Maryland 3.0: Sprouts Starts to Take Over the Eastern Shore

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Just so you know….perhaps one of the most significant “foodie” experiments in the country is taking place on the Mid-Shore.

A young couple, primarily trained in nutritional science and fitness, decide to escape the rat race of the Western Shore and relocate to Trappe to start a food delivery business dedicated to high quality prepared meals with locally sourced produce and meat.

The concept was simple. Rather than send clients the raw materials to make a nutritious meal (think Blue Apron), Sprout owners Ryan and Emily Groll would take it to the next level and actually cook the meals for its customers.

Sprout would do all the work. Whether it be breakfast, lunch, dinner, or even a snack, Ryan and Emily identify local farmers within a 200-mile range that produce some of the most exquisite examples of fruit, vegetables, chicken, pork, or beef in the region to produce meals that could be left at your doorstep twice a week.

Fast-forward one year later Sprouts has become an increasingly important provider on the entire Eastern Shore as well is in Annapolis. With Ryan’s mother in Chestertown, the couple continues to seek a local partner to help as a delivery station, which they call a “Sproutlet,” but they hope to cover the entire Mid-Shore within the next two years.

The Spy spent some quality time with Ryan in his portable kitchen in Trappe to discuss the couple’s courage and conviction it took to start a business of this kind and their aspirations over the next few years.

This video is approximately four minutes in length. For more information about Sprouts please go here

Mid-Shore Education: The Homeschooling Option with Denise Chapman-Toth

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With serious debates going on about the quality of public education and expensive private education, it is easy sometimes to overlook the third option for parents and their children when it comes to elementary and secondary education. And that is the possibility of homeschooling.

At present, close to 700 families have selected this option rather than sending their children to various public and private schools on the Mid-Shore. That sparked our curiosity about what it takes to have a successful homeschool program and the kind of commitment it requires from one or both parents during the year, and that is why we were able to track down Denise Chapman-Toth, president of the Home Educators of the Eastern Shore, to talk about this rarely used but relatively successful alternative to mainstream education programs.

In our Spy interview, Denise talks about her own experience over the last sixteen years in homeschooling her children, as well as the satisfaction of having two of them move on to higher education and be on the honor roll. She also talks about the mechanics of starting a homeschool program for your children and the kind of typical day required for parent teachers.

This video is approximately six minutes in length. For more information about the Home Educators of the Eastern Shore please go here.

Rosie Revisited by George Merrill

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Screen Shot 2017-03-12 at 4.02.31 PMThe adjacent picture is one among many images depicting the iconic Rosie the Riveter of WWII fame. The image packs a whole story, especially today, about gender and society. It’s a timely statement. They say pictures are worth a thousand words? This one is worth more. It tells tells several stories.

The portrait represents a woman who is not about traditional feminine business, at least as we’ve known it historically, being agreeable and deferential. She’s in what we think of as a man’s world and appears to belong there unapologetically. She wears the blue denim shirt like the one I wore when as a young man I worked in shipyards. She’s a skilled laborer. Rosie was showcased as the kind of woman who, needing only the chance, was up to doing any man’s job as well if not better.

The woman’s facial expression is serene and confident, almost regal. It’s not the facial expression we’d expect from somebody who was feeling angry and defiant. The way her arms are configured, as I read it, is indeed a protest, but her expression suggests to me she is confident in her defiance, that she’s not just being reactive. She’s affirming who she is, a competent no-nonsense woman not about to be patronized.

Her right hand is placed over her left bicep, her left arm bent with fist held high in the air.

She might be just rolling up her sleeve but as I see it, she is multitasking. This is unmistakably the universal gesture of defiance normally associated with angry men, frequently low-lifes or tough guys. The French, always nuanced in delicate matters, call this gesture the ‘bras de’honneur;’ the Italians who are more proprietary say it’s the ‘Italian salute’ and Americans who are characteristically course know it simply as, ‘up yours.’ Defiance is a distinct part of the message here.

This is not a woman a guy wants to mess with. She knows just who she is. As I interpret this image for our time, I think she’s telling the world; “Let’s get serious. No more eighty cents on every dollar a man makes for the same job. It’s time for equal pay for men and women, and for blacks and whites as well.”

Stereotypical gender roles are rapidly changing. They’re challenging the way men and women relate to one another. The ‘little woman’ being protected by the ‘big guy’ is now an unsustainable fiction. Women’s safety stratagems that once depended on feminine wiles are antiquated. Tears of helplessness and fluttering eyelids are to the modern woman’s armamentarium for survival as the bow and arrow is to todays fighting Marine. For those guys still clinging to their traditional gender prerogatives, this change in social conventions may come as a shock.

