Food Friday: Memorial Day Salads

It’s Memorial Day Weekend! Hurrah! We can all use a three-day weekend to prepare for summer. It’s time to pull out the white shoes, iron linen dresses, paint the Adirondack chairs, get the boat in the water and head to the beach. There is going to be a lot to do! Some of us are even going to entertain. I’ve strung the lights on the back porch, and have already seen some fireflies return the compliment. Summer is almost upon us!

I love ritual celebrations. I love small town parades. Once, back in his misspent youth, Mr. Friday and his chums had a martini stand at the annual Memorial Day Parade. And back in those days, when one could drink with impunity before noon, we sat in lawn chairs with martinis in hand, and cheered as the Scouts, the school marching bands, the firefighters, some vintage cars, town officials and proud veterans paraded past us. And then we went to a Memorial Day cookout in a park, under the trees, on the river. It was a warm and sunny day, as most happy hazy memories tend to be.

There are many ways to have a Memorial Day cookout. You can go fancy, or you can take an effortless route. Guess which I suggest? There is no need to get elaborate, even with freshly ironed linen. Here are some favorite: traditional and manageable cobbler https://www.bonappetit.com/story/cherry-biscuit-cobbler?, hot dogs or sausages and hamburgers are swell American foods and are great for any Memorial Day picnic. I usually whip up a batch of potato salad, but a bag of Utz sour cream and onion potato chips is never out of place! Is it too hot to bake a cobbler? Just bring out some Bergers. You will be a hero. Or slice open a frosty cold watermelon. Put beers and glass bottles of Coke in a bucket of ice, and don’t forget the cheap white wine.

For picnics and cookouts we like made-ahead and cool foods. If you are hosting a gathering, or are asked to bring something to a holiday event, made a nice, simple salad: corn, fruit, potato, Caprese, pesto, green salads are easily prepared ahead of time, and can be a side dish or a main dish if you have pesky pescatarians lurking:

The Kitchn’s Corn Salad – no cooking required!
https://www.thekitchn.com/corn-salad-268340

Bon Appétit’s fruit salad: http://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/fruit-salad-fennel-watercress-smoked-salt

My Popular Potato Salad
This is a recipe that people actually ask for – and not just because they are my in-laws and trying hard to be polite! It that constantly evolves and adapts, and each summer brings a new twist. I don’t always have green onions – Vidalias work just fine. No red potatoes? Go for Russets. A little fresh thyme? Why not? It is dependable, tasty and can be adapted and stretched to feed the masses. Just add more potatoes and more mayonnaise. Particularly fine for large picnic gatherings. It tastes best if it has a little time to sit and mellow, so if you can make it in the morning, it is just right by suppertime.

Many, many servings…

2 pounds little new, red potatoes
1 cup Hellmann’s mayonnaise thinned with milk
1 bunch green onions, chopped
Sea salt and pepper to taste

Boil the potatoes until tender. While warm (but not still steaming hot) slice potatoes and begin to layer them in a large bowl – 1 layer potatoes, then a handful of green onions and salt and pepper. Pour on some of the mayonnaise mixture. Repeat. Gently stir until all the potatoes are coated. You may need to add more mayonnaise mixture when you are ready to serve, as the potatoes absorb the mayo. Put on the table and stand back – the stampede might knock you down!

We are always big fans of Caprese salad – it is so delicious and such an easy supper to whip up when it has been a frantic day in The Spy test kitchens. We tend to have a line up of tomatoes on the kitchen window sill all summer long and with the basil growing like kudzu on the back porch, there is no excuse not to invest in tomato futures. I plan to indulge in a fresh ball of mozzarella every couple of days to help keep our basil plant well-trimmed and feeling useful.

Caprese Salad
(For which you don’t really need precise measurements.)
Eyeball what you have in the fridge.
1 cup grape tomatoes
1/2 cup small mozzarella balls
3 to 4 fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
1 generous pinch Maldon salt

Arrange the basil, tomatoes, and mozzarella on a plate or in a Tupperware container and drizzle the olive oil dressing over the top. Add salt and pepper as desired. Apply sunscreen and adjust your hat. Instagram. Ah, Tuscany.

http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/insalata-caprese-13232

Pesto Salad
We like a nice light pesto sauce for fresh pasta when the temperatures rise. Years ago we stopped adding the pine nuts, and instead make a nice thick paste of basil, olive oil, garlic gloves, salt, pepper and fresh Parmesan cheese, that we swirl around the mini-food processor for a moment or two. If it seems too thick, we thin it with a little pasta water. We gave up the pine nuts because they were hard to find, are chock-full of cholesterol, and are expensive. Some people substitute walnuts, but I don’t like walnuts, so I have opted for simplicity.

Basic Pesto
2 cups fresh basil leaves (no stems)
2 large cloves garlic
½ cup olive oil
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Combine basil leaves, oil and garlic in a food processor and process until very finely minced, and then smooth. Add the cheese and process very briefly, just long enough to combine. Store in refrigerator or freezer, because you will need a container of sunshine in your fridge for a rainy day.

Enjoy your weekend!

