Birds of a Feather by George Merrill


I met a wren one morning. She stood on my studio doorstep. Appearing so fearless, she surprised me.

Various kinds of wildlife pass by my studio window all the time; deer, turkeys, otters, groundhogs, rabbits, buzzards, eagles, owls and ospreys. I hear the frequent whimper of squirrels. I have never understood what troubles them that they sound so plaintive.

I am surrounded by trees that whisper in breezes. The magnolia tree is different; its large leaves strike each other emitting not a soft rush as conifers or hardwoods do, but a kind of rattling you hear when wind blows though venetian blinds.

While my relationship to regional wildlife is a fond one, except for ticks, it’s typically distant.

It was unusual for me to see wildlife as close up as the wren. As I approached, I fully expected she would fly away. Instead, she flew and lighted even closer to me on the railing by the steps. She looked at me. I stood still for fear of spooking her. Now she was barely more than three feet from where I stood. A fledgling, I was sure. On her head, I could see unruly strands of nap rather than smooth feathers. I reckoned that this was perhaps one of her early explorations of the neighborhood. She still possessed that precious once in a lifetime gift, the innocence of youth that revels in curiosity and wonder while finding the world irresistibly enchanting.

I didn’t move. In the background, I could hear the loud and insistent chirping of another wren. Perhaps it was Mom or Dad calling for her to come back home “this very instant” the way impatient parents yell at children who heedlessly wander away.

I moved my hand toward her. She turned her head side to side, first eying my hand from one side and then from the other. I suspect she may have been wondering if this was the best time to get out of there. Was she as curious about her proximity to me as I was to her?

Fidgeting some, she remained on the spot. Since she flew up from the doormat onto the railing, I knew she could fly. I was glad she wasn’t staying just because she was injured. Maybe I was flattered that given the choice to stay or leave, she found me interesting enough to hang out for a few minutes to see what I was all about.

Finally, she flew away – back home I assume. However, her leaving did not in the least silence the raucous chirping of the other wren somewhere in the distance. Some parent was probably lecturing this hapless bird brain about never crossing the street alone and especially sitting on some stranger’s doorstep. It’s sad as I think about it, though; that with so many of our wildlife neighbors conditioned to be wary of us, and we of them, man, beast and bird alike are consigned to regard our differences as dangers rather than opportunities for discovery. A peaceable kingdom is not immediately in the offing, but for mutual ecological survival, better it gets on the agenda sooner than later.

Today among our own species, citizens of the same country or even individuals in the same family, differences become occasions for suspicion. Nowhere has this been more apparent than in racial discrimination of blacks by white Americans. We also see the LGBT community being maligned and treated as moral failures while they justly appeal for respect and equality in a predominantly heterosexual society.

After 200,000 years on the planet, we still don’t know how to regulate differences except with violence and by discrimination. It’s as if we’re evolution’s immature adolescents, clinging to personal identities that affirm nothing more enlightening than, “I’m not like them.” This is an old problem, old enough to have been highlighted in Luke’s gospel written over 1900 years ago. We are slow learners. Hopefully we’ll be late bloomers. The parable is instructive

Luke’s story goes roughly like this. Two men go up to the temple to pray. One is a Pharisee, a religious elite of that era. He is full of himself and looks down on everyone, or as my grandmother liked to say, “puts on airs.” He prays: “I thank you God that I’m not greedy, dishonest or an adulterer like everyone else or like that tax collector over there.” In those days, a tax collector was considered a social pariah. “I fast, and tithe generously,” the Pharisee’s prayer concludes.

What a guy!

The tax collector, on the other hand, stands apart from him, doesn’t even lift his head to heaven, but instead beats his breast, saying “God have pity on me, a sinner.”

Jesus likes the tax collector better and declares that the tax-collectors is the one that’s right with God.

