A list of curious facts
One: Did you know that Nadira—the formidable femme fatale of yore—was born Florence Ezekiel in Baghdad? In fact, she wasn’t the first Jewish actress to dominate the Indian screen. She was following in the footsteps of Sulochana (Ruby Myers), Rose (Rose Musleah) and Pramila (Esther Victoria Abraham)—who dominated the silver screen in the silent era. Most did not survive the transition to talkies—Sulochana and Nadira being the rare exceptions.
What they shared in common was a willingness to take on “bold” roles—entirely at odds with the long-suffering, chaste bharatiya naari:
[Sulochana] was pushing the idea of cosmopolitanism. Her films demonstrated the exuberance of 1930s Bombay, which comprised glamour, fashion, speed, and new spaces of pleasure… Her chiffon saris and sleeveless blouses, along with her expensive Chevrolet, produced the persona of a modern girl who was fully in control of her own life and is at ease in the public sphere.
You can see Nadira—wielding her cigarette holder with great style in the lead image. The stunning Sulochana is below—sharing a passionate kiss with her lover Dinshaw Billimoria—in the 1929 film ‘Heer Ranjha’. The Hindu and NBC News have more on Jewish contributions to Indian cinema.
Two: Coffee first became a popular drink in the Middle East in the 15th century—called qahwa in Arabic. But five hundred years earlier people were doing all sorts of things with coffee beans—then known as ‘bunk’—except drinking:
The most enlightening are the 10th century physician al-Rāzī’s comments that bunk was used to check the unpleasant odours of sweat and the smell of the quick-lime used in baths to remove hair. To this, the famed physician Ibn Sīnā added that it could purify the skin and sweeten body odours.
The most popular use of bunk: as an ingredient in hand sanitisers—along with cloves, black cardamom, fruit peels, cinnamon, and more. Also fascinating: Arab doctors used to prescribe Chinese tea for headaches and heat-related swellings. (Atlas Obscura)
Three: Forget the days of waiting for months to eat at a hot new restaurant. The hottest new restaurant in Miami is a sushi restaurant that only serves members. That’s right. You have to pay $10,000 to become a member to eat at the first US location of Sushi Namba in Miami. And then shell out between $400 to $500 per person for the meal. Also: membership is capped at 300—so you may just end up on a waiting list of a different kind.
That said, we now have “referral only” restaurants—where you have to be referred by a regular to be deemed worthy of eating at an establishment. These are usually secret ‘speak-eateries’—the culinary version of speakeasies. Here’s a list of seven in New York. Below is the facade of one of them—Bohemian—which is hidden indeed. Bloomberg News has more on Sushi Namba.