Weekend Reading: Bizarre Vintage Exercise Photos, the Merits of the Microwave, and More

A look at what we're reading, cooking, and clicking this week

Obese Man Singing While Belly is Massaged

ca. 1920s --- Original caption: "The musical beauty shop": A portly gentleman sings as his belly is mechanically massaged. Undated B/W photograph. --- Image by © Bettmann/CORBISBettmann/Corbis, via newyorker.com

• I can't get enough of these historical photographs of bizarre exercise regimens on The New Yorker's Photo Booth blog_ (see the "musical beauty shop" pictured here)_. The magazine's photo researcher James Pomerantz observes that January 11th is the time when resolutions to stay in shape start to fall apart: "When your willpower begins to crumble, like the perfectly baked shortbread you've been dreaming of." I definitely know the feeling. —Karen Shimizu

• New favorite way to trick myself into thinking culinary internet procrastination is actually virtuous: Quora, a brilliant question-and-answer website. Take a recent gander at this week's "cooking" entries: First up, we have "How high would I have to launch an egg to make it cook as it re-enters the atmosphere?" which is followed by some insane physics equations that take me back to being a panicky high schooler in calc class. More my speed is the next: What are some interesting things that people in rice-eating countries do with rice, besides just cooking it? which makes me want to get on a plane to India immediately. So go sign up for Quora. It's good for you, I swear. —Sophie Brickman

• One of the great pleasures of drinking coffee in a diner is the mug it comes in: heavy, durable ceramic with a flared lip and base and a certain time-transcending quality that implies it's been around forever. The folks at Kaufmann Mercantile—lovers and sellers of all sorts of products made to last forever—dive into the history of the diner mug (they were particularly beloved by the Navy during World War II). The article may be short, but it's best read with a cup of coffee in hand. —Helen Rosner

• In this past Wednesday's New York Times, I was delighted to see a story by my Saveur colleague Sophie Brickman on the underutilized, under appreciated, misunderstood microwave. With the guidance of food whiz Nathan Myhrvold, Brickman learns to fry herbs, dry fruit, and make perfectly cooked fish with some finesse and the press of a button. —Gabriella Gershenson

• Tracking down recipe and ingredient origins plays a big part in our test kitchen research, and although it's not the flashiest site on the web, Foodtimeline.org is one of the most useful. —Judy Haubert

• No matter how many times I browse the photo collections of Feasting Never Stops, there's always something to surprise me. The photos—some retro, some artsy, some just silly--are collected from places far and wide but all are tied to our complex cultural aesthetic of food. Browse FNS's collection of cookbook covers to revisit childhood gems like Roald Dahl's Revolting Recipes, or smile at those dustily unappetizing circa 1980 Penguin Cookery hardcovers. —Camille Bromley

• In Gloucester, Massachusetts, fishing is everything, "a chain linking one generation to the next," writes Amy Traverso in this month's Yankee magazine article on efforts to save the commercial fishing industry here through a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program called Cape Ann Fresh Catch. It's a great piece that gives you a glimpse into a special community, and the progressive measures they're using to try and save it. —Keith Pandolfi

• Just in time for planning a Chinese New Year celebration, contributing Editor Andrea Nguyen has carefully mapped out step-by-step instructions for making a Chinese-style roasted duck at home on her blog. —Anna Stockwell