“‘Never plan a picnic,’ Father said. ‘Plan a dinner, yes, or a house, or a budget, or an appointment with the dentist, but never, never plan a picnic.’”
― Elizabeth Enright

Trade Whims: “Whatever the Wind Blows In” by Jenn Martella

I love the specialty shops and galleries along Goldsborough and Harrison Streets in Easton so I was greatly relieved when Alice Ryan and Susan Wilford bought Trade Whims after the previous owner retired. As ardent community supporters, Alice and Susan couldn’t imagine Easton without this unique store. Neither could I-Trade Whims has been my source for special occasion or host/hostess gifts. They have expanded the gift, linen and clothing boutique to offer selections for newborns through 4T sizes. They also have a Baby and Wedding Registry.

 

On the day I visited, new merchandise from recent trade shows were a visual delight throughout the store. The line “Le Cadeaux-Art for the Table” is aptly named for they are beautiful gift sets consisting of an oval platter encircled with painted vegetables, overlaid with a dishtowel and a spoon rest that were hard to resist. One platter had an orange theme with a ring of “maple glazed carrots” as a border with orange cursive writing on the spoon rest. The other set had a green theme with its ring of “smoky asparagus”. I love fish plates so I was delighted to find two designs with a fish motif from elegant to whimsical.

A new line of beautiful china with nautical, hunting and watermen motifs is perfect for the Eastern Shore. The elegant designs include an oval platter, plates, bowls, mugs and coasters. The compass rose is the recurring motif and is on the center of each item. The line is designed by Kent County artist Kate Ballantine.

The sought after “Scout” line of bags, totes, wallets, purses, etc. has a colorful and prominent display in the store. I was also enchanted by a line of “Beer Gear“-small bags of heavy duty plastic and wooden double beaded handles. The colorful designs ranged from a sunflower, crab, shell, etc. that would be the perfect gift for ladies of all ages.

I firmly believe a touch of whimsy is good for the soul and I couldn’t help smiling when I saw the grouping of voluptuous bathing beauties in various poses-sitting on a beach ball, poised for diving, snoozing on an Adirondack chair. Smaller ladies rested on the ledges of the shelves. These delightful designs were the work of Dr. Livingston and Co.

Above the entrance to the children’s area was a string of miniature felted mice dressed in clothes with different accessories. Alice noted the staff add them to their gift wrapped packages for a whimsical touch. I remarked they were also the perfect size for Christmas decorations. Above the mice was a row of colorful clocks waiting for a new home in a newborn’s nursery. These artisan clocks are the creations of an artist in Massachusetts and the colorful designs including a barn, train engine, fox and llama would delight children of all ages.

Another delightful find in the Children’s section were the “Bunnies by the Bay”. Books, rugs and toys would complete any nursery or playroom.

There is so much to see at Trade Whims and with art from local artists, stationery, candles, ceramics, clothing, jewelry, and so much more if you can’t find the perfect gift here it doesn’t exist-see you there!

Trade Whims is open Monday through Saturday from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm and Sundays 11:00 am to 3:00 pm. The Trade Whims Too store in St. Michaels is located at 207 S. Talbot Street. For more information, please call 410-822-9610 or visit www.tradewhims.com.

Spy House of the Week is an ongoing series that selects a different home each week. The Spy’s Habitat editor Jennifer Martella makes these selections based exclusively on her experience as a architect.

Jennifer Martella has pursued her dual careers in architecture and real estate since she moved to the Eastern Shore in 2004. Her award winning work has ranged from revitalization projects to a collaboration with the Maya Lin Studio for the Children’s Defense Fund’s corporate retreat in her home state of Tennessee.

Revisiting Near Death Experiences with David LaMotte

Editor’s Note: Almost ten years ago, the Spy sat down with David LaMotte for what turned out to be a fascinating conversation about Near-Death Experiences and spirituality. Fast forward to 2019, and we asked David to reflect on the dozens of the stories he has heard from those who had experienced near death. This is the Spy interview with David from October, 2009.

Spy: David, could you remind us of what instigated your interest in near death experience?

My father was an Episcopal minister who got interested in near death experiences, or NDEs as they are referred to, recounted by people who died and came back to life.  I joined him almost 20 years ago at a conference in Hawaii put on by the International Association of Near-Death Studies (IANDS), primarily to see Hawaii, but I became hooked on the subject after reading the book Heading Toward Omega by Kenneth Ring on the flight out and attending a few lectures by researchers.  

I remember my father saying that hearing of these experiences had brought the Gospels alive for him; that they help explain what is behind Christianity, and perhaps all religions. They opened his mind far beyond “religion,” while at the same time giving incredible importance to understanding that there really is so much more to life and the afterlife than we generally think about.

 And what was it that fascinated you the most?

For me, NDE stories give a glimpse into reality that is far more expansive than we are taught in school or church. Science could never support faith and religious traditions until quantum physics in the last century opened it up to new realizations that now begin to bridge the gap between the two pursuits, while at the same time shattering many prior religious and scientific beliefs.

I feel NDE’s, what they tell us, offer phenomenal potential to break down the religious, racial and national barriers that separate mankind.  They present a potential paradigm shift that can dramatically change the way we not only view each other but the way we see ourselves and every aspect of life.

What do you find is the most interesting in these NDE accounts?

Despite the variations of many of the particulars, NDE accounts are amazingly consistent, regardless of religious belief or any belief in a god or afterlife.  

They vary in “depth” from simple out-of-body experiences or OBE’s, such as looking down on oneself in an accident or during surgery, to the classic trips up tunnels toward a light of incredible loving magnetism, to detailed life reviews, gaining universal knowledge, discussions with deceased loved ones, being told it is not “your time,” and seeing potential future life events.

