NPR Staff

As part of a series called My Big Break, All Things Considered is collecting stories of triumph, big and small. These are the moments when everything seems to click, and people leap forward into their careers.

Stephanie Izard is the rock-star chef behind Chicago's award-winning Girl and the Goat restaurant, as well as Little Goat.

But the chain of events that brought her there started at, well, a chain.

"I got my first job at the Olive Garden," Izard says.

The Hula Hoop. The pogo stick. The Tamagotchi.

Fads, crazes and must-have toys all sweep the country from time to time. But in the annals of faddish toys, one achievement stands tall — or rather, sits small: the Pet Rock.

It was exactly what it sounds like: a rock (a Mexican beach stone, to be precise) marketed in the mid-'70s as a pet. Each came in its own box with air holes and a detailed owner's manual.

If you're trying to feed some of the lumberjack hipsters of Brooklyn, you might try serving up some Huevos Machismos. And if you're seeking the next cleanse trend, look no further than the Ultimate Gushy Protein Sewage Blast. Like any balanced smoothie, it incorporates one ounce of "pure, uncut cocaine (for the boost)."

These are the recipes and advice you'd receive from the Mizretti brothers, two fictional restaurateurs who just published an "encyclofoodia" and cookbook called FUDS.

Nothing says Passover like a good bowl of matzo ball soup. That's according to Joan Nathan, chef and grande-dame of Jewish cooking, who spoke to Steve Inskeep of NPR's Morning Edition about the importance of the tradition.

The Jewish holiday of Passover celebrates the Biblical story of the Exodus, or the freeing of Hebrew slaves from Egypt.

Writer Huan Hsu's great-great-grandfather Liu Feng Shu was a scholar in China's Qing dynasty during the late 1800s and early 1900s. As a patron of the arts, he built up an immense porcelain collection.

During the Second Sino-Japanese War, the Japanese landed near his village on the Yangtze River. As the army approached, Liu and one of his workmen dug a giant hole in their garden, to keep the collection safe.

As part of a series called My Big Break, All Things Considered is collecting stories of triumph, big and small. These are the moments when everything seems to click, and people leap forward into their careers.

David Zayas used to dream of being an actor. And he made it: he played Enrique Morales, the infamous inmate on HBO's Oz, as well as his most notable role, Sergeant Angel Batista on the Showtime drama Dexter.

Tony award-winning actress Sutton Foster just turned 40, but in the TV Land show Younger she gets to be 26 again. Foster plays Liza, a middle-aged woman who needs to get back into the job market. The last time Liza applied for jobs, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram didn't exist. Now, she's convinced that no one wants to hire someone her age. So she moves to Brooklyn, gets a few highlights, learns how to tweet, and applies for a job as an assistant to a fancy New York publisher.

About 25 years ago, John Bovery started a modest football pool out of his home in New Jersey. It had 57 participants, all friends and co-workers.

But thanks to word of mouth — and the multiplying factor of email — Bovery's pool grew to staggering proportions. At one point, it got too large for Bovery to handle himself, so he contacted a software company to custom-build something suited to his needs.

By 2009, it included more than 8,000 entries from people around the globe, with a total payout of more than $800,000.

Some of the seafood that winds up in American grocery stores, in restaurants, even in cat food may have been caught by Burmese slaves. That's the conclusion of a yearlong investigation by The Associated Press.

The AP discovered and interviewed dozens of men being held against their will on Benjina, a remote Indonesian island, which serves as the base for a trawler fleet that fishes in the area.

Founded by two men in Akron, Ohio, in 1935, Alcoholics Anonymous has since spread around the world as a leading community-based method of overcoming alcohol dependence and abuse. Many people swear by the 12-step method, which has become the basis of programs to treat the abuse of drugs, gambling, eating disorders and other compulsive behaviors.

Heinz and Kraft.

When we hear those names we think ketchup and Velveeta, right?

But before they were products and companies that will merge to become a giant with $28 billion in revenue, Heinz and Kraft were men.

It might not sound newsworthy that Charleston, S.C., is getting a new mayor next year. But the last time the city elected a new mayor was 40 years ago, in December 1975.

March Madness is college basketball's annual shining moment, and few schools have shone as bright or as long as the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. The Tar Heels have been in 18 Final Fours and won the national championship five times, most recently in 2009.

