Falafel — those crispy, filling fried balls of mashed beans, herbs and spices — is found in cafes and homes all over the Middle East and parts of Africa. It's like a common language shared among sometimes fractious nations.
But until recently, I always thought falafel was made one way — garbanzo beans, onion, garlic, parsley, cilantro and cumin. (That's how my Sudanese mother taught me.) But it turns out there are many recipes out there, each with a flavor distinct to its region.
The people who host NPR programs are often credited with — or accused of — being knowledgeable.
But really, the most important bit of knowledge they have is just a four digit extension that connects to Kee Malesky in the NPR Reference Library. If you want the names and contact numbers for every left-handed plumber in Kuala Lumpur, she'll fix you up. She's the longest-serving member of a stellar company of reference librarians who check, double-check and mine miles of information, urban legend and spin for cold, hard, glittering facts.
Michael Feinstein, the singer and pianist known as the "ambassador of the Great American Songbook," has a serious pedigree to back up that title: a real-life connection to one of America's greatest songwriting teams. It's the subject of Feinstein's new memoir, The Gershwins and Me: A Personal History in Twelve Songs. (A CD of Feinstein singing those songs also comes with the book.)
Ben Affleck's Argo is two-two-TWO movies in one, and while neither is especially original, by merging them Affleck pulls off a coup. First, he gives you espionage with the You Are There zing of a documentary. Then he serves up broad showbiz satire. For his final feat, he blends the two into a pulse-pounding nail-biter of a climax. And this all really happened. Most of it. Except for that climax.
This interview was originally broadcast on Oct. 11, 2011. The Viral Storm will be published in paperback on Oct. 16.
The New Yorker once called virologist Nathan Wolfe "the world's most prominent virus hunter." Wolfe, the director of the Global Viral Forecasting Initiative, spends his days tracking emerging infectious diseases before they turn into deadly pandemics.