According to New Yorker columnist, Lizzie Widdicombe, Dana Shafman, an Arizona native, is the inventor of the Taser party. Similar to the traditional Tupperware party women hosted in their homes, Shafman’s presentations are not about freezer containers or dishes for leftovers. Her wares are displayed on a coffee table like Tupperware. This is, however, serious weaponry proffered for sale, a lucrative, legitimate business, presented with a characteristically feminine touch: hospitality offered in the hostess’ living room, along with cookies, coffee and demonstrations in the uses of the Taser. This changing convention is not good news for men. It will require men to exercise more caution in the mating game and with women in general. Guns used to be strictly a guy thing. Now Mr. Macho can’t be sure when his disgruntled squeeze may be packing a piece.

The Taser, although ostensibly non-lethal, is a weapon like a gun, used by the military and police to subdue suspects who might become violent. In living room presentations to neighborhood women, Shafman showcases Tasers customized to suit the most discriminating woman’s tastes. The C2 Taser, small, “Virginia Slims” as the model is dubbed, has been developed for civilians and some specifically designed for women. Some come in pink, perhaps anticipating today’s confluence of traditional femininity with some of the instruments historically associated with masculinity. Shafman’s customers are promised that if the first shot doesn’t drop the miscreant, not to worry. The Taser can still be used as a stun gun.” Go for the jugular,” Shafman advises her customers.

It’s a new day.

March eighth this year the world observed International Women’s Day. The timing of the observation came at a particularly advantageous time since the occasion was set in sharp relief by the recent contempt with which the president publically denigrated women. It some ways his attitudes gave a greater impetus for increasing public awareness of the long standing issue of gender inequality. For all the wrong reasons his attitudes may have aided in propelling issues of gender inequality into public awareness.

It’s interesting to note that increasingly men and women are “partnering” rather than entering a marriage. Perhaps “husband and wife” still carry enough of the suggestion of inequality to trouble women in particular. The word partner or co-worker suggests equality.

What about good old-fashioned romance, you ask? That’s a subject for another conversation. My guess is that the glow endures among men and women who regard each other as equals.

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: Pie Day

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Winter is winding down, or so they say. Though I see there is snow in Friday’s forecast, and the weekend temperatures are supposed to plunge. The long range forecast says spring. Let’s heat up the kitchen another couple of times while we wait for spring to come peeking around the corner, and let’s get ready to celebrate Pi Day. http://www.piday.org/

Pi Day is March 14, and it celebrates the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter, which is approximately 3.14159. (Pi Day = 3/14 in the month/date format.) I have a friend, a former math major, who does not count sheep when she has trouble sleeping. Instead, she calculates π digits. The infinite number amuses her and lulls her to sleep, but if I could hold all those numbers in my head there wouldn’t be room for Joni Mitchell song lyrics or English murder mystery plot points.

Instead of whipping out our iPhones and finding the calculator app, let us celebrate another aspect of Pi Day, and bake some pies. March 14 is also Albert Einstein’s birthday, so you can kick up your heels doubly. And you can rejoice that Pi Day rolls around every year, whereas Square Root day won’t happen again until May 5, 2025. (According to Wikipedia, Square Root day is celebrated on days when “both the day of the month and the month are the square root of the last two digits of the year.” I kid you not.)

Sweet or savory, there are pies for just about every appetite, and every level of skill. It is easy to pour chocolate pudding into a store-bought graham cracker crust and slather it with clouds of whipped cream. More complicated are lattice-work pies, which require forethought, and dexterity, and a good hand at pastry. You can be Sweeny Todd, the demon barber of Fleet Street, and make a name for yourself with meat pies. Or you can be James Taylor, and sing an ode to your own Sweet Potato Pie.

My favorite pie is chicken pot pie. I do a variation on Martha’s – but I buy the pie crust already made. Which is probably why I have never calculated pi since leaving school – I am always looking for an easy way out. http://www.marthastewart.com/891257/classic-chicken-potpie Easy as pie, my foot. I can’t roll out a perfect circle, but those wily folks at Pillsbury can. And no one is the wiser. Mr. Friday would never notice if I toiled with butter and flour and sharp knives to make a homemade crust. Martha might, but so far our parallel universes haven’t come close to colliding. My secret is safe…

I also like a nice Key Lime pie. I always use the recipe on the bottle of Key Lime juice, but this is pretty close: https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1014850-key-lime-pie It is lovely for Easter, when you don’t want to make a huge and vastly expensive cheesecake, and almost anything with whipped cream is a delight. You don’t have to wait for summer to have a little taste of the Keys. You could welcome Pi Day with a fluffy, mile-high Key Lime pie.

