Ask a friend to describe a place they’ve been, and there’s a good chance you’ll hear about the food. A tourist back from Cuba will describe a delicious ropa vieja. A Thai chef may wax about spicy stir-fries and soups at Bangkok’s night markets. A European businesswoman visiting Jordan during Ramadan will recall eating lunch in an empty restaurant—but feasting on the streets when Muslims break their fast after sundown.
When our founders, Joshua Foer and Dylan Thuras, first created Atlas Obscura in 2009, they imagined a different kind of atlas: one devoted to curious and wondrous places that inspire people to go explore. That instinct guided Atlas Obscura as we began telling stories and organizing trips and events. It’s also the founding principle of our new food section, Gastro Obscura.
Here’s what that means.
The foundation of Gastro Obscura is our new database of curious and unusual food and drink. In the Gastro database, you can read about bamboo waterslides of fast-flowing somen noodles, a hearty bread baked by underground hot springs, and a decadent Vietnamese egg coffee invented during a dairy shortage. I hope you’ll feel inspired to try these dishes and drinks—whether that means booking a flight or warming your oven.
Our goal is to create the definitive guide to the world’s most wondrous food and drink. As I write this, the Gastro database has 161 entries. To get to 10,000 curious foods and drinks, we’ll need your help. If you create an Atlas Obscura profile, you can keep track of curious foods you’ve eaten and unusual dishes you want to try. Down the road, we plan to give you the ability to add your own wondrous food and drink entries, contributing just like you can with our Atlas. Until then, contact the Gastro database’s editor, Samantha O’Brien, with ideas for foods we should add.
On Gastro Obscura, you’ll also find stories about the most awe-inspiring parts of the food world. They include a look at how the food snobbery of Babur, a 16th-century conqueror who once wept over a melon, profoundly influenced the development of some of India’s most famous dishes, as well as an exploration of why the bagel, the quintessentially Jewish breakfast offering, is actually a trendy, foreign food in Israel. I hope you love these stories as much as I do, and I hope they inspire you to see your daily bread as a gateway into our endlessly strange and complicated world.
Compared to other food publications, Gastro Obscura is a bit like your quirky friend who doesn’t understand football or recognize celebrities. You won’t find recipes, restaurant reviews, or profiles of famous chefs here, and reading Gastro Obscura won’t keep you up to date on the latest food trends. We love delicious food, but we aim to be explorers rather than gourmands. Seekers rather than epicureans.
If this sounds like you, please do sign up for our weekly newsletter, visit the Gastro Obscura home page, and explore the Gastro database. You can also follow what we’re doing on Atlas Obscura’s Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Tell me what we’re doing right, what we’re doing wrong, and where we should go next.
We’ve launched a food section! Gastro Obscura covers the world’s most wondrous food and drink. Sign up for our weekly email.