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Mayflower

History is like a quilt made up of different stories. Each patch or story is made from many threads, people, places, objects, events, perspectives. The story however is dynamic, we constantly add to it as new threads are woven with the new.

It’s a cool rainy morning in Orleans, on Cape Cod. I’ve been thinking about the Mayflower, the Pilgrims, Wampanoags, settlement in New England, Plymouth Plantation. I wish I had Nathaniel Philbrick’s “The Mayflower: voyage, community and war” (2007). Philbrick is a favorite. I’ve read most of his books and heard him speak on Nantucket several times. “Mayflower” traces the story from 1620 to the Revolution.


Plymouth is frequently viewed as the earliest English settlement despite Jamestown, 1607. “Virginia’s Jamestown was the continent’s first permanent English settlement. So how is that Massachusetts’s Plymouth has precedence in the minds of so many Americans? Jamestown and Plymouth vie for primacy in America’s recollection of its history, Plymouth usually winning despite Jamestown’s precedence.” Maybe Plymouth had better PR, consider Governor William Branford’s “Of Plymouth Plantation.” And who remembers Saint Augustine settled in 1565, forty-two years before Jamestown. Oh, but they were Spanish. Back to the Mayflower.

The Mayflower left Plymouth England on September 16, 1620. It carried 102 passengers and about 30 crew. A significant number were known as Separatists, a group of people who mostly wanted to live a life free from the current Church of England. The passengers are often grouped into ‘Saints’ or ‘Strangers’ by historians, alluding to their motivations for the journey. But it’s likely that many ‘Saints’ were skilled tradesmen and many ‘Strangers’ had their own religious reasons for leaving 17th century England. A second ship the Speedwell had to turn back to England. The Mayflower was headed to Virginia.

The Mayflower was off course when it landed at Cape Cod. “On the afternoon of Nov. 9, 1620, the Mayflower came to a turning point in the dangerous Pollack Rip off Chatham.  There, Capt. Christopher Jones steered the ship north, effectively ending its voyage to the Hudson River and Virginia. Two days later the ship anchored in Provincetown where it remained for roughly five weeks before sailing west to Plymouth.” On November 11 aboard ship in Provincetown, the Pilgrims signed the Mayflower Compact. It was basically an agreement — a social contract in which the settlers consented to follow the community’s rules and regulations for the sake of order and survival.

On December 8, 1620, while the Mayflower was anchored off Provincetown. A small band ventured south and encountered the Nausets while camping at the beach. Now known as First Encounter Beach. The Nausets reportedly fired arrows and threw rocks at the Pilgrims, but no one was harmed. Desperate for food, the Pilgrims had stolen corn and robbed graves. And the Wampanoags also remembered that several years earlier, an English captain captured 27 Native Americans and took them back to England to be sold as slaves. Remember Squanto. The First Encounter was not so much an attack on the English settlers as the Wampanoags defending themselves and their culture.

“The natives had been tracking the Pilgrims’ movements since they arrived but didn’t confront them until a month later. Pilgrim records say the Nauset attacked once the Pilgrims had pulled their small boat ashore after spending the day exploring along the coast and were camped out near the beach. Although the Pilgrims and Nauset engaged in a brief firefight, there is no record of any deaths or injuries. Saxine said both sides felt they had won what was the first violent engagement between the Native Americans and the European settlers who would later colonize Plymouth. ‘The Mayflower party felt that they had won because the Nauset fighters pulled back after this firefight,’ Saxine (a professor) said. ‘The Nauset probably felt they had won because the English people sailed away and left them alone.’ Later that day, as the Pilgrims continued their exploration, a storm developed — their boat was blown across Cape Cod Bay to what is now known as Plymouth. What they found when they arrived was a village that had been decimated by disease. While the Wampanoags considered the site a cursed place of death and tragedy, the Pilgrims saw the deaths of the natives as a sign from God that this was where they should settle.”

And so began Plimoth Plantation. (Reframing the Story of the First Encounter Between Native Americans and the Pilgrims by Bob Seay, WGBH, November 2019).

Eastham would not be settled for another 24 years. Nonetheless, while Eastham doesn’t boast the Pilgrim fame that Plymouth does, it will always have this claim to fame. A moment in history forever commemorated in the form of a plaque that sits in the main parking lot at the beach. We usually go to First Encounter Beach at least once every year when we visit Cape Cod.

I only remember one trip to Plymouth. It was close to forty years ago. I think we were leaving Cape Cod and looked for a place to stay a night in Plymouth. The only room we found was a small house trailer with a shelf for Jenny to sleep on. Very small. We toured Plymouth plantation. I was fascinated at the reenactors only speaking in character. Then there was the replica Mayflower and Plymouth Rock, protected by a classical temple built around 1880.

“It wasn’t until 1741—121 years after the arrival of the Mayflower—that a 10-ton boulder in Plymouth Harbor was identified as the precise spot where Pilgrim feet first trod. The claim was made by 94-year-old Thomas Faunce, a church elder who said his father, who arrived in Plymouth in 1623, and several of the original Mayflower passengers assured him the stone was the specific landing spot. When the elderly Faunce heard that a wharf was to be built over the rock, he wanted a final glimpse. He was conveyed by chair 3 miles from his house to the harbor, where he reportedly gave Plymouth Rock a tearful goodbye. Whether Faunce’s assertion was accurate oral history or the figment of a doddering old mind, we don’t know. (And if Faunce indeed was telling a tall tale about the humble chunk of granite, he broke the cardinal rule of American mythology: When you make stuff up, go big—really big.” (History Channel)

Another patch or thread in the Mayflower story is Thanksgiving. Enshrined as a national holiday celebrating the peaceful meeting of the native Americans and Pilgrims. Like “the rock” it’s primarily myth. “On September 28, 1789, just before leaving for recess, the first Federal Congress passed a resolution asking that the President of the United States recommend to the nation a day of thanksgiving. A few days later, President George Washington issued a proclamation naming Thursday, November 26, 1789 as a “Day of Publick Thanksgivin” – the first time Thanksgiving was celebrated under the new Constitution. Subsequent presidents issued Thanksgiving Proclamations, but the dates and even months of the celebrations varied. It wasn’t until President Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 Proclamation that Thanksgiving was regularly commemorated each year on the last Thursday of November.”

Like many American myths (see “Lies My Teacher Told Me” by James Loewe), historians have recently rewritten the story. In 2019 Claire Burgos wrote an article in Smithsonian magazine.

“In Thanksgiving pageants held at schools across the United States, children don headdresses colored with craft-store feathers and share tables with classmates wearing black construction paper hats. It’s a tradition that pulls on a history passed down through the generations of what happened in Plymouth: local Native Americans welcomed the courageous, pioneering pilgrims to a celebratory feast. But, as David Silverman writes in his new book This Land Is Their Land: The Wampanoag Indians, Plymouth Colony, and the Troubled History of Thanksgivingmuch of that story is a myth riddled with historical inaccuracies. Beyond that, Silverman argues that the telling and retelling of these falsehoods is deeply harmful to the Wampanoag Indians whose lives and society were forever damaged after the English arrived in Plymouth.”

“The myth is that friendly Indians, unidentified by tribe, welcome the Pilgrims to America, teach them how to live in this new place, sit down to dinner with them and then disappear. They hand off America to white people so they can create a great nation dedicated to liberty, opportunity and Christianity for the rest of the world to profit. That’s the story—it’s about Native people conceding to colonialism. It’s bloodless and in many ways an extension of the ideology of Manifest Destiny.”

“This mythmaking was also impacted by the racial politics of the late 19th century. The Indian Wars were coming to a close and that was an opportune time to have Indians included in a national founding myth. You couldn’t have done that when people were reading newspaper accounts on a regular basis of atrocious violence between white Americans and Native people in the West. What’s more, during Reconstruction, that Thanksgiving myth allowed New Englanders to create this idea that bloodless colonialism in their region was the origin of the country, having nothing to do with the Indian Wars and slavery. Americans could feel good about their colonial past without having to confront the really dark characteristics of it.”

Perspective is never absent from historical interpretation. Our understanding of history isn’t static, written in stone but fluid growing, shrinking changing s we add need threads and new patches to the story.

Plimoth Plantation has changed its name to “Plimoth Patuxet,” in honor of Wampanoag name for the region. Maybe it’s time for another visit. And I want to reread Philbrick’s “ Mayflower.” My understanding of the Mayflower/Plymouth quilt may change again.


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Boats


On Aryes Pond we look out on a mix of small sailboats. I enjoy watching them sway in the breeze, and listening to the sounds of halyards clanking against the mast, sailboat chimes. Boats pull us to water and then on the water, a pond, lake, river, bay, ocean.

”Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than those you did. So throw off the bowlines . . . Sail away from safe harbor . . . Catch the trade winds in your sails . . . Explore . . . Dream . . . Discover.” Mark Twain

”In one drop of water are found all the secrets of the oceans; in one aspect of you are found all the aspects of existence.” Kahill Gibran

”Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing — absolutely nothing — half so much worth as simply messing about in boats.” Kenneth Grahame

My first recollection of boating was when my father in the mid-1950s bought a 12-15 foot outboard — painted green. It was on a trailer which he pulled from our warehouse to the boat ramp in the Bristol parking lot. The family piled it and off we went. Usually for a swing around Burlington Island; maybe a picnic stop. A few times we headed south under the bridge toward Philadelphia. I had other boat experiences on the Delaware. A friend Bruce Carter had a sailboat. I remember going out with him several times. Then there was Doctor Schultz. He had a motorboat and would take the Romano boys and I for a spin. He was fast. At least once we stopped somewhere up toward Trenton, Doc landed the boat and built a fire. He proceeded to grill baloney. White bread, grilled baloney and mustard; delicious. Finally Carmen Mignoni had a canoe behind the jewelry store. We were free to use it. Carry it to the river, canoe down river to Maple beach or across to Burlington Island. On one explore of the island (which was an amusement park during the 1930-40s) “Shultzie” who operated a ferry to the island chased Andy Romano and I from picking through the ruins.

I took several canoe trips in the New Jersey Pine Barrens. Several were with my Boy Scout troop; at least one when I co-sponsored an Explorer’s unit at Holy Ghost Prep. We also did a Delaware River trip, up river beyond New Hope then back Bristol. My last Pine Barrens trip was with the Taylor’s and Rosenthal’s in the early 2000s. Hal Rosenthal was about 80 years old. The trip followed heavy rains. The river was running fast. Hal & Sue capsized several times but it was a fun trip.


Diane’s father always had an motor boat. A banker friend Leland Ryder owned a lake, Black Pond, not far from the Smith house in Carmel N.Y. Most Sundays in the summer, Mr. Smith pulled the boat to the Ryder cabin on Black Pond. Mr. Ryder had built the one room cabin. We boated, water skied, swam and picnicked. An alternate trip was Lake Candlewood in Connecticut. This was much larger lake but the routine was similar. At least once we went sailing in Long Island Sound with the Ryder boys. They sailed competitively. Diane’s brother crewed for them. I was recruited to photograph a sail. It was evening; sun setting, full sails; the photos were fantastic. Unfortunately I gave them the originals and they never let me get copies. Hawley eventually bought a motor boat and a small house on a lake. We buzzed the lake a few times with him. I don’t recall any other boating experiences during my college and early post college years.

It may have be in the late 1970s that I joined the crew of the Gazela. She was a 100 foot Portuguese tall ship that for 60 years fished on the Grand Banks. Bought by Philadelphia, the crew was volunteer. I spent quite a few weekends scraping, painting, doing anything the Captain asked. Sessions were devoted to learning to sail, learning the ropes! I also learned I was not climbing the rigging. On my shakedown climb, my legs turned to rubber; our trainer advised, go slow and work yourself down. I missed out on any time on the yards.

On the July 4 weekend we sailed in a boat parade between Philadelphia and Camden. Fireworks followed. The next morning we headed downriver to Delaware Bay. To my amazement my watch pulled the early morning and I was assigned the wheel, we motored. There was a river pilot and an experienced Gazela crew member by my side. Eventually the pilot went ashore and we hit the open sea. The Captain called “raise the sails.” Engines cut, under full sail; I held the wheel. What a rush. Later that morning the Captain announced that the cook hadn’t made it to the ship. Volunteers were needed. I raised my hand and accepted assistant cook. Before prepping lunch, the cook went below and didn’t return. Short story. She had passed out and I was promoted to head chef. Lunch was easy; dinner a challenge. There were about 15-20 crew. I seem to remember chicken; jello that wouldn’t jell. This continued for several days. We made one stop at Greenport, Long Island. There was a boat festival and we were open house. My Uncle Albert and Aunt Carol who lived nearby picked me up for dinner. Albert had been in the Navy and I think enjoyed touring the Gazela. He gave me a generous tip. On to New London and another port festival. My final duty as cook was to oversee provisioning. Someone in Philadelphia placed an order; I supervised it’s stowing aboard. Unfortunately it was the end of the sail for me. Gazela would continue to it’s home port in Nova Scotia. I took the train back to Philadelphia. I don’t remember why I didn’t continue as a crew member.

My cousin Bill to my surprise bought a fishing boat on Long Beach Island. We went out with him a few times. Out Barnegat Inlet into the ocean. Usually after bluefish. Bill eventually sold the boat and my good pole was still aboard. I wanted to learn to sail. Several times Diane and I rented a sunfish on Long Beach Island. We purchased a canoe to use on the Delaware River. Later a kayak to use in Nantucket. We dreamed about a sailboat or Boston Whaler.

While living in New Hope in the early 70s our new friend Rodney Hamilton built a small motor boat in his basement. The joke was “he couldn’t get it out.” But he did and invited me on an explore to Delaware. A map showed green space, maybe we could buy some land for homesteading. I advised Rodney that the boat couldn’t pass the falls at New Hope. So we trailered the boat to Bristol. Rodney opened up; I really thought the boat would split and sink. We reached Pea Patch Island, landed, and explored the Civil War era fort. When we returned to the boat, we realized the prop had been damaged during landing. We pushed off and made it to the oil tanker docks at Marcus Hook. We bobbed around beneath them until a cigar chomping guy in big motor boat passed. We flagged him, demanding a tow across the river to a New Jersey marina. We threw him a tow line and off he flew, we balanced precariously on his wake. The boat safe in the marina we made our way to a highway leading to Camden. Rodney carried a yellow bucket with his RAF altimeter (not sure why he had it). Rodney wanted to call his wife Ragna (80 years old). I refused, we’d hitchhike. As it got dark I thought better of hitchhiking through Camden with Rodney and his yellow bucket. I called my brother-in-law Lewis. I don’t remember how we got the boat back to Yardley.

During the 1980s sailing became our regular vacation for a decade. With Susan and Jerry Taylor we would charter a 30 foot sailboat out of Rock Hall marina on the Chesapeake Bay. Jerry was an experienced sailor. I helped. We usually went for 3 or 4 nights. Occasionally a week. Some nights we anchored on a river; sometimes we tied up at a town dock— Annapolis, Chestertown. We visited Cambridge, Oxford, St. Michael’s. Cooked on board or went to a restaurant. One year we rented a 40 foot boat, my sister Marylee and husband Norval joined us for a two week trip. For ten years we vacationed on Nantucket. We always took a kayak.


We’ve been to Cape Cod with our grandkids for about 10 years. Most years we take a charter to explore the area, to stop on a flat and catch sea creatures in nets. That’s been our only boating in recent years.

“Being on a boat that’s moving through the water, it’s so clear. Everything falls into place in terms of what’s important and what’s not.” – James Taylor

Whenever I find myself growing grim […] I quietly take to the ship. Almost all men in their degree, some time or other, cherish very nearly the same feelings towards the ocean with me.” Herman Melville

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Storm Surge on Cape Cod

For ten years we’ve spent two weeks with the Kwait’s in Orleans, at the elbow of Cape Cod. For several years on Pilgrim Lake, now Aryes Pond. South of us is Chatham, a larger town with a long street of shops and restaurants. Last night (our first this year) we ordered take pizza from Chatham’s Shark Pizza. My grandson, Eli is a pizza gourmand; it was his recommendation. Quite good. “Storm Surge” a book I just finished is a Chatham story.

On Sunday morning after routines, including my daily journaling, I began reading “Storm Surge: a coastal village battles the rising Atlantic” (1995) by William Sargent. As I suspected, it is a reread. But it provided an easy transition to what I call Nantucket Time. Sitting in the screened porch, in an easy chair or out near the pond, I relax. Silence except for the birds, breeze in trees, an occasional boat leaving or returning to the Aryes Boat yard. I read, reflect, relax. Like the house, the book despite it’s strong themes is familiar, almost comforting.

Sargent is the son of Francis Sargent a Massachusetts governor from 1969 to 1975. Francis was a Republican but a “liberal” conservationist. Someone who would not be welcomed in today’s Republican Party. I vaguely remember his name from my days living in Boston.


“Storm Surge” is the story of several nor’easters that changed the shoreline of Chatham. I’m familiar with the area which is part of the reason I enjoy the reread. 1987 a storm ripped open a channel through Nauset Beach near the Chatham lighthouse. We sometimes go to the northern end of Nauset Beach from Orleans. Water rushed into Pleasant Bay after the breech. From our pond we can enter Namequoit River into Pleasant Bay. Driving south from our rental we pass Jackknife Cove on the bay, a low key beach area. The 1987 storm hit close to our rental home.

Sargent is a scientist and frequently writes about the natural world. For “Storm Surge” he explores a world of people. Although a rising ocean and global warming are in the background, we read more about the home owners, fisherman, and town threatened by environmental change. We follow the human and coastal changes from 1987 to 1994. What are the ecological changes to Pleasant Bay. Are there fewer or more clams, ell-grass, fish stock? How many houses/ camps will be washed away? Can homeowners build sand dunes or sea walls to protect family properties? Federal regulations deny many.