What is so consistent are descriptions of being in a different dimension where time and space are not like here;  amazement at seeing how all of us and everything is so connected though here on earth we feel separated, feelings of love far beyond anything ever experienced here, telepathic communication answering any questions that come to mind instantly, non-interruption of thought or consciousness (“my thoughts continued as if still in my body”), ability to travel by thought and to understand others’ thoughts — those still living and those not.  

And the aftereffects of these experiences for NDE’rs are also noticeably consistent — a change, often dramatic, in priorities and interests, a sense of great purpose to every life, elimination of any fear of death, compassion for others and all creation, and in many cases unexplainable healings, psychic abilities and new knowledge/abilities.  

NDE’rs will tell you it was the most real experience of their lives, that this life is more like a dream, and that they can remember the details of the experience as if it was yesterday, even decades later.  Initially, they are frequently frustrated to be back here, to have left a place of incredible love, a place that felt like home, and to be confined to a physical body, often in a lot of pain. Eventually they seem to appreciate being here, with a deep sense of purpose for their time here and a love of life in general.

From your studies, what part of the NDE fascinates or intrigues you most?

There are many, but I must say the life reviews are the most telling for me.  In these life reviews, they describe being able to watch and experience, again, any moment in their life, usually with a supportive entity by their side.  They describe re-experiencing significant choices they made, though they may not have seemed significant at all at the time, and best of all they experience their choices from the perspective of those the choices impacted.  Incredibly, they even see and experience the ripple effect of their choices out into time, and to others affected by those affected.

I remember one NDE’r telling me he watched and experienced himself teasing a girl in second grade. He felt it from her perspective, how humiliating it was, how she disliked school because of being picked on, and then he felt it from her parents’ perspective, how painful it was for them. And, finally, he described to me how it even impacted this girl with her lack of self-confidence in her teenage years.  

Another described how he felt every punch and the embarrassment from the perspective of a man he had beaten up, and he understood, unbeknownst to him at the time, how this man had just lost his wife, was drunk, and why he mouthed off to him at that moment, prompting the fight.

What they describe is no judgement from a god or others, but an inescapable judgement of self as we experience our choices from new perspectives.  Many describe it as the most painful thing they have ever been through, even when they are shown the positive ripple effects of many choices they made.  But the almost universal take-away they describe is that the life review is an incredible learning experience and they believe this may be what we are here for, to learn about love from countless perspectives in a dimension of imperfect love.

 In your own experience, do they share a big takeaway or a certain belief after their near-death experiences?

Although the extent of their takeaways may vary based upon the depth of the NDE, they almost universally say our consciousness or the essence of who we are survives physical death, that we voluntarily experience life in this dimension to learn about love, that we do this many times in many different roles (yes, reincarnation), that life for everyone has great purpose, though it may be hard for us to comprehend while here.  Many report being asked, “So how did you do with your objectives for this life, how well did you love and accept love?” And, thus, many say, this life, this dimension is clearly a school of sorts, an opportunity to learn the infinite dimensions of love.

So what are your takeaways, having studied this phenomenon for many years?

I’d have to say they parallel what these NDE’rs themselves feel or conclude.  I’ve read hundreds of cases and talked with dozens of experiencers, and to me we would be burying our heads in the sand not to pay attention to what they are recounting and concluding.  I think there is so much we don’t understand. I am convinced, as NDE’rs consistently say, that we are loved beyond what we can comprehend, that consciousness survives physical death, that we are afforded free will in this dimension of imperfect love to make endless choices in order to learn countless aspects of love, that, regardless of what we believe, we can’t fail at life, we are not judged, we learn from our choices and help others learn about love from our choices, be they kind or hurtful.

As my father communicated a few weeks after he died, “If anyone tells you this is how ‘it’ all works, don’t believe them. It is more grand than you can ever imagine!”

David LaMotte lives outside Chestertown, MD and is president of LaMotte Company, a 100-year old manufacturer of water testing products. He leads a group who monthly meet to discuss NDE’s and related phenomenon.

 

 

Two Decades of Watching Ospreys with Atlantic Security’s Cams by Val Cavalheri

A true harbinger of spring at the Eastern Shore is the return of the ospreys to their elevated nests, usually around St. Patrick’s Day. If you live or pass by any of the local waterways, just about now you may see the top of the head of one of the parents sitting on their eggs. But unmistakably, the best view can be found on your computer, tablet, or phone anytime day or night on the Ospreycam Live feed, set up and hosted by the Chestertown-based Atlantic Security Inc. (ASI).

Started in 1996 by ASI’s founder, John Wayne, the first camera was mounted on a tree, aimed at the nest, and displayed on a kitchen television monitor in black and white for his family. Today, the feed which has kept up with the growing camera system technology, delivers HD quality images, night vision, AND sound from a state-of-the-art camera, according to ASI’s marketing manager, Jennifer Wayne. It is mounted on a pole aiming down at the nest and available to anyone interested in the comings and goings of the pair and (within the next couple of weeks) their babies.

Although ospreys mate for life and return to the same nest year after year, Wayne says she’s not 100% sure this year’s couple is the same as from previous years. What she is sure of is that there is a lot to see starting from when they begin building the nest through when they migrate south for the winter. Until then, the live feed will allow visitors to see life not only inside the nest but also the surrounding area.

