6 Ancient Cooking Tools Sri Lankans Can’t Do Without

Every day, Swarna de Mel is up at 5 a.m., pulling tropical herbs from her garden, harvesting dinosaur-egg-sized jackfruit, and cracking coconuts with a hatchet in preparation for curries, spicy sambols, and mallum salads. You’d expect her home to be filled with the smells of exotic spices—cumin, cardamom, chilies, and loads of black pepper tickling the nose. But the scent is neutral, the kitchen is quiet, and de Mel is nowhere to be found. And then the dishes suddenly appear.

Set the Table For Dia De los Muertos

The smell of incense fills the air and golden marigolds brighten drab tombstones in a cemetery full of the living dead. Faces are decorated like skulls with flowers lining their crowns, and a kaleidoscope of color transforms the monochrome Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles, where some of our greatest stars are buried—think Johnny Ramone, Cecil B. DeMille, and Jayne Mansfield. A Day of the Dead festival has taken over the cemetery to observe the ancient Mexican tradition of honoring loved ones who’ve passed on. I’m so overwhelmed by these intricately adorned altars that I click-click my camera at every turn.

California Winegrowers Turn To Tech To Save At the Tap

It’s a hot October day in Northern California, and I’m roving a sea of endless green vineyards, which I’m sure haven’t felt much rain this summer. That’s when I notice the irrigation lines for the first time, then begin to see them everywhere. I imagine the wine industry to be a serious drain on California water resources, and wonder how they are navigating the drought.

It turns out they use less water than you might think. In fact, vines actually thrive in a water-stressed environment, and winemakers have been turning to technology to help them determine the perfect wine climate.

Beginner's Guide to Napa & Sonoma Wine Country

It's Indian summer in wine country now. Sometimes the skies challenge that idea with gray morning cover, but we trust by midday we'll be roaming sleeveless in the sunshine. The harvest came early this year because of the drought, but this is not a bad thing for many wine makers, as less water leads to more concentrated fruit. You'll learn about this and more firsthand on your visit to California wine country. The wine region of the Northwest stretches far beyond the confines of Napa and Sonoma County, but let's focus on these counties—which comprise California's most-visited destination.

Handmade France: An Artisan Road Trip

Sticker shock at the cost of handmade products is a phenomenon of our generation. We buy inexpensive imports of lesser quality, satisfied by their lifespan because we have become so fickle and trend-obsessed. While it has become a global habit over the last few decades, Americans are especially good at justifying disposable goods. We move, we change, and so we buy, buy, and buy.

But there is a quiet shift in that mentality, especially those travelers among us that see the need to use less, preserve more, and appreciate limited resources. Notice how in many other places, items like furniture are passed on from one generation to the next? These objects have soul. 

Turning Trash Fish Into Treasure in Denmark

Cod, mackerel, and herring are so prevalent in Denmark that, over the centuries, they have become common fare. Since the 19th century, working class folks (and nearly everyone else today) have lunched on smørrebrød, or buttered rye bread, often layered with these fish—either pickled or smoked.

These ordinary fish are what many local fishermen even call “trash fish.” Until recently, they were certainly not what Danes go for when they’re thinking gourmet.

Tracking Herds Of the Sky

Traveling from chilly Midwestern winds to the warm Southern sun, or sometimes even swapping hemispheres, humans migrate to change the feel of their lives, perhaps following a natural instinct as the animals do. Simply following these winged wanderers and their movements can be a meditative experience and an excellent theme for a journey. 

Three Corners of Africa for Holiday Travel

“Nearly every American hungers to move,” discovered John Steinbeck in Travels with Charley, during his journey across the States. He found most Americans yearning to travel like he was, to see something new, really anything new. Holiday traditions are important for most of us, but so is that desire to try something different during those precious few days off each year. Have a look at these three corners of Africa for December and January travel to celebrate with the locals.

The Spice Route

Californians love their wine. That’s a given. Californians also love their ethnic foods. Obvious, as well. Why then, is it so difficult to get a great glass of wine with your Pad Thai, Korean barbeque, or Tikka Masala? When it comes to our favorite Asian restaurants, an inspiring wine and cocktail menu doesn’t often come with the territory. 

Snapshots From the Road in Denmark

In Denmark, after a few days in wet and windy Copenhagen, fellow journalist Krista Rossow and I took a road trip to the West Coast of Jutland, where the wild, grassy dunes meet the gusty North Sea. We contacted local fishermen through their buyers and sellers to see where the fish comes from. Here are a few images from the road. 

Fascinations with the Vermillion Coast

Oops. I fell in love. Maybe it was the wine, maybe the locals, or maybe it was the cerulean sea…but after spending ten days on the grey and golden-shaled Vermilion Coast, which runs between Argelès-sur-Mer to the border village of Cerbère, I decided to call Banyuls-sur-Mer my home for a while.

On the Colorado River

Puffed up in mango-tango-colored life vests, the six of us were separate people to start, but on the river, we became one, surging over whirling eddies and jerking into sharp currents, holding tightly to the inflated walls of the raft, issuing quakes of laughter between trembles of fear as we roared down the Colorado. I was sixteen, and consumed by the rapids. I thought the river was in charge. Until I noticed Grandpa wasn’t holding on at all.

5 Places in California To Go a Little Batty

Whether it's winged vampires, flying rodents or Bruce Wayne's alter ego, misrepresentations of these shy, intelligent creatures are plenty. Bats aren't blind, and only three species - none of which live in California - feed on blood. What's best: Bats make up one-quarter of the Earth's mammal species, playing a crucial role in our ecosystem for pest control and pollination.

Make Some Tahitian Love (Legend)

Women birthing lizards and falling in love with eels, coconuts traveling underground, men launching lassos to distant islands: This is the stuff of Polynesian legends. Tahitians are metaphoric when it comes to describing the emotions and events in their lives. Storytelling is the channel through which people explain their lust, angst, anxieties, and pain. The legends don’t often have happy endings, but there is beauty, humor, and sweet absurdity that helps explain the relationships between people and nature. 

Tapestry of Aubusson: A Living, Breathing Artisanal Art

I must admit that when I first approached this assignment, the idea of peering into the world of tapestry in middle-of-nowhere France conjured up images of dusty religious relics, disintegrating Persian rugs, and the never-as-accurate representations of Renaissance oil paintings. The idea reminded me of the petit point works my grandfather would reproduce, with love and grace I should add, however antiquated these representations were in my mind. There’s nothing novel about this craft I thought. I could not have been more wrong.

An American in Morocco: Myths vs. Realities

Learning the art of the barter starts with having a sense of humor. You need to go in with a smile and speak of outrageous prices — even try to sell your (girl)friends in exchange for a negotiated number of handwoven rugs. If you are too serious, it may come off as unfriendly and the deal might go awry.