We managed to let George Washington’s birthday get away from us without the ritual and apocryphal cherry pie. What were we thinking? Unless you have Martha’s (Stewart – not Washington!) year-round access to fresh cherries, you will have to use frozen like the rest of us. http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/traditional-cherry-pie-232579

If spring is coming, can rhubarb be far behind? http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/deep-dish-strawberry-rhubarb-pie

And to hit all the relevant holiday notes – St. Patrick’s Day is next week. Maybe you should be preparing a beer-infused Guinness Chocolate Cream Pie. All of the sweet decadence of whipped cream, combined with dark chocolate and darker beer. Swoon-worthy. Thanks again, Food52 for setting the bar (and the beer) high! https://food52.com/recipes/20120-guinness-chocolate-cream-pie

We do a Boston Cream pie for birthdays here. It might not have the celebratory gusto of a pie topped with whipped cream, but the combination of the shiny chocolate ganache and thick custard filling is surprisingly festive. A heady combination of pie and cake, with candles. http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/boston-cream-pie-recipe Albert Einstein would have loved our Boston Cream Pies.

A place in London I would like to visit, and not for the food, is Eel Pie Island. Can you imagine? Henry VIII was overly fond of the eponymous eel pies, but I think I would visit just to see the artists’ studios. Doubtless none of them has though much about pi since school, either. http://www.messynessychic.com/2014/08/21/the-tiny-island-on-the-thames-that-once-held-the-rolling-stones-david-bowie-and-the-uks-largest-hippie-commune/

Happy Spring – it’s coming!

http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/jamestaylor/sweetpotatopie.html

“I went to sit in the bus station and think this over. I ate another apple pie and ice cream; that’s
practically all I ate all the way across the country, I knew it was nutritious and it was delicious, of
course.”
― Jack Kerouac

CBF Issues Statement On OMB Proposal to Slash Bay Restoration Funding

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Following reports in the Washington Post today of the federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB) proposal to cut Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) funding in support of the Chesapeake Bay Clean Water Blueprint, Chesapeake Bay Foundation President William C. Baker issued the following statement.

The OMB proposal reduces funding for the Chesapeake Bay Program from about $73 million annually to $5 million in the next fiscal year. EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program coordinates science, research, and modeling to implement the Blueprint, as well as grants to state and local governments and others to help reduce pollution.

“Reducing funding for the successful Chesapeake Bay clean-up, begun by Ronald Reagan, seems inconsistent with the President’s remarks about clean water.

“The proposed reduction in federal investment in Chesapeake Bay would reverse restoration successes. The EPA role in the cleanup of the Chesapeake is nothing less than fundamental. It’s not just important, it’s critical.

“Restoration efforts are working. There is measurable progress in restoring local rivers, streams, and the Chesapeake Bay. Crabs and oysters are rebounding, the dead zone is getting smaller, and Bay grasses are at their highest levels in decades. The progress is the result of the federal and state partnership implementing the Clean Water Blueprint, as well as the work of citizens, business, farmers, and local governments all doing their share to reduce pollution.

“The Blueprint has bipartisan support, as was recently demonstrated in a letter led by Chesapeake Bay Task Force co-chairs Congressmen Bobby Scott, Rob Wittman, Andy Harris, and John Sarbanes from seventeen members of Congress to President Trump, calling on his administration to continue full funding of Bay restoration efforts.

“We urge all local partners—residents, businesses, watershed groups, universities, and state and local governments—to let their voices be heard.

“The OMB proposal is only the first step in developing EPA’s budget, and we hope that Administrator Pruitt will want to take advantage of a program that’s successful, bi-partisan, and non-controversial. It works.”

Senior Nation: The Science of Forgetfulness with Dr. Constantine Lyketsos

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The celebrated poet Billy Collins wrote in one of his poems that his memory had retired “to the southern hemisphere of the brain, to a little fishing village where there are no phones.”  It is perhaps one of the most accurate descriptions of memory loss and the disorientation it causes in almost every human being of a certain age from time to time.

But what if the feeling of “no phones” was a more permanent condition?  That beyond the simple and temporary experience of forgetting where one left the car keys, one also could not remember what those car keys do. In that case, the condition is called dementia. And what has intrigued Johns Hopkins doctor Constantine Lyketsos is why those “phones,” the neurochemistry of the brain, are not working.

On March 8, the Talbot Hospice will be sponsoring a lecture by one of the leading experts in dementia and Alzheimer’s disease at Easton High School. Dr. Lyketsos, from the Hopkins department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, will address these issues and the devastating effects of the illness, but also promising new treatments that give hope to patients and their families.

