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Author: Marlissa Briggett

7 South Coast’rs Give Us Their Summer Reading Recs

We love summer.

We love reading.

We love lists.

We are wildly attracted to their combination: summer reading lists.

And so we thought it would be fun to compile a list from notable South Coast readers. We asked a handful of interesting and smart folks what they thought we should read this summer. Here’s the eclectic mix of books they suggested, ranging from suspenseful novels to inspiring biographies. Read on!

summer reading

Mayor Jon Mitchell
City of New Bedford

Jon Mitchell, Mayor of New Bedford, recommends “When to Rob a Bank” by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner

New Bedford’s Mayor says, “I just picked up the latest installment of Steve Levitt’s and Steve Dubner’s Freakonomics series, ‘When to Rob a Bank.’ The book is a compilation of the authors’ blog posts that raise the same sort of provocative questions about American life through the lens of an economist that made the original Freakonomics so popular. Although the book doesn’t offer the deep analytical dives as their other works, readers will have fun pondering the likes of ‘Why don’t flight attendants get tipped?’ or ‘Is cheating good for sports?’ Those who haven’t been introduced to the Freakonomics series might wonder why anyone in my shoes would spend their precious free time on such matters. I say give it a try and find out why it was recently No. 1 on the NY Times best seller list.” 

Anika Walker-Johnson on summer reading

Anika Walker-Johnson
Tabor Academy

Anika Walker-Johnson, Tabor Academy, recommends “We Too Sing America: South Asian, Arab, Muslim, and Sikh Immigrants Shape Our Multiracial Future” by Deepa Iyer

Tabor’s Dean of Multicultural Education and Community Life says, “my role at Tabor is largely to help build a more inclusive school community that is rooted in our mission to foster care for others and committed citizenship’. I wanted to recommend a book that will deepen our understanding and widen our discussion about the intersection between race, ethnicity and religion and how those intersections impact the experiences of immigrants in America.”

Mark Rasmussen on summer reading

Mark Rasmussen
Buzzards Bay Coalition

Mark Rasmussen, Buzzards Bay Coalition, recommends “A Storm Without Rain” by Jan Adkins

The President of the Buzzards Bay Coalition says, “you could buzz through this book’s 179 pages in a couple of sessions in your beach chair, but you won’t want to. ‘A Storm Without Rain’ is a must read for anyone who loves the Bay and the towns and people that surround it. It’s a magical tale of a boy from Marion who escapes in his whaler one day to Penikese Island, takes a nap, and wakes up in 1904 to experience life on the Bay a hundred years ago. And it ties the present to the past in a way that reminds you of the comfortable continuity that exists in this area with plenty of references to local families and places from the C.E. Beckman’s marine supply in New Bedford to Tobey Hospital in Wareham. It’s a classic childhood adventure story that will make you remember why you love the South Coast so much.”

Mark took to this assignment enthusiastically. Like most book lovers, he couldn’t stop at just one book. He says if he could recommend another book it would be “The Big House: A Century in the Life of an American Summer Home” by George Colt, a non-fiction account of a family’s farewell to their summer home in Bourne. Consider that a bonus recommendation for your summer reading!

Dr. John Sbrega on summer reading

Dr. John Sbrega
Bristol Community College

Dr. John J. Sbrega, Bristol Community College, recommends “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?” by Beverly Daniel Tatum

Dr. Sbrega, the President of Bristol Community College, says,”My choice is a re-read (for me) of the 1997 book by Beverly Daniel Tatum…Dr. Tatum’s book stuck with me when it first appeared, and in the midst of our contemporary turmoil over race relations, I highly recommend it. Dr. Tatum argues that we must deal directly with race and racism. It is easily read and pertinent to today’s society.”

 

Margot Desjardins on summer reading

Margot Desjardins
Westport School Committee

Margot Desjardins, Westport School Committee, recommends “Alexander Hamilton” by Ron Chernow

Margot has spent her whole life in education. A Massachusetts Teacher of the Year in 1987, she has also served as superintendent of the Westport Public Schools and currently serves on the town’s school committee. She recommends the Hamilton biography because, she says, “I am still trying to get tickets to the play but in the meantime decided to read the book that inspired the Broadway super-smash hit, Ron Chernow’s fascinating ‘Alexander Hamilton’. History buffs, political junkies, and ‘inquiring minds’ will not be disappointed!”