I particularly like the local history. Sargent’s family home is close to the Chatham fishing pier. There is a market and take out. We are having Sea Bass from there tonight. The pier services Chatham’s fishing fleet. Seals are usually an attraction off the dock. The 1987 breach in Nauset was near here. A little south is the Chatham lighthouse. There is a romance, a lore to lighthouses. Consider: “The coastline of Cape Cod is rumored responsible for over 3500 wrecked vessels (1850 through 1980). Those who sailed close to the Chatham shores tell tales of ghostly images that lured ships to what seemed like, safety; only to have their hopes dashed against the rugged shores of the Cape.” I just read that the lighthouse is opened for tours on Wednesday.

Sargent seems a bit skeptical about blaming the rising ocean and shore changing storms to global warming. He focuses more on the changes brought about by coastal erosion and changing beach lines. Just south of the area is Monomoy Island — sometimes separated; sometimes connected to the mainland. Much of the island is a National Wildlife Refuge. There are excursions which we’ve never taken; lots of seals. The flats are excellent clamming grounds. The Fish and Wildlife Service sought to stop or control shellfishing but recently have reached an agreement with the town of Chatham.

“Officials in Chatham, one of the most active shellfishing towns in the state with hundreds of commercial permits issued each year, said waters below the low-tide mark have been considered state waters since Colonial times, and that shellfishing and fisheries management in state waters have been conducted by towns and the state for hundreds of years. An analysis showed that historical and legal documents related to the federal taking of the land that created the refuge in 1944 did not include any waters below mean low tide on Nantucket Sound.

Yesterday everyone but me went to Chatham for shopping. I’m hoping to tour the Chatham coastline, go to the fishing pier and lighthouse with a renewed sense of the changing relationship between land and sea. And maybe a beer in Squires.


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Fermentation

Last week I made yogurt. I’ve been making it for years; almost weekly. Usually I use whole milk and either my yogurt as a starter or if I need to refresh the starter I buy a good yogurt — organic Stonyfield, Fage, or Maple Hill organic. If you’ve never made yogurt, it’s easy. I have a very basic Euro Cuisine yogurt maker. You heat up milk to 180 degrees, let it cool to 110, add the starter. Let it warm 8 hours in the machine. Sometimes it goes 10 or 12. Lots of probiotics. This can be strained for a think Greek yogurt. I use it constantly in morning smoothies — yogurt, fruit, vegetable, maybe chai, hemp seed or wheat germ. I was using Almond milk to thin the smoothie but have recently changed to Kefir. The yogurt is delicious on granola or bowl of berries.

My health coach introduced me to making homemade Kefir. I bought the kefir seed on Amazon. You mix it with milk and let ferment at room temperature for a day or two. The seed reproduces, the milk sours into Kefir. I’ve developed a routine. One mason jar of seed and milk sits at room temperature; another is refrigerated which retards fermentation. Almost every day I strain a cup or more of milk from the room temp container, add more milk and refrigerate. The second jar is removed from the refrigerator. Presumably this can go on and on. I read that it’s possible to dry out and save seed or give some away.

I’ve been making kombucha for several years. Jenny gave me a kit for Christmas in about 2012. My standard recipe comes from ”Kombucha Revolution: 75 recipes for homemade brews, fixers, elixirs, and mixers.” by Stephen Lee and Ken Koopman. I make tea 14 cups of tea; 16-20 bags or 8 tablespoons of loose tea — green, black or white. One cup of evaporated cane sugar is added to the tea. When it is cooled to about 70 degrees, I add 2 cups of starter tea (previous batch) and the SCOBY — the colony of bacteria and yeast that ferments the tea. The SCOBY is saved in some of the kombucha. If not used enough it can turn sour. Over the years I have purchased several from Amazon. The tea ferments in about 8 days, tasted and if ready bottled. There are various flavorings that can be added. I have added ginger several times. Once bottled if left at room temperature it will continue to ferment and produce fizz. Too much and it will explode when opened (I’ve had that happen). Refrigeration stops the fermentation. Since I’m getting into more fermentation, I want to look at the alternative recipes.

Several decades ago I sent for Carl’s 1847 Oregon Trail sourdough starter. It’s said to be a strain of sourdough starter that Carl inherited from ancestors that traveled west on the Oregon trail. There might be some truth to the story but the starter has certainly been changed by natural yeasts. The starter in my refrigerator isn’t the same as what I got from Carl. For years Carl distributed the starter for free. Just include a stamped envelope. When Carl died in 2000, a preservation society was formed to continue his work. I still use bread and biscuit recipes Carl included with the started. My Doctor is pushing me to a low carb diet and for bread recommends limited sourdough. I’ve also begun making pancakes with sourdough starter, substituting almond flour and flax meal instead of additional wheat flour. They are quite good. Maybe I need to explore more sourdough recipes.

My renewed interest in fermentation lead me to pull from our cookbooks ”The Art of Fermentation: an in-depth exploration of essential concepts and processes from around the world,” (2012) by Sandor Ellix Katz. In the past I have made sauerkraut, dill pickles, pickled beans, garlic and peppers. Usually when I’ve had extra from the garden. Katz has chapters on fermenting meads, wines and ciders; vegetables; sour tonic beverages; milk; grains; beers; beans, seeds, and nuts; meat, fish and eggs. Unfortunately Katz can be very technical and his recipes complex. But my health coach suggested I eat sauerkraut every day. As excessive as that sounds if I cut carbs and sweets I need to find some interesting tasty new menu items. Fermentation may be a partial answer.

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To market, to market

Last Tuesday we drove to Manoff Market Garden and Nursery. We were looking for peaches. Unfortunately none, later in the week, through August, we were told. We bought 2 pints of blueberries and 2 pints of blackberries (delicious). A few cookies, granola and gazpacho filled out our order. I usually buy several bottles of their hard cider. We’ll get back for peaches and cider. Peaches are their speciality.

We like to shop farm market’s and specialty stores. It may cost more but we find quality and taste. Usually a good experience. Buy local. My earliest recollection as a kid were drives to Styers Orchard in Middletown township. Local fruits and vegetables, lots of Halloween pumpkins and gourds. Walter Styer bought the property in 1910. The farm store was added in 1972. One of my local history students at Holy Ghost Prep interviewed ”Pop” Styer when he celebrated his 100th birthday. He wanted to preserve the farm and just before he died in 1999, the township purchased the farm and market. It hires someone to manage it. Recently there was a new hire.

Another farm we visited growing up in Bristol was Snipes Farm. The Quaker family settled the Morrisville farm in 1808. My strongest recollection is of a nursery; at Christmas Diane and I would purchase a live tree and German made decorations. Sam Snipe, a Yardley lawyer lived on the farm. Weekly he drove a horse and buggy to the Trenton Post Office to pick up mail. We road with him one Saturday. People throughout the route waved to him. Back on the farm, Sam cooked us breakfast. One winter evening, Jenny and her friend Katie were invited to a horse and sleigh ride. Sam was a delightful individual, dedicated to social issues. Today the property is the Snipes Farm and Education Center. They host workshops, festivals, pick your own seasonal produce, and host a summer camp. We need to visit.

Our second stop last Tuesday was the Milk House Farm Market on Slack Road in Newtown. Brenda Slack, a 4th generation farmer established the market in 2007. The family operated a dairy farm on the property from 1850 to 1988. Today Brenda sells her fruits and vegetables, eggs and other local products in the old milk house. I particularly enjoy the selection of seasonal pumpkins, not just jack o’ lantern decorations. But Hubbards and Long Island Cheese that aren’t found in the super market. Both tasty for home made soups and pies. Yesterday we got corn and zucchini.

Ely’s Pork Products is close to the Milk House. I’ve bought pork, sausage and bacon from them several times. They also have a variety of other meats and also began making cheese. When we pass I always say we need to stop but hours are limited and they have not become a regular for us.

Near Manoff’s is Solebury Orchards, Creamery Road in New Hope. Although they have a variety of fruits, they are known for apples. We purchase several times a year. They also make apple sauce, cider, apple butter and cider donuts. Sometime in October-November, I buy 2 pecks of mixed apples and make a years supply of apple butter. The orchard was established by Brian Smith in 1985 on 24 acres. Since then 45 acres have been added. Solebury apple products are sold throughout the county; pick your own is a major activity.

We do major food shopping about 2 times a month at Non Such farm market on 263 in Buckingham. The farm’s roots date to 1926 when William and Elizabeth Yerkes were tenant farmers. In 1932 they purchased a farm; in 1978 the family established a market. Today the farm produces 100% non-GMO Black Angus Beef and a variety of crops, including herbs, strawberries, sweet corn, tomatoes, asparagus, and pumpkins. The market also has a deli, bakery and some groceries. We buy most of our meat at Non Such. In addition to their own beef, they carry Creekstone Farms steaks and filets. We also buy ground beef, chipped steak, pork, chicken, sausage, turkey, liver, bacon and hotdogs. All are quality; some local. I experiment a bit, trying different cuts, pork loin has become a staple, recently switched to bone in chop which tastes better, various roasts, brisket and hanger steak were new for us. We can also get a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, breads, deli meats, maybe cheese, nuts, milk, eggs, butter, yogurt, occasionally pretzels or other snacks. Due to Covid, the hours and market layout have changed. However I’m always amazed how many food needs or desires can be quickly satisfied at Non Such. It’s a perfect size. They host farm dinners; we need to sign up sometime.