The Spy traveled to Baltimore to sit down with Lyketsos before the event for a primer on dementia and memory loss.

This video is approximately six minutes in length. For more information about the event please go here

 

Mid-Shore Arts: The Church Hill Theatre at 35 Years Old with Nina Sharp

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A quick check of Wikipedia shows a very limited response to the query term, “Church Hill, Maryland.” In fact, with the exception of a summary of the 2010 census, which shows that about 500 people live in the town, and that Church Hill has four buildings on the National Register of Historic Places, there’s not much there.

But it does have one thing that very few places have, and that’s the beloved and successful Church Hill Theatre (CHT).

Built in the 1920s as the town’s community center, the building became the home of the Church Hill Theatre in 1982, some thirty-five years ago. That was reason enough for the Spy to want to know more about the CHT. It seemed rather remarkable that a community theatre company could survive that long in a town of 500 which rests some fifteen miles from the next town over.

But in talking to the Theatre’s executive manager Nina Sharp the other day, it turns out the CHT is not only surviving but actually thriving. With five major theatre productions a year, two youth educational programs, as well as ongoing partnerships with Chesapeake College, Gunston School, and the Home Educators of the Eastern Shore, Church Hill is very much alive and well.

That’s not to say CHT doesn’t have its challenges with owning a building that needs a great deal of love and care, but as Nina suggests in our chat, all signs look good for another thirty five years.

This video is approximately minutes in length. For more information about the Church Hill Theatre, please go here.

Food Friday: Love is in the Air

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Or it could be snow. This might be a good weekend to stay in and cook. A bubbling pot of chili always radiates a nice, homey feeling. But you should be thinking about next Tuesday – hint – Valentine’s Day.

You will need to step up your cooking game for Tuesday. Because, really, who wants to go out to a crowded restaurant for an expensive and indifferent meal, when one cooked at home can be imbued with ardor? According to the Wall Street Journal , Valentine’s Day is a day when romantic gestures can be costly. The cheapest Champagne they list is a Dom Perignon, Rosé, for $795. The least expensive restaurant dinner is $395.00 per person, with wine. Heavens to Betsy! Look at all the money we have just saved!

If you cannily start to hunt and gather your ingredients this weekend, you can have a titillating Valentine’s meal at home. Mr. Friday always feigns surprise when Valentine’s Day rolls around. He assumes that it (and Christmas) should only pop up on the calendar every four years – like Leap Year, or the Olympics. So I can’t expect him to be the one scouring the cookbooks looking for a way to woo and delight me. Instead I will buy a few candles, and will stock up on some deelish Prosecco ($15.99), and Nigella and I will use the kitchen to lavish upon him some earthly delights.

Nigella Lawson has some fabulous ideas for romantic meals. One that she suggests is a simple steak for wooing a new love – because you both are nervous and giddy and clumsy and can’t handle chop sticks or French sauces. Assuming you are not dating a vegetarian, her Tagliata Steak for Two is a bold and confident approach to a first Valentine’s Night meal. http://abc.go.com/shows/the-chew/recipes/tagliata-two-nigella-lawson

We usually have steak on the weekends, cooked to Mr. Friday’s exacting standards. So I will be springing another of Nigella’s sensual entrées on him – my personal favorite – Buttermilk Roast Chicken. https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/7264-buttermilk-roast-chicken

My favorite meal has always been chicken and rice (except when it was spaghetti and meatballs) and I find it a familiar, yet celebratory, dish. And while the chicken is marinating in the fridge, I can chuckle to myself that I am working so hard to prepare an appetizing and enticing dinner. And it took me at least twenty years to perfect this rice recipe – but I will share it with you, Gentle Readers: prepare rice according to package directions – except use chicken broth (homemade is best, but Swanson’s will do) instead of water.

1 cup rice
2 cups water (broth)

Bring water (broth) to a boil in a small saucepan
Stir in the rice
Cover the pan, and reduce the heat and let simmer for 20 minutes, or until all the water is absorbed.

Two servings. Perfection!

Buy a bag o’salad.

Nigella is the queen of desserts. You can wander through her books and website and gain weight just by looking at the images. You might prefer her Chocolate Raspberry Shortcakes. https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/11688-chocolate-raspberry-shortcakes

I am going for all the gusto – and will be stirring up a Chocolate Guinness Cake. Yumsters!
https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1875-chocolate-guinness-cake

And after we have consumed our swoon-worthy meal we can curl up on the sofa and watch Monday’s Stephen Colbert, which we cleverly programmed on Tivo. Romance in the 21st century.

