Lex Eat Together

THE POWER OF KINDNESS, COMMUNITY
AND A HEARTY DINNER

Above, Head Chef Bruce Lynn with the new LET spice cabinet. Below, some of the fresh food prepared each week by LET. COURTESY PHOTO


By Jane Whitehead

Every Wednesday afternoon, the community room at Lexington’s Church of Our Redeemer transforms into an elegant dining space. Volunteers wheel out round tables, haul stacks of chairs, spread tablecloths, set out bread baskets and water jugs and arrange flowers, to welcome guests to a three-course dinner, free to anyone in need of a good meal and companionship.

Since its launch in October 2015, Lex Eat Together (LET) has served more than 5,000 meals, welcomed an average of 64 guests a week, and built a network of over 200 volunteers. “I’m proudest of the community we’ve created,” said LET co-founder Laura Derby, referring to the wide range of backgrounds and ages among guests and volunteers.

It Doesn’t Matter Who You Are

On a Wednesday in late September, the LET menu included Udon Chicken Soup, Battered Pork with Tonkatsu Sauce, with sides of rice, Napa cabbage and butternut squash. Among the early arrivals for the 5:15 p.m. dinner were regular guests Ruth Amiralian and her friend Mary.

“Look at what we get,” said Amiralian, gesturing to the table setting, the flowers, the basket of assorted breads. “To be able to walk in and be greeted with such love, kindness and graciousness is unbelievable,” she said. And as a long-term worker in the food industry, she’s impressed by the high quality and presentation of the food. “They have fine chefs,” she said, but most importantly, “they do it with their heart.”

Volunteers make LexEAT Together possible! Clockwise from left: 3-Bruce Ward, Shailini Sisodia, Toby Ward, Daniel Palant and Barbara Palant.


“I think I have fallen into a little heaven,” said Mary. “It doesn’t matter where you’re from. It doesn’t matter who you are, what you are – there’s a comfortableness, nobody’s haughty.” “This is our night out,” said Amiralian. “We could never afford to go out to eat.” She gives a warm welcome to a young man in his twenties who takes the seat next to her. He lives in neighboring Douglas House, a facility that provides independent affordable housing for brain injury survivors.

At another table was a group of Mandarin-speaking Chinese guests, all residents of Lexington’s Greeley Village, with their volunteer interpreter Ming-Chin Lin, who runs a senior daycare center in Billerica. “It’s very good to get together, we’re very happy, and we’re here to learn the culture and manners of America,” said Ziying Shi, who moved here over ten years ago from Shanghai to be with her daughter and family.

A Hard Place to be Hard Up

LET founders Laura Derby, Harriet Kaufman and John Bernhard saw how deprivation can escape notice in an affluent community, as volunteers with Lift Up Lexington, a group that supported homeless families parked temporarily in local motels. In 2104, having brought George Murnaghan of Redeemer’s vestry committee on board, they took a year to research and plan their response to the problems of food insecurity and social isolation in Lexington and surrounding towns.

After wide consultation with town officials and community groups, and research visits to other towns’ meal programs, including those in Concord, (where Harriet Kaufman volunteered for 25 years) Bedford and Chelmsford, the group inaugurated a weekly dinner in the newly refurbished community room at Our Redeemer, with its adjacent commercial kitchen. As an independent 501 (c) 3 non-profit with no denominational affiliations, LET pays rent for the space.

Helen Zelinsky with trays of colorful appetizers. COURTESY PHOTO


“It is a little-known, painful and rarely acknowledged truth that some of our neighbors go to bed hungry,” said State Representative Jay Kaufman, at the LET launch in October 2015. According to the non-profit Feeding America, one in ten people, and one in seven children in Massachusetts struggle with hunger.

Even in Lexington, where the average annual household income in 2015 topped $150,000, around 1200 residents live at or below the poverty level, some 200 households receive fuel assistance, over 70 residents use food pantries and eight percent of school students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches. And these figures likely understate the level of financial hardship in a high-cost town like Lexington. “People’s circumstances can change very quickly, with sickness, unemployment, or divorce,” noted Harriet Kaufman (no relation to State Representative Kaufman.)

Baked into the LET recipe from the start was a commitment to an open-door policy, and to respect for the privacy of all guests. At LET dinners, there is no sign-in, no need to give a name or address – though guests can choose to write their first name on a stick-on label at the welcome table. “Who needs to know if you’re from Bedford or Lexington?” said Head Chef, Bruce Lynn. “If you start asking questions like that, people feel uncomfortable.” Murnaghan estimates that around 60 per cent of guests come from Lexington and neighboring communities, with some making “quite long journeys on public transport” from towns further afield.

Waste and Want – The Food Link Connection

The flip side of the US hunger emergency (one in seven Americans is food insecure) is a colossal mountain of wasted food. That forgotten bag of salad lurking in your refrigerator is part of an estimated 52 million tons of food that end up in landfill every year, together with another 10 million tons discarded or left unharvested, according to ReFED|Rethink Food Waste (www.refed.com.)

Arlington-based food rescue organization Food Link, Inc., founded in March 2012 by DeAnne Dupont and Julie Kremer, seeks to combat this cycle of waste and want. Their mission is to divert potentially wasted food to people who can use it. With over one hundred volunteers and two paid staffers, Food Link organizes the daily collection of high-quality fresh fruit, vegetables, meat, dairy, bread and prepared foods that would otherwise be wasted from 12 local grocery and prepared food stores, and delivers this daily haul to 30 social service agencies serving people in need.

Kerry Brandin with strawberry soup. COURTESY PHOTO


In LET’s planning phase, Lexington resident and Food Link volunteer and board member Ivan Basch immediately grasped the potential synergy between the two projects. He offered to source a proportion of LET’s needs from Food Link donors, who include Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods Market, Panera Bread and other smaller specialty stores.

“They tell me what they want, then I get as much as I can from Food Link, and go shopping for whatever else is needed,” said Basch in a recent phone conversation. (Sometimes the source is as local as his garden, as in the case of a recent order of chives.) Under the oversight of Head Chef Bruce Lynn (who also volunteers for Food Link), LET’s chefs get their menus and weekly shopping lists to Basch by noon on Sundays, and he gathers as much as possible from Food Link, then buys the rest with an LET charge card.

Depending on the menu and on the week’s donations, rescued food makes up between 60 and 80 percent of LET’s food costs, Lynn and Basch estimate. Other costs include venue rental, kitchen equipment and insurance. Once a month during the school year, from September to June, LET also purchases a ready-prepared meal from the Minuteman High School Culinary Arts Program.

“I really love the Lex Eat model, because that’s a value-add to the rescue,” said Basch. “There’s so much love and proficiency in turning the rescued food into a fabulous meal,” he said, noting that LET is “about as far from a soup kitchen as you can get,” with its three-course menus and attention to attractive presentation.

Harriet Kaufman turns rejected bouquets into elegant centerpieces. COURTESY PHOTO


Volunteer Task-force

After retiring as Director of Lexington’s Community Education Program, Robin Tartaglia moved to Cambridge, and followed her passion for food by signing up for a ten-month full-time professional training program at the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts. From LET’s launch Tartaglia has been part of the team of around six vetted volunteer chefs who run the LET kitchen, plan the menus, devise the detailed shopping lists, organize the volunteer assistant cooks, and oversee the presentation of every plate.

“I’ve learned a great deal,” said Tartaglia. “I’ve learned how to cook these large quantities, and I do love managing the very eager and highly qualified volunteers we get in the kitchen.” (Like most other LET volunteer slots, the Assistant Cook spaces fill up weeks ahead of time, as people vie to wield the industrial-size salad spinner or learn what it takes to make Moroccan Chicken for 70.)

Although adults cook and serve the food, in the set-up and clean-up crews, high-school and middle-school students work alongside parents and grand-parents. Luisa Ozgen regularly superintends room set-up, with a sharp eye for detail and a set of laminated instruction cards to make sure the day’s crew forgets nothing, from switching on the hot water urns to bagging the fresh fruit that every guest takes home.

