looks like it may feel soft. It's sort of like an American parent's pastime.

And when you can't sneak away without your custom-made tiny human in tow, you bring them with and by default it becomes an activity they also enjoy. Turns out Rupert Grint's 2-year-old daughter, Wednesday, took note during her time living in America and since returning to the U.K., where there is no Target, she misses it. Every American reading this just audibly gasped.

I know, I know. Take a deep breath. They don't have our weird obsession with the bullseye because it hasn't had a chance to hypnotize them … yet. But Grint's daughter, who is fairly new to being across the pond, has felt the joy of being inside that famous red and white store. She has seen the red polos and khaki pants and there's no turning back for her, so Grint, most famously known for his role as Ron Weasley in Harry Potter, built her one.

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'We must, we must, we must increase out bust!'

Since it was first published in 1970, Judy Blume’s “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret” has been a literary rite of passage for young girls. Though written decades ago, the book has remained timeless for its authentic portrayal of that exciting, yet horrifying chapter of female adolescence and all the milestones that come with it—including, but not limited to, that first period.

At long last, fans will get the chance to see this classic play out on the big screen. Movie adaptations of books tend to be hit-or-miss, but the fact that Judy Blume herself gave her seal of approval, even going so far as to say the film is “better than the book,” seems promising.


And judging by the reactions to the trailer released Jan. 12, I’d say that folks are hella optimistic.

A few key moments left people particularly excited and nostalgic:

1. The dreaded “changing bodies” school lecture

Oh, the joys of a stern teacher talking about blood flowing from the vagina at school. Maybe sex education has evolved over the years, but the awkwardness of anatomy conversations at a young age seems to be everlasting.

2. Margaret’s prayers to God that accurately sum up preteen girl angst

Even the nonreligious can relate on some level to just not being the weird one, to please, please, please, please just this once be normal while growing up, and wondering if this discomfort will ever go away. This is an essential part of the preteen experience for many, until we realize, of course, that we are much better off just celebrating who we are. And Margaret's earnest prayers are obviously a major aspect of the book, given the title. Duh.

3. Margaret asking mom for a bra

Margaret and other girls can be seen clumsily experimenting with hairspray, curling irons and other grown-up beauty products in order to “fit in.” But the most coveted, most revered item of all, of course, is the bra.

4. Buying pads for the first time at the local drug store

The utter humiliation at finding out the clerk is a boy. Perfection.

5. And of course, the iconic line…

“We must, we must, we must increase our bust!”

That's right, diehard Blume fans. The trailer has all that and more. Watch below:

Comments to trailers can be fairly mixed. However this one received a mountain of positivity.

"I lost track of how many times I read this book while growing up in the 70s. It’s amazing that it’s taken this long for it to be made into a movie!" wrote one person.

Another added, "I'm honestly surprised that a movie version of this book doesn't already exist. But I guess it's time. LOL I'm here for it. I remember reading this in fifth grade. Such a good book for young girls to read and realize that all the weirdness they are going through is normal. It will definitely be a good film viewing for today's middle schoolers and for all the millennials, Xillennials and gen-Xers who grew up with the book."

Perhaps Margaret’s story is so universal because it was inspired by a real-life experience. On her website, Blume shared that as a sixth grader, she did all the things—like stuffing her bra, doing exercises, lying about getting her period—because she yearned to develop into adulthood the way her classmates were (relatable). Blume put her longings to paper, and the rest is history.

Rather than putting it under a modern spin, the movie takes place in the '70s, and spreads its focus across three generations between Margaret (played by Abby Ryder Fortson), her mother (played by Rachel McAdams), and her grandmother (played by Kathy Bates).

Bates indicated that the book’s original intention would be kept intact as she told People that “I think women throughout history have been taught to feel negatively about their bodies and about the processes that their bodies go through. I think this film will help young women feel better about their bodies."

Whether for nostalgia, or for getting a sweet dose of feel-good comedy, you can see “Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret” in theaters April 28.

Science

9-year-old finds rare, prehistoric megalodon tooth the size of her hand in Maryland waters

'I'm looking for a meg!' Molly declared on her way to the bay. Then miraculously, she found one.

Photos courtesy of Alicia Sampson

Molly Sampson found a 5-inch megalodon tooth on Christmas morning.

Nine-year-old Molly Sampson has been searching for teeth in the water since before she could walk. In her young life, she's found more than 400 shark teeth, some so tiny it takes a magnifying glass to identify them, and the largest measuring an inch or two—until now.

Molly's father, Bruce, grew up on the bay in Calvert County, Maryland, and has been hunting fossils at Scientists Cliffs since he was a small child. Bruce has dreamed for decades of finding a "meg"—a large tooth from a megalodon, a massive prehistoric shark longer than a bus, which scientists estimate could have eaten a killer whale in five bites.

Sometimes our dreams end up coming true through our children—and that's just what happened when the Sampson family went fossil hunting on Christmas Day, 2022.

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Pop Culture

People are remembering Lisa Marie Presley for her incredible work fighting to save animals

Presley once famously fought to save a chimpanzee who shared her name.

Lisa Marie Presley passed away on Jan. 12 at the age of 54.

Lisa Marie Presley was widely known as a singer and songwriter, following in the footsteps of her father Elvis. But she was also a passionate animal advocate, and after the news of her death on Jan. 12, PETA joined the floods of tributes online to specifically celebrate the late icon’s contributions to animal rights. They began with the lesser known story of Lisa Marie saving a chimpanzee by the same name from a horrendous fate of abuse and exploitation.


Back in 2007, a female chimpanzee would be born, not only sharing the same birthday as Elvis (Jan. 8) but sharing the name Lisa Marie. After being torn away from her family by breeders, the young chimp was shipped off to an Elvis impersonator in Chicago, who used her in his shows.
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