The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion's new album, Freedom Tower: No Wave Dance Party 2015, is all about New York City. As leader Jon Spencer explains, it was time to pay homage to the city the band has called home for almost 25 years, even though his love for the place is complicated.

Nina MacLaughlin always knew she wanted to be a writer. She studied English and classics in college, and after graduation, she landed a great job with Boston's weekly alternative newspaper, the Boston Phoenix.

But after a few years of editing the newspaper's website, the drudgery began to hit her. It involved so much clicking, she says, and so many empty hours scrolling through the Internet. It didn't feel like how she wanted to spend her life.

And then came the low point: web producing a "listicle" of the world's "100 Unsexiest Men."

Lamya Kaddor, a German-Syrian religious studies teacher and expert on Islam, was horrified to learn in 2013 that five of her former students had departed Germany to join jihadist groups in Syria.

As part of a series called My Big Break, All Things Considered is collecting stories of triumph, big and small. These are the moments when everything seems to click, and people leap forward into their careers.

Spring is here, and a number of families are plotting road trips for school break.

Randy Olson, a Ph.D. candidate at Michigan State University and a self-proclaimed "data tinkerer," believes he's devised a route that could allow a family to hit a landmark in each of the Lower 48 states, from Grand Canyon in Arizona to the Gateway Arch in St. Louis to the Statue of Liberty in New York, in just nine days of driving.

"About 9.33 days, if you drove non-stop," Olson clarifies.

That means no time sleeping or using the restroom — and no bad traffic.

A few months ago, Craig Ferguson, host of The Late Late Show, interrogated a special guest: James Corden. When asked what he did for a living, Corden replied demurely, "I don't do anything at the moment."

That is set to change Monday night, when Corden succeeds Ferguson as the host of The Late Late Show.

He is 36 and English. Ferguson is Scottish: Score one for diversity.

It started in December 2013. A 2-year-old boy in Guinea was running a fever. He was vomiting. There was blood in his stool.

He was most likely "patient zero" — the first case in the Ebola outbreak that swept across West Africa.

"The essence of the Bob Wills sound, and the reason he picked and did what he did, is that it was dance music — period."

Fifty years ago, civil rights protesters began their successful march from Selma to Montgomery, Ala., two weeks after a crackdown by police at the Edmund Pettus Bridge on Bloody Sunday. NPR talked with three people from different parts of the country, of different races and religions, who answered the call from Martin Luther King Jr. to join the marchers.

Todd Endo:

This weekend, visitors to the Detroit Institute of Arts buzzed with excitement over a new exhibit — it was a big moment for the once-troubled museum. The DIA spent much of the last two years under threat as its owner, the city of Detroit, looked for ways to emerge from bankruptcy.

Finally, in November, a "grand bargain" was struck. Foundations, private donors and the state of Michigan together raised more than $800 million to help rescue public employee pensions. In return, ownership of the DIA was transferred to a trust — thereby securing its future.

Earlier this week, Wikimedia, the parent company of Wikipedia, filed a lawsuit against the National Security Agency, saying that the NSA's use of "upstream" mass surveillance violates the First and Fourth Amendments.

As part of a series called "My Big Break," All Things Considered is collecting stories of triumph, big and small. These are the moments when everything seems to click, and people leap forward into their careers.

Diane Ruggiero-Wright has written and produced a number of TV shows, including the cult classic Veronica Mars. She's the co-creator of the new show iZombie — about a zombie who pretends to be a psychic and solves murders — which premieres on The CW on Tuesday.

Back in December, following the fatal shooting of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., President Obama called for $75 million in funding for 50,000 body cameras to be used by police around the United States. The cameras record police activity, and their use is intended to boost accountability.

People don't talk about psychiatrists the way they talk about neurologists, dentists or vets. In fact, there are those who call psychiatry voodoo or pseudoscience; and, to be fair, the specialty does have a history of claims and practices that are now considered weird and destructive.

Editor's Note: A version of this story originally ran in March 2010.

In the mid-19th century, Britain was an almost unchallenged empire. It controlled about a fifth of the world's surface, and yet its weakness had everything to do with tiny leaves soaked in hot water: tea. By 1800, it was easily the most popular drink among Britons.

The problem? All the tea in the world came from China, and Britain couldn't control the quality or the price. So around 1850, a group of British businessmen set out to create a tea industry in a place they did control: India.

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