Shadybrook Farms is closer to home in Lower Makefield. It was started in 1913 in Andalusia, Bensalem Township, by the Fleming family. Interestingly they became customers at Thomas Profy & Sons appliance store. My father talked about going to the farm on service calls. Ed and Dave attended Delaware Valley College and Shadybrook and Delaware Valley have been in the news recently, forming some partnership. In the 1960 the Flemings began to buy farm land in Lower Makefield township. In 1968 the Heston farm was purchased and the Andalusia property was sold. Their main wholesale crops are collard greens, kale, turnips, parsley, radishes, parsnips, spinach and pansies. Shadybrook’s market has home grown and local produce, meats, lots of speciality foods, some locally produced, dairy, deli, bakery, Rose Bank wines from their vinyard in Newtown and Uncle Dave’s homemade ice cream. During the first year of Covid we did most of out food shopping at Shadybrook. We ordered online for a pick up. It worked quite well and we were generally pleased with the quality. It’s not however a regular stop for us. We might pick up a few things; we buy from the nursery. Shadybrook also runs a variety of holiday events, Christmas lights, and family entertainment.

At this time of the year our garden is producing a lot of greens, spinach, kale, bok choi, swiss chard, several types of lettuce. Radishes, tomatoes, peppers and eggplants are being harvested. Cucumbers zucchini and squash are late this year. At other times of the year we have been going to Blue Moon farm in Buckingham. We discovered them through micro greens. They grow 60 varieties. The farm market is open 9 to 3 Tuesday and Friday. Recently they have been marketing a box that contains a variety of vegetables (many they have grown) and micro greens. We have bought the small box for a Friday pick up several times. The box usually contains a bag of rice which they grow on a Pennington NJ farm. For several years they operated a great small market on the Pennington farm; unfortunately but may reopen. In addition to their produce and rice it carried many local products.


Griggstown Farm is located above Princeton. In 1975 George Rude begain raising quail on two acres in the village of Griggstown. In 1992 he purchased the farm which had grown to 65 acres. He raised pheasants, quail, chickens, partridge, ducks and turkeys — all natural, free of growth hormones and antibiotics. I discovered Griggstown about 15 years ago. It was Christmas, I was shopping in Marazzo’s gourmet market in Morrisville (since closed). They were advertising and I had read about one of my favorites, chicken pot pies. They were from Griggstone Farm but they didn’t have any. After Christmas! I finally got one; it was delicious. In 2002 they began operating a retail market. Many of their birds were sold wholesale and to restaurants. The article i read discussed how the pot pies were a weekend hit at the outdoor Old City, Philadelphia market. McCaffrey’s grocery started to carry them but soon produced pot pies under their own label. Griggstown market is small but there is a lot there. Chicken Turkey, Beef, Vegetarian pot pies (large and small), Shepard’s Pie, house made sausages, fruit pies, soups and sauces. Of course there are chicken, turkey, game and quail eggs. One year I bought a Bourbon Red Heritage Turkey. Unfortunately my cooking on a grill wasn’t the best. Some Griggstown products are available in other markets. We drive to their farm market about twice a year. Its a nice ride along the Raritan canal. And we usually find some treat.

Up the Delaware, in PA at the Frenchtown Bridge is Schneiderwind Farm and nursery. Along side of the road is a weathered barn where they sell their own and local produce. Corn is a staple. they also sell nice flower bouquets. We usually stop if we are in the area. Further up river at Kintnersville is Trauger’s Farm market. It is fairly large with a wide variety of seasonal vegetables, raspberries and blueberries. They also have a bakery. Birchwood Farms in Newtown sells raw milk, local cheese and meats. They raise beef and pork. An occasional stop; usually to buy some of their homemade ice cream. Wow Cow in Buckingham is the more common stop for small batch ice cream.

Gravity Hill Farm in Titusville has had several faces. In the large barn they sold some produce and some other local products. They established a relationship with Roots to River Farm in New Hope which was started in 2013 by Malaika Spencer. Roots has a CSA and ran the market at Gravity Hill. In the Spring they sold plants. I met Malaika once, a young woman farmer and we drove onto the farm one Sunday. Most interestingly Gravity Hill hosted the Farm Cooking School (now Shelley’s Table). Shelley Wiseman started a cooking school with Ian Knauer. Both had worked for Gourmet magazine. Originally they were on a farm above Stockton NJ. I took several classes — peppers, pasta and cheese making and attended one or two demonstration dinners. The attendees were always interesting; classes fun and informative. Eli and Viv attended several for children. I have Ian’s book ”The Farm: rustic recipes for a year of incredible food.” They moved to Gravity Hill in 2016. On weekends they served lunch from a small kitchen. Recently Shelley went on her own and now offers classes in different locations. We haven’t been to Gravity Hill in some time; should check it out.

The Brick Farm in Hopewell, NJ was started in 2013 by Jon and Robin McConaughy as a retail outlet for livestock raised on their Double Brook Farm (2004). The market now has a cafe, butcher shop, bakery, cheese counter, produce and some speciality items. Its a nice breakfast or lunch stop and we can always fill a cart. In 2015, in a renovated farmhouse (1823), they opened the Brick Farm Tavern. Ultimate farm to table operation. We’ve eaten there several times; most recently outside.


In years past we shopped regularly at the indoor Morrisville Farmers Market. I remember a decent fish counter and some unusual fruits and vegetables. Similarly the Trenton Farmer’s was a weekly stop for years. They host farm booths and many speciality shops, I loved Cartlidge’s Quality Meats, sausages and house made pork roll especially. We always bought our vegetable garden plants there in the Spring. We sometimes say we should go back but so far haven’t. We do occasionally go to Yardley or Buckingham’s outdoor farmer’s market. It’s an outing but not a major place where we buy food.

In addition to farm markets and orchards there are a number of speciality stores or groceries we patronize. Organnons Natural Market in Wrightstown is a regular stop. It has a large health food section with vitamins and supplements. We get a lot of healthy staples there. Peanut, Sunflower, Almond and Cashew butters, chocolate, starter yogurt (I make a 1/2 gallon every week), almond and other non wheat flours and crackers, beans, beet and cherry juice, ginger beer, sauerkraut, eggs, milk. We buy some produce, a great selection of yams, oranges, avocados, green bananas, nuts, seeds. Lots of things recommended by my nutritionist. It’s a good health food store.

Altonmonte’s Italian Market is among the best. It has locations in Doylestown and Warminster. It’s origin is a 1971 Germantown butcher shop opened by newlywed immigrants Mike and Fran Grispino. It was called Mike’s Meats. Their daughter, Maria recalls her father taking her to livestock auctions to buy cattle. They made wine in the garage and sausage in the cellar. Today both locations have lots of take-out, pizza, a bakery, deli, butcher shop, Italian groceries, many imported from Italy, local produce. When we go I recall my Uncle Frank Mignoni who made regular trips to the 9th street Italian market in South Philadelphia. He brought home the tastes of Italy — green and black olives, cheese, including provolone mozzarella, ricotta, parmigiano reggiano. Deli meats might include prosciutto, pancetta, capicola, salami. Altemonte’s have maybe a dozen sliced salamis — Genoa, Milanese, Napoletano, pepperoni, and many types of soppressata. I try something different in meats and cheese each trip. We get at least one stromboli, a loaf of Italian bread, pasta. Maybe olive oil & vinegar. Most of the seafood is frozen, calamari, octopus, salmon, chopped clams. We don’t buy much meat there, maybe a steak.

Although their selection has changed and we haven’t been there recently, Lucy’s Kitchen and Market in Princeton has delicious homemade pastas and ravioli. They always had fresh, dried or frozen. For several years it was a regular stop. They now have a wider variety of takeout and I think fewer pasta offerings. Another source of pasta is Porfirio’s in Trenton. Their main ”factory” in on Anderson Street; their major product is ravioli. It’s very good. They also have an outlet in Hamilton and their ravioli is sold in other stores. The family has the same name as my grandfather (before his was Americanized) and like him came from Roccavivara in Molise, Italy. I was told we were probably distant relatives. We’ve been to both locations. Trenton and family history.

Recently we made a stop stop at Ben and Irv’s delicatessen and restaurant in Huntington Valley. It had been on my list to visit for some time and we finally decided to have lunch there. Corn beef sandwiches for both of us. But we also bought from the deli, pickled herring, corn beef, pastrami, kippered salmon. We got some rye bread and rugalah. There are other deli items we would like to try. I am hoping we get back regularly. I enjoy Jewish deli food. Moish & Itzy’s is a Jewish deli in Newtown with a similar menu. Since they are closer we will probably check them out.