Not for a moment do I interpret this story as endorsing self-denigration as a direct route to holiness. However, I do read it as a statement that humility, is. Arrogance and humility play out very differently in the human equation as much as they do in divine-human confrontations. It’s the difference between believing in possibilities – being open – or dismissing others contemptuously, as a bigot does. In humility, there’s also a suggestion of reverence, a sense of the integrity and potential goodness we are prepared, at least for starters, to impute to others with whom we deal. Stereotyping is a form of arrogance – thank God, I’m not like him.

A long way from a young wren sitting on my door step, you say? Not really. I was closer that morning than I have ever been to a wren in the wild. The wren’s openness made for a meeting between species. She had not responded fearfully as I’d fully expected, but behaved curiously, instead. And indeed, it turned out to be a moment for a mutual regulation of differences. I don’t normally talk to birds nor do any birds let me close enough so I can.

Imagine if gays and straights, blacks and whites, or that Muslims and Christians could feel sufficiently safe to confide with each other what it’s like to be the kind of people we are. It’s heartwarming to think how, in the last analysis, we might discover we’re more birds of a feather than we’d ever imagined.

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: Father’s Day


We have a holiday family tradition. If the holiday is not food-centric (i.e. Thanksgiving=turkey) we usually try to have a good, buttery, messy, celebratory lobster dinner, complete with corn, beer and lots of laughter. I think a lot of laughter is called for these days, and so we will celebrate mightily on Father’s Day as we toss some bugs into the lobster pot. It will be an Instagram moment!

I read a lovely tribute to Anthony Bourdain the other day. Actually, every story about him has been a moving paean. What an incredible force of nature with an appetite for all the wonderful and mundane that the world offers up. I’m adding a link to a story about his daughter, and a food choice she made which delighted him. Lobster used to be the working man’s food of New England, not fussy or rarefied, or expensive. No candlelight is needed, nor is there any call for a maitre d’. I think Bourdain would approve of a simple lobster fest for Father’s Day. He would enthuse. Read this and see if you don’t agree with me:

A two-pound lobster, serving one, fetches $9.99 per pound this summer. (Conversely, ground chuck is $3.99 per pound, and I bet I can get four hamburgers from that pound.) Before lobster became a pricy treat, it was considered food good enough for servants and prison inmates. Colonial dock workers had a contract stating that they would NOT be fed lobster more than three times a week. People fed lobster to their cats. ( Lobsters were abundant, easily caught, and simple to prepare. Lobster grew in popularity as the nation expanded west, and it began popping up on restaurant menus in hotels and on trains. It developed cachet. And as lobsters are not caught in South Dakota or Ohio, both the demand and appeal grew.

We steam our lobsters in a huge honking pot. Heartless as we are, we usually stage a lobster race on the kitchen floor. Our children have been deeply scarred as they watched the race participants being tossed into pots of boiling water.

Choose a pot large enough to hold all the lobsters comfortably; do not crowd them. A 4 to 5 gallon pot can handle 6 to 8 pounds of lobsters.
Put 2 inches of salted water in the bottom of a large kettle.
Set a steamer inside the pot and bring to a rolling boil over high heat.
Add the live lobsters one at a time, cover pot, and start timing.

It takes about 10 minutes for a 1-pound lobster, 12 minutes for 1 1/4 pounds, 18 minutes for 2-pounds. The shells will be bright red. Be sure to melt plenty of butter.

Or, you can broil lobster tails:

You can skip right to the lobster roll and discover if you come from the butter camp or the mayonnaise camp:

Or you can get Food52 fancy and poach them in oil:

I’m sure you and your group will find the ideal lobster recipe, and will write your own family’s chapter about lobster races on the kitchen floor. Enjoy your Father’s Day. Don’t spend money on a tie, buy a lobster! It will be much more memorable! Grab the gusto and torment your children!