A healthy meal, lovingly prepared. COURTESY PHOTO


“I like to feel needed, and it’s great to see all these people I’ve known for two years,” said Libby Wallis, head of the clean-up team, as she cheerfully surveyed the remains of chicken noodle soup and battered pork (all food waste is composted or saved for animal feed.) As on many Wednesday evenings, Ed Lidman was methodically feeding the industrial dishwasher. “This was a job I knew,” said Lidman, laughing. By day, he works on data quality at Beth Israel Hospital.

With ten people drying steaming silverware, piling clean plates, rolling away tables, stacking chairs and vacuuming the dining room carpet, clean-up is done by 7:00 p.m. “There’s nothing more basic and human than sitting down and eating with someone else,” said George Murnaghan, “and it’s wonderful to be able to make that happen every week.”

 

To volunteer or donate to Lex Eat Together:
www.lexeattogether.org
To volunteer or donate to Food Link:
www.foodlinkma.org

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Cary Library Celebrates a Retiring Lady of Letters

Cynthia Johnson

Cynthia Johnson

By Jane Whitehead

Cynthia Johnson wanted no fanfare to mark the end of her three decades’ service at Cary Library, most recently as Assistant Director. No speeches, no presentations, she pleaded. But colleagues stealthily plotted an elegant, low-key Regency-themed tea party that took place in the Administrative offices on Thursday, October 30. (The theme was a salute to Johnson’s authorship of 15 historical novels set in the British Regency period, from 1811-1820.)

Among the guests who gathered to eat scones and wish Johnson well were all four Directors of Cary Library with whom she has worked; Bob Hilton, Carol Mahoney, Connie Rawson, and current Director Koren Stembridge, together with current and former staff, Library Trustees, patrons, and members of the Cary Memorial Library Foundation and the Friends.

Recently retired Cary librarian Elizabeth Dickinson presented Johnson with a handsome scrapbook filled with pages created by colleagues and friends. The volume reflects her wit, kindness, sense of humor, athleticism (she swims and runs every day), writing, style (think Burberry raincoats and Mont Blanc pens), and her years of service to Cary Library from her arrival in 1983 as Reference and Young Adult Librarian through two stints as Head of Reference Services, and two periods as Assistant Director. In all these roles, said former Library Director Carol Mahoney, Johnson proved herself “the consummate professional librarian.”

On October 30, 2014, Cynthia Johnson retired after 31 years of service in various capacities at the Cary Library. On hand to celebrate with Cynthia were all 4 library directors with whom she has served.  From left to right, Koren Stembridge, Connie Rawson, Cynthia Johnson, Carol Mahoney, and Robert Hilton.

On October 30, 2014, Cynthia Johnson retired after 31 years of service in various capacities at the Cary Library. On hand to celebrate with Cynthia were all 4 library directors with whom she has served.
From left to right, Koren Stembridge, Connie Rawson, Cynthia Johnson, Carol Mahoney, and Robert Hilton.

To the surprise of no Cary Library insiders, Dickinson appeared in a raccoon mask and tail. Raccoon references also peppered the scrapbook. A page headed “Cynthia’s Retirement Reading” featured spoof titles including Day of the Raccoon, and Raccoon on a Cold Slate Roof. Teen Librarian Jennifer Forgit explained that on a winter evening in 2004, a patron at one of the internet terminals gave a cry of alarm as a raccoon fell out of the ceiling, where a tile had become dislodged.

“Wearing her suit and high heels, and not a hair out of place, Cynthia captured it in a recycling bin and took it up Belfry Hill to release it,” said Forgit. “Raccoons have been showing up in her office ever since then,” said Stembridge. “Cynthia’s so well known for being a lover of nature that the staff have endless fun redecorating her office every time she goes away – there’s always some tableau, with animals in costume.”

Jane Eastman, Johnson’s long time colleague on the Reference desk, also witnessed the raccoon ejection. “Cynthia will tackle anything – she’s very dauntless!” said Eastman. Eastman, who retired in 2003, but still works occasional hours in the Library, recalled challenging queries she and Johnson fielded in the pre-internet era. “Do you have a video on making rubber gloves?” “How many stoplights are there in Rio de Janeiro?” “What’s the electrical code of Las Vegas?” From Johnson, said Eastman, she learned two essential qualities of the public reference librarian: “to listen well and have endless patience.”

“Cynthia set a high bar for the rest of us to aspire to,” said Stembridge, noting that Johnson’s “deep research capability” and boundless curiosity made her an excellent match for the intellectually demanding Lexington community. Cary’s impressively broad and deep adult book collection is “really Cynthia’s creation, after all these years,” said Eastman. “She would think about things that people needed to know about, and if she could find a book that would meet the need, she would get it.”

Another part of Johnson’s legacy, said Eastman, is the Lexington Authors’ Collection now housed in the Periodicals Reading Room. Building on a small collection started in the late 1960s, Johnson has gathered over 500 volumes by people who live and work in town, from Nobel Prize winners to first-time novelists. “It’s a great way to demonstrate what a diverse community Lexington is,” said Johnson, noting that the collection spans subject matter from “religion to radar to Shakespeare to politics.”

“I’ve been in denial about Cynthia leaving,” admitted Forgit. “I can’t imagine the library without her,” she said. Calling Johnson “the first real mentor of my adult life,” Forgit recalled how tactfully Johnson had made her realize that she needed to upgrade her fresh-from-campus sartorial style, by asking her to re-write the Library’s dress code.  “She is amazingly good at leading you gently into the light,” said Forgit.

In a conversation in her airy office a couple of weeks before her retirement, Johnson was keen to deflect attention away from her personal history and focus instead on the “outstanding organization” that has been her professional home for decades. Over the years, she said, Cary Library has been “blessed with wonderful directors who hired great staff and let them do their thing while quietly orchestrating possibilities in the background: Bob Hilton set the gold standard for the collection with his bibliographic knowledge and expertise; Carol [Mahoney] built us the building, Connie [Rawson] heard the community when they said they wanted programming, and Koren  [Stembridge] is the most fabulous yet, identifying community talent and showcasing it here so that Cary remains at the heart of the community in so many ways.”

The library was also the heart of Rockford, Illinois, the prosperous manufacturing town where Johnson grew up. “My mother always took us to the library,” she said, describing her family as “bookish to a fault.” “We had complete sets of Thackeray and Walter Scott, and you never knew that Dumas wrote so many books,” she said. As a girl, she devoured biographies of American historical figures, historical fiction, and on a snow day when she was in high school, discovered Jane Austen. “That was my true love,” she said, and Austen’s Pride and Prejudice still stands as her “all time favorite” novel, closely followed by George Eliot’s Middlemarch.

Growing up in a house full of books and no television, with parents who read the Wall Street Journal rather than the Rockford Register Star, Johnson said she often felt “totally isolated” from her schoolmates. Ahead of their time in many ways, Johnson’s parents rode bicycles, kept a compost heap, did their own yard work, and drove a foreign car, the first in town. Johnson’s father, a reconstructive plastic surgeon who learned his skills treating scarred Battle of Britain pilots in England and leprosy patients in India, “felt firmly that you should leave a place better than you found it, and he instilled that in all of us,” said Johnson, the eldest of three children.

After majoring in English and French at Wellesley College, where another Illinois native, Hillary Rodham, headed the student government in Johnson’s freshman year, Johnson took a Master’s in Library Science at Simmons College. Her first full-time job as a librarian was a four-year stint as Reference and Young Adult Librarian at Memorial Hall Library in Andover, Massachusetts.

Although Johnson enjoyed her time in Andover, she returned to the world of academic scholarship, taking a master’s degree from Northwestern University in 18th-century English and French literature. On completing the degree, poor academic job prospects made her give up the idea of continuing with doctoral studies, but she had polished the research skills that would underpin her success both as reference librarian and writer.

