Spy Review: Finding Family “On Golden Pond” by Peter Heck

“On Golden Pond” Cast & Crew Kneeling – Pat Fee & Kathy Jones Standing – Steve Atkinson, Paul Briggs, Nita Wieczoreck,, Brian McGunigle,, Bonnie Hill, Jeff Daly, Doug Kaufmann, Heather Oland, John Crook, Meg Lenher      Photo by Jane Jewell

“On Golden Pond,” now playing at Church Hill Theatre, is the story of an old married couple enjoying a vacation at their Maine summer home. It’s a poignant family story with characters who love one another but need to negotiate rough spots and deal with ghosts from their past.

The play by Ernest Thompson is probably most familiar from the 1981 film version in which the lead parts were played by Katherine Hepburn and Henry Fonda, with Jane Fonda as their daughter. Jane Fonda acquired the film rights to the play, seeing it as an ideal vehicle for her and her father, for whom it was his last appearance on-screen. Henry Fonda and Hepburn both won Oscars for their performances – his first, her fourth.

Thompson’s theatrical version, which premiered in 1979, featured Tom Aldredge and Frances Sternhagen and ran for 382 performances; Craig Anderson directed. The Church Hill production is directed by Bonnie Hill.

The plot revolves around Norman and Ethel Thayer, who arrive at their country house in April, finding it in need of repairs. It becomes evident early that Norman is beginning to lose his short-term memory. Although he is retired from a position as an English professor, he makes a production of searching for jobs in the local paper – one gets the impression he is doing it to tease Ethel, who has evidently had to put up with such behavior more than once in the past. Later, Charlie, the mailman – whom they’ve known since he was a teenager – drops by and, over a cup of coffee, reminisces about the Thayer’s daughter Chelsea, on whom he had a crush when they were both young. And as it happens, he brings a letter from Chelsea, who promises to visit later that summer, bringing her new boyfriend Bill and his young son Billy.

Chelsea introduces young Billy to her parents Ethel and Norman.      Photo by Steve Atkinson

The plot revolves around the relationships between the central couple and the various visitors who come to their lakeside home. Norman’s sometimes prickly exterior is balanced by Ethel’s ability to smooth things over and jolly him along. Chelsea, on the other hand, still nurses resentment over the way her father treated her when she was growing up. Chelsea’s new boyfriend Bill refuses to get drawn into the mind games Norman plays with everyone. On the other hand, young Billy, who stays with the Thayers while Chelsea and Bill vacation in Europe, soon finds himself adapting to the older couple’s ways and the country lifestyle.  Billy loves going fishing with Norman — and teaching the older man the latest teenage slang.

In the Church Hill production, Brian McGunigle and Nita Wieczoreck are cast as the central characters. McGunigle, who is making his CHT debut as Norman, has numerous credits with the Tred Avon Players, including “A Man of No Importance,” and with Shore Shakespeare, including “Macbeth” and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” He makes the lead character–whose biting wit and cynical worldview might make him unpleasant company in real life–sympathetic and in the end, quite likable.

Wieczoreck is familiar to CHT audiences from numerous appearances in everything from musicals and comedies to dramatic roles, including “Is He Dead?” and “Oliver,” as well as backstage work, especially in costuming. She is warm and outgoing in the role of Ethel, putting up with her husband’s cranky side while showing concern for his lapses of memory; a good choice for the role. A particularly fun scene is where she and her daughter join in singing the songs of the summer camp on Golden Pond that they both attended as young girls.

Ethel and Norman listen to the loons and watch the sunset on Golden Pond      Photo by Jane Jewell

Paul Briggs, who is establishing himself as a versatile character actor both at CHT and the Garfield, takes the role of Charlie the mailman, a local institution. He does a fine Down East accent, and effectively shows a character who is neither bright nor a deep thinker without stereotyping him as a local yokel.

Heather Oland, another CHT regular, has also appeared with Shore Shakespeare, most recently as Helena in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” She gives a strong performance as Chelsea, conveying both the warmth she feels for her mother and the tensions with her father. She calls her father “Norman” not “dad” while always calling her mother “Mommy.” While the role is less central than the two parents, it brings together several of the play’s key themes, and Oland’s performance makes the emotional connections clear.