“Love doesn’t just sit there, like a stone, it has to be made, like bread; remade all the time, made new.”
― Ursula K. Le Guin

Food Friday: Downton Abbey’s Time Travel Nachos

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Gentle readers: Food Friday is away, but has rummaged around in the Way Back Machine, looking for a gentler time. We will return to the craziness of 2017 next week. In the meantime, please remember your manners, and be kind to one another; play nicely.

Lady Mary Crawley is ever so sylph-like and elegant. She looks as if she has never eaten a sandwich in her entire gloriously privileged Downton Abbey life. She appears to have wafted on from the inconvenience of Mr. Pamuk’s nocturnal death, through the reluctant courtship, growing love and untimely tragedy with young Matthew Crawley. She is now managing the fatstock sales of 1925 without capitulating to the siren song of the lowest common denominator: food. Or so you might think.

Lady Mary, leaving behind no more than a trace of her eau de cologne and the distant click of her ropes of pearls, has been glimpsed will-o-the-wisping through the servants’ hall on the rare nights of televised sport, when Mrs. Patmore prepares her renowned Time Travel Nachos. These are the nights when Mr. Carson takes off his white tie, and Mrs. Hughes loosens her stays, and Mr. Molesley lets down his dyed hair. Quick as a flash, Lady Mary samples the nachos, and then disappears back upstairs.

Mr. Barrow smiles knowingly, as he and Miss Baxter share a glass of beer, and put their hard-working feet up, enjoying the blend of hot cheeses, bean dip and the thrilling burn of the exotic jalapeño peppers. The times they are a changin’ at Downtown Abbey, and Mrs. Patmore is going to bring everyone’s taste buds screaming into the twentieth century. Just wait for their heads to explode when they get to the guacamole! So long, bubble and squeak!

Perhaps we should not share any of these recipes with Robert, (spoiler alert!) in case his ulcer blows again, but we common folk are rather fond of almost any dish that serves hot melty cheese, crispy crunchy corn chips with a slew of ingredients that could mirror the cast of characters at Downton for sheer variety and eccentricity.

The onlookers at a fatback auction are nothing compared to a hungry crowd that has gathered at your humble crofter’s cottage for the quaint American activity known as the Super Bowl. Lord Grantham, be forewarned. The game is afoot.

We here at the Spy Test Kitchens abhor soggy nachos, so we recommend making several cookie sheets worth of nachos for your Super Bowl activities. It means more time hovering in the kitchen, and maybe missing some of the commercials, but that is why YouTube was invented. This way, everyone will be sure of having nice hot, crisp and cheesy nachos. We bake ours at about 450° degrees for about 7 or 8 minutes. Don’t wander off!

Use a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil for an easy clean up. Daisy has enough to do already, and doesn’t need to play scullery maid to you rude Americans. This way you can keep a continuous conga line of nachos moving up from the Kitchens through to the Great Hall.

Hint: don’t overload the chips with toppings – you’ll avoid sogginess and it is so much easier to eat lightly dressed chips with your fingers. (Don’t forget to take off your evening gloves, first.)

Here are some toppings for your own Mrs. Patmore’s delicious game day nachos:

Corn chips:
Buy them, or be prepared to spend your day hunched over a frying pan.

Cheeses:
shredded Cheddar
Monterey Jack
Colby cheese

Meats:
pulled pork
shredded rotisserie chicken
crumbled Italian sausage
browned taco meat
chorizo
grilled steak

Veggies:
avocado slices
chopped sweet or red onions
shredded lettuce (add after cooking)
refried beans
black beans
chopped tomatoes
sliced pitted black olives
diced green, red, and yellow sweet peppers
jalapeños (use fresh – don’t use icky, pickled peppers)
fresh cilantro

To add after the nachos have come out of the oven:
shredded lettuce
sour cream
guacamole
salsa
cilantro

Mrs. Patmore also suggests strongly that Maryland’s Eastern Shore folks might enjoy this variation – crab and corn nachos.

8 ounces crabmeat
3/4 cup corn
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons minced chives
1 teaspoon mustard

Spoon into tortilla scoops;
top with shredded Monterey Jack, then bake.

Mrs. Patmore knows her business!

(The Dowager Countess has already had a platter delivered to the Dower House; Violet is always planning ahead.)

http://www.bonappetit.com/entertaining-style/parties/article/epic-nachos

http://food52.com/blog/12168-game-day-nachos-that-don-t-skimp-on-the-toppings

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/articles/50-nachos.html

http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Guacamole-13592

Violet: “First electricity, now telephones. Sometimes I feel as if I were living in an H.G. Wells novel.”