Food Friday: Remembrance


The perfect grilled hamburger doesn’t come from Vivian Howard’s Boiler Room restaurant in Kinston, North Carolina, although I encourage you to stop by if you are ever in her neighborhood. Her burgers are awesome and delicious.

Mr. Friday flips an excellent burger on his fancy gas grill on the back porch, and in the soon-to-be-well-seasoned cast iron skillet in the kitchen. He serves them on trendy potato rolls, with perfect heirloom tomatoes and lots of gooey cheese. They are hot and delectable, and in the middle of this gelid winter, deeply satisfying.

My perfect grilled hamburger comes from my youth, from the hibachi in the back yard, on hot summer nights, with sparks spewing and bats flying overhead. The burgers were not juicy and perfectly formed. They were irregular spheroids – well-charred and carbonized briquets – flipped and squashed until all the precious juices were mangled out. Hamburgers cooked by my father were unforgettable.

My father died this week, unexpectedly, yet not unsurprisingly; he was 92, but still, we were shocked. He had suffered a fall, and survived a week of hospital care. Returning to my hometown has brought myriad memories bubbling to the surface. Friends have called and texted my brother and me, and after the effusion of sincere condolences, peoples’ real recollections come tumbling out. Some folks even remember these gritty, over-cooked hockey pucks with great fondness. Not quite the stuff of legends, because Dad did so much more in his life, but the cookouts were pleasant interludes; respites when everyone slowed down, and sat in the squeaky, webbed aluminum chairs, and watched the sun set and the stars come out. There were no deadlines, or lesson plans, or homework to worry about. The summer evenings spent cooking out were relaxed, and filled with conversations – none particularly memorable – but all were amiable and rambling.

We sat around the small fire, some of us poking it with sticks hoping for conflagrations, some sipping warming Ballentine Ale. We shelled peas, snapped beans, and trimmed radishes. We churned ice cream. We ate tomatoes, warm from the afternoon sunshine. We flipped baseballs. We watched as the fireflies started to flit about. We saw twinkling airplanes on their approaches to the New York airports. We heard about childhoods in Hamden and New Haven, the Yale bookstore and the Panama Canal. We listened to stories about the South Pacific during the war. We learned about street cars, and ice men making deliveries with their horse-drawn carts, and the one-and-only time playing hooky to see Frank Sinatra sing. We talked about Maine vacations and Civil War battlefields. Sometimes we had sparklers, and wrote our names with the glowing wire tips. Sometimes the hamburgers were forgotten and the night was rich with family and starlight. We are bereft, but for the memories.

But if you prefer convention, Bon Appétit can show you the way:

• Divide meat into 4 equal portions (about 6 oz. each). Place 1 portion on a work surface. Cup your hands around the meat and begin to gently shape it into a rounded mound. (Use light pressure as you shape so you don’t pack the meat too tightly.) Lightly press down on the top of the meat with your palm to gently flatten it. Continue rotating and cupping the meat, patting the top of it occasionally, until you’ve formed a 4″-diameter, 3/4″-thick patty. Using your thumb, make a small indentation in the center to help keep the burger flat as it cooks. Transfer to a plate. Repeat with remaining portions.

• Build a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill, or heat a gas grill to high. Season one side of patties with salt and pepper; place on grill, seasoned side down. Grill until lightly charred on bottom, about 4 minutes. Season other side, turn, and top with cheese. Grill to desired doneness, about 4 minutes longer for medium. Transfer burgers to buns and let stand for 3 minutes before serving.

•Spatulas were made for flipping, not pressing on the patty. Hear that hissing sound when you do? That’s all the flavorful juices dripping on the coals—they belong in the burger.

“Silently, one by one, in the infinite meadows of heaven,
Blossomed the lovely stars, the forget-me-nots of the angels.”
― Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The Artists of Heron Point


Members of the Heron Point Art Interest Group in front of large canvas painted by HP residents in an art therapy class. L-R Standing Joanne Scott, vice-chair; Olga Owens; Karen Fitzgerald, treasurer; Collette Moffatt, chair; Barbara Finneson, secretary; Seated – Leslie Baldwin, head of permanent collection; Linda Atcheson, studio chair & coordinator for outside artists

Chesertown is a thriving arts community, with many active and well-recognized artists. But while the local tradition of art goes back a long way, it has certainly gone to a new level at Heron Point. Shortly after the retirement community opened some 25 years ago, a group of residents formed an art group — which quickly established itself as one of the focal points of the local arts scene.  And now artists at Heron Point are looking forward to a new, purpose-built, studio, currently under construction by Yerkes construction of Chestertown and scheduled to be completed by spring 2018.

Collette Moffatt, chair of the Heron Point Art Interest Group, in the current Artists Studio.