Jeff Daly, takes the role of Bill Ray, Chelsea’s new boyfriend – a California dentist with a son from a previous marriage. The character is a bit reserved, not really hitting it off with Norman. The tension between the two is a prime example of the competitive stance Norman seems to bring to every relationship, whether in Monopoly games with Ethel, fishing with young Billy, or his entire relationship with Chelsea.

Norman and Billy prepare for a day of fishing on the lake while Ethel looks on.   Photo by Steve Atkinson

The role of Billy Ray Jr. is played by John Crook, a veteran of CHT’s Green Room Gang summer theater camp. His experience shows itself in a solid performance. He captures the young boy’s varying moods, from his initial boredom at the idea of spending the summer with two elderly people to his eventual enthusiastic joining Norman in competition over who can catch the biggest fish.

The setting for the play – a single room in the Thayer’s summer home – is quite appealing. The audience can see through the windows as characters enter and leave by the front door, and the lighting of the sky outside the windows evokes the mood of scenes with great effect. And close observers may notice a photo of Hepburn to one side of the living room. Kudos to Earl Lewin for the design, Carmen Grasso and Tom Rhodes for the construction, and Doug Kaufmann for the lighting design. The soundtrack by Patrick Fee – with a recurring motif of loon calls – adds to the overall mood, as well.

Mock-up of the set made by Earl Lewin         Photo by Jane Jewell

“On Golden Pond” will naturally appeal to older audiences, many of whom will see echoes of their own lives in the main characters’ relationships.  But younger people will also relate to this story of growing up and growing old.  “On Golden Pond” resonates with anyone who has fond memories of a summer spent at the lake or beach or had a special time with grandparents. A warm, nostalgic play with a fine director and cast to bring out the emotional nuances of the script,  this is a production any theater-lover will want to see.

The play will continue for two more weekends, through April 22. Performances are at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and at 2 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $20 for adults, with a $5 discount for CHT members; admission for students is $10. For reservations, call 410-556-5003 or visit the theater website, www.churchilltheatre.org.

Norman and Charlie the postman and Ethel      Photo by Jane Jewell

Norman calls the operator.      Photo by Jane Jewell

Talbot Historical Society Project Rewind: Off to the Airport

The Easton Airport/Newnam Field was built during World War II. It was Talbot County’s third airport! The first was at Ratcliffe Manor and the second at the Dorsey Webb Airport on Black Dog Alley just off of Preston Road. This Talbot Historical Society H. Robins Hollyday Collection photo appears to have been taken shortly after construction.

Contact: Cathy Hill cvhill@atlanticbb.net to share your old photos. Comment, Like our page and join THS!

Mid-Shore Arts: Jody Ware Takes Over Fine Arts @ Oxford

If you’re stopping by the 34th annual Fine Arts @ Oxford exhibition and sale fundraiser expect to find not only a variety of new art selections and artists but also a new Artist Liaison chair, Jody Ware. Ware, a textile engineer by trade, is “well suited for the job,” praises Liza Ledford, the Center’s Executive Director who will “bring fresh eyes to a time-honored event. I am totally confident that her passion for finding interesting art will make for an incredible festival and bring in a new audience.”

Fine Arts @ Oxford chair Jody Ware

Ware is no stranger to community involvement and after moving from Lewes, DE she embraced her new surroundings, becoming a supporter and active volunteer of the Oxford Community Center (OCC). This enthusiasm led to assisting her neighbor and longtime art festival coordinator, Cindy Reed. When Reed retired, Ware was hired for the position and immediately set out to try some new ideas. “Things need to be constantly growing,” is a statement she feels strongly about. Which is good news for Joe Fischer, President of the Board of Trustees at OCC, who would love to accommodate even more artists than the ones selected this year.

Under Ware’s direction, the event preparation began months ago when invitations were sent out to approximately fifty artists, some who’ve shown before and some who were identified by either Ware or her committee, to submit three images of their work for juried evaluation. Thirty-nine artists made the final cut based on their consistency, color, and style, including the work of Mary Ekroos, who is returning after a hiatus and previous Easton Plein Air Contest winner, Carole Boggemann-Peirson. Also on display is the 2018 featured artist, Steve Rogers, whose bold technique on one particular piece ended up working particularly well on a poster. “It’s the kind of picture that if you’re walking down the street, you see it and you have to walk back to see it again. It blows you away!” Ware says.