“They do say you’re more likely to be struck by lightning than to sell a book without an agent,” said Johnson. But her experience shows that persistence and knowledge of the publishing industry can sometimes lift a manuscript out of the slush pile. Johnson wrote her first novel in the early 1980s, as a diversion from the stress of job-hunting. When she tried to sell it in 1988, she received polite rejections from three publishers before approaching Signet: New American Library.

Cynthia Johnson’s publicity photo as Evelyn Richardson. Cynthia has published fifteen Regency Romances under her pen name.

Cynthia Johnson’s publicity photo as Evelyn Richardson. Cynthia has published fifteen Regency Romances under her pen name.

After losing the first copy of the story, Signet asked her to send it again, then called her at the reference desk at Cary to offer her a two-book contract. The Education of Lady Frances, published in 1989, was the first of fifteen Regency romances written under the pen name Evelyn Richardson. (The pseudonym is a nod to English novelist and diarist Fanny Burney’s most famous heroine, Evelina, and Johnson’s maternal grandmother, whose name was Richardson.) Johnson’s “Regencies” have been praised by Booklist for their deft incorporation of historical details and “superbly nuanced characters.”

Johnson’s current writing projects are a “fictional biography” of the scandal-prone Swiss-born painter Angelica Kauffman (1741-1807) that she has been working on for five years, and the first book in a trilogy of “Regency Historical” novels. The distinction between the “Regency” and the “Regency Historical” genre is very fine, explained Johnson: the latter being slightly longer, with “more sex.”

As she moves on from full-time work at Cary, Johnson looks forward to writing more, skiing more, and learning to travel at a more leisurely pace. “I just want not to be rushing from one thing to another,” she said. But Cary is a famously difficult place to truly retire from, as attested by the many former librarians, including Eastman and Dickinson, who regularly make encore appearances when needed.

“We’re not going to let Cynthia go!” said Stembridge, laughing. “She’s still going to stay connected and we’ll benefit from her institutional knowledge and her years of experience. This is her library, and she won’t abandon us completely!”

 


 

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11/24/2014

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Tree Talk with Matt Foti

Matt Foti
Matt Foti

Fall Maintenance Reminder

 

We experienced severe winter kill on evergreens last winter primarily because plants went into the winter followed by drought conditions late last summer and into the fall. Evergreens need lots of water at the end of the summer and through the fall to make it through the winter because they never go completely dormant. When sunlight is cast on the foliage the roots cannot draw moisture from the ground when it is frozen solid, winter kill is caused by desiccation.

The best advice I can give now is water, water, water and water some more right up until the ground freezes, as we are experiencing a very dry fall much the same as last year.  Evergreens can store moisture to make it through the winter but if they start the winter dry followed by hard frost we will see just as much winter kill this winter as we did last.

Anti-desiccant sprays are liquefied wax that close up the pores of evergreens and help prevent transpiration of stored moisture. The wax on the foliage of evergreens actually puts them into an artificial dormancy, it is best to spray one time early in the winter and another when the temperature goes above freezing mid to late winter.

Most winter kill occurs in the late winter or very early spring when there is a large variation in temperature in a short period of time when the sap starts to flow again. We can all remember daytime temperatures in late February or early March that go as high as 80° and evenings well below the freezing mark. 60 to 70° variation in temperature within a 24-hour period is even harsher on plants that it is on us because plants can’t turn the thermostat up!

Extra mulch on the roots of evergreens in the fall will also help retain moisture and insulate the ground so that frost cannot penetrate as deeply. If you do put on extra mulch in the fall always remember to remove it in the spring because too much mulch on the roots can suffocate a plant.

Spider mites are another side effect of dry conditions.  When plants become stressed due to lack of moisture they become susceptible to being attacked by spider mites.  Mites are opportunistic little creatures that suck the chlorophyll out of leaves and needles further reducing plant vigor.

Winter moth and canker worm continued to be serious defoliators this year and every indication suggests that they will be here for several years to come.

 

Another harmful insect that has come on the scene is viburnum leaf beetle. I have been warned about its arrival for several years and now it is quite prevalent. Viburnums can be treated systemically with a soil drench insecticide in the fall to prevent next year’s outbreak or sprayed with insecticidal soap in early to mid-June.

Always consult a trained and licensed professional when you have questions regarding recognition, diagnosis and control of both insects and plant diseases.  Call our office today for a free consultation and estimate.

Autumn is also a good time for tree evaluations to help prevent downed power lines and potentially hazardous trees during winter months.

 


 

 

Foti Round LogoMatthew R. Foti is the owner of Foti Landscape and Tree Service. Matt is a 1977 graduate of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and holds degrees in social science and general business. Matt became a Massachusetts Certified Arborist in 1979 and served as president of the Massachusetts Arborists Association from 1993 to 1995. Matt currently employs six Massachusetts Certified Arborists.

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Relationship Parenting – A 21st Century Requirement

By Kimberly Hackett, LMHC

Kimberly Hackett, LMHC

Kimberly Hackett, LMHC

“She doesn’t need me. She tells me a thousand ways everyday.”

Don’t believe it. She does need you. Now more than ever.

The parent/child connection is our most precious and enduring relationship. Like Yin and Yang, the sun and moon, Laurel and Hardy, one cannot exist without the other. We belong together. We balance one another. When it works, it feeds our soul. When it doesn’t, it is demoralizing and destabilizing – for both parent and child.

Cultivating relational health in your parent/adolescent relationship, even when your teen is actively blocking you, takes reinvention, persistence and a willingness to look inward. It can be a difficult transition moving from parenting an adoring, pretty-perfect, pre-adolescent child to parenting a teen, whose developmental job is to differentiate from her parents.

Differentiation is that growing space between you and your adolescent, where too much space becomes disconnection and too little space hinders growth. The parent/child relationship from birth onward is all about negotiating that precious space.

One way of thinking about and measuring the health of your parent/adolescent relationship is to take a closer look at the quality of the space between you and your child. This can be measured by how reactive you are around your child. Space brings calm, the ability to see more clearly. It is where the relationship thrives.

The parent/adolescent relationship demands flexibility simply because a teen’s changing needs and sense of self is dynamic and in constant flux. Understanding your teen is much like reading a book where crucial plot points are redacted. Teens are literally hard to read. And because communication changes so drastically during adolescence, it’s critical that parents adjust their expectations and perceptions along the way – not only of their child but also of themselves.

This means, quite simply, that parents must grow alongside their teen. It is a parallel process of mutual growth. It is as much internal work as it is external.

Relying solely on grades, friends or other external factors to gauge the well-being of our adolescent children can be misleading. It takes the parent out of the relational space, making them judge and juror, someone who is watching their life, not part of their life. This leads to a power dynamic where both parent and adolescent struggle with who holds the power between them, creating a match of wills.

A relationship is not one of power, but of connection, that includes mutual respect and self-respect.

Because teens want to keep parents at bay, to insure their social-emotional freedom, kids become expert actors, transforming themselves into who their parents want them to be. When parents attune to the relationship, they see beyond the “act.” Because relational parents work at being curious and engaged, teens are less likely to hide in plain sight.

In an age where cyber friending passes as relationship currency, parents are called upon as an antidote to heightening social and emotional alienation.

Real time connection is fast becoming a 21st century parenting requirement. Our children need parents to ground them, to daily sit across from them, face to face, to talk, to listen, to work through the discomfitures of this most important relationship, and to not cave in to the scowl but insist upon what’s beneath.

Only seven percent of communication is verbal, the rest is vocal, facial, gesture and posture. Parents who zero in on their child’s non-verbal language tune into their teen in a more comprehensive way. Kids need to be seen. All the cyber visibility in the world will never replace what it feels like to be seen in real time.

The 21st century parent/adolescent relationship is much like turning the radio on. When there is static, you automatically adjust the dial for clearer reception. Static is important. Static lets parents know something is up, something needs attention. Static catches your attention. It’s the red blinking light. You know to slow down and focus in, to both yourself and your child.

In 1953, pediatrician Donald Winnicott coined the term, “good enough mother.” The good enough parent is someone who works at it, but is not always successful, someone who doesn’t give up, someone who accepts the messiness and work of relationship.