Linda Clifford on summer reading

Linda Clifford
Marion Bookstall

Linda Clifford, Marion Bookstall, recommends “You Should Have Known” by Jean Hanff Korelitz

Linda says this is the kind of book that keeps you turning the page. A well-written literary mystery, the novel features an affluent Upper East Side therapist whose life is upended when another mother from her son’s private school is murdered. Linda promises that “You Should Have Known” will keep you engaged this summer no matter where you are. So bring it to the beach or a baseball game, relax with it outside in a hammock or inside on a rainy day. See if she’s right.

Lastly, we thought we should plug our own upcoming newfangled book group (newfangled because it’s online!) by letting our South Coast Almanac Books Editor tell you about our first selection. We encourage you to join in the fun by checking out the discussion that will begin on on June 21st on our book group facebook page. (And a reminder that our local bookstores: Marion Bookstall, Partners Village Store and Subtext Book Shop are all offering 20% discounts off the title.)

Laura LaTour on summer reading

Laura Latour
South Coast Almanac Books Editor

Laura LaTour, South Coast Almanac, recommends “Hammer Head” by Nina Maclaughlin

Laura says “’Hammer Head’ is a lyrically written memoir filled with introspection, humor and a surprising amount of literary references. But what puts this memoir in the must-read pile are the fact-based gems she sprinkles throughout; the evolution of our measurement system, the surprising diversity of hammers, and the history of screwdrivers. A fascinating, inspiring and above all, beautifully written memoir.”

Happy Summer! Happy Reading! Happy Lists!

 


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An online South Coast book group?

Yes, that’s right. It’s our new-fangled take on the old-fashioned book group.

We’re forming an online community of book lovers to discuss literature connected with the South Coast. First up — Hammer Head by Nina MacLaughlin, an engaging memoir from a writer who decides to give up her job at the Boston Phoenix to become a carpenter.

If you’ve ever yearned to quit your 9-to-5 job and pursue something entirely new and unexpected, you’ll love this book. Even if you’ve never yearned to quit your day job (is there anyone for whom this applies?), you’ll still love this book.

Join us!  Our books editor, Laura Latour, will lead the discussion on facebook, kicking it off on Tuesday, June 21. You can join in with your comments or just follow others’ comments, enjoying their insights about the book.

And, it gets better! Our wonderful, local bookstores are giving 20% discounts on Hammer Head: Marion Bookstall; Partners Village Store; and, Subtext Book Shop.

It’s as simple as liking our book group page on facebook and following along.

Come give it a whirl!

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A South Coast Tale for St. Patrick’s Day

The New Bedford Whaling Ship Catalpa

What does a prison break, Queen Victoria, and Australia have to do with St. Patrick’s Day in New Bedford?

The answer lies in a thrilling 1876 escape from a remote Australian prison involving six Irish Nationalists, a secret agent, a rowboat and a fearless sea captain.

Sarah Rose, Curator of Education at the New Bedford Whaling Museum, shared the story with me. Rose recently went to Ireland to set up an exchange between the Museum and Irish high school students.

Here’s the story.

In the late 1860s, the British Empire convicted a number of British soldiers to death for treason for having joined the Irish National Brotherhood (they were referred to as Fenians). Queen Victoria commuted their death sentence to a life of hard labor in a remote Western Australian prison.  Fremantle Prison was a place as infamous as Alcatraz, impossible to escape, with desert to the east, shark infested waters to the west, and long days of back-breaking labor.

The Fremantle prisoners reached out for help to John Devoy, a fellow Fenian who had been exiled to the United States. Devoy raised funds, bought a whaling ship named the Catalpa, and persuaded an American captain, George Anthony, to attempt to rescue them by sea.

It was a crazy idea. One which depended on over a year of planning and plenty of luck. Captain Anthony embarked on the Catalpa under the guise of a whaling expedition.

Meanwhile, James Breslin, an Irish nationalist posing as an American millionaire, was able to gain entry into the prison by feigning interest in cheap labor and investment opportunities in Fremantle. Breslin got word to the inmates that they must ALL be outside on Easter Monday 1876 if they were to be rescued. There would not be any second chances for anyone left behind.