Artist Steve Rogers

This enthusiasm encompasses the entire selection process: “This year has been much more competitive. The professional juror who made the final selections has elevated the quality of the art, making the competition better for both the artists and the clients,” Ware says. She predicts that the show will resonate well with anyone interested in art.

As in previous years, and one of the criteria for acceptance to the event, the artists, must be present during the entire weekend. This is important for everyone involved, as the artists tend to bring their fans, those who are interested in purchasing or just seeing art. “People recognize the names, and if you have a collection of artists of a certain caliber, they will come and buy,” Ware says, expecting an increase in the attendance.

Too much growth, however, does have its limit, particularly in terms of the physical space available for the artists, but Ware foresees a time when the show will expand into the outdoor area. For now, each room of the OCC will serve as a gallery browsing area, enhanced by the donations of flowers from the Oxford Garden Club. “I’m in discussion with this group on how best to use the space and show off the art and to ensure that the flow is beneficial to all artists.”

Good client and artist communication was also a priority which was made easier by Ware’s insistence on a robust website that will allow the artists to be featured, along with a link to their site. As for the future, Jody Ware looks forward to building on the success of this spring and will be keeping a keen eye on what is working to make sure things are fresh and growing, next year.

Fine Arts @ Oxford will take place on May 18th with a preview gala, and the 19th and 20th  from 10-5pm. For more info and to purchase tickets for the event please go here

Val Cavalheri is a recent transplant to the Eastern Shore, having lived in Northern Virginia for the past 20 years. She’s been a writer, editor and professional photographer for various publications, including the Washington Post.

The March for Our Lives in Chestertown Report

The march started at noon on High St at the corner of Mill St. in front of the old elementary school now the Kent County offices building.      Photo by Peter Heck.

Chestertown’s March for Our Lives was held on Saturday, March 24 to coincide with the big national march in Washington, DC. The local event was one of more than 800 nationwide and around the world in response to gun violence in schools, especially the murder of 17 students in Parkland, Florida on Valentine’s Day earlier this year.

Around 500 marchers assembled at noon in front of the Kent County government office on High Street, then proceeded down High Street and Cross Street to Wilmer Park, where they heard speakers and musical selections. Marchers, carrying signs and banners, remained on sidewalks so as not to interfere with traffic. The line of marchers was at least two blocks long as it made its way through town. Along the route, many of them chanted, “Enough is enough,” and “Hey hey, ho ho, school shooting’s got to go,” referring to the epidemic of shootings that have plagued the country in recent years.

At the park, Paul Tue, one of the organizers of the march, greeted the crowd and invited them to move closer to Hynson Pavilion, where a PA system was set up. Tue, who works with local youth as one of the founders of the Bayside HOYAS, said he was “blown away” by the turnout. He told attendees that if anyone was overcome with the emotions of the event, there were several therapists on hand for them to talk to. He asked the therapists to raise their hands so people would know who and where they were in the audience.

Tue said there had been 209 school shootings since the Columbine massacre in 1999, and gave a list of several of the more notorious, concluding with the Parkland shooting and the murder of a schoolgirl by a classmate just a few days ago in St. Mary’s County here in Maryland. “I believe I live in the greatest country in the world,” Tue said, “but today is a day to put our point across.” He asked how many shootings would have to take place on Capitol Hill itself before lawmakers were willing to change the laws governing weapons. He said there was a booth set up to register voters at the rally and urged attendees to call their representatives in Congress and the Maryland General Assembly.

Barbie Glenn, who acted as master of ceremonies for the event, then took the microphone to introduce the speakers.