The success of the parent/adolescent relationship must start with the parent. Many parents don’t like to hear this. Old school parenting thinking creeps in – “do as I say, not as I do.” “How dare she talk to me that way? She needs to change.” But the parent/adolescent relationship must remain an inherently unequal relationship. Parents must be in charge. They must set the relational standard. Your efforts now will be repaid hundredfold in your child’s future relationships, both personal and professional.

Our 21st century teens consider themselves relationship savvy and cooly cynical about connection, especially when it comes to their parents. Yet they are craving authentic connection. Teens today have instant access to escaping any relationship that hints at awkward or scary. This is where relational parenting comes in.

Our children are fast becoming the Disconnect Generation. Whenever they are the least bit relationally uncomfortable, they can block, delete, or un-friend anyone in an instant. Sitting in their room pondering life, sitting with “awkward” or “scary,” without screen escapism, is fast becoming ancient history. Parents are beginning to truly grasp the stark reality that we have no control over what worlds our children enter behind their bedroom door.

All the more reason then, that relational parenting is needed more than ever. Solid, firm and loving connection is the antidote to silence behind closed doors. Our 21st century children are in need of their parents’ presence in their everyday lives. Tenacity is at the top of the list of parenting traits we must all acquire. We must stick to our children with a different kind of glue, a glue that binds parent and child in real time connection.

Finally, parenting takes courage. A lot. It asks a lot of parents to stay connected to children who send strong messages they are no longer needed. But please don’t believe them. You are needed now more than ever.

Everyone benefits when parents commit to relational parenting, to insisting on connection with their child. Our children need us in a new kind of way. They need our presence, our conversation, our ability to be firm and loving and calm. They need us to keep trying, to not forget how important we are to them. They need us to insist on relationship and to remind them that life is all about cultivating those relationships, those real relationships.

 

Kimberly Hackett, LMHC, is a Family-Focused Therapist, Parent Coach and writer. She specializes in struggling adolescents and their families. She helps parents focus on relationship, attachment and connection and helps teens achieve greater developmental well-being.
She is writing a book that explores 21st century parenting.Kimberly is married with four kids and divides her time between her private practice in Arlington and Vermont.
Find out more and read her blog at KimberlyHackett.com. Kimberly can be reached at 617-475-0942, or email – Hackett.kimberly@gmail.com.

 

Parenting Matters is a collaboration between the Colonial Times Magazine and the Town of Lexington Human Services Department. This column is not intended as a substitute for therapy and the contents are do not necessarily reflect the views of CTM’s editorial staff. The information contained in Parenting Matters is for general information purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for the advice of a mental health professional, diagnosis or treatment.

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Faces of Our Revolutionary Heroes

Header Photo

As we rouse ourselves from the warm comfort of our beds in the pre-dawn darkness of Patriots Day and make our groggy way to the Battle Green we may wonder why we decided to do this, again. But as we approach the Green, the sun rising, the anticipation building, and we merge with so many others who have decided to do this, again, or for the first time we remember why we came. Twenty first century Lexington fades away as we are taken back to a singular moment in time, April 19, 1775, that changed history.

For the members of the Lexington Minutemen Company bringing that moment in time to life is a year round commitment. As the Company marches onto the Green we are not looking at our neighbors and friends, but at the faces of 1775 Lexington. And that transformation comes with a strong commitment.

The re-enactment unfolds as a carefully choreographed scene, but behind it is a dedication to authenticity and to the men who risked everything that we, as observers, may not recognize in the early morning light. Members of the group take the Minute Man Oath to heart, “We trust in God, that should the state of our affairs require it, we shall be ready to sacrifice our estates and everything dear in life, yea, and life itself, in support of the common cause.” The re-enactors who appear on the Green to meet the British regulars each portray an actual member of the Lexington Militia that took that oath. Each member researches his adopted ancestor and it is his responsibility and his honor to make their story part of his own. Through uniform, rank, and manner the Minutemen bring these everyday farmers and citizens of Lexington to life.

The modern company of Minute Men goes back quite a way. According to Captain Commanding Bill Poole the group coalesced in a new way as the bicentennial approached, “Starting in the mid-1970s the commitment of the company to the re-enactment strengthened, resulting in increased research into clothing, equipment, and the events of the day.” And that commitment is obvious as we meet three members of the Lexington Minute Men who each bring a different perspective to the group.

Watch for these members when you rouse yourself this year. You will appreciate their commitment and those of their brothers in the Lexington Minute Men just a little bit more.

 

Jedediah Monroe

Portrayed by Bill Rose

Bill Rose

Bill Rose

A costume is skin deep. A uniform goes all the way through. You could say that is the motto of re-enactor Bill Rose of Bolton who portrays Jedediah Monroe, a farmer from East Lexington.

Rose’s interest goes beyond what happened on one day in April. He has researched how these men and women lived, what they wore and how it might have felt to be a farmer in 1775. He brings all of this to his portrayal and shares what he’s learned with the other members of the Lexington Minute Men. “I really liked the material culture, understanding why a person did what he did; in his life, in his clothing, in his horse or his house. All that sort of thing,” says Rose. He began researching the fashion of the time, yes, fashion. Rose points out that even though these men were mostly farmers they followed the fashions of the times just as we do today. “You look at the newspapers, look at the wills, see what kind of clothing they had and you go, ‘Whoa, this guy was a farmer but somehow he made sure he had leather britches.” And part of their fashion sense came down to practical matters. “The clothing had to be extremely robust. You’re a farmer so you’d be using extremely good cloth. The tightly woven broadcloth would be almost waterproof. Remember, they got rained on just like we do and they didn’t like to get wet either.”

According to Rose the fashion of the time called for tightly fitted jackets. This was a nod to the practical side. High quality broadcloth was extremely expensive. Labor was cheap. Fitted wear called for less fabric and was more affordable.

Rose wanted to take his research on the material world of these men a step further and began creating his own clothes that were more true to the times that those that could be purchased. “If we are going to honor the people that died on that green and then died elsewhere for the last 230 years then we need to look as much like those guys as possible. So, I’m one of the guys that makes everything,” says Rose. He picked up a lot of tailoring skills from other Minute Men and has developed many of his own. Now he shares those skills with his fellow re-enactors and encourages them to make the investment. Rose is convincing, “It isn’t hard to do and the results are worth it. You were a hard charging, robust individual. And you put these clothes on and you invested the time to make them. You really understand what these guys went through.”

Jedediah Monroe, who Rose portrays, proved himself to be a hard charging individual on April 19, 1775. According to Rose, he was a farmer in East Lexington, probably in the mid to lower class of Lexington society. His family had come to the new world from Scotland after defeat at the Battle of Worcester in the 1650s.

Fifty-four year old Jedediah answered the alarm that morning and joined his fellow Minute Men on the Green. He was shot in the arm during the early morning skirmish. Rose tells the rest of the story, “He mustered the courage to soldier on and was killed later in the day at Parker’s Revenge. He’s a pretty cool character to do because he gave everything. He actually had an excuse to walk away but he didn’t. That’s why I take it pretty seriously.”

 

John Smith

Portrayed by Randy Wilson

Randy Wilson

Randy Wilson

“I like to learn about history. It’s a good first hand experience and you get right down to it. I think it’s pretty cool.” Eighteen year old John Smith of Lexington may not have recognized the phrasing in 1775, but eighteen year old re-enactor Randy Wilson has the sentiment right. Randy has been involved in reenacting with his entire family since he was just six years old. It’s a way of life for him.

He’s already made his own history by becoming the youngest member of the Lexington Minute Men. Randy was active in his hometown with the Acton Minute Men, and the Lexington group as well. But at sixteen he wasn’t old enough to become a full member, until the Lexington Minute Men dropped the age limit. “I didn’t know the change was happening. I was just waiting for the chance to join. So, when it dropped down that was my opportunity,” says Wilson.

This Patriots Day Wilson will be the same age as his character, John Smith, was on April 19, 1775, something that adds to Wilson’s appreciation of portraying a real character from history. “The personal connection to a person in history has given me the feeling that I am actually re-enacting for something and someone, and it gives me the determination to really put some effort in the acting.”