“Lobsters display all three of the classical biological characteristics of an insect, namely: 1. It has way more legs than necessary. 2. There is no way you would ever pet it. 3. It does not respond to simple commands such as ‘Here, boy!’”
-Dave Barry

Election 2018: 1st District LWV Democratic Candidates Forum Highlights


While the League of Women Voters forum on Sunday afternoon at Chesapeake College for Republicans running in the 1st District primary race turned out to be a bust with only one candidate (Rep. Andy Harris) out of three showing up, which meant, according to League rules, the program was canceled, the Democrats seemed to make up for it by having all five of their primary candidates show up for their own LWV  forum a few hours later.

Candidates Jesse Colvin, Allison Galbraith, Erik Lane, Michael Pullen, and Steve Worton all made their case for winning the Democratic nomination on June 26 to take on Representative Harris in the general election in November.

The Spy was there to capture their opening statements and responses to audience questions.

This video is approximately fifty-six minutes in length

P.S. I Love You by George Merrill


For me, receiving mail has lost its magic.

I once loved anticipating mail. Getting it now is perfunctory, like bringing in garbage cans. Today I receive mostly advertisements printed on intrusive cards some larger than four by five. They hardly fit in the mail box. Then there’s the relentless stream of bills. The joy of anticipation is gone. Once, the excitement of getting the mail was finding a real letter, handwritten, addressed to me. Few if any write letters any more. The world of communication, once a twist of the wrist, has gone electronic. We are literally, snagged by the web, trapped in the net.

I once read that in sixteen-eighty in London, England, the mail system functioned 24/7. If Mrs. Dalloway invited me to take tea with her at 4:00 pm, I’d receive her invitation at 10:00 am. I would post my response straightaway and she’d receive it by noon. Anywhere in London for a penny. It got pricey if you posted out of town, and there was a caveat: the receiver paid postage, not the sender. Considering all the junk mail I receive, wouldn’t it be neat if the post would not surrender my mail to me unless I first paid up? Just say no, would do the trick.

In colonial times, communicating with kin overseas was stressful and cumbersome. A ship’s officer arriving in port with letters without stamps would advertise in the local newspaper. They’d list the names of those having mail and for them to come collect and pay for it, if not already paid for by the sender. I would imagine a husband in London, sending a letter to his wife in Annapolis, would cost her an arm and leg to claim it. Absence may make the heart grow fonder, but it sure ups the ante in the family budget no matter who pays.

Aviation promised more speedy mail delivery. In its infancy, however, the pilot was more at risk than any mail man was when a junkyard dog tore after him. Without instrumentation, pilots became disoriented when flying through clouds. Pilots might swear they were flying level but in fact were in deep descent. Crashes were frequent.

I remember three chapters in my life when receiving mail was exhilarating. The first was during WWII. I’d receive V-MAILS, letters from my father while he was at war. The return address read cryptically: “Somewhere in Europe.”

Then came my cereal box years. Cereal makers, like those producing Wheaties and Kix, offered toys like the ‘secret decoder ring” that broke all codes or another ring that, by changing color, “foretold weather.” Mailing off a quarter with the box top would assure that I’d possess one of these wonders. After I’d mailed off my submission, I would begin counting the days and even intercept the mailman before he reached the door.

In late adolescence, I was in and out of love. For some of these loves, letters were part of the romance and I came to expect them. The wait for letters was excruciating. I now marvel at how verbose lovers are at eighteen. I simply couldn’t write enough to shape the nuances of my emerging passions and give a voice to my excited sentiments. Run-on sentences were the name of the game.

In today’s post-modern world, hand written letters have been eclipsed by email. Email is fast, economical, and costs the same to send anywhere in the world. Emails arrive almost instantly and like mice, seeing one always means there’s lots more. Some are bizarre. I used to get regular emails from a barrister in the Caribbean who’d address me as ‘Dearest.’ He’d urge me to respond immediately as he was keeping fifty thousand pounds in trust for me.