First up was Dr. Kathryn Seifert, CEO of Eastern Shore Psychological Services. “We know the way to prevent violence,” she said, It will require identifying young people at risk and providing services to help them. A lot of scientific research has been done, and the causes — though complex – are clear. It’s not just mental illness, but “a perfect storm of multiple problems.” Most school shooters are white males, who find their guns at home – not at gun shows. The majority of shooters were identified as unstable before they picked up a gun, she said. She recommended a mental health program in every school, to allow evaluation and early treatment of the problems that lead to gun violence. The U.S. has the second highest rate of child abuse worldwide, and is in the top five nations for its rate of sexual abuse of children, she said. Both have been shown to cause personality disorders including violent tendencies in later life. The victims need treatment “before something happens,” she said. “Let’s get started.”

A trio consisting of Clark Bjorke on guitar, Phil Dutton on keyboard, and Mary Simmons sang a version of Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin’,” with new lyrics targeting the problem of gun violence. The group later returned for two other numbers, including Pete Seeger’s “If I Had a Hammer” and Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth.” Many crowd members sang along with the familiar protest songs from the 1960s.

Taking the microphone next was a group of Kent County Middle School students, Alana Fithian Wilson, Riley Glenn, Tilera Wright, and Ty-Juan Billingslea. They are members of Students Talking About Racism, a group formed after a racial incident at the school. Each gave a personal reaction to the issue of gun violence, with an equal helping of emotion and evidence. Wilson said that violence is one of America’s biggest problems, with racism as a leading cause. “We need people like you to get involved,” she told the crowd. “It’s time to take a stand, and it needs to be unified.”

Photo by Jeff Weber

Glenn said that gun violence has a devastating impact on American youth, backing the assertation with statistics. Particularly telling was the observation that more students have been killed in U.S. schools since Columbine in 1999 than American soldiers killed in combat since the Sept. 11 attacks.

Billingslea said guns are the third leading cause of childhood deaths, with 40 percent the result of suicides. Black children are three times as likely to die from a shooting as their white peers. Exposure to gun violence leads to greater likelihood of drug or alcohol use and criminal activity later in life, he said.
Wright said students at KCMS are being asked to perform “active shooter” drills. She said she would like to see more school resource officers and metal detectors at school. Parents need to take their children’s concerns seriously, she said. “Politicians need to pass stricter gun laws,” she concluded.
Tue praised the students’ passionate advocacy. “Activism has no age limit,” he said.
The concluding speaker was Grenville Whitman of Rock Hall, representing Kent County Citizens to Prevent Gun Violence. Gun violence kills Americans every day, Whitman said. “We’re here to petition our government for redress,” he said, noting that the right to do so is guaranteed by the Consitution. “It’s also our right not to be shot and killed,” he added and went on to say that the same right extends to our families, our children and our neighbors. “It’s everyone’s right.” He noted that some think that gun ownership is equally important, and the issue is being fought out in Congress and 50 state legislatures, with the Maryland General Assembly passing some sensible firearms regulations in the current session, making the state one of the safest in the nation. Whitman noted that the local assembly delegation voted for a ban on “bump stocks,” which transform semi-automatic firearms into fully-automatic weapons.  He said the delegates should be congratulated for their votes, noting that they will undoubtedly be criticized for it by pro-gun constituents.

Photo by Jeff Weber

Relaxing after the march outside of Sam’s coffee shop are Leah Schell, Brook Schumann, Ilex Hoy (on lap) and Japhy Hoy (holding sign).      Photo by Jane Jewell

“Make America Safe Again” made and carried by Penny Block.      Photo by Jane Jewell

Whitman noted that 2018 is an election year and urged participants in the march to register and vote. The crowd responded by chanting, “Vote, vote!” Many local offices are up for election, Whitman said, noting the presence of several elected officials and candidates in the crowd, including County Commissioner Ron Fithian and commission candidate Tom Timberman, as well as Andy Meehan, a candidate for State’s Attorney. Whitman said voters should ask all candidates about gun safety, and cast their votes accordingly. “(Rep.) Andy Harris…” he began — to be interrupted by a loud chorus of “Boos”– “Andy Harris is the only Maryland congressman to accept NRA donations. “Vote him out! Vote him out,” the crowd responded.

A last-moment addition to the list of speakers was Casey McQueen of Dover, Delaware, who said he had come to the march because students in his school had been shot. “Blow guns away,” he said, to applause.