According to the Lexington Minute Men’s history, John Smith was born to second generation colonists in Cambridge Farms on August 21, 1756. Following the skirmish on the Lexington Green Smith continued with Captain Parker to the afternoon ambush known as Parker’s Revenge. He continued his militia service through five additional postings from aiding the Colonial Army during the siege of Boston to Ticonderoga and back to Cambridge with members of the Lexington Militia. He left the military on April 18, 1780, almost five years to the day after that first skirmish on Lexington Green.

John Smith returned to Lexington and married. In the late 1780s he and his family left Lexington and the Battle Green behind and moved to Randolph, VT where they settled for good.

After this year’s Patriots Day re-enactment Randy will also leave the Green behind as he heads west to the University of Montana where he plans to study Wildlife Biology and Forestry. “When I go off to college in the fall I think that the primary thing that I will take away from re-enacting is the appreciation of where I grew up and the unique place that it holds in relation to the rest of the country,” says Randy. That’s a powerful lesson to take away, one that John Smith probably couldn’t appreciate in the early days of the new Republic.

 

Prince Abattoirs

Portrayed by Charles Price

Charlie Price

Charlie Price

Re-enactor Charles Price and Prince Estabrook both became accidental Minute Men. Neither asked to march onto the Lexington green, centuries apart. “He was a slave, for whatever reason he was out there on the green April 19, 1775 facing the British. It really wasn’t his fight,” explains Charles Price. Price has recreated Estabrook’s role in the morning’s face off for the last thirty-nine years.

Price himself was looking for a lawnmower, not a role in the Battle of Lexington back in 1975. “My lawnmower broke. I went next door to borrow one from my neighbor,” recalls Price. The neighbor may have seen an opportunity; he told Price it was too hot to mow anyway and drew him in with a cool drink and the Red Sox on TV while they waited for the sun to drop low in the sky. “He kept talking Minute Men, Minute Men, Minute Men. ‘Why don’t you just come down for a meeting?’ So I did. And here I am thirty nine years later.”

Prince Estabrook played a unique role among those men on the Green. As a slave he did not have to serve in the militia. I ask Price if Prince Estabrook found himself there because the family sent him in as a surrogate, to protect their own sons. “That’s one of the reasons we think he may have been there. It was the classic example of a no-win situation. If the Minute Men win, he’s still a slave. If they lose, he’s a slave that fired on the King’s troops,” explains Price.

But slavery in Massachusetts in the 1700s was not the same as we know it in the south during the 1800s. There was a way out for Prince Estabrook and as time went on he established himself as a soldier and a free man.

Wounded on April 19 Prince Estabrook recovered and rejoined the fight two months later at Bunker Hill. While still a slave he enlisted as a full time member of the Continental Army in 1780. Over the next three years he served from Dorchester Heights to Fort Ticonderoga. He was discharged from the Massachusetts 3rd Regiment in November 1783 as a free man. In July of the same year Massachusetts had abolished slavery.

Estabrook returned to Lexington and the Estabrook family. Working for the family now as a free man until 1803 when Benjamin Estabrook died and the family members went their separate ways. Prince Estabrook moved to Ashby with one of the sons, Nathan Estabrook, and remained there until his death. He is buried in Ashby.

Here in Lexington you can find a monument to Prince Estabrook just outside the Buckman Tavern. The likeness on the monument is of Charles Price. The two men joined by history and accident.

You can find more information on Prince Estabrook in the award-winning book by Lexington author Alice M. Hinckle, Prince Estabrook, Slave and Soldier.

 

The Lexington Minutemen in the UK. and They’re Brits!

The Lexington Minutemen in the UK courtesy of Pat Patrick

The Lexington Minutemen in the UK courtesy of Pat Patrick

 

Could there be a new revolution a foot? Minutemen taking up arms against Red Coats right on British soil? You might think so when you learn about The Lexington Minutemen in the UK.

The group was formed three years ago to appear at the English Heritage Kelmarsh Festival of History. Kelmarsh is a weekend long multi-period event that features encampments from Roman times all the way up through World War II. The Minutemen looked to educate visitors and themselves about the historical period surrounding the American War of Independence.

From there they have grown and matured. Clive Emerson, the group’s secretary, says they strive to portray not just the civilian militia of 1775, but civilian life as well, “We have a seditious priest who delivers genuine sermons of the period, a freed slave (who is also the company cook), a number of wives, girlfriends and children, a tailor, a doctor, a gunsmith and tavern keepers (of Buckman Tavern).”

Our own Lexington Minute Man Alex Cain has been corresponding with Mr. Emerson offering guidance on clothing and equipment that is helping the UK Minutemen raise their own standards of authenticity. The group’s company tailor has taken much of Alex’s advice to heart and has taught himself the skills necessary to create authentic clothing. As Clive Emerson points out, “He has learned his trade through handling original clothes of the time, then coming home and experimenting. His work is improving all the time.” Emerson laments that the Redcoat captains took notice and that improvement and the tailor has “spent the whole winter making redcoats for the Seventeenth.”

The Seventeenth, along with the Twenty Second and Forty Seventh of Foot are a few of the Redcoat groups against which the Minutemen skirmish at the five or six historical events they now attend throughout the UK each year.

Might we see an invasion of Minutemen from the UK here on Lexington Green in the future? Clive Emerson isn’t counting it out, “We have certainly thought about it, but financial and time constraints rapidly bring us back to earth. We know that it won’t be for a few years yet. It would be great to join forces with our brothers (and sisters) across the pond.”

For more information on The Lexington Minutemen in the UK visit www.lexingtonminutemen.co.uk/index.html.

 

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New Academy Of Creative Arts Opens in Burlington

 

Dr. Joshi with students (l to r) Aryan, Sara, Naveen, Anaya, Tanvi, Shrihan and Arth.

Dr. Joshi with students (l to r) Aryan, Sara, Naveen, Anaya, Tanvi, Shrihan and Arth.

Many Lexington residents may recognize Dr. Java Joshi (and her stunning artwork) from the numerous Lexington arts events that she has participated in over the years from her successful exhibit at the Cary Memorial Library to Lexington Open Studios where she has served on the organizing committee and as an exhibitor.

Three years ago Joshi formed Joshi Creative Arts in Lexington to share her passion for the creative arts with children through teaching art to children from 3 to 18 years of age. Now she is taking her dream to the next level with the launch of the Academy of Creative Arts which will offer classes in art, jewelry design and dance. The inaugural event for this new Academy was held on January 9th in Joshi’s Burlington studio.

“The vision for our Academy is to provide an atmosphere where creativity is encouraged and fostered,” Dr. Joshi says. “We hope that the Academy of Creative Arts will become an institution of choice for any and all kinds of creative and performing arts.”

At the opening event, Dr. Joshi was surrounded by her students and their beautiful artwork. Joined by her husband Hetel, Joshi radiated excitement for this new endeavor.

Born in India, Java earned a Masters in Fine Arts and Ph.D. in Drawing & Painting from India. Java also graduated from the Arts Institute of Atlanta with a degree in Multimedia and Web Design.

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Children’s Artwork from the new Academy of Creative Arts in Burlington                             

JJ_4

 

Teaching Staff
Dr. Java Joshi-Art Instruction
Java (center) holds a PhD in Drawing and Painting from India and a Masters in Multimedia & Web Design from the Art Institute of Atlanta.
Irit Kaphzan Hamami-Jewelry Design
Irit (left) came to the U.S. fifteen years ago and taught Jewish Studies, but he passion for jewelry design grew until she decided to pursue it full time eight years ago. Since then she has exhibited her work in Lexington and Concord Open Studios. She hopes to combine her love of teaching and jewelry design in her classes.
Judith Ann Cooper-Observational Painting for Adults
Judith (right) taught in the Gloucester Public Schools for 29 years. She holds a BFA from BU in painting and education. Judith enjoys creating art from many different mediums.
Mona Mitra-Kathak Dance & Bollywood Fusion
(missing from the photo)
Mona is a classically trained dancer, with a “Vishared in Kathak with is one of the traditional Indian dances. She has been teaching Kathak and Bollywood Fusion in Boston since 2010.

logo

Call – 612.888.ARTS (2787) | Email: info@academyofcreativearts.com

Address: 128 Wheeler Road, Burlington MA 01803

www.academyofcreativearts.com

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Homeless for the Holidays

By Laurie Atwater 

For many families homelessness this holiday season is a fact of life. This past summer, the great recession continued to take a toll on the very poor. Many lost federal and state housing subsidies as well as their jobs.