For years we went to Buckingham Fish Market then it burned down. Although the building has been rebuilt; they are not re opened yet. So for our seafood we turned to Heller’s Seafood Market in Warrington. They opened in 1978 and I learned about them several years ago from a newspaper review. We went and were impressed. I told them it was quite a ride but would return. I mentioned that we sometimes went to the Nassau Street Fish Market in Princeton. The owner immediately said he knew and was friends with the owner. For years they had driven to the Fulton Fish Market in New York together. We still occasionally go to Nassau but Heller’s is a bit larger. We go to them because the fish is fresh, almost all house filleted and they have a wider selection than supermarket fish counter. We usually buy several filets which we can freeze — salmon, cod, flounder, halibut, sea bass are typical. But were are open to other varieties. I love scallops (quite expensive these days); shrimp is a stable. Clams, mussels, oysters and shucked oysters in a jar. We love crabs. I’ve been wanting to get frozen snow crab legs or Dungeness crabs. They have precooked frozen calamari and octopus which I’ve learned to prepare. I enjoy blue fish, fresh sardines and mackerel. They have house made pickled herring and seafood salad that we like for lunch. We both enjoy seafood. Also we hope Buckingham Seafood reopens.

We like to food shop. We like farm stands and farm markets, speciality food stores. We like the quality, buy local, know your farmer ethic. We will continue to explore. Always a new place. When I finished this I was surprised however that there were no “just bakeries.” A mission, find several bakeries worth the drive bakeries. Caution. Must be carb careful. Where do you shop?

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The Little Things

Until 2000 my life was pretty blessed. There was the disappointment when our Peace Corps program was cancelled. The Vietnam war and draft forced life decisions. There was major disruption and disappointment in my employment in the late 1980s. But for the most part things went fairly smooth. Since then there have been major shocks to my normal calm. Three floods in 2004, 2005 and 2006 changed our finances and life. Rather than a vacation/ retirement home we elevated our house. My mother died from an unsolved hit-and-run. I got prostrate cancer. My grandson was treated for neuroblastoma when he was four (it reoccurred when he was 15 and he is still undergoing treatment). One year following my retirement in 2015, I developed a fistula from the prostrate proton radiation treatment I elected. Surgery to repair the fistula failed and I ended up with a colostomy and urostomy. Between those surgeries I had a triple bypass and within months, two failed. I also learned that one carotid artery was permanently blocked. Sometimes I felt, ”when it rains . …”

Besides my personal issues, since 2016 we all have had Trump (his ongoing influence, attack on democracy, followers and acolytes), Covid, the Russia-Ukraine War and now the Conservative Supreme Court. More rain . . .

Then I think of my mother. One of her favorite sayings was “It’s the little things that count.” Sometimes I’ve tried to adopt her view. Enjoy each day. Find the silver lining. Take time to smell the flowers.

For Father’s Day this year, Jenny gave me a small book, ”Things To Look Forward To: 52 large and small joys for today and every day,” by Sophie Blackall. She is a two-time Caldecott winner, Australian author and illustrator. A book for my mother. Blackall’s no 1 is ”The sun will come up.” After each ”thing” Blackall explains her choice with text and illustration. ”Even if temporarily behind a cloud, the sun will come up, and a new day will dawn.”

I identify with and do look forward to many of Blackall’s choices. Coffee, a hot shower, first snow, rain, seeing the sea, visiting a museum, finishing something, learning something new, growing your own food, feeding birds, a nap, a drink of water, making a list, looking at maps, going somewhere, coming home.

There are other choices she makes that I appreciate but probably wouldn’t be immediately on my list. For instance: a new word, applause, hugging, listening to a song you’ve heard before, skinny dipping, new glasses, collecting pebbles, finding something you thought you’d lost, tidying up, writing a letter, receiving a letter, voting, walking in cemeteries, doing your taxes (“the moment after filing my taxes, the relief is so great. …” Carpe diem — seizing the day.

If you want a complete list of Blackall’s things, get a copy of her book.. It’s an easy, uplifting read. Blackall encourages readers to compile their personal list of ”things to look forward to.” How could I resist.

My Little Things To Look Forward To

Taking a photograph – Elliot Erwitt explained my view of being a photographer: ”To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place… I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.”

Reading and rereading – reading and books have always been central to who I am. It’s the way I become someone else; escape to a different place; explore other perspectives. Since retirement I’ve been rereading more.

Writing in a daily journal – I started journaling in HS. It feels good to review the day passed; plan for the new day. I express my thoughts and feelings if only to myself. Daydreaming on paper. Writing a blog has also become a way that I think, record and share.

Baking bread – Good bread can be delicious. It’s even better if you have created it. Sometimes it’s a recipe but I like to experiment. I once published a generic bread recipe — so much liquid to so much dry, plus extras.

Sitting in the shade near a body of water — ocean, lake, stream, river; all can be soothing, relaxing, calming. Flow, tide or wind ripples are a welcomed addition. Shade, I’m not one for burning in the sun.

Food shopping at farmer’s markets, farm stands, speciality shops – we try to buy a lot of our seafood, meats, fruits and vegetables from the farm or speciality stores (Altamonte for Italian; Ben & Irvs for Jewish). I need to post all the places in PA and NJ we frequent.

Exploring new foods and new recipes — I’m suppose to go very light on sugar and carbs so I enjoy finding alternatives. Pancakes for instance with almond flour and flax meal; smoothies with yogurt, fruit and greens.

Harvesting produce from my garden — I can’t say I always enjoy the work of gardening. But tohe harvest is always rewarding, more greens than we can eat, 250-300 pounds of tomatoes, peppers to last all year, eggplants, squash and zucchini, garlic . …. all tasty.

Eating soft shell crabs – Although I have many favorite foods, soft shells top the list. I read about them in William Warner’s ”Beautiful Swimmers” in the late 1970s. I experienced my first in a food truck sandwich in Cape May with Jerry Alonzo. Since then I look forward to their annual Spring arrival.

A mix of the familiar and serendipitous – When I travel, read, eat, whatever I do I like the familir, favorites but I want that spiced with something new. For instance, annually we stay at Orleans on Cape Cod for two weeks, there are beaches, restaurants, walks and books that we return to each year. But we are always looking for something new and different. The mix is delicious.

Bird watching — I can sit on our deck and enjoy the regulars at our feeders. Diane and I take birding outings —some are just us; we’ve also been out with Bucks County Audubon. We have binoculars and a scope — shore birds and wildlife refuges are our favorites.

Local history — It can be reading or exploring, I am hooked on local history. It took off when I participated in a National Endowment program led by Walter Licht at the University of Pennsylvania. For a month we heard speakers and visited historic sites in the Delaware valley. I began teaching what became my signature course, Local Studies. When I travel I like to read a book about the area we are visiting. This started when we were following the Lewis and Clark trail in 1969 and I read ”The Journals.”

Seeing and buying Bucks County painting, particularly the Impressionists — I was delighted when the Mitchener Museum opened in Doylestown. They featured and continue to focus on Bucks County art. I think my first encounter with the New Hope school was at Freeman’s on Market Street in Philadelphia. They had a John Folinsbee show. I was amazed. About 20 years ago I began to buy some contemporary Bucks County originals. Enjoyment; investment!

Talking to my sisters on the phone — Weekly I call several of my sisters. Marylee who lives in Olympia, WA is a Saturday regular. But several times a month I call Vicky, Cissi and Liz. I enjoy sharing what we are doing and hearing what they are up to.

E-mailing friends articles, book recommendations or photographs I think they will like — It’s a bit of the librarian in me. Recommend things to patrons.

Visiting historical sites — Sometimes this may be when we are traveling but many I have enjoyed are closer to home. When I retired in 2014 I began an almost weekly train ride; Philadelphia explores. Sometimes I had a specific destination but many trips were open ended. I would just wander the streets, a neighborhood, go to a museum or historic site. Usually lunch was included.

Eating in a restaurant — Particularly since retirement and covid, restaurants have become an important destination for us. We have favorites — Pineville Tavern, Black Bass, Yardley Inn, Rieglesville Inn, Grey Stones, Osteria Vecchia, but we delight in trying something new.

Listening to my grandchildren — They grow up so quickly. Hard to believe Eli is 15; Viv is 13. I enjoy seeing them but I think the best is just sitting back and listening. What are they doing? How are their friends? Plans, hopes? Viv is a particularly good story teller with a sense of humor. Eli is more straightforward with a subtle, wry humor. As they get older visits may be less frequent and I may need to turn to phone or email more.

Rewatching movie — It’s not that I dislike new movies or old movies that are new to me. But I really enjoy rewatching a movie. There may be things I missed or forgot. When I taught a course in the history of American film, I would watch some films year after year. I never got tired of them. I also like to read reviews and criticism and compare them to my response. I have a collection of film books.

Anything Sherlock Holmes — I became an informal Baker Street Irregular in the 1970s. I always had a book of Holmes stories on my night table. I regularly bought the Holmes, Watson and Moriarity pastiche books. There is a shelf if them in my clothes closet. I watch classic and new Holmes films. There are deer stalker caps, pipes, and other Holmes trinkets that I have collected. For many years I read part of a Holmes story every night.