Bishop Charles Tilghman, head of the Kent County branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, closed the rally with a prayer. He urged the audience to continue rallying and marching to attain the goals of a country free of gun violence.

There was a multitude of signs in the crowd – both printed and hand-made – with clever and often very pointed slogans.  Some were slogans that are being used nationally while others represented the heartfelt responses of the individual marcher.  Slogans included “Protect Our Kids, Not Guns”, “Bullets Are Not School Supplies”, “Make America Safe Again”, “We Deserve to Live”, “Students Demand Action”, “Moms Demand Action”, “Civilians Don’t Need Assault Weapons”, “Love Not Guns”, and “Fear Has No Place in Schools”.

The Chestertown march was reportedly the only one on the Eastern Shore, though there were a couple in Delaware.The  Chestertown event drew over 500 people, which amounts to approximately 10% of Chestertown’s population.  However, not all participants were from Chestertown or Kent County.  Several marchers, including some from the Unitarian Universalist church, came from Easton to take part.  Marchers were there from other Maryland counties and from Delaware. The event in D.C. was estimated as high as 800,000 strong, making it the largest single-day march in the city’s history. Across the country, in addition to the originating Washington, D.C. march, there were marches and other events in most of the major US cities including New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Chicago, Kansas City, Boston, Baltimore, Seattle,  Philadelphia, Minneapolis, and Indianapolis. Every state had at least one “March for Our Lives” event. Around the world, there were many more with most but not all in Europe.   Events in these cities were attended by both local citizens and Americans living or visiting in the various foreign countries.  In Canada, over a dozen cities, including Toronto and Montreal, held rallies. There were rallies in London, Copenhagen, Berlin, Madrid, Rome, and Paris plus other European cities. In Japan, a large march was held in Tokyo, while in Australia, events were held in Sydney and Brisbane  There were two in Africa, one each in Ghana and Mozambique as well as some in various Asian and South American locales.

On average, more than 90 people are killed by guns in the US every day.

 

Photo by Jeff Weber

Photo by Jeff Weber

 

Photo by Jeff Weber

 

Photo by Jeff Weber

“March for Our Lives” participants at Wilmer Park — from left, standing, former US Congressional Rep. for the Eastern Shore Wayne Gilchrest, Sherrie Tilghman, Wanda Boyer, Barbie Glenn, (all three of Eastern Shore Psychological Services in Chestertown), Corrine Harvey and Brooke Schultz of the Washington College student newspaper, the Elm; in front, Greg Glenn. Barbi Glenn was the MC for the rally in the park.      Photo by Jane Jewell

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Rick Clarke and his 50 Years of Flying

For Talbot County’s Rick Clarke, the acknowledgment that he had achieved 50 years of flying came somewhat as a surprise to him. One woman asked a simple question to him at Easton’s Airport Day not too long ago on how long he had been flying which made him actually do the math on that.

And since Rick had started in 1962, it was a simple calculation to solve. For fifty years, first as a teen, then with the armed services, and then finally with United Airlines, it turned out to be five decades in the sky. In due course, it was suggested he notify the FAA of this milestone and they awarded him the prestigious Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award this year.

The Spy thought it was a valuable opportunity to talk to the extremely knowledgeable aviator, about this remarkable arc of time. For unlike the automobile, which has not fundamentally changed how it operates since it became available to American families in the early part of the 20th Century, the act of flying itself has been radically altered by the use of technology, advancement of safety, and the extraordinary commercial market it has become.

The Spy found Rick in the conference room at the Easton Airport terminal a few weeks ago to talk about his experiences but how these fundamental changes in aviation have changed along with him.

This video is approximately four minutes in length. For more information about the Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award please go here.

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Food Friday: In My Fantasy Garden

Are the Nor’easters through with us yet? Can we please go outside and dig? All my little seed packets exhort me to wait until the danger of frost has passed. It is practically April! I am ready to hang up the turtlenecks, and get out in the garden.

I have been waiting all winter for this – I admit it. I have been thumbing through seed catalogues and feverishly imagining my new and improved sunny, raised garden bed, fecund and lush and spilling over with cukes, beans, and sun-warmed tomatoes.