Collette Moffatt, the current chair of the Art Interest Group, said in an interview that artists of all levels of experience are members. The gamut runs from former art teachers and professional illustrators to neophytes  — like herself — who decided to pursue an interest in art after retirement. There are classes for all levels of artists. One class is “Zen Art,” which is designed to give aspiring artists a chance to try their hands at creating work without some of the more intimidating aspects of a typical art class. Moffatt said about 16 members have signed up for space in the new studio when it becomes available.  The art group as a whole has 44 members, though not all work in the studio.

Joanne Scott with one of her paintings in the Heron Point studio

Joanne Scott, whom the Heron Point artists consider their “artist in residence” because of her extensive experience – including exhibits of her work at Chestertown RiverArts and nationwide — is perhaps the best known of the group. (Click here for a Spy feature on Scott from 2012.)

Scott, a retired professional artist and art teacher who lived in Annapolis for 30 years, has given classes to other Heron Point residents for about 5 years, and has been instrumental in encouraging other residents to take up art for the first time. She also continues to exhibit regularly, with a show, “Elements,” scheduled for Chestertown RiverArts Feb. 1-24. An opening reception for the show will take place Feb.2, First Friday.

Several Heron Point artists, including Linda Atcheson, Jack Fancher, and Olga Owens, have works in the current members’ exhibit at RiverArts.  The exhibit will be on display through the end of January.

The hallway along the administrative wing of Heron Point regularly features a rotating exhibit of Heron Point artists, including Fancher, long a fixture of the local arts community and now a Heron Point resident. While the hallway is currently being refinished, with fresh paint on the walls, a new exhibit will be up as soon as the work is completed. And there are pictures spread around Heron Point from artists who belonged to the group from the early years of the program — Anne Frye, Hilda Green and Loraine Hall among them.

Other works by the resident artists hang at various points around the facility – a large painting by Scott is above the stairway leading to the dining room, and a triptych by Fancher is on the wall outside the current studio. A large abstract canvas done by members of the art therapy program hangs at the foot of the main stairway.

As the latter painting indicates, art is a pervasive feature of the Heron Point community, with an active art program available for residents in the assisted living section of the facility. “Even dementia patients can paint,” said Scott, noting that the ability to express oneself often survives past the point where verbal communication becomes difficult.

The paintings shown here are from a display of Heron point residents’ art last fall.  In addition to regular shows of artwork by Heron Point residents, the Art Interest Group also arranges for visiting exhibits by outside artists.

All this is in addition to the permanent collection of art which is displayed throughout the main building and outside on the grounds.  While most of the artworks are paintings, there are also statues, ceramics, and large installations such as the wooden boat which sails the ceiling of the lobby and the whimsical “larger than life” Snoopy in his Sopwith Camel that currently sits beside the main staircase.

Main parlor in lobby of Heron Point with sail boat

The current studio also hosts a weekly bird-carving group led by the  Bill Reinhold. A display cabinet with some of their work is visible on one wall of the studio.

The artists are especially excited at the news that they are about to get a new, larger, purpose-built studio.  Leslie Baldwin, one of the members of the Art Interest Group, said there is now studio space for about 10 artists. Also, the limited space doesn’t allow sufficient ventilation for some media, notably oils and pastels, which can generate dust and odors that bother many people. Even so, when visitors from one of the other retirement homes in the Acts group visited Heron Point, they were “very jealous” of the local artists. Heron Point is the only facility in the chain with a dedicated studio space. Linda Atcheson said the studio is “a big selling point” for prospective residents. “Many Chestertown people see Heron Point’s art program and want to come here because of it,” she said.

At present, the art studio is in an unoccupied apartment along the river side of the complex – offering permanent working space for about 10 members, though others get to share the facility. Because apartments in the facility are in high demand, the location of the studio has changed three times since it was set up. However, about two years ago when planning began for the new permanent studio began, Heron Point’s executive director, Garret Falcone, promised the artists that they wouldn’t have to move again until the new permanent facility is completed.  And now that time is almost here.

The new studio, being built on the front of the building near the main entrance, will have room for about 14 artists at a time – and will have upgraded ventilation. It will also have generous windows in the “bump-out”, allowing plenty of “wonderful light” for the artists to work in. There will also be space for classes and other individual and group projects.

The studio space, being built by Yerkes Construction, is expected to be ready by Spring 2018.

Photo Gallery – photography by Jane Jewell.

Snoopy in his Sopwith Camel guards the staircase at Heron Point

Statuettes of herons grace the circular drive in front of main Heron Point building.