A car ride on river road — I never get tired of the route, following the canal, through Washington Crossing, New Hope, Lumberville, Point Pleasant, Rieglesville or maybe the NJ side Lambertville, Stockton, Frenchtown, Milford.

Wearing a hat — I have a wide selection of hats, enjoy buying new ones and wearing them. Hats and vests are probably my favorite articles of clothing.


It helps to appreciate the ”little things.” Mom was right. Celebrate.

What things do you look forward to? Feel free to add them to this post.



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A Passion for Books

Several years ago I read “A Passion for Books: a booklover’s treasury of stories, essays, humor, lore and lists on collecting, reading, borrowing, lending, caring for, and appreciating books,” edited by Harold Rabinowitz and Rob Kaplan.  This is one of many book about books.  I have quite a few.

I’ve previously written about books, check out my blog, “My Life in Books.”  It recalls the old Bristol Library where I discovered the junior classics, Leary’s bookstore in Philadelphia,  reading in high school, the Harcourt Bindery in Boston, being an English major, a librarian at Holy Ghost Prep, and collecting Sherlock Holmes, photography and film, local Bucks County, Philadelphia and Pennsylvania History, travel, and food.

I was never the type of bibliophile written about in “A Passion for Books.”  The only collectors’ names I recognized was Philip and A.S.W. Rosenbach.  They bought and sold rare books.  I’ve visited their Delancy Street museum, The Rosenbach, in Philadelphia several times.  The most memorable trips were several June 16 Bloomsday Festivals that I attended.  All day people sat outside and guest speakers read from “Ulysses.”

The museum has a manuscript copy from Joyce’s hand.  One year I spent most of a day listening.  I also remember an exhibit of Maurice Sendak, the children’s author/ illustrator who gave the museum his works.  I need to get back.

My earliest awareness of “special books” was in the old Bristol Library and  Leary’s bookstore in Philadelphia.  I recognized and liked books with quality illustrations.  It might be an edition of the Wizard of Oz or Robinson Crusoe.  Scribners published many, we have a few, some illustrated by Andrew Wyeth. My father would take me to the City, Jewelers Row, Horn & Hardarts lunch, Independence Hall and Leary’s, my favorite stop.


My bibliomania expanded a bit when I worked at the Harcourt Bindery in Boston in the 1960s.  What a dream job for a college student.  I learned a bit of leather binding, and a little about first and special editions.  Several years ago for Christmas I gave my grandchildren books bound in leather at the Harcourt — David Coperfield for Eli; Anderson’s Fairy Tales for Viv.  I have a few others with my small collection of rare books.  For several years I bought Heritage Press books, a way to read the classics.  I learned of Heritage Press when I bought them, rebound them in leather, then sold them through the Bindery.  (All were sold when I left for the Peace Corps.) Several years ago I sent my super 8 Harcourt Bindery film to be digitized; somehow the company lost the film.  A former teacher who purchased the Bindery in the 1970s from my boss, Fred Young, wanted a copy.  He had made several films about the Bindery with grant money and was planning to write a book.

Film history books

My book collecting has always been topical rather that the rare and first editions often collected by bibliophiles.  At Boston College in the mid 60s, I became interested in filmmaking and took several courses.  It was the period of American infatuation with foreign films, art films, director as auteur.  Scorsese, Coppola, Lucas, and many others went to the new film schools like NYUs.  Many books were being published about film history, reviews, directors and film making.  I began to buy everyone.  I added to my film book collection in the 2000s when I taught a film history course at Holy Ghost Prep.


My next book buying passion was Sherlock Holmes.  There are a handful of books and story collections by Conan Doyle; but there are hundreds, probably thousands books about Doyle, Holmes and Watson, Moriarity, Scotland Yard and the pastiches modeling Doyle’s style.  I bought all that I could.  I even subscribed to one of many journals devoted to the Holmes’s Canon, “The Baker Street Irregulars.”  Books, including different editions of Doyle’s publications, and journals fill a shelf in my bedroom closet.

Around the same time I began to collect photography books.  Some were collections of historic photographs or the early photographers.  Dover published a lot of older photographers.   I used many of these in teaching American history.  Others were the works of classic or contemporary photographers.  When I took a course with Ernst Haas or Bill Curtsinger in the 1970s, I bought their books.  When I retired I probably had close to 100 books.  Almost all were sold.  First I offered them on Amazon, then I boxed and sold them to a Princeton bookstore. I may regret that sale.

In the 1980s I began to teach courses in local history — Bucks County, Philadelphia with a bit of Pennsylvania.  I began to buy any books related to Bucks County.  There were standard classics from the 18th century; reprints; and new histories.  Some were pamphlets and town anniversary books.  My “Bucks County” collection contains most books published about the County.  Obviously there is much more published about Philadelphia and Pennylvania. But I bought a lot. For years I attended Pennsylvania Historical Association conventions and returned home with several hundred dollars of books from local University presses — Temple, University of Penn and Penn State — and the Pennsylvania Historic Commission.   I also bought a few out- of-print classics like Watson’s history of Philadelphia.  Interestingly, when I wrote my dissertation, I used quite a few of the books on PA political history from my collection.  I made many trips to the Spruance Library (The Bucks County Historical Society) in the Mercer Museum, Doylestown, to read local history. Newspapers I discovered there became the basis of my two year weekly local history column in the Yardley News, which led to my book on Yardley.

When we lived in New Hope in the mid 1970s we frequented Farley’s bookstore.  They had a good collection of local history books.  It’s still there but a bit shop worn.  The old Yardley library was a favorite book stop after we moved to Canal Street in the early 70s.  I enjoyed many evening walks, especially in the snow, to find a good read. The elder women librarians were classic.   It was so small books the two deep.  Eventually a new county library was built in Lower Makefield. The carpenter gothic old library was taken over by the Yardley Historical Association. Then in 2000 I wrote an Arcadia photographic book on “Yardley,” my local history.  

Interest in local history led/leads me to purchase/collect, books related to places we visit.  I have many books about New Jersey, New York State and New York City.  I would or will buy anything I can about Nantucket and Cape Cod.  The Chesapeake, New England, particularly Maine and Boston get my attention.  Seattle and the Northwest fill part of a shelf; Florida another.

In the 1990s I began teaching a course in how to teach social studies in elementary and high schools.  I believed that teachers had to go beyond what they would teach their students.  I began to develop a bibliography of “good social studies reading.”  It was based on my own reading and every year I added a dozen books.  There were history books and biography, travel books, memoirs, sociology and economics, books about food and culture.  Most of my copies were paperbacks, frequently bought from a local Barnes and Noble recommended reading table.  They had a great buyer.  When I retired from HGP and stopped teaching the college course I asked, “Why am I keeping these books.”  Well, “I might want to reread them.”  So began my reread program.  Actually I sold about half (more likely gave them away) and have reread quite a few.

Another 1990s collection was children’s books.  The Newbury winners; large format, beautifully illustrated books for the pre-school through 3rd grade.  This collection was also related to the social studies teaching class.  One session was devoted to children’s books.  For years I would borrow several dozen books from Phyllis Gallagher who taught a course in children’s lit.  Then I started to buy; maybe a hundred books.  When Eli and Viv came on the scene I had lots of kids books.  A few years ago, I had them go through the collection, save sell, save, save, sell.  Some are currently listed on Amazon.

More recently food and cooking books have become a collection.  We probably have close to 100 traditional cookbooks.  For years Diane has been a cookbook reader.  It’s only recently that I’ve signed on.  But in addition to cookbooks there are chef memoirs, books about specific crops, fish, fruits and vegetables, and processed food products.  Probably the first single food book I ever read/reread was “The Chicken Book.”  I knew I liked the book, but why?  On the reread I discovered, it was two college professors who decided to teach a course about chickens — the history, economics, religious connections and cooking recipes.  Since then I’ve read books on cod, bluefish, tomatoes, caviar, salt, catfish, beans.  If we eat it, someone will write a book about it.

I’ve been buying fewer books. And I continue re-reading. I should sell or give away many books from my library. But when you have a passion, it’s hard, not impossible, just hard. Do you read many books? Do you collect books? What topics? Any recommendation for me?

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Return to Maine

January 19, 2022, Fathers Day.

Every morning I read an e-mail from Heather Cox Richardson.  She is a Boston College history professor and for me the most “right on” commentator of the current political scene.  Her daily “Letters from an American” provides a summary and analysis of the day’s news tied to historical antecedents.  The “Letters” title is a nod to Revolutionary War French writer, Jean de Crevecoeur’s  “Letters from an American Farmer.”  Richardson lives in Maine near New Harbor but she guards her exact address. Frequently on Sunday night she just posts a photograph taken by Peter Ralston from Rockport.  Ralston puts out a e-mail about once a week.  I bought Diane a Ralston print for Christmas.  The sheep were on their way to Betsy’s Wyeth on Allen Island.