This past summer, the state of Massachusetts experienced a jump in requests for emergency housing assistance from around 1200 families to over 2000 at the peak of the summer. To meet the need, the state has increased its use of hotels and motels to handle the demand. This, despite the millions that the Patrick administration has directed at homelessness prevention—mostly subsidies in the form of rental vouchers—to help families remain in their housing situations and prevent the cycle of homelessness.

HomeBASE (Building Alternatives to Shelter) is one of the programs administered by the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) designed to help those eligible for the state’s Emergency Assistance (EA) stabilize their housing situation. The program offers rental assistance and other housing related assistance and was so popular that the funds for this year (more than $80 million) ran out early. With a shortage of shelter options, families began to once again be placed by the state into hotels and motels in communities all around the Commonwealth. Additionally, HomeBASE is a time-limited (2 year) program and is scheduled to be phased out this June. Many families are beginning to cycle out of the program and are once again without adequate funds for housing. Homeless advocates worry that the numbers of homeless will continue to grow as this program phases out.

Those who find themselves housed in a motel, are forced to accept shelter that can be far away from where they originally lived. This creates major disruption for the children—who often shift schools—and hardship for the parents who may lose their jobs when move too far away. Families land in unfamiliar communities and in locations that are not easy to manage without a car. They become isolated and have no social support.

This practice is also challenging for the towns where the motels are located. By law—the McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Assistance Act of 2001—the communities must take responsibility for moving these children into their schools—often with little or no warning to the district.

The first item in the federal law states:

Each State educational agency shall ensure that each child of a homeless individual and each homeless youth has equal access to the same free, appropriate public education, including a public preschool education, as provided to other children and youths.

The community is also responsible for transporting the children to school and in some cases that means transporting them back to their original community. While these transportation costs are shared between the two communities, and ultimately reimbursed by the state, the town must cover the costs until the reimbursement is dispersed.

The state pays a little over $80 a day for a motel room under contract for this purpose. It would be far cheaper to provide rental assistance if affordable units were available, but the statewide shortage of affordable housing continues despite progress with the 40B developments and other programs.

In October the Massachusetts House and Senate approved a supplemental to the budget that includes $13million in additional funding for sheltering in hotels and motels. Lawmakers and advocates alike are frustrated with the seemingly little progress being made against the homelessness issue in the state and promise to seek more long term solutions in FY14.

Case workers from the agencies administering the HomeBASE funds work with homeless families in the motels to help them find a more permanent housing solution. Many families are in need of help with acquiring English language skills to become more employable and general assistance like SNAP funds for food.

In Lexington, the Quality Inn is housing a number of homeless families. The exact number is uncertain, but according to a report prepared for the school committee by Valerie Viscosi, K-12 Director of Guidance and Tessa Riley, K-12 Assistant Director of Guidance, “In Lexington the majority of our current homeless families are living in a local hotel.” The report was presented at the November 19th School Committee meeting by Viscosi who advocated for a .5 Social Worker to handle the “significant amount of case management” involved in dealing with the “families that have joined our community.” Most of the students residing at the Quality Inn are attending Estabrook and they propose that the social worker use that school as home base.

The memorandum states:

As of the date of this memorandum, there are 25 families identified as homeless living in Lexington. Among those families, there are 26 school-aged children. Sixteen of the children attend their “school of origin” in another community, while 10 attend a Lexington Public School. Of those children who are attending the Lexington Public Schools, 7 attend elementary schools, 1 attends middle school, and 2 attend high school. Many of the families also have younger children. There are reportedly 28 children under the age of 5.

Presenting to the school committee Viscosi discussed the complexity of the different family situations, the need for a wide array of services from Free School lunch to health care and educational interventions such as English Language Learner assistance. She also described the difficulty of navigating the state systems and locating the appropriate agencies to deal with regarding the care of the students in their charge. And she noted that these students are truly in the charge of the Lexington Public Schools—by law.

Currently guidance staff has been stretched thin trying to assess each child and develop an appropriate plan for intervention. Having the part-time social worker would alleviate the stress on the schools and help to further develop protocols, procedures and policies moving forward.

These students could be in Lexington anywhere from 6 months to a year. Families must try to create a life for their children within the four walls of a motel room. It is a situation that is almost untenable for these families who cannot prepare healthy meals, get outside or even get to their children’s teacher conferences. Still, it is better than being without shelter in the middle of winter.

Concerned Lexingtonians have begun to rally around the children attending school in Lexington and their families. Church groups and the PTSAs are organizing for action. The Lexington Human Services Department headed by Charlotte Rodgers is stepping up to help.

This story is just beginning to develop in Lexington. Ashley Rooney has been following the issue of homelessness and wanted to hear the story from the perspective of one of the residents at the Quality Inn. What follows is an account of Ashley’s visit with Osamah Salman, his wife Maha and their four children.

 

Osamah Salman and his wife Maha. and their four children: (from right to left) Muntedar, age 10; third-grade twin daughters, Hawraa and Zahraa, and 2 ½ year old Hasah.  The school aged children attend Estabrook School in Lexington.

Osamah Salman and his wife Maha. and their four children: (from right to left) Muntedar, age 10; third-grade twin daughters, Hawraa and Zahraa, and 2 ½ year old Hasah. The school aged children attend Estabrook School in Lexington.

Hoping for a Better Future

By E. Ashley Rooney

Photo by Peter Lund

 

My curiosity overwhelmed me! I knew homeless people supported by state social services were living in the Quality Inn in Lexington, but I didn’t see much happening around town to support them. Nor did I see people hanging out around the inn. What was going on? I had heard many stories about the “motel people” in Bedford and the community providing them with healthy food and services, but nowhere in my travels around town did I hear about the motel folks in Lexington.

So I went to the bustling food pantry at the Church of Our Redeemer and met Osamah Salman and his friend Ali Ai, who are from Jordan. The next day, I went to the Quality Inn on Bedford Street to meet Osamah and his wife Maha. They have four children: Muntedar, age 10; third-grade twin daughters, Hawraa and Zahraa, and 2 ½ year old Hasah. The school aged children attend Estabrook School in Lexington.

The six members of Osamah’s family have lived in two small motel rooms for over a year. They cook, sleep, bathe, play, and do their homework in these two rooms; they are not supposed to loiter outside. Every morning, the children go off to school at Estabrook and the parents attend English classes at Middlesex Community College.

When I went to see them, the twin girls waved shyly from their bedroom door. Preschooler Hasah came out smiling happily and followed me into his parents’ room. Pumpkins sat on the window sill and a Unicef box was sitting on the telephone. Leaning against one bed was a bicycle—their only means of transportation other than the bus. Across from the bike stood the motel mini-refrigerator and a small microwave oven—the kitchen.

They all said they wanted out of the motel and into a home. Nine year-old Hawraa said, “We want a kitchen and a room for the family.” Muntedar and Zahraa added that they wanted a back yard. Their parents echoed the need. Their mother said living in the motel was like living in a cage–one they don’t often escape.

In 1989, Osamah and Maha left Southern Iraq because of Saddam Hussein’s oppressive regime. They went to Jordan, where they had their children. Osamah did stonework in the construction industry; Maha was a busy housewife with four children. Although he had a good job there they felt that their future was limited because of their Iraqi background. They were not accepted.

They wanted to live in a democratic country. Osamah said, “We wanted freedom.” On July 5, 2012, they immigrated to America. They began their life here the day after our Independence Day. Osamah quickly realized that with “zero language skills” finding work would be difficult.