I have been thinking about all those tender, fresh, aromatic herbs that I will manage to coax along this year. I have pictured the modest bow I will take when I humbly present our salad greens at the Fourth of July picnic. Envisioning how I will please, delight, and amaze Mr. Friday when I whip out a fresh, homegrown shallot for the salad dressing. I am still considering how I will take revenge on the idiot neighbor who mows his lawn on Sunday mornings – zucchini is the perfect passive/aggressive payback.

So let’s get hopping! These tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, cabbage, beans, lettuce, beets, carrots, and radishes will not plant, water or weed themselves!

It’s time for a little elbow grease action – which is much more healthier than hot yoga. But don’t get so enchanted by the beauteousness of the seed packets to take on more than you can chew. Buy a few easy veggies, and a couple of happy flowers. Marigolds or nasturtiums go well in both a vegetable garden, and in the salad bowl.

I have learned over the years with my sandy back yard, and my short attention span, that I am easily distracted and disappointed. Now I keep my exposure to a minimum. I am happiest (and most successful) with a little container garden. I have fresh herbs and I do a couple of tomato plants every year. Maybe if I remember to water every day they will have a real shot at making it to the table.

I had a successful little run with lettuce a couple of years ago. We had a few awfully fresh salads. I doubt if it was very cost effective to wrangle my own little Bibb lettuces, but it felt so good to wander outside with the kitchen shears, and judiciously snip a leaf here, another leaf there, and know the salad was good and fresh, and I was leaving modest carbon foot print. Obviously I neglect to factor in the air pollution generated from multiple trips to the garden center…

If you do not feel not up to the responsibilities of growing your own vegetable garden this season, now that the snow has almost melted, and the daffodils are popping up every where, please think about supporting your local farmers at farmers’ markets and farm stands and CSAs. They were cool (and essential) long before Brooklyn and all its mustachioed, plaid-sporting, artisan, organic, heirloom, microcosmically hip farmers, soap makers, tanners, butchers, chicken farmers, bakers and baristas. We like homemade and all the virtues associated with it.

It is oh, so very pleasant to wander outside in your jim-jams on a summer morning, pausing to watch the sun rise, while munching meditatively on a dewy green bean that you have just twisted off a vine, before you ever have a cup of coffee or skim Twitter. Instagram cannot replicate that real delight. Honest.

http://www.almanac.com/vegetable-garden-planning-for-beginners

https://www.wsj.com/articles/how-to-make-vinaigrette-1415996135

“From December to March,
there are for many of us three gardens:
the garden outdoors,
the garden of pots and bowls in the house,
and the garden of the mind’s eye.”
– Katharine S. White

Beacon Hill to Talbot County: A Needed Village for Those Wanting to Age in Place

One of the unique shared experiences for those who helped start the Talbot Village Connections (TVC), or became a founding member, was learning about an experiment in the Beacon Hill neighborhood of Boston in 2002 at almost the same time.

For TCV president, Lee Newcomb, it was an NBC News special, for Marion Donahue, vice president, and a founding member, Shirley Sallet, it was an ongoing series in the Boston Globe, but the net effect on all three was being intrigued by this revolutionary new program to help seniors age in place.

The idea was surprisingly simple. A core group of members and volunteers created a collective with modest dues to provide services or share resources aimed at those over 65 years old. From handyman jobs to connecting Roku streaming boxes, offering rides for doctor appointments, or provide healthy social opportunities, the Beacon Hill project made it easier for members to stay in their homes for as long as possible.

With Lee seeing this as a volunteer extension to her work with Talbot County’s Department of Social Services. and Marion a great link to her former career as a nurse, the two helped form the Talbot Village Connections in 2014 to try and replicate the Beacon Hill model for the County’s large senior population.

The Spy sat down with all three women a few weeks ago to talk about Talbot Village Connections, and understand the goals and mission of this new approach to senior living.

This video is approximately four minutes in length. Talbot Village Connections will be having a Meet and Greet and  on Tuesday, March 27 at 2 PM – 7121 Station Road, Newcomb. RSVP to Suzanne Fino Carley – 410-829-3678. For more information on Talbot Village Connections please go here

 

 

Food Friday: Guinness is Good!