Email, especially texting, has spawned a form of hieroglyphics designed to reduce words to their marrow. It makes electronic messaging even faster, by lessening the time a writer spends composing texts. For the uninitiated, these symbols are inscrutable and seem more like the periodic table or scientific equations than real words or even sentences. Even the tender sentiments they purport to communicate become tepid and as ho hum as yesterday’s alphabet soup.

How about instead of emailing or texting your loved one, “I can’t wait to look into your eyes and savor the soft scent of your perfume,” you write ‘ILU/ILY’ which means “I love you.” ‘XOXOXO,’ means, I want to hug and kiss you. It works for some, but not for me. Is this only because I’m a luddite, that I’m so old a dog I disdain new tricks? I’d say it’s more than that. It’s about nuance and in my opinion, next to facial expressions, only words can hone our emotions to such fine tolerances.

Tweets serve communication the way fireworks light up the night sky: while they catch your eye, they quickly fizzle. No nuance, here.

Letters take a lot of time and thought to write. It would take me the same time to write one letter by hand than to dash off twenty emails. In communicating with a spouse, loved one or friend, the nature of affection encourages the sharing of many different thoughts and feelings like pillow talk that is lengthy and meandering.

Electronic communication is a boon for commerce. It’s great for communicating data or gathering information, arranging appointments, ordering holiday gifts and getting directions to unfamiliar places.

When kissing my wife before bedtime, however, I can’t imagine holding her and saying ‘ILU/ILY.’ Nothing beats a plain old fashioned, breathy, “I love you,” whether it’s carefully written long hand or whispered softly in an ear. Consider something as sensual as hugs and kisses; when reduced to a formulaic, ’XOXOXO,’ it loses all its pizazz.

A simple ‘PS, I love you,’ works better.

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: Summer Prep


Now that we are finally drying out from all the May and early June showers, it seems appropriate to turn our thoughts to summer and the last day of school. Faithful (or long-suffering) Food Friday readers will remember that once the heat of summer sets in, I do my best to skeedaddle out of the kitchen. I do not enjoy hovering around the stove when I could be lounging gracefully in the shade, clad in floaty white linen, reading important books, and drinking cool wine.

The reality of my humdrum existence, however, means that I still have to plan for night-time meals, because Mr. Friday must be fed. And so I must find foods that meet the basic summer criteria: one-dish meals which don’t heat up the kitchen. And despite my deeply-flawed and lazy-damn-git nature, I do enjoy sitting down at the end of the day, sharing a meal, and catching up. I will even open a can of tuna for that man.

I do rely on a heavy rotation of salads in the summer. Last night we had a chicken salad that is always in a summer staple. I’m not sure it serves any healthy purpose – it contains mayonnaise, bacon, and croutons fried in bacon. But it is deelish. I boiled the chicken while I was eating a lunch sandwich made from Monday night’s leftover tuna salad. (Mayonnaise is a valuable commodity in our house in the summer.)

Chris’s Chicken Club Salad
serves 4

1/2 pound bacon, crisp and crumbled (save the fat)
1 cup bread cubes
3 cups cooked chicken, cubed and chilled
2 large tomatoes, quartered (or a handful of cherry tomatoes, halved)
1 head Romaine, torn (not cut) into bite-size piece

3/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh chives, chopped
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon Lawry’s Seasoning Salt
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon capers

Sauté the bread cubes in the bacon fat, tossing constantly to toast all the sides. Drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with garlic powder, Lawry’s Seasoning Salt, and dried basil. Put the chicken in a bowl, cover with dressing, add the capers and toss to coat each piece with dressing. Chill for half an hour. Arrange lettuce on individual plates and mound the chicken salad on the lettuce. Crumble the bacon on top, surround with tomato quarters and top each with the crunchy, wonderful croutons. Serve with a delectable Chardonnay. Yummm. Perfect for picnics.