Like many of our forebears, they came here for the American dream. Fulfilling that dream has been very challenging, but they persist. The Department of Social Services sent them to a shelter and told them to get a job, but the language barrier proved too difficult—Osamah couldn’t understand the application or respond well to the interviewer. His first priority is to learn English and he is studying hard. I mentioned that they might want a tutor and they lit up.

Meanwhile, Osamah wants to work. He is looking for part-time labor during the college breaks and on weekends. He will shovel snow, build a fireplace or clean a basement … whatever it takes to make his way in this country.

 

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Playing with Fire: Noted primatologist and Harvard professor to visit Lexington

Professor Wrangham in Tanzania with Hadza hunter-gatherers.

Professor Wrangham in Tanzania with Hadza hunter-gatherers.

By Laurie Atwater

Sometime between the origin of Homo habiline (2.3 million years ago) and Homo erectus (at least 1.8 million years ago) evolving man learned to cook.

That’s right. At some point, and it’s unclear just when that was, our ancestors learned to control fire and thereafter they began to barbeque.

It’s at that time, when our ancestors harnessed the power of the flame and cooked their meat, posits Richard Wrangham, that we “become human.” Because food was softer and more digestible more energy could be directed to evolution: Bigger brains, smaller rib cages and guts, less prominent jaws and smaller teeth. Precisely because of cooking. So kiss the cook, because without her (and he also thinks it was the female of the

catching fire richard wrangham cooking food diet evolution science book review

Wrangham’s book Catching Fire will be available for sale at his appearance in Lexington.

species that cooked) we would never have evolved into the amazingly complex creatures that we are.

Wrangham is the Ruth Moore Professor of Biological Anthropology at Harvard University and his research group is now part of the newly established Department of Human Evolutionary Biology. He has made a career of observing and studying chimpanzees in the wilds of Africa. He is the co-director of the Kibale Chimpanzee Project, the long-term study of the Kanyawara chimpanzees in Kibale National Park, Uganda. He has always been fascinated by the effects of the environment and ecology on animals and by extension on humans. Specifically he has been captivated by explaining the evolution of human social systems through the observation of primate behavior.

In his book Catching Fire (Basic Books, 2009) Wrangham presents this theory of evolution and cooking. It has become a controversial and exciting topic in the scientific world. For Wrangham it seems so logical that he can’t believe that it’s “new.”

The traditional line of thinking says that it was simply the transition from a diet of berries and veggies to eating raw meat that allowed the chimp-like australopithecines to evolve into the pre-Homo erectus habilines. Accepting that, what accounts for the huge biological leap between habilines and Homo erectus? Is it the cooking of meat that tipped the balance? Wrangham says cooking allowed humans to get more calories and nutrients from their food spurring the huge biological changes witnessed in Homo erectus. And then there are the sociological changes that arose from cooking—organizing the community around the fireside, the family around feeding of the young and protecting the food and the relegation of women to the “kitchen.”

In Catching Fire Wrangham takes us on a journey that begins with raw foodists and ends with a discussion of the modern diet in this age of plenty. With humor, keen observation and plenty of science along the way, he makes his case. From fascinating factoids about the amount of time early humans would have spent chewing fibrous foods just to get enough nutrition to live, early experiments on a man with a visible colon and discussion of the social norms around food preparation in various parts of the world, Wrangham entertains and educates. This is a book for everyone; it is accessible and fun.

In advance of his appearance in Lexington I was able to chat with Professor Wrangham from his office and his enthusiasm and humor are contagious.


 

 

Q. Just how did you happen upon this topic and begin to develop your new ideas about human evolution?

A. I was home in my house in Weston and I was thinking about the lecture that I was giving the next day on Homo erectus. The context that I was thinking about it—I was sitting in front of my fireplace with a fire going and the lights out—reminded me of what it was like sitting around a fire in Africa. I started thinking about how long into the past people would have been sitting around fires just like that. Then I started thinking about my experience eating chimpanzee foods and I suddenly realized that there’s no way a human could survive on that diet. Within a half hour I was developing the idea. I wrote it down that night and it had all of the essential elements that I ultimately came to think about.

Q. At the time did you know anything about food and how it changes through cooking?

A. No, that was all intuition! I went into the department [at Harvard] the next day and I was grabbing my students and my peers and saying, ‘all of a sudden it appears to me that cooking should have this huge importance in evolution.’ I was motivated to burrow into the literature and find out what the story was and I was AMAZED to discover that there was no systematic information on the impact of cooking on the energy values that we get from food.

Q. This seems to undermine the idea popularized by the raw foods movement that raw food is nutritionally better for humans than cooked food. According to your theory raw foods would not have yielded enough calories for the huge evolutionary jump between habilines and Homo erectus. You spend a lot of time discussing the benefits of cooking—how it made all food, and meat specifically, safer and more digestible.

A. It seems to me absolutely vital and one really has to get the fact that cooking has huge effects on the food and therefore on our bodies. When I present raw foodies with this evidence they don’t like it. It undermines a philosophy that is quite dear to them!

Q. Most anthropologists accept that meat eating made a difference in evolution, but not meat cooking specifically.

A. I think that people have failed to spot the fact that the raw meat argument doesn’t work very well and I think they have accepted it because they couldn’t think of anything better. Raw meat is incredibly tough and hard to digest. Now, I feel there were two transitions. What has always been accepted, that cooking was not important, is not the case. Whether we are talking about plants or meat, eating cooked food provides more calories than eating the same food raw.

Q. You also contend that cooking became the basis for pair bonding and led to a sexual division of labor—where men protected a particular woman’s food and he gave her meat in exchange for cooking.

A. Once the females are able to provide so much food that a male can rely on her to feed him, the male goes off and hunts. He stops being a gatherer and he can devote more time to hunting. If he has a bad day hunting, he goes off with the rest of the guys in the middle of the camp doing stuff like telling jokes, but he still eats. Overall one has to say women are starting from a disadvantageous position!

Q. Your critics say there is little archeological proof of controlled fire going back far enough to support your claims.

A. We certainly can’t currently make the case on archeological grounds, but something was going on. I imagine that they were pounding away with stones for tens of thousands of years and regularly starting little fires. And that’s where I imagine the young picking it up and playing with it and eventually realizing that other animals are afraid of it. It’s as good a story as any.

Q. And eventually cooking over it?

A. Yes. It’s hard for me to underestimate the control of fire. Once you have an animal that is smart enough to use fire constructively—it’s huge. It’s a fascinating area and if there’s a question of not knowing something, well let’s put it out there so that people will find out what the answer is.

Q. I can’t let you go without thanking you for introducing me to another Atwater—Wilbur Olin Atwater.

A. Ah, yes. The Atwater convention which is still used today, totally misses the impact of food processing on food, but nobody has thought of a way to replace it with anything that is cheap and convenient.


 

 

In the final chapter of his book Professor Wrangham discusses the Atwater convention—a system for measuring calories in food that was developed in the latter part of the 19th century. The USA still uses the Atwater Convention for assessing calories in food despite its known flaws. Highly processed foods require less energy to digest. Yet, the Atwater system is based on calculations that do not take this energy factor into account. The more processed our diet becomes the more net calories we absorb. Obesity is becoming prevalent in cultures where food is plentiful and over-processed.

Once we struggled each day for enough food; now we suffer the consequences of abundance. As a species we are still evolving. What’s next? n

 

 

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A Personal Connection ~ The More Things Change…

Hank at Work

By Hank Manz  |  It has been a bit cold lately, but even with that I decided to head down to Ranc’s for some ice cream. I am a vanilla person most of the time, but about a year ago my horizons were enlarged when Joe handed me one of his new concoctions. With that memory in mind, this time I decided to go absolutely wild with the pineapple ice cream. First rate!

But then I realized that the whole frozen dessert thing seemed to be getting out of hand in Lexington. In the Center alone there is Candy Castle, Ranc’s, and Baskin-Robbins, along with the just-opened Fruitee Yogurt which has been, by the way, packed every time I have walked by. And if that is not enough, I note there appears to be another yogurt shop going in near Great Harvest.