Architect’s rendering of Artists Studio at Heron Point as it will look when completed in spring 2018

Map of Heron Point main building

Carved wooden bird in display case in a corner of the Heron Point art studio

Carved wooden bird in display case in a corner of the Heron Point art studio





Mid-Shore Towns and Traffic: A Counterintuitive Solution for Intersections


From the intersections of Cross Street and Maple Avenue in Chestertown to Harrison and Goldsborough Streets in Easton, small Eastern Shore communities are increasingly confounded with growing automobile congestion in their towns,  particularly at critical traffic intersections.

In fact, many municipalities are facing somewhat of a zero-sum game by trying to keep a healthy traffic flow for drivers at a time when those same downtowns seek more pedestrians and bicyclists to improve their retail sectors and general quality of life.

As a result, the conundrum of how to make a workable intersection remains for most.

That was one of the reasons the Spy initiated a conversation with Chris Velasco and Elizabeth Bowling, co-founders of the urban planning consulting group PLACE, who are currently doing work on the Shore, to see if there were any new solutions in other small towns across the globe that significantly has reduced traffic congestion at these critical crossroads.

As just like the last time the Spy asked PLACE for insights on new thinking for town planning, Chris and Elizabeth not only came up with a unique model to share but an exceedingly successful one from the small village of Poynton (population 15,000) not far from the city of Manchester in England. One of the first towns in the world to install a “double roundel” or double roundabout, the new junction reduces the four-lane approaches to two lanes, allowing pedestrians and bikes to cross quickly, and at the same time eliminate traffic signals. The results, according to town reports, indicate that businesses have seen increased foot traffic, and congestion has been considerably lessened as a result.

And while it was intriguing to hear about this in concept, it was only after one looks at actual video footage of the double roundel that the pure magic of this solution can be seen in real time.

This video is approximately three minutes in length and was produced in partnership with the Easton Economic Development Corporation.  Additional video provided by Martin Cassini. See the full documentary here


The Legacy of Fireworks at Washington College


An artist’s rendering of “Radiant Echo,” the light sculpture to be installed  at Washington College as seen from the green

Former Washington College President Joseph McLain is remembered for many things – but his most enduring legacy may well be the tradition of fireworks displays at the college.

Joseph McLain shares a laugh with students

McLain, a chemistry professor with a lifelong interest in pyrotechnics, attended Washington College as an undergraduate. After college, he served in the World War II chemical corps, working on such projects as an improved hand grenade fuse and underwater cutting torches. After the war, he earned his Ph.D. in chemistry at Johns Hopkins, then returned to Washington College to teach. Over the course of his career, he made the college a center for the study of fireworks, both in the academic community and in the commercial fireworks industry. His work focused, among other things, on improving fireworks ignition systems so as to avoid timing errors, which can be dangerous as well as spoiling the artistic effect of a display. He became the 22nd president of the college in 1973 and served until his death in 1981 — the only alumnus ever to fill the position. McLain was also responsible for establishing the annual Fourth of July fireworks show in Chestertown, which he staged on the Washington College campus.

John Conkling

In 1969, McLain hired one of his former students – John Conkling, also a Hopkins Ph.D. – to join the chemistry faculty at the college. McLain steered Conkling toward the study of pyrotechnics, which resulted in the first federal safety standards for fireworks, jointly created by the two and enacted in 1976 by the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission. In 1985, Conkling resigned his full-time teaching position to become Executive Director of the American Pyrotechnics Association– a position he held until 1998. He continued to teach adjunct courses without taking a salary, and hosted the annual Summer Pyrotechnics Seminars at Washington College.

Largely because of the legacy of McLain and Conkling, fireworks displays have become a tradition at Washington College, welcoming students back to campus in the fall and celebrating graduation and other occasions such as the inauguration of current president Kurt Landgraf. Residents near the college often come out to see the shows, which are visible and audible from a wide area of the town.

Chestertown also had a history of fireworks before McLain, most notably with the Kent Manufacturing plant, which, beginning in 1941, produced defense materiel for World War II and then added fireworks to its line after the war. After his return to Chestertown, McLain became a partner in the business, along with founder Tony Fabrizi, whom he had met during his time in the service. That venture came to an end when a fire and explosion destroyed the plant in 1954. But McLain continued to work with the pyrotechnics industry, with a special interest in safety standards.

Now, to create a more permanent monument to McLain, Conkling and their pyrotechnics work, McLain’s daughter Lynn McLain, is raising funds for “Radiant  Echo,” an innovative art installation planned for the atrium of the Toll Science Center at the college. Intended to serve as an enduring art piece for the college and the town of Chestertown, “Radant Echo,” designed by Flux Studio of Baltimore, will be a three- dimensional grid of LED fixtures suspended in the 3-story atrium. The fixtures, which will hang to within 14 feet of the floor, will flash and flicker in emulation of a fireworks display, with chrome spheres suspended within the field to reflect and amplify the lights. According to a prospectus for the program, “As with fireworks, spectators will know that something will happen, but they won’t know exactly what, or exactly when.”