Here is a variation on that salad which might actually be good for you:

Kosher salt and pepper
1 1/2 pounds cooked boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
1/4 cup low fat sour cream
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
4 radishes
2 stalks celery
1 small green apple
2 scallions

In a large bowl, whisk together the sour cream, mayonnaise and salt and pepper. Add the chicken and toss to coat.
Add the radishes, celery, apple and scallions and mix to combine.

It is a spicier salad, incorporating peppery radishes. Normally I eat radishes sitting out on the back porch in the summer, filching them one by one from a bowl filled with ice water, the spicy radish bite tempered by the icy coolth of the water. And maybe sometimes I’ll be fancy, and swipe a schmear of butter on a radish, using the fancy French butter for something other than warm bread.

This is a very continental approach to take with radishes, which appeals to my languorous inner life: wash and gently dry a handful of radishes. Serve the radishes with slightly softened high fat content butter and a bowl of fleur de sel sea salt. Maybe it is Saturday night, and you could add some crusty French bread and the casual insouciance of a glass or two of Prosecco. Yumsters.

If you feel the ridiculous compulsion to serve a hot meal, here is an interesting pasta, with radishes added at the end:

Radishes are high in Vitamin C, are low cal (about 1 calorie per radish, until you add the schmear of butter) and provide cheerful color and bite to an everyday salad. You will thank me come August, when your crowd is surly, and will not eat one more cool vegetable, and is screaming for meatloaf and mashed potatoes. Until then, we have the radishes, chicken salads, and the occasional glass of wine.

Here are some radish varieties to tickle your tongue on your way to the farmers’ market: Watermelon, White Icicle, Cherry Belle (what we usually see in the grocery store), Sparkler White Tip, French Breakfast, Easter egg, Black Spanish, White Beauty, Early Scarlet Gold, Daikon Long White, Fire and Ice and China Rose.

Here are some more radish recipes:

“Long stormy spring-time, wet contentious April, winter chilling the lap of very May; but at length the season of summer does come.”
-Thomas Carlyle

Mid-Shore History: Chestertown’s Black Entrepreneurs


Thanks to a small grant from the Maryland State Arts Council, volunteers Airlee Johnson and Lani Seikaly had the resources to move forward with an ambitious project to document, record, and display an extraordinary era of Chestertown’s black entrepreneurs during the 1960s and 1970s.

The exhibition, now being shown at Sumner Hall, the project tells the stories of twenty-four African-Americans who were either business owners, a member of their family, employees, or customers of the fifteen businesses that formed a very vibrant commercial sector of Chestertown.

The Spy sat down with Airlee and Lani to talk about these unique entrepreneurs and through the unique blend of Airlee’s memories and Lani’s video documentation (now on Youtube) resulted in a compelling story of independence, creativity, and self-sufficiency.

This video is approximately minutes in length. The Exhibit will run until mid-August. For more information please go here. To watch the project’s video profiles please go here



Once Before A Time by George Merrill


In three  days, we will mark the 74th anniversary of the allied landing in Normandy. For me, this was once before a time.

I discovered an old book recently in an early attic store. The book, The New Yorker War Album, was published in 1942 as the war was beginning. The book presented a compilation of cartoons by cartoonists like Whitney Darrow Jr., Peter Arno and Charles Adams, familiar names to readers even today.

In viewing the cartoons, I felt I was uncovering artifacts in an archaeological dig. Here was evidence of how people once lived, what they cared about seventy-six years ago. I was eleven then. My father left in ’42 with the Army – first to Britain, then to Belgium and finally he entered Aachen near the end of the war. As a boy, living in the safety of America’s homeland and feeling the intense excitement of the troop movements in and out of New York Harbor, the war was a lark. I imagined it as thrilling adventure in which the nobility and invincibility of our fathers and brothers were defeating America’s enemies.