Check out www.ralstongallery.com

I enjoy the Maine connection of Richardson and Ralston. Yesterday I finished reading ”Islands in Time: a natural and cultural history of the islands of Maine,” by Philip W. Conkling (2011); photographs by Peter Ralston.

There are over 4,000 Maine Islands. Today about 15 are inhabited year round; historically there may have been 300. Most are in Penobscot Bay; several in Casco. When we visited the Sears on Matinicus several years ago the population was about 50. Most are lobstering families. Conkling describes life on the islands, the tension between summer people and year round residents. How almost everything needs to be delivered from the mainland. On Matinicus (20 miles off shore) I learned, a ferry only runs only once a month in winter and weekly in the summer. There is air service and private boats.

Wyeths wern’t the only artists that have been drawn to Maine. Monhegan island is known as an art colony — Robert Henri, George Bellows, Rockwell Kent painted there. Edward Hopper and Winslow Homer spent time in Maine. Bo Bartlett who had an exhibit at PAFA when my daughter Jenny was married there has a Matinicus home. N.C. Wyeth had a home in Port Clyde on the St. George peninsula; Andrew had a summer mainland home in Cushing and with his wife Betsy owned two small islands; Jamie has a house on Mohegan.

Lobstering and tourism are about the only way of making a living on the islands. Development and tourism is suspect and resisted by many lobster families. Historically there were other fisheries, cod, haddock, halibut even green sea urchins but all have been over fished. There are good lobster years and bad lobster years. Prices can swing from 1.25 to 12.35 a pound for hard shell. Soft shells that have shed are available in July and September, may be sweeter but don’t ship well. Lobstermen have very rigid rules about who can set traps in the Gulf of Maine. Islanders protect local grounds. In recent years they have also enacted and enforced more rigid time, size and number requirements. Boundary disputes and rule breaking can lead to banishment, cutting of lines on cages and occasionally gun fights. Although lobster stock has been healthy, sometimes increasing, global warming leading to warmer ocean temperatures will push lobster north toward Canada. I’ve read this is already a serious concern. Read: https://wordpress.com/post/vprofy.wordpress.com?jetpack-copy=11125

Conkling and Ralston were both involved in creating the Island Institute.

Helping Maine’s island and coastal communities thrive

“Since 1983, the Island Institute has partnered with thousands of dedicated people who care about the coast of Maine and believe that a sustainable future for our communities and the environment is crucial. We work proactively and collaboratively to help Maine’s island and coastal communities tackle the most pressing environmental and socio-economic issues they face. Learn more about our history, our latest news, and the people who help make this work possible every day.” https://www.islandinstitute.org


I’ve always enjoyed travel to and reading and writing about Maine. “Down the Atlantic Coast:Maine” https://vprofy.wordpress.com/2016/08/04/down-the-atlantic-coast-maine/ and “Maine on my Mind” https://wordpress.com/post/vprofy.wordpress.com/5167 and two blogs I’ve posted. Richardson’s “Letters,” Ralston’s photographs and ”Islands in Time” are only my most recent encounters with Maine. Our last trip was in September-October, 2018 when we spent a week visiting David and Judy Sears in Cushing (their winter home).

We stopped over in central Massachuttes on the way up and coming home. In 2016 we had visited the Sears at their summer home on Matinicus Island (see my blog, “Maine on my mind”).  They had just sold their Tinicum house and bought in Cushing.

A few weeks before the New England trip I stacked a cord of wood, thinking cold, woodstove, Maine (had fires while there), and Scott Nearing’s comment that the wood will warm you twice, when cutting (I missed that part since it was delivered), but stacking, and finally burning.  After stacking, I settled in to read  “A Year in the Maine Woods,” by Bernd Heinrich.  A book I bought for the trip.  His cabin is in Lovell about 30 minutes from Bethel where our other Maine friends, the Bonnema’s live and have made pottery for nearly 50 years. Garett and Melody recently retired visited us several weeks ago.

Hung near our woodstove in Yardley are two new Sears’ paintings.  Diane was taken by a small abstract of trout skin.  I bought a larger one, from the series of tidal rocks from Condon Cove.  Dave has been doing the “rocks” for several years and although imaginative, they remind me of my experience photographing rocks and outcropping at my first Maine Photographic Workshop in about 1974.  Lobsters come and go; the rocks will stay with me.

On the 2018 trip we stayed at the Putnam House B and B, a 1737 farmhouse, barn and a newer connecting cottage in Central MA.  It was in Sutton, near Worcester.  Along with being a half way point to Cushing, Diane’s great grandparents lived in the area; her grandmother was born there. Whitinsville, Northbridge and Uxbridge are town names familiar to her.  We visited all three, looking at old mill buildings and worker housing. We stopped at the Blackstone River and canal connecting Worcester and Providence, RI.  It’s part of the industrial revolution corridor.  A nice towpath but overcast and rain so we didn’t walk far.  We found some decent places to eat and Margaret, the Innkeeper was a treasure. She was Welsh, in her 80s, easy conversationalist, local history, gardening, cooking.

Saturday we headed down east, to borrow a sailing term.  It’s also the name of a Rockland magazine;  we had a subscription for several years. I checked and Down East is still published although the alternative ”Maine Times” newspaper that we liked folded in 2002.  We thought about a lunch stop in Portland (great restaurants) but continued on to Georgetown Island, and had lobster rolls at Five Islands Lobster Company.  Dockside picnic tables, whole lobsters or rolls, corn and slaw, soda and water.  We watched boats unloading the day’s catch.  There is a romance about lobstering, the piles of traps, colorful buoys, boats, yellow slickered fishermen, gray sheds and piers jutting in the cove or bay.  While on Cape Cod this summer I wrote a blog, “The Lobstah are Coming.”

From Georgetown it was an easy drive to Cushing.  The Sears home is located on the Saint George River, the village of Cushing is about 6 miles from Rockland where they get the ferry to Matinicus Island.  We were treated to a delicious scallop dinner.

Food, art and conversation dominated our stay.  Unfortunately we had rain.  But it didn’t stop us from visiting the Olson House.  Andrew Wyeth was a frequent visitor and painted many paintings of the property and the Olsons.  Most famous is “Christine’s World,” depicting a woman crawling, stretching, reaching toward a gray colonial house at the top of a small hill.  Christine had a condition that impaired her walking, Wyeth was inspired when he saw her in a similar position.  When he painted the picture, his younger than Christine wife Betsy posed.  The house was closed the day we visited but the overcast, rain and empty gray house created an interesting atmosphere.  At the bottom of the hill we visited a small cemetery where Andrew Wyeth and the Olsons are buried.  Earlier this year, I read “A Piece of the World,” by Christina Baker Kline.  It’s a factionalized account of Christine, Wyeth, and the Olson family house.  The description of Maine and Cushing were good reading.

Diane visited the Farnsworth Museum another rainy  day.  There are paintings from many of the artists that painted in the area including the offshore islands.  I was content paging through many of Dave’s Maine Art books in front of a warm fire.  The Wyeth family from Chadds Ford in Chester County, PA spent summers in Maine.  They bought several islands, Southern and Allen, and Mrs. Andrew Wyeth had a home on Monhegan Island.  Mohegan attracted many artists including George Bellows, Robert Henri, Edward Hopper, Rockwell Kent, N.C. Andrew, and Jamie Wyeth and Edward Redfield (Bucks County impressionist).  There are many others that I do not recognize.

On a drive one day we passed the home of Alan Magee outside Cushing.  Born in Newtown, Bucks County, he is another painter who found Maine inspiration.  Although Magee has many different subjects, most interesting are his “beach stones” an inspiration for Dave’s Condon Cove stone paintings.

Just down the road from the Sears house is they 90 acre Langlais Sculpture garden and museum.  The property was the home of Bernard “Blackie” Langlais and his wife Helen.  Blackie was an unusual artist, paintings, sculpture and mixed media. “In 1956, while renovating his summer cottage in Cushing, Maine, Langlais was captivated by working with scraps of wood, which he arranged to create a mosaic-like wall composition. He termed the process “painting with wood” and emphatically abandoned oil painting to explore this new medium. . . Despite his commercial success, by the mid-1960s Langlais became disenchanted by the pressures of New York gallery culture. Interested in working on a larger scale, he purchased a farmhouse in Cushing and moved permanently to his native state. In the last eleven years of his life, he constructed more than sixty-five monumental wood sculptures on the land around his home, including his best-known commission, the over seventy-foot-tall Indian for the town of Skowhegan, Maine. During this period he also produced a massive oeuvre of two- and three-dimensional works exploring the patterns, textures, and expressive powers of the animal kingdom.” I particularly liked Langlais’s Richard Nixon (above).

We drove to Rockland, Rockport and the villages of Friendship and Tenants Harbor. I never tire of the piers, docks, weathered buildings, piles of lobster traps, colored rope and seaweed, postcard views of rocks and ocean. One day we visited Camden Hills State Park. Dinner out or at the Sears house was always seafood. Lobster (all you can eat) of course.