An artist’s rendering of”Radiant Echo” as seen from inside the atrium

The prospectus adds, “The choreography of the sculpture will draw from both the chemical behavior of fireworks and the phenomenal experience of observing them, contrasting familiar aerial exploding with inward collapsing at the atomic scale.” It will be programmed to operate in two states, depending on the time of day. Its default, resting state will feature short bursts of light at the outer edges of the sculpture, a “momentary flickering at the corner of one’s eye that vanishes almost as soon as it appears.” In its nighttime, or active, state, the tentative flickerings will “crescendo and then explode, piercing the darkness and dissolving into a cascading shower of light. At times the whole sculpture will erupt in a cacophony of explosions, recalling the grand finale of a fireworks show.” The displays will be visible from the campus green outside Toll Science Center and from Washington well as to those inside the building.

“Radiant Echo” will also have an educational function. Glenn Shrum, who designed the sculpture, plans to teach an interdisciplinary workshop while the piece is being installed. Also, college faculty will be able to use the sculpture in their classes on physics, chemistry, psychology, computer programming, and art. And as part of its installation, there will be a symposium on fireworks drawing on many different disciplines. There will also be a public honoring of Dr. Conkling and his wife Sandy.

Lynn McLain said on Jan. 7 that she hopes fundraising for the project will be completed within the year. Installation of the project is expected to take 14 to 16 months, she said. The final contacts for the construction of the project are in process.

To help promote the project, Lynn McLain has written an illustrated coffee-table book, For the Love of Fireworks, published in 2017. Proceeds from the book will help to fund the creation of “Radiant Echo.” The book is full of fascinating detail and would make a great gift. The book explores the history and cultural associations of fireworks, and includes a series of trivia questions such as when fireworks were invented, where the largest fireworks display on record took place, components used in their manufacture, and so forth. For the Love of Fireworks is available online at $56.99 from Amazon and other online booksellers.  Or buy the book, hard or softcover, directly from author McLain at .   The price is the same and a direct purchase, McLain said, will result in a larger contribution to the project.

Fundraising is underway to cover the estimated $250,000 cost of building and installing “Raidant Echo.” McLain said on Jan. 7 that the campaign had raised just over $100,000. To contribute to the effort, contact Lynn McLain at 410-778-4515 or  You can also contribute through the Washington College Office of Advancement at 410-778-7801. Checks can be made out to the Washington College Office of Advancement, with “Atrium Sculpture Project” in the memo line. The address is Washington College Office of Advancement,  300 Washington Ave.,  Chestertown, MD 21620.

And then look forward to fabulous firework displays on Washington College campus, both real and simulated via “Radiant Echo.”




Guide Us To Thy Perfect Light by George Merrill


The journey of the Magi, the legend of the Three Kings or Epiphany is celebrated on the twelfth day of Christmas. It’s a significant part of the Christian story; it’s about light, about love and about discovery.

The day was special for me on that January 6th of 1947. I have never forgotten it. I remember it more fondly than Christmas days or even more vividly than the anticipatory thrill I’d feel on Christmas Eve.

During that Epiphany, the confluence of two streams met; a young boy’s emerging sexuality, and the majesty of high church liturgy. It was in those sublime moments I sensed for the first time something that I would not fully understand until much later in my life. Even now, I can’t say I understand it, but I can feel it. What a powerful influence love and light have in our lives. Love, like light, waxes and wanes, but it always returns. Someone always shows up to rekindle both in us.

The Feast of the Epiphany or the Three Kings commemorates the journey of the three wise men, who at the bidding of King Herod sought the whereabouts of Jesus. They followed the star “in the East,” found him “in a manger” but, being warned in a dream, did not tell Herod whom they later learned was planning to kill Jesus.

I sang in the choir as a boy. On Thursday nights Franny, Mrs. Sontag and I would walk to choir practice and then home again. I was thirteen. Franny was eighteen, a tall, pretty blond. I had a crush on her. She was nice to talk to. She and Mrs. Sontag listened and took me seriously, not like I was just a kid. Mrs. Sontag was old (probably ten years younger than I am now). She smelled of cigar smoke. Her husband never attended church. He watched TV and smoked all day. I think she was lonely. I liked having these grown up friends. I felt, well, grown up.

Epiphany was special. For me it marked the last colorful church festival before the bleak winter set in. At the end of the Eucharist, we would be given a small candle to take home with us. Each candle was lit from one of the altar candles. We were to take our candles home, while keeping the candle burning on our way. We were symbolically manifesting the light of Christ to the world.

Mrs. Sontag wasn’t in church that day. After lighting our candles, Franny and I set out for home. I liked Mrs. Sontag, but this day I liked more being with Franny by myself.