Expect to see and hear the unmistakable squawking of one or both parents as they take turns rotating and sitting on the eggs, keeping the nest clean, and warding off predators. Once the chicks hatch, the parents will fish and feed their new family. There may be glimpses of an osprey diving feet-first to capture a meal, repositioning the fish, so its head faces forward, making it easier for the osprey to fly.

Even after 23 years in the Osprey Cam business, the Wayne family can still be surprised by new observations. One of which has been the disappearing egg. An osprey usually lays two to three eggs, but many times only two eggs hatch and the third disappears. Perhaps it’s accidentally removed, maybe it speaks to the viability of the egg which the parent buries or discards. (Note that there are currently three eggs in the nest.)

Another event which Wayne described happened last year during the hottest summer days when adult ospreys were seen skimming the water, as if fishing, coming up empty and returning to the nest. They learned that this was how the parents brought water to the chicks.

As much as the video cam is a great educational tool, visitors are also warned that this is a live feed of a nature event and sometimes unexpected and upsetting things can happen. Predators such as great-horned owls and bald eagles may attempt a hostile takeover of the nest. A chick may get injured or killed. “These events are difficult to watch,” says Wayne, “even when we feel we need to notify the proper authorities, they usually tell us not to impede. It’s not our job to play God. Not only that it’s illegal to interfere with birds of prey.”

Thankfully, those types of incidents are rare. What can be expected is watching the quick cycle of the chick’s development after they hatch at the end of May. There will be practice lift-offs in the nest and, as one common saying goes, they will ‘learn to fly by the 4th of July.’ By the end of August/early September, once the fledglings become independent, the adults will fly south. Shortly afterward so will the chicks, “It’s always sad to see them leave,” Wayne says. “But we know they’ll be back.”

The bulk of the credit for the Osprey Cam goes to James Bowman and Dan Wagner, says Wayne. “They are our fearless technicians who provide not only technical expertise but also brave cold, windy conditions in the winter months to make any necessary camera changes and adjustments.” And it is all worth it.

Ospreys are not just fascinating birds. They are also a conservation success story. One of the largest birds of prey in North America, ospreys were formerly endangered. Now a significant proportion of their increasing numbers can be found here, on the Eastern Shore. Since 99% of their diet is comprised of fish, this rebound in their population is a positive indicator on the health of the Chesapeake Bay.

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.

Back Talk by George Merrill

I can’t walk the same distances I once did. Now I take a more leisurely pace and cover less turf. When I was younger I may have covered more territory, but I saw less of it. As my perimeters shrink, my vision broadens.

This is about how my unruly back reconnected me to neighbors, some I’d met, two for the first time.

Again, as it has over the years, my perverse back is dictating the terms of my life. Of the manifold gifts with which my creator has blessed me, a strong back is not one. I can only assume I was issued a leftover, a rebuilt, but not the custom fitted kind that do well and accommodate an individual’s peculiarities. Mine overreacts. It talks back.

I really shouldn’t complain. Generally, it has worked for and with me. At times, my back has even showed a willingness to rejuvenate itself, putting me back on my feet walking with my customarily brisk pace. Not recently, however.

As a result, my awareness has shifted. Getting there (wherever ‘there’ might be) is not as big a deal as it once was. It’s what I discover along the way that’s become the big deal.

Right now, my walking consists of several trips a day from my studio up the driveway to the mailbox and back. A ten-minute walk. Once I leave the studio, I am surrounded by trees. I see some of them from the studio windows and a host more leaving the studio and going to the mailbox. Since it’s no big thing about my destination – a regular mailbox – it’s what happens on the way that’s been energizing. Noticing the trees for one thing.

Of course, living here thirty years I have seen the trees before, but in not the same way. On one trip to the mail box, I hugged a large conifer tree. I’d never hugged a tree. What I had not noticed before was how large the boles of most of the conifers were. The trees must have been there fifty or sixty years. Performing the hug, I couldn’t get my fingers to touch when wrapping my arms around the trunk.

All those years I’d driven down the driveway past the pines, I’d never noticed how, when viewed close up, the bark looks like an alligator’s hide. The bark has the appearance of an assemblage of wood chips, secured to the tree like miniature wooden shingles. Ivy makes its way up some trees, weaving its vines under the wood chips, making it impossible to pull the ivy loose.

The rough tree bark does not make a hug feel like the warm-fuzzy I might wish. I felt self-conscious, too, and looked around to see if anyone was watching. Just squirrels, some sweet gum trees, two maples and more conifers.

When I’m walking unhurriedly, I like to stop and pan the area like a cinematographer seeking the broadest view of the landscape. It also rests my back.

That’s when I saw a large clod of dirt moving across the path directly in front of me. It alarmed me at first. It was about half again as big as my open hand and its movement was slow and unsteady. Moving closer I could see that the lump of dirt was riding on the shell of a huge turtle that I assumed to be a snapping turtle. My suspicions proved correct. I tried moving him to the side of the road where he would be out of harm’s way. He was not grateful at all. As I nudged him with my foot over to the roadside, his neck shot out. Fortunately, he went for my foot which was well to his stern and out of reach even as he moved sideways to get at it. He hissed menacingly at me. Don’t tread on me was written all over him.