This weekend we will be celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in the time-honored tradition of consuming mass quantities of dark beer, none of that green stuff, please. But not to overdo or inebriate – but to add some flavor to our lives as we wait out the last few days of winter, and anticipate the glories of spring. We will have Guinness cocktails, Guinness burgers (or maybe Guinness Irish stew) and Guinness chocolate cake. Let’s give a toast to improving weather!

“May you have warm words on a cold evening,
A full moon on a dark night,
And the road downhill all the way to your door.”

Tonight we are breaking with our usual Friday night pizza routine, and we are going to make Guinness burgers. And lots of crispy hot chips. And we will pour a couple of pints of Guinness stout for the cocktail hour. Or we might even have a couple of Black Velvets, which a chatty waiter once told me were Catherine’s (Duchess of Cambridge) fave. Doubtful. But they are very delicious! Gourmet Guinness meatloaf on a bun!

Guinness Burgers
https://realfood.tesco.com/recipes/guinness-burgers.html

Black Velvet Cocktail
4 ounces (1/2 cup) chilled Champagne or Prosecco
4 ounces (1/4 cup) chilled Guinness Extra Stout

Pour the Champagne into a flute or another tall glass.
Pour the Guinness on top
Consume. Repeat, as necessary.

If you would like a fancier cocktail, try some of these. I like the equal proportions for the Black Velvet, and then wondering whether I should have poured the Champagne, or the Guinness, into the glass first. It is a wonderful conundrum, and no one seems to agree.

https://www.thegooddrink.com/st-patricks-day-guinness-cocktail/

“Moderation is a fatal thing– nothing succeeds like excess.”
–Oscar Wilde

It is going to be cool enough this weekend that it might be wise to have a pot of stew bubbling away on the stove so you can get warmed through and through. May I suggest a seasonal Irish stew recipe? The addition of Guinness makes it warm and dark and comforting, enough to get you to spring next Tuesday.

Guinness Irish Stew
http://dadwhats4dinner.com/guinness-irish-stew/

I love a great dense chocolate Guinness cake. I will be baking one Friday afternoon. It should see us through the weekend and beyond. I prefer masses of cloud-like whipped cream to the cream cheese icing here, though

Chocolate Guinness Cake
Butter for pan
1 cup Guinness stout
10 tablespoons (1 stick plus 2 tablespoons) unsalted butter
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa
2 cups superfine sugar
¾ cup sour cream
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 ½ teaspoons baking soda

FOR THE TOPPING:
1 ¼ cups confectioners’ sugar
8 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
½ cup heavy cream

1 For the cake: heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch springform pan and line with parchment paper. In a large saucepan, combine Guinness and butter. Place over medium-low heat until butter melts, then remove from heat. Add cocoa and superfine sugar, and whisk to blend.
2 In a small bowl, combine sour cream, eggs and vanilla; mix well. Add to Guinness mixture. Add flour and baking soda, and whisk again until smooth. Pour into buttered pan, and bake until risen and firm, 45 minutes to one hour. Place pan on a wire rack and cool completely in pan.
3 For the topping: Using a food processor or by hand, mix confectioners’ sugar to break up lumps. Add cream cheese and blend until smooth. Add heavy cream, and mix until smooth and spreadable.
4 Remove cake from pan and place on a platter or cake stand. Ice top of cake only, so that it resembles a frothy pint of Guinness.

https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1875-chocolate-guinness-cake


“St. Patrick’s Day is an enchanted time —a day to begin transforming winter’s dreams into summer’s magic.”

Food Friday: Potatoes à la Lyonnaise

Last weekend I was pleasantly surprised by a new potato recipe I stumbled over on the brilliant Food52 website. I know – what can’t be done to the potato, and what else could we possibly discover? Incroyable! These potatoes were the elegant accompaniment to the nice little filets mignons that Mr. Friday cooked on the grill – spring is coming! The daffodils are up. Never mind that snow – it is melting away as we sit and wait for balmier days.

https://food52.com/recipes/31663-potatoes-a-la-lyonnaise

This is a recipe that I am sure to add to our répertoire. It was multi-stepped, but I expect it will soon evolve into an intuitive recipe – much like mastering the Adobe InDesign program: simple, elegant, instinctive. And it seems easily adaptable. As always, I used what we had on hand, and we did not have sweet little petite potatoes. There were a couple of Russet potatoes lurking in the larder, which I peeled before parboiling. Then I sliced a large, sweet onion. (I try to get Vidalias when they are in season – I expect that I was using something from Peru, so there go all my carbon footprint credits.)