Shortly after my father left for Europe, my mother and I wallpapered my room. The paper was a war mural, with ships, tanks, and planes engaged in the business of war. The war ships pitched in the waves, their canons trailing smoke from discharging munitions. Tanks barreled over hilly terrain. An American plane soared upward leaving in its wake an enemy fighter—a Stuka—with smoke trailing from its fuselage as it spiraled downward to the earth. Curiously, there were no soldiers pictured in any of the scenes, but only the industrial material of war performing its tasks of killing— lots of iron, but no blood. The scenes were stirring. They fed my imagination daily about the glory of battle.

America was righteous and ready.

Among the cartoons in the book, we see a roller coaster half completed, the track ending abruptly high in midair. Construction projects begun as war broke out were soon abandoned.

While our fathers and brothers fought at the front, all the kids in my neighborhood made war on one another at one such site we called the iron mines. Behind our home, houses under construction ended for the duration.

Workers left behind half dug trenches for basements and large plywood boards used for forming cement. Decommissioned bulldozers, emitting the pungent remains of diesel fuel, were scattered around the site. The digging had unearthed chunks of iron ore. From the trenches and plywood boards, we constructed covered bunkers. We hurled iron ore missiles (grenades) at our enemies, who were the kids in the other trenches. Bulldozers were our tanks. I made a charge for safety behind a bulldozer while lobbing my rock grenade. I was hit on the head by an enemy grenade. I bled furiously and ran home crying. My war ended when my sister came to the site warning all the combatants that we were really going to get it from our parents for throwing rocks. Would that ending a war were that easy. Except for parental constraints, I would have done battle again for the thrill of being at the killing fields of the iron mines. “Men grow tired of sleep, love, singing and dancing sooner than war,” Homer observed darkly.

The cartoons witnessed to the feeling that this was our war, America’s war. The nation was invested in it. The sense of ownership and common cause was palpable. The draft was mandatory, but then young men in droves often lied about age just to enlist and to fight. The cartoon images reflected the sense of high adventure and solidarity. Patriotism was heart-felt.

The cartoons pointed to another phenomenon; the war effort demanded sacrifices from the civilian population. Today’s wars don’t. Today, Americans have it both ways; guns and butter.

A shop keeper in one cartoon urges a little girl: “Better stock up on jelly beans.” Mutual sacrifice for a common good was shared. I remember bubble gum was not available from ’42 until ’45.  Good humored grousing about sacrifice was a part of the national conversation. From references to ration books, and to the limited availability of cooking oil, sugar, butter, gasoline, meat, candy and chocolate, although hardly draconian restrictions, forced unwelcomed changes to life styles. What we once took for granted became precious commodities. The recurring symbol for this phenomenon was the automobile tire. In one cartoon, we see a man skulking furtively holding auto tires. He’d just swiped them from another car. Returning to his own car, he sees his tires have been stolen. In another image, a man at a filling station says, “A gallon will do.” The inference – not only is gas scarce, but he only has a mile or so left on his tire’s tread and that will be it.

One cartoon sketches a parade, the kind we might see on the Fourth of July or Veterans Day. Old vets with canes sit curbside in wheel chairs and civilians wave flags as the marchers pass. The parade extends for several blocks. Instead of cadres of soldiers and military hardware, the parade consists entirely of civilian groups contributing to the war effort: there are Girl Scouts, aircraft observers, motor corps (women mechanics) air raid wardens, nurse’s aides, Boy Scouts, and civil defense volunteers.

Horney young sailors and soldiers are pictured lamenting the unavailability of women. Whitney Darrow sketches a scene in which we see a room full of middle-aged club women assembled, wearing flowered dresses, hats and gloves. All are seated. Two stand at the rostrum, while one introduces the other: “Miss Whitehead is here to tell us how we can amuse sailors.”

As more American soldiers arrived in England to fight, the Brits had mixed feelings about our presence, expressed in the popular quip: “Over sexed, over paid, and over here.” Americans quickly countered the Brits: “Underpaid, under sexed and under Eisenhower.”