The day was cold, but not windy.

We chatted as we walked, carefully cupping the candles lest a breeze extinguish them. Franny walked close to me. I was conscious of the dark blue overcoat she wore and her hair, which protruded from under her cap, contrasting with the blue of the coat. She looked pretty and I smelled a fragrance like lemon around her which seemed to suit her well. It suited me well, too.

We kept our candles burning as we walked and talked. I was aware of Franny and luxuriating in the closeness and the sweetness she aroused in me while at the same watching my candle diligently. I wanted to make it all the way home and still have a lit candle. I almost made it.

When we arrived at the street where Franny would head home and I’d continue on for a block, a breeze extinguished my candle. I felt badly. I almost made to the end. I looked sorrowfully at Franny and since she was older than I was and knew more, I asked her if she thought Fr. Rogers would be disappointed in me for not keeping the candle burning. I was concerned that if I were to ask Franny to light the candle from hers that might mean I’d be cheating since getting home with the candle lit was our task. Franny told me that she was sure he would not mind. He said nothing about relighting it, anyway. “Just get home with the light still burning,” she said confidently. I was relieved.

We stopped at the corner. Franny drew closer to me. She extended her candle and after a couple of attempts, the flame quickened and I was good to go. But I really didn’t want to go. I wanted to stay. It was, however, time to get going. I said goodbye. She turned and made her way up the street. I watched her for a few moments and then went for home . . . with candle burning and a confused heart. I had completed my mission for Christ with only one small glitch, but there was a feeling that remained and I was not sure what to make of it.

Now I think of this day as one of those singular moments of revelation in my life. They just happen. An increasing awareness of my emerging sexuality and a nascent sense of the mystery that’s conveyed in Christianity’s ancient rites and rituals converged in me that day. I felt a sweet tenderness and an intense longing. For just what I didn’t know. I only knew I wanted to be close to Franny and serve God by sharing the light. Now I recognize how I was being moved by the elemental forces of attraction the way everything in the universe is governed by attractions. The planets move in their orbits by mutual attractions as they course along their paths through the cosmos. We are drawn to others by erotic attraction. In the liturgies of religious celebrations of God’s actions in the world, the extravagant beauty to which they witness leaves me awed and wondering about what it all means.

And then there’s light. I’ve watched sunflowers turn in a field, inching their way around to keep their faces to the sun as if the sun had cast a spell. I’ve seen infants lying in a crib, enchanted, with eyes riveted on a mobile turning above them, the mobile dancing with tiny points of light. People rarely weary of the magic of sunrises and sunsets, nor of a full moon or starry sky. Everything in the universe begins with light. Candlelight is the preferred accessory to romance.

I took the accompanying photograph. It’s of a seasonal decoration we’ve had for years. It depicts the journey of the Magi – following the light of the star. It has no pretense to art. It’s like a child’s plaything. What endears it to me is its innocence. The innocence of childhood may be the last time you or I have had an unobstructed vision to be thoroughly awed and to see clearly into the mystery of how life unfolds.

Perhaps only in those times of innocence and unknowing is our vision sufficiently unencumbered to see deeply into light in all its purity and majesty?

The final line in hymn popularly sung during Epiphany ends with these words: “Oh, star of wonder, star of night . . . Guide us to Thy perfect light.”

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: Macaroni & Cheese


(My apologies for this recipe from the Spy’s Way Back Machine. I got caught in Connecticut during the latest blizzard, and couldn’t make it back to the ranch in a timely fashion. New stuff next week! Honest.)

Melted cheese is so good on many things – pizza, cheeseburgers, Fettucine Alfredo, grilled cheese sandwiches. They are probably all heart stoppers that gladden our future cardiologists – but they are necessary comforts to get through the wintertime blues. Remember being a little kid, with melting snow in your boots, and frozen toes trapped in the vise of wet socks? You would stand in the back hall, tearing off your wet snowsuit, starving after a morning of sledding down the hill, dodging trees and rocks. Don’t you remember what a cooking whiz your mother seemed when she would boil up a tin of un-ironic Campbell’s Tomato Soup, and then flip a grilled cheese sandwich with skill and aplomb? If you were lucky, there was a handful of Fritos on the plate, too.

We take comfort in many simple pleasures: food, routines, worn out blue jeans, a patch of butterscotch sunshine on the dining room floor early in the morning for the still-sleepy cat. When our children were little we established some routines that became informal traditions. Friday nights we rolled out and baked pizza together. Mondays we ate Mac & Cheese while discussing the challenges of the upcoming school week. Gradually those little palettes grew more sophisticated, and they eschewed the simple pleasures for something more complex – like Fettucine Alfredo. I like a good plate of fettucine, when I am not overly concerned with the carbs or the oodles of butter. Mac & cheese is earthier, more redolent of simpler times. Fettucine is just snooty, continental mac & cheese.