I love a cooking challenge that involves mass quantities of butter. I sautéed the onion slices in 2 or 3 tablespoons of butter, while I was achieving a nice crusty crispy surface on the potatoes with another 3 or 4 tablespoons of butter. I loved having two frying pans going at the same time – it made me feel like a sous chef who has been given a little more responsibility; and it reminded me of dueling banjoes, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, and I remembered pushing two small children on swings at the same time…

I did not have a suitably posh French baking dish for the ten minutes the onions and potatoes spent together in the oven. It would have been nice to have a hideously expensive yet, oh, so élégant Staub enamel dish, but I found that the aluminum birthday sheet cake pan worked just as well. And as I was plating in the kitchen, Mr. Friday had no idea that his piping hot, piquant potatoes were cooked in such a pedestrian pan.

A good crispy potato is a culinary achievement. The perfect frite can bring tears of joie. I have been known to embarrass Mr. Friday by sending back soggy French fries – the ones which have been sitting limply under a heating lamp in the restaurant kitchen. I want potatoes that have been snatched out of the blazing hot fat and whisked over to my table tout de suite. The main dish is almost a secondary when the potatoes are transcendent.

And even better news? There were enough potatoes left over to heat up in a little skillet in the morning. It was the perfect Sunday breakfast: homemade biscuits, thick rashers of applewood smoked bacon, and recycled Potatoes Lyonaise. Délicieux.

“It is easy to think of potatoes, and fortunately for men who have not much money it is easy to think of them with a certain safety. Potatoes are one of the last things to disappear, in times of war, which is probably why they should not be forgotten in times of peace.”
― M.F.K. Fisher

Publisher Notes: Please Chip in for the Spy this Month

Precisely seven years ago this month, the Talbot Spy began its life as an online news source for a community I had fallen in love with as an undergraduate at Washington College in 1974.  The premise was simple enough. By using the extraordinary tools that the internet provided, such as the ability to use multimedia, easy reader access, and relatively low cost start up, the Spy could be a powerful and useful complement to a legacy newspaper of record and engage more residents in the daily affairs, the arts and culture of their region.

The business plan was also just as simple. Generate enough revenue to cover these costs and provide modest stipends for the Spy’s editors and writers.  There was no vision for media domination or commercializing the “product” to monetize investment. The payback would come with a community well informed and respectful of diverse opinion.

Nor was there any guarantee of success. While I had known Talbot County relatively well,  it was hard to predict if this was a value-added proposition for a community that prided itself on not being an early adapter to most things.

Seven years later, the Talbot Spy has 15,000 readers a month reading it on average five times a month. It has attracted over 200 sponsors and has been able to pay its editors and writers the small stipends they were promised.

More importantly, the Spy has been able to remain true to its mission and aspirations. Over 2,000 educational video programs have been produced, over 10,000 original content articles or local opinion pieces have been published, and 15,000 vetted reader comments have been posted.

With the increased awareness that the Spy was indeed a community asset worthy of philanthropic support, I made arrangements with the Mid-Shore Community Foundation to become the Spy’s fiscal partner, allowing us to receive funding from private foundations as a non-profit entity starting in 2013.

All of these ingredients have worked together to keep the Spy afloat over these years, but the reality is that we, like every nonprofit organization, must seek a highly diverse revenue flow, and must now ask you, gentle reader, to chip in.

For the balance of March, the Spy will not be shy about asking for this support. Taking a page out of the playbook of other fundraising programs online, we will have a “pop-up” appear for a few moments to beg the question of a modest monthly contribution or one-time donation to keep the Spy going.

I hope with your help the Spy can continue to serve Talbot County for many decades to come with your help.

Please make a contribution here.

Dave Wheelan
Publisher