In several cartoons, signs of women’s changing roles in the industrial era appear. Two little girls are standing by a car being repaired. They watch as a woman lying on a dolly works on it. One child says to the other. “When you grow up do you want to be a grease monkey like your mom?” Another prescient cartoon tells the same story in another way: a young woman is struggling to choose between getting her M.A. or learn spot welding.

Writer Frederick Buechner once coined a phrase, “Once before a time.” It’s a way to measure our lives prior to some dramatic event that changes it.

Once before a time, I saw war as a glorious adventure. Once upon a time, my father returned from the war in 1945 a broken man.  Then once after a time, I began to grasp the devastation of war.

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: Hulling Strawberries


I waste an enormous amount of each strawberry that I cut, and I bet you do, too. I lop off the end with sharp knife, flying headlong into imaginary conflict with my family line of maternal cooks. My mother would be ashamed at the food I toss out, and her mother would be amazed at all the food options we enjoy in the twenty-first century. Imagine her reaction to boneless chicken breasts, kept in the freezer, compared to the chickens kept in her back yard.

I am the product of Depression-era children. I try to waste not, recycle, and compost; fine efforts which our parents strove to impress upon us. I guess I am inherently lazy, as are most people. There is a glass strawberry jam jar soaking in the kitchen sink as I write this. I want to clean the jar thoroughly enough to go in the recycling bin. My mother would have bought a brand of jam that came in a jar suitable for recycling as a drinking glass. My grandmother would have put up that jam herself, and would be washing the jar to re-use it as she got ready for the June strawberry jam session. I suppose the least I can do is to prepare my strawberries a little more prudently.

Growing up we used a strawberry huller that my mother purchased cheaply with great delight from a mail order catalogue. It was a simple tool, made from a single piece of springy stainless steel, and it pinched out the top of the strawberry with a single pinch. Easy peasy. You can find it here:

But it is not the twenty-first century way to have a simple, easy product to do your bidding. You need a YouTube video: And it still looks as if you need someone to talk you through your first quart or two of strawberries. It does not look very intuitive.

Or you can see many, more expensive hullers:

Bon Appétit magazine has an entire feature about cleaning strawberries without any waste. Heavens to Betsy.

And before they take your straws away, here is another way to hull strawberries from Food and Wine:

There are six pages of hullers and parers and corers and pitters on Amazon. I think I need a strawberry slicer now. And definitely a $9.95 OXO Tot Grape Cutter. So many gadgets, so little drawer space!

Amanda Hesser, our Food52 genius sage, was quoted in the New York Times a couple of weeks ago: “Once you go down the road of having a kale leaf stripper,” she said, “where do you draw the line?” Where indeed?

I think we will do fine with a sharp knife, and a whiff of nostalgia, remembering our mothers and grandmothers as we get ready for summer to whip around the corner. I will be a little more careful when preparing strawberries, because we just can’t enjoy summer without strawberry shortcake, or a Fourth of July strawberry, blueberry and whipped cream sheet cake, can we? – substitute strawberries for the raspberries. It might give you an excuse to use that new strawberry slicer.

“One must ask children and birds how cherries and strawberries taste.”
– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Mid-Shore Arts: Sara Linda Poly and her Eastern Shore Skies


For Sara Linda Poly, it is all about the sky. While her artwork goes well beyond the sky itself as a subject matter, the challenge and satisfaction of finding the way to best project the power of “big sky” landscapes on her canvas has been a driving force in her work well before she came to live on the Eastern Shore.

Influenced by the legendary big sky impact of California when she lived in her twenties, Sara started to capture of some those same elements as she began to work on Eastern Shore skyscapes after she moved here from D.C. area where she served as the assistant gallery director of the Art League Gallery in Alexandria, which is also known as the famed Torpedo Factory Art Center.

In her Spy interview, Poly talks about her life as an artist, a love of the outside world, and the joy that comes with starting to master her skills after years of commitment.

This video is approximately two minutes in length Sara Linda Poly is represented by Troika Gallery in Easton.  For more information please go here.