When I was a budget-minded college student there were times that we could not overcome our inertia to traipse the 500 yards or so to the dining hall, so we would rustle up our own dinner. That was when Shirl Ann introduced me to the joys of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, in a box, with dry, orange-y powder that miraculously turned the slimy little macaronis into bright, man-made neon objets. Totally deelish. (You must keep in mind that we were kitchen neophytes, who thought we were gourmands because we really threw spaghetti at the wall, to see if it stuck, as a test of doneness. We were just a tad naïve, and our mothers would despair had they but known.) One night Shirl came up with a superbly worldly innovation – adding garlic powder to the macaroni mixture to vary the plastic-y “cheesy” taste. She shook that jar of dehydrated garlic powder over the cooked macaroni with sangfroid. She was an imperturbable kitchen marvel.

I went up a couple of price points for our children – we had Velveeta Macaroni & Cheese on Monday nights. Sometimes we had the shell variety, and other times the elbows. Eventually we learned to resist the siren song of Velveeta and devised our own homemade mac & cheese recipe. It was quite a step up from those nights in college. And this is a crowd pleaser, especially if you have to entertain some of the Tall One’s taller friends.

3 tablespoons melted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 cups uncooked pasta (penne, elbow, ziti, even shells if you want to wallow in nostalgia)
3 cups scalded milk
2 cups grated cheese (Cheddar, Monterey Jack, Munster– grate your own – don’t buy bags of dried out cheese!!!)
1 cup grated Gruyère
½ teaspoon chicken bouillon
Pinch of salt
Pinch of cayenne

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Sprinkle the flour over the butter. Cook, stir constantly for about 2 minutes. In a large saucepan, cook the roux for about two minutes, add scalded milk and chicken bouillon, stir constantly bringing it to a boil – just. Add grated cheese and chicken bouillon. Lower the heat and cook until the cheese has melted and the sauce is smooth and creamy. Set aside. Boil the pasta in salted water, stirring occasionally, until done. Drain the pasta, and pour it into the saucepan with the cheese mixture. Let stand for about 5 minutes, stirring every once in a while. The cheese mixture will thicken as it blends with the pasta. We like to serve it with a little cloud of fresh shaved Parmesan cheese on top. And some black pepper, too. You can make this ahead of time, but where is the fun in that? It is better to grate the cheese together and talk about Algebra.

The Dinner Party Download is a delightful podcast. You will be so much more charming and informative if you listen to it every week. Trust me. Hear what they have to say about Fettucine Alfredo and how it got it’s name.

This sounds yummy, but I have always been a little leery of the bread crumb aspect. I think it must be a childhood thing…

“Dining with one’s friends and beloved family is certainly one of life’s primal and most innocent delights, one that is both soul-satisfying and eternal.”
-Julia Child

Chestertown Council – New Year, New Members


Mayor and Council of Chestertown at first meeting of the new year, Jan 2, 2018. L-R: Marty Stetson, representative Ward 4; Ellsworth Tolliver, representative Ward 3; Jen Mulligan, town clerk; Chris Cerino, mayor; Bill Ingersoll, town manager; Linda Kuiper, representative Ward 2; David Foster, representative Ward 1

The Chestertown Council, at its first meeting of 2018, swore in two new council members, David Foster and the Rev. Ellsworth Tolliver. Mayor Chris Cerino was also sworn in for his second term by Clerk of the Court Mark Mumford.

Mayor Chris Cerino swears Rev. Ellsworth Tolliver in as representative for the Third Ward. Tolliver’s uncle, the Rev. Robert Brown, holds the Bible for the induction.

Both new council members said they were excited at their new responsibilities. Tolliver. representing the Third Ward, said he was looking forward to representing the interests of his ward, while Foster, who represents the First Ward, said he had been greatly encouraged during the election campaign to learn how many voters were eager to talk to him about their concerns.

Cerino then delivered the annual Report on Municipal Affairs, as mandated by the town charter. Highlights of 2017 included the groundbreaking for the Dixon Distribution Center on the newly annexed property along Route 213 north of town; progress in upgrading the town-owned marina and in obtaining funding for the remaining phases of the project; improvements in Margo Bailey Park, Wilmer Park, and Washington Park; and the sale of the old police station to Sultana Educational Foundation. Ongoing projects included the agreement with the hospital concerning the oil leak on its grounds, and the effort to retain hospital services adequate to the community; the various festivals and celebrations that bring visitors to town; and efforts to market the town to visitors and potential new businesses.

Mayor Chris Cerino swears David Foster in as representative for the First Ward. (Town Manager bill Ingersoll in background.)