At the appointed time, all six men were outside. Breslin arrived and spirited them away by horses twelve miles down the coast where a rowboat and Captain Anthony waited for them. They rowed with all their might for the whaling ship which waited a few miles out — just beyond the point where international waters began.

But their escape was discovered and the alarms sounded just as they were beginning to row. For two days, the men rowed heroically. They survived an intense gale which broke the boat’s mast and a police cutter bearing down on them. Meanwhile, back at the Catalpa, the first mate was being harassed by an imposing British steamer, the SS Georgette, which had been commandeered by the Australian governor to thwart the escape plan. The Georgette’s captain demanded to board the Catalpa. The Catalpa’s first mate refused entry. The stalemate ended when the British steamer was forced to turn back for more fuel.

The Georgette returned the next day, refueled and heavily armed for combat, after the prisoners had finally reached the boat following a last minute chase by the police cutter. The Georgette came menacingly close to the whale ship and threatened to fire upon the Catalpa. Captain Anthony raised the American flag and dared the British ship to fire, declaring that an attack on the Catalpa in international waters would be considered an act of war against the United States.

But with no available wind, the Catalpa was unable to sail away and the Georgette attempted to maneuver the Catalpa into Australian waters so that it could fire upon the American ship with impunity. Fortuitously, the wind picked up and the Catalpa sailed away.

When the ship entered New York harbor five months later, hundreds of thousands of people greeted the Fremantle Six. Their daring prison rescue was an international story and the Irish fight for independence was reinvigorated.

It’s a story definitely worthy of a swashbuckling Hollywood movie. For more background, check out Smithsonian Magazine or a PBS episode about the event, Irish Escape.

Even better, go to the New Bedford Whaling Museum next fall to check out “Friends, Famine and Fenians” in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising. Word is that the original flag from the Catalpa may be there.

And to bring it all around to our original question: what does all this have to do with St. Patrick’s Day in New Bedford?

  • The brave whaling captain who led the expedition and boldly dared the British Navy to fire upon his ship was — you guessed it — a New Bedford guy sailing a New Bedford ship out of New Bedford Harbor. Unfortunately, Captain Anthony’s career as a whaling captain was cut short as a result of the incident because the British Navy threatened to arrest him if they found him in international waters again.
  • It’s St. Patrick’s Day.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day from South Coast Almanac!

The Fremantle Six (photos: Wikipedia)
Fremantle prisoner Martin HoganFremantle prisoner Thomas DarraghFremantle prisoner James WilsonFremantle prisoner Robett CranstonFremantle Prisoner Thomas Hassett Fremantle prisoner Michael Harrington

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Five South Coast Couples We Love

We love the South Coast. We’re also fond of many people who call it their home. In honor of Valentine’s Day on Sunday, we present South Coast Almanac’s favorite local couples:

10534706_925220094160599_7120482378008824614_n (1)Mayor Jon Mitchell and Dr. Ann Partridge

Together since 1996

Why we love them: A few weeks after they met at a wedding, the mayor drove from Washington, D.C. to Philadelphia for a date with Ann. On that first date, she ran into a group of friends and introduced him to everyone as “Bill”.

We love that there was a second date.

 

 

 

image2Josh Lemaire & Amelia Ruvich

Together since 2012

Why we love them: The owners of dNB Burgers are super fun. Just take a look at their burgers’ names (Don’t Let Winter Win 2.0; a Chive Called Quest; the Flavor Bible…) Amelia moved to New Bedford from Western Mass because she heard it was a cool place to live. She met Josh. They fell in love. They decided to open up a business. It’s bursting at the seams with happy burger fans.

They make everything look easy. And fun.

 

 

FullSizeRenderBob & Chris Williamson

Together since 1982

Why we love them: When Bob yearned for the live sound of a big band, he decided to create it himself. He persuaded his wife Chris, a professional clarinetist, to play the tenor saxophone because he wanted her in the band (“It’s our night out,” he says.) They gathered 15 other musicians (including two other couples: Phil and Karen Sanborn; Bill and Karin Kingsland) and created Southcoast Jazz Orchestra, a big band that plays around the South Coast (usually on Monday nights) and kills it every time.