I found a stick and tried nudging him to the roadside. He made a grab for the stick, momentarily bit down on it with a crunch, growling and hissing and, I’m sure, if that stick had been my toe he would have had it for breakfast. I retrieved the stick, kept poking at him until he fell into the narrow culvert, shell side up. He was home free.

Despite his thankless rebuffs, I was committed to his safety. I made it to the mailbox feeling like the good Samaritan despite no show of appreciation from the turtle. Fortunately, goodness has its own rewards.

I decided to go left on the intersecting road and walk a little further to my neighbor’s mailbox. Along the road between mailboxes is a gully. It was filled with water from the rains.

As I walked along I’d hear a ‘squeak’, and then a ‘plop’ as a basking frog, alarmed by my presence, made for the water. Walking further, the same: a squeak’, a couple of ‘croaks’ and ‘plops,’ frog after frog abandoned his day in the sun to take refuge in the water. I had no idea my presence could be so intrusive. After all, I didn’t even know they were there much less see them and still they were offended at my simply walking the road and minding my own business. I was beginning to feel like a pariah.

My day was redeemed when, returning to my own mailbox, I saw at the entrance to the driveway a good-sized butterfly. She was not gloriously adorned like a monarch; in fact, she was plain with her blue-black wings that had a small smidgen of white at the base of each. She was standing on the ground, her wings fluttering occasionally, as if to maintain her balance. She rocked slightly forward and then backward, as though she were trying to gain a footing to take off. I stopped close by, my foot inches from her, fully prepared for another rejection. She took wing and flew in zig zag circles, but, to my surprise and delight, quickly returned to exactly from where she’d taken flight; near my left foot. She obviously did not think I was a danger or some kind of creepy man to hiss at or flee from; for that moment, I was just a neighbor out there standing by my mailbox.

As a part of my healing I’ve found checking in with the neighbors now and then is important. It’s easy to forget they are so close and except for one turtle with an attitude, most are a comfort. In that brief walk, my world grew slightly bigger.

Columnist George Merrill is an Episcopal Church priest and pastoral psychotherapist. A writer and photographer, he’s authored two books on spirituality: Reflections: Psychological and Spiritual Images of the Heart and The Bay of the Mother of God: A Yankee Discovers the Chesapeake Bay. He is a native New Yorker, previously directing counseling services in Hartford, Connecticut, and in Baltimore. George’s essays, some award winning, have appeared in regional magazines and are broadcast twice monthly on Delmarva Public Radio.

Food Friday: Celebrating Sophie Kerr

Sophie Kerr, one of the patron saints of Washington College, in Chestertown, wrote very popular women’s fiction in the early twentieth century. She grew up on the Eastern Shore and started her career in New York, writing magazine pieces, editing the famous Women’s Home Companion, while writing books, plays and short stories. Sophie Kerr was wildly successful in her field, and her financial legacy continues to endow an annual literary prize at Washington College. This year the Sophie Kerr Prize is $63,912, and will be given to one lucky, ambitious student writer on Friday, May 17. Here are some recipes for a jubilant celebration. Please add lots of good Champagne.

https://chestertownspy.org/2019/05/14/the-2019-sophie-kerr-prize-will-go-to-one-of-six-wc-seniors/

Sophie Kerr’s fiction is littered with plucky heroines, and her food writing is full of great regional, American dishes. In the Woman’s Day Encyclopedia of Cookery, Kerr wrote a section called, “American Cooks are Good Cooks”, countering arguments that American foods were hopelessly provincial, and lacked the subtleties and sophistication of European gourmet dishes. Stuff and nonsense! Gingerbread, spoonbread, strawberries, clam chowder (with or without tomatoes) – all-American dishes that could turn everyone in the twentieth (and twenty-first) into foodies.

Here is one of Kerr’s recipes from The Best I Ever Ate, by June Platt and Sophie Kerr Underwood, 1953:
Strawberries Romanoff
“Cleaned and capped strawberries are lightly sugared, then chilled for two hours in a mixture of one-half fresh strained orange juice and one-half Curaçao. Serve with heavy cream sweetened stingily, whipped and flavored with vanilla.” That is a writer’s recipe.

There have been many American newspaper and magazine writers who have reliably enlivened our food culture. A few of my favorites are: Nora Ephron, Alex Witchel, Ruth Reichl. (Disclaimer: I am currently reading Ruth Reichl’s latest memoir, Save Me the Plums, and it is terrific! Go grab a copy!)

Nora Ephron, the food writer, novelist, and filmmaker, was a powerhouse of creativity. She was witty, acerbic, clear-eyed and romantic. She could cook. And bake. https://offtheshelf.com/2016/07/reading-nora-12-essential-books-for-every-nora-ephron-fan/

Nora Ephron’s Famous Peach Pie
Preheat oven to 425°F.