When I bike through East Lexington, all too often I stop at Macaron Sweeterie. The pastries and frozen treats are one lure, but the benches on the sidewalk are another very important benefit. Enjoying yourself while scarfing down sweets is one thing, but doing so while waving to friends and neighbors is even better. If only there were benches on the south side of Mass Ave in the Center, I would spend even more time there. I remain convinced we could put

in benches there even though others tell me they would never fit. I seem to remember that argument was once applied to bicycle racks on that side, yet today they are there..

Whenever I see a mini-explosion of businesses, I always wonder why banks attract such enmity. Things have died down of late, but with Town Meeting in session the discussion is bound to start anew. I have always held that if your bank is in the Center, then there are enough banks, but if it isn’t, then either you don’t shop downtown or you think the downtown needs at least one more bank.

I chose my bank partly because the branch manager was known to me through her volunteer service and partly because it was in the Center, specifically near Depot Square where I can often be found waiting for a bus. Just in case I do drive, there are usually parking places nearby. The perfect storm of bank availability!

“But a bank is not a destination” one person protested in a hot note to me. Well, it is for me. I can visit my “wealth”, decide if I can afford to withdraw $20 of it, read the Wall Street Journal, say “Hi” to the staff, have a cup of tea, and check out the bulletin board. A bank down the street has pointed out that they have all of that plus a fireplace. Had the winter been colder, I might have cracked. In the interest of journalistic integrity, I have to admit that the first draft of this column was written with a pen from a bank where I have no money on deposit. They have a big bucket of them at the customer desk and every now and then I snag one as I pass through.

I have always been something of a non-interventionist where business is concerned. If there are too many of one kind of business, then there will be a shakeout. I know—there are some who swear that certain businesses can afford to pay more so they are favored, but in talking to property managers, that still seems to be a theory with not much to back it up. Some businesses do require less in the way of parking, of course, and therefore can more easily move into a vacant location, but that is a discussion for another day.

The too-many-businesses controversy isn’t a new one, by the way. While reading old Town Reports, I came across the tip of an iceberg which started to melt more than 80 years ago. Apparently Lexington was gentrifying a bit so piggeries came under fire. Suddenly the selectmen were hearing cases involving illegal piggeries and illegal slaughtering.

Things seemed to quiet down, but apparently the lack of piggeries meant that there was no longer enough manure available for the many farms in the area. So farmers would haul produce to market, then bring back manure on the return trip.

That caused two things to happen. First, the good citizens of Arlington protested the presence of leaking wagons on their streets. I still have it on my list to read some of the Arlington Town Reports from that time to get their side of an obviously smelly story. Then, the presence of manure stockpiles in Lexington started to be a problem. I have yet to find a picture, but apparently the stockpile near North Station, close to the present Public Services Building, was pretty much the olfactory wonder of the world. All this was sort of solved as the farms died out, but I have yet to figure out whether those farms jumped or were pushed. Probably a little of both.

The circle has started to close with the designation of the greater portion of the former Busa property as a community farm so it is going to be very interesting to see what changes that will bring. Years ago when Wendy and I lived in Nebraska, most of our large backyard was a garden. Our neighbor, a retired farmer used to shake his head and say things like “Don’t understand why you folks are messing around with this kind of thankless work” but then he would offer sound advice like “Plant the early corn so it catches the reflected sun from the garage and then the stalks will protect other things from the really hot sun which will come later” and “Don’t let the squirrels have any of the fall leftovers or they will start on your garden early next year.”

We followed most of the advice, but the squirrels were cute so we let them have the leftover sunflowers. Sure enough, the next year they were fighting us for control of the garden. Typical struggle. New people move in with new ideas only to be replaced by even newer people who have to learn things all over. I suspect that will never change.

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May 2012 Revolutionary Revelry

Do you have plans for the month of May? You will now because of Revolutionary Revelry! Starting May 1st through May 31st the 2nd annual Revolutionary Revelry celebrating history, arts, shopping, dining, and recreation is happening. Why travel far when Lexington, which is in your own backyard, can offer you and your family fun activities, shopping, unique dining experiences, an opportunity to learn more about our history, and even bring out your artistic side. There will be something for everyone!

Looking for a unique mix of history and music? Kick off the month on May 1st at our May Day Celebration with activities for kids. Last year May Pole dancing to Patriotic music was a huge hit and will once again be part of the celebration. Be sure not to miss the 11th annual Fife & Drum Tattoo and the fife & Drum Parade & Muster which is a colonial music concert organized by The William Diamond Jr. fife and Drum Corps. Lexington will celebrate International Tap Dance Day with spontaneous performances of the classic shimsham shimmy, accompanied by the William Diamond Jr. Fife and Drum Corps followed by “Tap into History” on the lawn at the Visitors Center. Everyone is invited to bring a picnic lunch and settle in for a toe-tapping celebration presented by Dance Inn Productions. The Wednesday night Colonial Community sings are back in Depot Square – bring your family and friends, eat downtown, then come sing along with us – songbooks will be provided.

For a special historical treat “Paul Revere’s Trolley Ride” will recount the exciting events of April 19, 1775 followed with a reading of the “Midnight Ride of Paul Revere” by Christopher Bing who will enchant you with his stories of how he gained exclusive access to the tower where the bells hung in the Old North Church and what it takes to illustrate a historic book. Rumor has it that he will autograph his book as well!

Do you prefer some recreation? If so, join us for our two Bicycle Tours sponsored by Ride Studio Cafe. They will be easy paced rides exploring some of Lexington’s past through visits to conservation lands, olds farms, and bike paths. New this year are conservation walks including a Tropical Bird Walk, and a chance for kids of all ages to join “Lex Fly a Kite.” Golfers can enjoy “Patriots Pitch & Putt” at Stone Meadow or “Lex Tee it Up” at Pine Meadows.

Is food your thing? There is something for you. Make your reservations as Nourish will again host the popular “Wild Edible Walk.” This year we will host the “Lexington Battle Green BBQ Festival” which will include demonstrations, and a cooking contest. The Farmer’s Market will open and our own flat rate restaurant day known as “International Fare” will once again be a great opportunity to try a new cuisine.

Spend some time shopping during “La Musique en Fête.” Lexington will be transformed into a French marketplace with musicians, French merchandise, and special entertainment. To cap off the day, Berman Liquor will host a special French wine tasting, leaving plenty of time for you to enjoy dinner at a local restaurant. Head to Crafty Yankee for an American Jewelry Trunk Show. Ladies, do you need a night out? Join us at Sweet Beads you can create your own necklace, bracelet, or earrings. Husbands and children looking for a way to honor mothers might consider the “Liberty Belle of the Day” gift package. Elephant’s Trunk will have special Thursday afternoon story hours. Explore the many stores throughout town.

For those who love the arts, Lexington Open Studios will again take place with 78 artists participating in studios throughout the Town over two days. Plan to come to “Park Your Art” exhibit and art auction in its unique setting at the Samuel Hadley Public Facilities Building garage. Proceeds will benefit the building of Antony Park in honor of our Sister City of Antony, France. There will also be art shows at the Arts & Crafts Society, and an Art Conversation at Cary Library.

Memorial Day weekend will feature Discovery Day which is a great time to learn about businesses and organizations with whom you might not be familiar. In addition food, entertainment, and musical performances will be part of the day. The annual Memorial Day parade and ceremonies will take place on Monday morning. The month will end with our Capstone Family Picnic on May 31st. Plan to spend that evening with your friends and neighbors. Bring your dinner but save room for Rancatore’s Ice Cream!

With all of this and some special surprises to come, mark your calendars and spend the month lingering in Lexington as a tourist in your own Town. Calendars can be picked up at the Visitors Center, and will be distributed in April. For updated information on location and events, check out www.tourlexington.us and click on the Revolutionary Revelry logo. If you would like to be added to the email list for events during the year write: info@tourlexington. us See you in May!!!

 

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