In addition to summarizing the past year’s achievements, Cerino outlined the following goals for the coming year:

“Keep taxes at the same rate ($0.37 per $100 assessed value) if possible while maintaining our chartered service responsibilities;

“Work with the Kent County Commissioners to discuss the possibility of reinstating a tax differential and/or tax rebate for Chestertown;

“Work with the County to address the apparent unfairness of hotels and B&Bs paying room rental taxes while newer forms of transient rental activities such as Air BNB and VRBO elude the tax;

“Aggressively pursue all forms of public and private funding to complete the revitalization of Chestertown Marina;

“Continue our work with businesses, business associations, industries, and institutions to improve the local economy and keep storefronts filled;

“Support all events, festivals, and celebrations that bring our Town to life;

“Protect the Town’s drinking wells at all costs;

“Repave or repair streets as part of a comprehensive, long-term plan;

“Complete Phase IV of the Rail Trail to Foxley Manor;

“Create a new branding for Chestertown that will be incorporated into Town signage. Add directional signage throughout the community;.

“Work with Washington College to design, engineer, and identify funding sources for the planned waterfront walk along the Chester River on College-owned lands between Wilmer Park and the mouth of Radcliffe Creek;

“Continue to improve our recreation programs, expand recreational activities for all ages in Chestertown, and involve the input of our youth in the decision-making process;

“Encourage and expand recycling and all other greening efforts, increase public awareness of the need and advantages of these efforts, and continue to plant trees to reach the Town’s canopy goal;

“Increase efforts to bring heritage and eco-tourism to Chestertown through the use of the web site and social media, and promote the community as an arts and entertainment destination. Work with the medical community, Eastern Shore delegation, Kent County Commissioners, and residents to advocate for retention of services at our local Hospital.”

Mark Mumford swears in Chris Cerino for his second term as the mayor of Chestertown,

The Chestertown Spy plans to focus on several of these issues in depth in the weeks to come.

Town Manager Bill Ingersoll reported on recent town activities, including the MVA bus schedule and permits processed for upcoming events including Chester Gras on Feb 10.     John Queen presented a report entitled “Reconnect to Life” about a state-sponsored program to identify youth at risk and connect them to resources for education, employment and other life skills.  Queen, who is well-known locally for his involvement with the Bayside HOYAs, is the director of the local branch of the “Reconnect to Life” program. There were several other short reports – all of which will be included in the official minutes if the meeting and will be available online in the near future.

Photos by Jane Jewell

Marty Stetson, Ellsworth Tolliver, Jen Mulligan



Point of View: Oysterman Scott Budden on Exelon’s Pending 46 Year Lease to Run Conowingo Dam


While Scott Budden and his company, Orchard Point Oyster Company, might be the face of a new generation of oystermen on the Chesapeake Bay, his concerns about the Conowingo Dam, its owner, the Exelon Corporation, and their pending approval for a 46 year old lease to operate it, has a very familiar ring to it. Just like other oystermen working in the north part of the Bay for many years, Scott believes the company needs to listen more and proactively coordinate with oyster producers when, and how much, sediment is released into the Bay from the Dam and the Susquehanna River.

In short, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission plans to renew Exelon’s operating lease for almost half a century this year. As part of that permitting, the energy corporation must obtain the approval of is required to obtain a Clean Water Act certification from the Maryland Department of the Environment for the continued operation of the facility and the state has encouraged public comments on this long-term arrangement until January 15.

And Scott has quite a few comments.

In his Spy interview last week, Scott talks about the negative impact of Exelon’s current practice of releasing the dam’s waters to generate power, regardless of the sediment impact on Bay’s oyster beds. He also talks about the need for more significant partnerships between Exelon and the aquaculture industry to ensure the minimum amount of damage to the Bay and its essential oyster industry.

This video is approximately four minutes in length. For others interested in making a documented comment on the pending lease agreement, please use the following contact and address by January 15:

Elder Ghigiarelli, Jr.
Deputy Program Administrator
Wetlands and Waterways Program/Water Management Administration
Maryland Department of the Environment
1800 Washington Boulevard, Suite 430
Baltimore, MD 21230


Publisher Notes: The Spy in 2018


Waiting for the Stage William Caton Woodville (National Gallery of Art). Forwarded by Spy Agent Glass

For almost nine years now, I have made it a practice to insulate the Chestertown Spy and Talbot Spy from any comparison to other print or online publications. In simple terms, this has meant that I have never participated in any professional association nor have I been a subscriber to the Star Democrat and Kent County News.

Like any act of innovation, it is not in the creator’s best interest to compare one’s new enterprise to models that are not direct competition. From its earliest beginning in the spring of 2009, The Spy was developing an entirely different news source targeted at community education first and foremost. It also began as a “no-profit” turned non-profit business that aimed at successful sustainability rather than return on investment.