Dave has just finished renovating a basement studio in Cushing. I mentioned the two new paintings from this trip. A bit of Maine in Yardley. Check out Dave’s website. https://www.dsearsart.com/cushing

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Stanley Tucci

Several days ago I was able to access (finally for free) Stanley Tucci’s ”Searching for Italy, Season 2.” It had eluded me for weeks and 9 o’clock Sunday night was too late for me. What a great series. I immediately watched the first episode, Venice.

If you haven’t seen any of these. Tune in. The first series had six episodes, starting with Naples and the Amalfi Coast. As with most travel food shows, the host explores the city or country, in this case a region. So we get a bit of history and culture. As a guide Stanley is very informal, friendly, glib, funny. He states that he is Italian on both sides and decided to explore all the regions of Italy. Cuisine being distinctive to each.

In 2018 Stanley was diagnosed with tongue cancer. For several years prior he had difficulty swallowing. It got worse. Treatment wasn’t easy. Recovered, he described his experience in “Taste: my life through food,” which he published in 2021 – same year he made ”Searching.” I think I watched the series and then discovered the memoir. I first borrowed an audio copy from the library. Stanley reading it was fantastic. Unfortunately the copy became due and was unavailable for months. I turned to a copy of “Taste” I got as a Christmas gift.

Pizza was a highlight of Naples. Stop two was Rome where Stanley searches for four pastas, samples cheese and sausage made from local sheep and pigs. At each stop in the series Stanley meets up with several guides. It could be a farmer, a chef, a cook, a mother or grandmother cooking at home. He may help in the kitchen as he learns how to make and taste regional dishes. Next, Bologna in the Emilia-Romagna region. Home to Prosciutto di Parma and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. Milan, Tuscany and Sicily follow. Stanley is always searching for what makes the region unique. To remember all the regional differences I will need to re-watch all the episodes. I probably will.

Piedmont is the second episode in season 2. Piedmont in northwest Italy pushed for Italian unification in 1859. It is known for risotto. “A distinctive dish from the show has attracted viewers’ attention for its quirky blend of coffee, beer, and rice. A tiramisu-like risotto found in a restaurant at Piedmont is a “thousand things in one can. The restaurant is hidden behind a 1960s tourist hotel called Hotel Cinzia. Run by two chefs, Christian and Manuel Costardi, the restaurant serves Italian delicacies with a modern twist. The food items at the eatery surprised Stanley Tucci, but the one dish that impressed him over bounds was their signature risotto. The risotto is made with Grana Padano cream, beer reduction, and coffee. The food item’s flavor profile should give hints of a cappuccino or tiramisu integrated within a risotto. Inspired by Andy Warhol’s Campbell soup cans, the delicacy is served in individual metal cans.”
Bagna Cauda is another speciality of the region. It is an olive oil-based anchovy and garlic fondue served over an open flame to keep it warm throughout the meal. Stanley seems to savor everything he tries.

The next region explored is Umbria near Tuscany between Florence and Rome. Pork is a staple. Stanley tries several pork dishes. He also discovers wild boar which search out truffles, a fungus that grows on the roots of oak trees. The much sought after white truffle cost $1,500 per pound and up; in 2018 two pounds went for $85,000. Perugia chocolate comes from Umbria.

London, Stanley’s hometown is the last stop in Season 2. He visits several restaurants engaging the chef in a discussion of Italian food throughout the city. One of his favorite restaurants is Sartorial. “Chef Francesco Mazzei moved to London in the 1990s from Calabria, one of Italy’s poorest regions. Now, he oversees Sartoria’s busy kitchen staff. The restaurant features a number of the chef’s southern favorites, such as lasagne pastachina and lobster tagliolini. Tucci loves the food so much that he asked Mazzei to cater his wedding in 2012, when he married Felicity Blunt. For lunch, Mazzei made Tucci Scottish scallops with ‘nduja (a spicy spreadable sausage) and salsa verde. ‘I was the one who introduced ‘nduja to London,” Mazzei said. ‘And now you find it nearly everywhere, and now it is a great part of your ingredient list.’ ‘That’s delicious!’ Tucci said as he sampled the scallops. ‘It’s got so much going on.’” After Tucci tried black cod with licorice, red onion jam, cavolo nero, olive oil mash and crispy potatoes. The dish is an ode to Mazzei’s humble roots in Calabria, where licorice and fish are plentiful”

Watching ”Searching for Italy” makes me want to travel to Italy again. To eat in Italian restaurants in the United States. To buy more Italian ingredients and cook more regional Italian at home. I’ve also been watching Lydia Bastianich TV show, ”Lydia’s Kitchen” which adds to my interest in exploring more Italian cuisine.

“Taste” is a engaging memoir. Stanley describes growing up Italian in Westchester, New York; his performances in films like ”Big Night,” ”Julie & Julia,” and ”The Devil Wears Prada.” I need to watch/ rewatch them. The main focus however is food and cooking. He spent a year in Rome when he was 13 and was exposed to Italian restaurants and real Italian cooking. As an actor living in NYC he enjoyed the food scene. As a bartender he learned to make and enjoy a martini. There are recipes throughout the book. So far I’ve made Stanley’s martini. Several times. I have not tried Timpano, a baked pastry filled with pasta, ragu, salami, cheese, hard boiled eggs and meatballs. It was a traditional Tucci family Christmas dish. Stanley entertains how Timpano dominated (sometimes ruined) Christmas dinner. As the years passed food became Stanley’s passion. He traveled on film assignments and for pleasure. He enjoyed food, cooking and eating. His most recent travel has been “Searching for Italy.” Watch it if you haven’t. And read”Taste.” Manga.


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Cuba

Somewhere in my trays and folders of 35mm slides are several photographs of my father. They were a bit dark. I think he was alone in all the photographs. They were shot in Cuba. Father and his two brothers ran a General Electric franchise store started by my grandfather in Bristol in the 1930s. In the 50s, GE awarded owners travel rewards for meeting sales expectations. They made trips to Florida and the Caribbean. I guess they only won one trip to Cuba because my father went alone. It had to be before 1959 when the Revolution overthrew the American friendly Batista regime. I have no memory of father talking about the trip — I suspect a fancy hotel, gambling, a tour of Havana, a few photos. I think the mystery surrounding his trip instilled in me a fascination — I wanted to visit Cuba.

In 1963 the Kennedy administration imposed travel restrictions on Americans who wanted to visit Cuba. Over the years they have been loosened or tightened depending on the policies of the administration. Obama loosened them; Trump tightened them. Educational travel has been permitted since the Reagan years. I looked at several photo-educational programs at that time.

Several weeks ago I looked in my piles of books; I found two related to Cuba. My first read was ”Havana: a subtropical delirium,” by Mark Kurlansky (2017). I’ve read and totally enjoyed several Kurlansky books including ”Paper: paging through history,” ”The Big Oyster: history on the half shell,” “Salt: a world history,” ”Cod: a biography of the fish that changed the world.” ”Havana” did not disappoint.

Kurlansky first visited Havana as a journalist in 1981. He fell in love with the city, it’s color, intrigue, light and shadows. He described a ”film noir” quality. He explored and wrote about a unique Habaneros culture, describing art, music, poetry, and food. Mojito recipe included. In a short personal, journalistic style book he covers a lot of history; the native Taino, Columbus, Batista and Castro; slavery, pirates, and Spanish occupation; the Bay of Pigs and Missile Crisis. Jose Marti, Errol Flynn, Allen Ginsberg, Walker Evans, John Muir, JFK, Che, Desi Arnaz and my friend Ernest Hemingway are all part of the tapestry.

The city’s mystery contributed to the development of European and American tourism. It’s that mystery I saw in the photographs of my father. I think Havana and see other images, of decaying multi colored buildings, 1950s American cars on cobblestoned streets, baseball, rum, the Buena Vista Social Club, a photograph of a bearded, fatigue-garbed Fidel, royal palms and a burning tropical sun.

My next read was”Waiting for Snow in Havana: confessions of a Cuban boy,” by Carlos Eire (2003). I don’t remember previously reading this but I suspect I did. Carlos grew up in a middle to upper class Cuban family during the Batista era. He was one of several thousand Cuban children sent to the United States soon after the Revolution. They were alone, sent ahead to wait for parents to get an exit visa. Some never saw their parents again; Carlos never saw his father.

”Waiting for Snow” is one boy’s story of growing up in Havana. We learn about his family, a tough father, an understanding, nurturing mother, extended family, young friends and neighbors. Their are details about the family house, meals, religion (Catholicism) and outings. There are many kid adventures, some dangerous, with firecrackers, lizards, a broken eighteenth century cup, bullies, even a local pervert. The boy however survives. I enjoyed his fascination with American films and movie stars.


Many chapters contain flash forwards to the Revolution, Castro (disliked by the family) and Carlos’s eventual exile to the United States. There is minimal story of his life, marriage and family in the U.S. This is a Cuban, a Havana story.

I doubt I will ever get to Havana. I can search for the slides of my father. Look at Walker Evan’s Cuban photographs. Make a mojito.

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