INGREDIENTS
1 1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter
2 tablespoons sour cream
3 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1/3 cup sour cream
3 peeled and sliced peaches

Put first 4 ingredients into a food processor and blend until a ball is formed. Pat out into a buttered pie plate. Bake 10 minutes at 425° F. Remove from oven. Beat 3 egg yolks slightly. Combine with 1 cup sugar, flour and sour cream. Arrange peaches in crust and pour egg mixture over peaches. Cover with foil. Reduce oven to 350° and bake 45 minutes. Remove the foil and bake 15 minutes or more until filling is done. Yumsters!

https://www.epicurious.com/recipes/member/views/nora-ephrons-peach-pie-1259999

Alex Witchel is a James Beard Award-nominated staff writer at The New York Times. She has written a poignant memoir about her mother’s decline into dementia, All Gone, but she has also written some hilarious stories, one about trying to find an ashtray in Martha Stewart’s daughter’s carefully curated minimalist hotel: Girls Only. She also knows quite a lot about food and writes a monthly column, Feed Me for the Times. This will be just the thing for a festive literary celebration:

Lemon Mousse for a Crowd
From Alex Witchel, The New York Times Magazine, May 24, 2006

Ingredients
1 cup egg whites (from about 8 eggs)
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (from about 2 1/2 large lemons)
1 cup light corn syrup
3 cups whipping cream

Instructions
In a double boiler or bowl set over a pot of simmering water, combine the egg whites, sugar and lemon juice. Whisk the mixture over the simmering water until smooth, airy and very thick, about 5 minutes. Add corn syrup and whisk just to combine, then remove from heat. Transfer egg mixture to a large mixing bowl. Cover and refrigerate about 1 hour.
Remove from refrigerator and add whipping cream. Using an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the mixture until thick enough to hold stiff peaks, about 2 minutes. Spoon the mousse into dessert cups or bowls, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate 15 minutes to 1 hour before serving.

Ruth Reichl, another writer who will enliven any literary soirée, has been a chef, a journalist, a food critic, the last editor-in-chief at Gourmet Magazine and a television producer for PBS. She will make you weep with delight when we celebrate the latest Sophie Kerr Prize winner. Follow her haiku-like tweets on Twitter if you would like to smile every day: (@ruthreichl)

Ruth Reichl’s Giant Chocolate Cake
INGREDIENTS
FOR THE CAKE:
1 ⅛ cups/100 grams unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process), plus more for dusting the pans
¾ cup/175 milliliters whole milk
1 ½ teaspoons/7 1/2 milliliters vanilla
3 cups/375 grams flour
2 teaspoons/10 grams baking soda
Salt
1 ½ cups/340 grams (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 ½ cups/356 grams dark brown sugar
1 ½ cups/300 grams granulated sugar
6 eggs
FOR THE FROSTING:
5 ounces/143 grams unsweetened chocolate
¾ cups/170 grams (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 cup/225 grams whipped cream cheese
1 teaspoon/5 milliliters vanilla
2 ½ cups/312 grams confectioners’ sugar

Heat the oven to 350°F. Butter two large rectangular baking pans (13 by 9 by 2 inches) and line them with waxed or parchment paper. Butter the paper and dust the pans with cocoa (you could use flour, but cocoa adds color and flavor).

Measure the cocoa powder into a bowl, and whisk in 1 1/2 cups of boiling water until it is smooth, dark and so glossy it reminds you of chocolate pudding. Whisk in the milk and vanilla. In another bowl, whisk the flour with the baking soda and 3/4 teaspoon salt.

Put the butter into the bowl of a stand mixer and beat in the sugars until it is light, fluffy and the color of coffee with cream (about 5 minutes). One at a time, add the eggs, beating for about 20 seconds after each before adding the next. On low speed, beat in the flour mixture in 3 batches and the cocoa mixture in 2, alternating flour-cocoa-flour-cocoa-flour.
Pour half of the batter into each pan and smooth the tops. Bake in the middle of the oven until a tester comes out clean, 25 to 35 minutes. Let the pans rest on cooling racks for 2 minutes, then turn the cakes onto racks to cool completely before frosting.

Make the frosting: Chop the chocolate and melt it in a double boiler. Let it cool so that you can comfortably put your finger in it. While it’s cooling, mix the butter with the whipped cream cheese. Add the chocolate, the vanilla and a dash of salt, and mix in the confectioners’ sugar until it looks like frosting, at least 5 minutes. Assemble the cake, spreading about a third of the frosting on one of the cooled layers, then putting the second layer on top and frosting the assembled cake. https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1017692-ruth-reichls-giant-chocolate-cake

That is probably enough sweetness for one celebration. Good luck to all you Sophie Kerr contenders!

“I don’t think any day is worth living without thinking about what you’re going to eat next at all times.”
― Nora Ephron

“Part of the power of home cooking is that everything tastes better when someone else makes it for you.”
― Alex Witchel

“Pull up a chair. Take a taste. Come join us. Life is so endlessly delicious.”
― Ruth Reichl

This is charming: https://www.washcoll.edu/departments/english/sophie-kerr-legacy/

A Chesapeake Champion Profile: Bobby Hutchison

In a few weeks, the Mid-Shore conservation community will gather once again at Easton’s Waterfowl Chesapeake building to honor Horn Point Laboratory’s annual Chesapeake Champion. The recipients this time around will be all five Hutchison brothers for their innovative work on their 3,400 acre farm outside of Cordova.

In a relatively short period of time, the Champion award has become one of the most prestigious in the field of environmental protection for the Mid-Atlantic region. Starting in 2013, Horn Point has put an important spotlight on local heroes that have made a real and lasting contribution in protecting the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem. In the past, it has gone to remarkable conservation volunteer leaders, restaurant owners, and citizen scientists, all of whom have found creative ways to sustain the Shore’s wildlife, landscapes and water.