All of that has worked in our favor as we recently completed eight years of operation. Unlike countless other start-ups, particularly in small communities throughout the country, the Spy has been able to grow in its reach (one million plus hits a year) while maintaining the trust of our readers and the confidence of our sponsors.

But like every other curious person in the world, I couldn’t help but wonder about the “other guys.” And last November I broke these vows of separation in two ways: 1) I attended a conference devoted to independent local online newspapers and 2) took out subscriptions for Chesapeake Publishing’s local papers.

In Chicago, over 150 publications and their representatives gathered for four days to discuss best practices and new trends in this growing field. And it was heartening to hear in some ways that not one these other online ventures had found on a sustainable business concept like the Spy model.

The other trend was that very few of these newspapers moved beyond their primary focus of covering local government issues.  In most cases, there was no attempt to include local arts and culture, or there were only token steps to publish press releases related to these subjects. And few, if any, had taken advantage of multimedia like original content video, which has been the Spy’s primary tool since we began with now close to 2,000 videos online.

In the case of both the Star Democrat and the Kent County News, my response is only one of respect for these “newspapers of record.” Unlike the Spy, these printed news sources must take on the responsibility, and the expense, of covering such local topics as crime, sports, weather, legal notices, and obituaries, all of which is not in the Spy portfolio.  It was a relief to note the unique difference between the Spy and these legacy papers, and the complementary nature the Spy plays to their hard work.

And so the Spy starts the new year with a renewed confidence but also profound gratitude to its writers, columnists, poets, and the kind and thoughtful support from the Spy’s fiscal agent, the Mid-Shore Community Foundation, as well as the Spy’s talented and generous board of advisors for making it the success it has become.

Beyond our investment in technology, the Spy has been particularly proud of the extraordinary trust our 100,000 readers a year have in these two online news sources. In the midst of what might be one of the most challenging times for public discourse and the public’s trust in news in our country’s history, every week the Spy has become a safe harbor for serious and thought-provoking perspectives. I am indebted to our remarkably distinguished columnists and friends Howard Freedlander, Craig Fuller, Jimmie Galbreath, Jamie Kirkpatrick, Mary McCoy, George Merrill, David Montgomery, Nancy Mugele, Al Sikes, and Amy Steward for sharing their very different points of view with the community. Likewise, we are grateful to our readers willing to engage in civilized debate in response to those opinions by offering up their comments.

As publisher, it would have been impossible to fulfill our mission last year without the generous contributions of our writers and volunteer editors. Those include Jane Jewell and Peter Heck in their coverage of Kent County, Jenn Martella for Talbot County, Jean Sanders for maintaining our high quality of design and our Facebook presence, the marketing strategic support of Bill Rolle and Mary Kramer, and Neoma Rohman and Derek Beck for website support. We are also indebted to our content partners, the Delmarva Review, Capital News Service, the Bay Journal, Maryland Reporter and Talbot Historical Society for their invaluable service to our region.

One of the reasons that the Spy has maintained its existence for eight years is to keep the organization financially nimble and free of debt. One way we accomplish this is that neither the Spies nor our parent, the Community Newspaper Project Fund, have any full-time employees, including this publisher. Instead, we offer modest stipends for our writers and greatly benefit from the volunteer support of others.

We will continue that tradition in 2018 with a few changes in editorial priorities and staffing.

To emphasize our commitment to public affairs, we have renamed our Occurrences section just that to reflect the Spy’s coverage of local issues facing the community rather than the need to produce daily headlines. While we suspect that most of our readers understand this subtle but significant difference, it helps to reinforce our mission to educate the community through “long-form” coverage of timely issues.

This year Jenn Martella will take on a managing editor role for the Spy. Jenn created the Spy’s popular Habitat section for Chestertown and Talbot County, and we have asked her to extend that coverage to include our culture and arts as well as direct the Spy’s ongoing sponsorship/ad program from Mary who is leaving the Spy after six years of very committed service to our mission.

2018 will also be the first year that the Spy will have an annual giving campaign to encourage our readers to donate what they might to keep the Spy solvent. While we are committed to maintaining the newspapers free to every member of the community, like every nonprofit organization, we must also find an easy way for those who appreciate our role on the Eastern Shore to support the Spy on a monthly or yearly basis.

Lastly, pundits are predicting 2018 to be a gruelling time in American politics as the country faces a Congressional election in November. It is unlikely the Mid-Shore will avoid this environment as challengers continue to sign up to oppose Congressman Andy Harris for the 1st Congressional District race from both parties. Once again, the Spy is determined to be a safe harbor for debate and will be making this race a public affairs priority over the next eleven months. We look forward to working with all political parties to ensure constructive dialogue in what might be one of the most critical elections in our country’s history.

Dave Wheelan
Publisher and Executive Editor