And for the first time, the Champion award is being presented to a farming operation whose owners have meticulously cared for and protected their family’s land for close to a century. Quick to adopt best management practices, improve water quality, and the use of state of the art equipment to dramatically reduce the usage of nitrogen, the Hutchison brothers have gained the admiration and appreciation of the Eastern Shore in becoming the gold standard for how farming must be done in the future.

But what is the history of the Hutchison Brothers farm? What is it really like to be a farmer in 2019? Those were some of the questions we asked Bobby Hutchison when the Spy visited the farm a few weeks ago. His answers make it all the more clear the kind of unique sacrifices his family has made to be true stewards of the land.

This video is approximately six minutes in length. For more information about the Chesapeake Champion Awards please go here.  The Awards program will be be presented on Thursday, May 30, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., at the Waterfowl Chesapeake Building in Easton.

 

Smartphones by George Merrill

On trains, on busses, on airplanes (before takeoff), in parks and at restaurants…even in churches and at ball games, the presence of smartphones is as ubiquitous as mosquitos on a summer night. At the dinner table with the family assembled during holiday gatherings we see smartphones placed accessibly where forks and napkins once rested. Like a predatory animal, the smartphone is ready to spring, but by no means on an unsuspecting prey – this is a prey half anticipating and even welcoming the next assault. With solitary souls sitting contemplatively in their living room by a cozy fire, we can rest assured a smartphone is somewhere within reach.

For better or for worse, in sickness and in health, smartphones remain post-modern man’s constant companion. Few leave home without one.

I’ll never forget last Thanksgiving when I went into the den and found my step-daughter, her husband and four teen age grandchildren lounging in various kinds of repose; the adults typing on computers, the four grandchildren texting while the football game on TV played vainly to the den’s unheeding fans who were otherwise occupied in cyberspace.

Welcome to the digital age.

In 1654, philosopher Blaise Pascal wrote; “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in room alone,” and I would add, be anywhere without his or her smartphone.

I am not a digital junkie. I would love to brag that I was able to beat the seductions of electronics, that I was above the mediocrity that it sows and that I live my life intentionally conscious of my thoughts and whereabouts. That is not the case. I simply can’t get the hang of how to use a smartphone.

I compose essays on a computer. I send emails. I text, but I could hand deliver my message to Baltimore from St. Michaels in less time that it would take me to text it. I carry the phone with me only occasionally. I check the weather to see what to wear that day. I simply cannot manage the several digital techniques required to negotiate a smartphone’s functions much less keep abreast of the new terminology that identifies its ever-increasing applications. Even with Facebook I’m always fearful that I’ll get snagged in some advertising pop-up or press the wrong button to inadvertently become friends with someone I really don’t like.

In short, it’s not character that has kept me from being seduced by the immediacy of the digital world, it’s that I’m electronically challenged. I write essays on my computer and use the spell check so my manuscripts are mostly ‘tdypo’ free. Not always.

My wife, Jo, is a digital whiz. She’s as at home in the digital era as crabs are to the Bay. She can buy, sell, enquire, research, and do most of her Christmas shopping on line. She can stay in constant contact with grandchildren or just play games, do word puzzles and happily entertain herself for hours with her smartphone.

I am a grunt in this online world, a wayfaring stranger often lost in the wilderness of cyberspace.

St. Paul once observed that our weaknesses can be our strengths.

There’s growing concern about the effect electronic communication is having on our psyches and on our culture. What is at risk is our ability to be focused, be alert and attentive to what may be going on at the moment. In short, the digital era with all its conveniences is invasive, and like a persistent fly, constantly demands our attention. The smartphone is messing with our minds.

Georgetown computer-science professor Cal Newport is not optimistic that will power alone can easily tame the “ability of new technologies to invade your cognitive landscape.” He recommends a month long digital detox, a period of purification to declutter the mind by taking a complete break from all optional technologies. His observations parallel the process of achieving sobriety in alcohol addiction: those in recovery learn that one drink is too many, a thousand is not enough. For Newport, one technology can be too many, a thousand is not enough. Few, if any, alcoholics believe that after detox you can manage controlled drinking. Newport on the other hand, claims that after digital detox, and a period of total abstinence, one may slowly reintroduce technologies carefully, a little like learning to sip rather than gulping. He holds that controlled messaging is possible.

I confess that I am speaking with forked tongue in this matter. In writing this essay I was not sure I knew what the difference was between an iPhone, smartphone and an android. I googled my question and got an informed enough answer so I understood the general idea that they are, for practical purposes, similar although they may perform different tasks.

The glut of information immediately available to us in the digital age is both a blessing and a curse; it presents problems of its own. The ability to assimilate information is no indicator that we’ve learned anything. To “know” is more than having factual data at hand. A reflection on this very issue long before our digital era is found in T.S. Eliot’s poem, Chorus’s from the Rock:

All our knowledge brings us nearer to our ignorance,
Where is the Life we have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?

A young boy once asked his father; “Dad, where did I come from?” His father long dreaded the day, but he’d prepared himself well. He researched the data appropriate to teaching a youngster about human sexuality. He went on at some lengths with the boy, from physiology, psychology, biology and even romance. The boy remained attentive, but began to look perplexed.

“Any questions?” the father asked.

“I thought we came here from Chicago.”

Wisdom is in understanding the question first. Learning the appropriate answer follows.

Columnist George Merrill is an Episcopal Church priest and pastoral psychotherapist. A writer and photographer, he’s authored two books on spirituality: Reflections: Psychological and Spiritual Images of the Heart and The Bay of the Mother of God: A Yankee Discovers the Chesapeake Bay. He is a native New Yorker, previously directing counseling services in Hartford, Connecticut, and in Baltimore. George’s essays, some award winning, have appeared in regional magazines and are broadcast twice monthly on Delmarva Public Radio.

Food Friday: Don’t Forget About Mother’s Day!

It’s not too late to start planning a little Mother’s Day gesture. But you had best hurry up. I would advise you to put a little thought in it, though. I had an email this morning suggesting that a trip to Jersey Mike’s Subs would be a good idea; “Treat Mom to a Sub!” Perhaps not. I like a good cheesesteak as much as the next mother, and this is definitely a first world problem, but I’d like something homemade. It doesn’t have to be fancy, or well-crafted (and believe me, I have a drawer of summer camp ashtrays, plaster handprints, and dollar store jewels). Maybe this Mother’s Day I could get first pick of sections of the Sunday New York Times, some sweet and crunchy French bread, and some bacon.

I love bacon. I don’t like cleaning it up. Bacon is one of those foods that tastes better when someone else has cooked it. And then poured the bacon grease into a can, cleaned up the splatters, washed out the pan, and has tossed the dish cloth into the laundry, where more elves will take over. Such a life of fantasy I enjoy!

In real life, I tried this glazed bacon recipe from the New York Times last weekend as part of my exhaustive food research for The Spy. We also had French toast. It was divine. Be sure to get thick bacon – otherwise, why bother?

Glazed Bacon https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1016900-glazed-bacon

“½ pound thick-cut bacon slices (about 6 slices)
½ cup light brown sugar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons red wine

PREPARATION
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking pan with foil; it should be large enough to hold the bacon in a single layer. Place bacon in pan and bake until lightly browned and crisp, 15 to 20 minutes. While bacon cooks, mix remaining ingredients together.
Drain bacon fat from pan. Brush the bacon strips on both sides with the brown sugar mixture. Return bacon to the oven and cook another 10 minutes or so, until glaze is bubbling and darkened.
Remove bacon from the oven and transfer to a cutting board or platter lined with foil or parchment paper. Let cool about 15 minutes. Bacon should not be sticky to the touch. Cut each strip in thirds and arrange on a serving dish.”

I did not cut up the bacon – I divided it evenly between Mr. Friday and myself. With no apologies to Luke the wonder dog, who went without.

This is my standard recipe (practically foolproof) that I pull out for every occasion that calls for French toast: houseguests, Easter, vacation, first day of spring, Sundays, and even birthdays. It was featured once on Food52, although they did not use my illustration, which still makes me a little huffy.

We always have day-old French bread (in fact we have a collection of French bread in the freezer – we will never starve) and it always seems a sin and a shame to pitch it, so this is a delightful and economical way to be frugal consumers. And Mr. Friday loves the added kick of the rum on an otherwise uneventful Sunday morning.

Serves: 4
Prep time: 10 min
Cook time: 5 min

Ingredients:
1 cup milk (or half and half)
1 pinch of salt
3 brown eggs (any will do, actually – brown are prettier)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg – grate it fresh – do NOT use dried out old dust in a jar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 generous dollop of rum
1 tablespoon brown sugar
8 1/2-inch slices of day-old French bread

Whisk milk, salt, eggs, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla extract, rum and sugar until smooth. Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium heat. Soak bread slices in mixture until super-saturated. Cook bread on each side for a couple of minutes, until golden brown. Serve with warm maple syrup and powdered sugar. If you add some strawberries and whipped cream it will remind you of the Belgian Waffles from the World’s Fair in the 60s. Childhood bliss!
https://food52.com/recipes/4622-weekend-french-toast

Your mother will thank you for this breakfast, especially if you remember to use cloth napkins, and if you wash up afterward. Then leave her alone to wander over to her Adirondack chair on the back porch, so she can read Normal People, all by herself.

Happy Mother’s Day!

“No one can be independent of other people completely, so why not give up the attempt, she thought, go running in the other direction, depend on people for everything, allow them to depend on you, why not.”
― Sally Rooney

Talbot Mentors: The Mentees Get Ready for College

It is not much of an overstatement to say that the seven Talbot Mentors whose mentees will head off to college this  September are experiencing the same anxiety any parent might have when someone they care about leaves the nest.

In many cases, these mentor relations were established years ago in elementary school, with a history of all the twists and turns that many parents go through as they cheerlead, advise, listen, and silently worry, about their favorite young person’s future.

Much of that natural fretting comes to a dramatic conclusion next week at the Tidewater Inn when the organization hosts its spring lunch where the soon to be high school graduates will be celebrated for their success as they begin their higher education careers.

The Spy thought it would be informative to talk to some these mentees, all of whom will be the first generation of their family to attend college, about what they were looking for with colleges or universities. The answers might surprise you.

A few weeks ago, we sat down with Taylan Brooks, Randei Collins, Sean Cornish, Leonard Palmer, and Tabius Wilson to talk about college, diversity, and careers at the Talbot Mentors office in Easton.

This video is approximately five minutes in length. For more information about Talbot Mentors or to volunteer to be a mentor, please go here

 

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