 

 

erin-kofi@barnKofi Ingersoll & Erin Koh

Together since 1998(ish)

Why we love them: The farmers at Bay End Farm have introduced us to kohlrabi and mustard greens, tomatillos and purslane. And whenever we see them – even at the height of the summer planting and harvesting — they are friendly and gracious despite the mountains of back-breaking hard work in front of them, or just behind them.

 

 

 

 

C+V2Chris Demakis and Vince Cragin

Together since 1995

Why we love them: We love that Vince agreed to move from Boston to Chris’ hometown of Mattapoisett. And that he then agreed to open up the Town Wharf General Store which cheerfully livens up Shipyard Park. And we love, love, love that they live above the shop and can pop down anytime for some cocktail fixin’s.


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The Magic Number is 5 — 5 Ways to Celebrate the South Coast this January

Hey! The calendar will soon turn to 2016. That means just 5 more months until our magazine launches and you can hold our lovely print (or digital) edition in your hands as you sit on the porch, or at the beach, or on your boat, engrossing yourself in all that makes the South Coast special.
 
In the meantime, how to fill your time to help May come quicker? Here are 5 things to enjoy on the South Coast in January:
 
Polar Plunges
On January 1, more than a few brave souls will be plunging into winter waters (water temperatures hover around 40 degrees this time of year).  Maybe it’s time you tried it.
 
In Fairhaven at 10 am, the annual Polar Plunge will surprise you with its crowd. Last year, they came from all over the state and some from well outside the state, representing over 40 towns. (See Fairhaven Polar Plunge.)

 

Don’t worry if you decide to sleep in and you miss the Fairhaven festivities. At noon, Mattapoisett’s Freezin’ for A Reason Polar Plunge takes place at the Town Beach. (See Mattapoisett Polar Plunge.) 

And between 11 and 2, you can jump from The Back Eddy’s dock as part of its Polar Plunge Brunch (though you can simply just choose the brunch option). Reservations are strongly recommended because this is pretty popular. The Back Eddy, 1 Bridge Road, Westport. 508-636-6500.
 
Onset is taking this year off for its Polar Plunge but will return again in 2017.  
 
The Moby Dick Marathon 20th Anniversary
Stop by for five minutes or for an hour or two. I had to read Moby Dick twice in college and hated it each time. I went to the Marathon last year at 5:00 in the morning just to see what it was all about (and whether there was anyone there at 5 a.m. – there are!). Here’s my quick report: Moby Dick is far better enjoyed when you’re sitting under the skeleton of whales, surrounded by quirky and interesting people who have braved the cold to do something as whimsical as participate (whether as a reader or simply as a listener) in this annual literary marathon.  
The reading takes place from Saturday, January 9 at 10 a.m. through Sunday January 10 at 1 p.m. New Bedford Whaling Museum, 18 Johnny Cake Hill, New Bedford, MA.
 
Embrace Winter
Rent some snowshoes (see Ski House in Somerset) and find a favorite summer trail and snowshoe through it. Or find a new place. The Trustees of Reservations website allows you to search for local places for good snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. For example, Allen Haskell Public Gardens in New Bedford is a great place to cross-country ski, snowshoe, or pull a child on a sled. Cornell Farm in Dartmouth also offers space for skiing, showshoeing and winter hiking.  See Trustees’ Search by Activity.
 
Eat, Drink and Be Merry
Have you heard of hygge? It’s a Danish word (pronounced kind of like HYU-gah). While it can’t be translated easily into English, I gather it generally means a sense of coziness and well-being. Good company, food and drink are required elements. Those Danes are onto something. Even though they have 17 hours of darkness in deep winter with temperatures hovering at freezing, they are among the happiest in the world (The World Happiness Report — it really exists). So, don’t stop with the holiday merriment. Keep meeting up with friends and family for good meals and company. If you don’t want to entertain at home, check out your favorite local spots. You might even find some crazy specials out there. Combine lunch and dinner (lunner?) at Ella’s in Wareham on Saturday afternoons between 3 and 4 and you’ll get 25% off your meal.  New Bedford’s Cork has a “5 at 5” menu. You get $5 glasses of wine and $5 appetizers between 5 and 6 pm on weekdays (this really plays nicely into our theme of 5).  Ella’s Wood Burning Oven Restaurant, 3136 Cranberry Highway, Wareham, www.ellaswoodoven.com; Cork Wine and Tapas, 90 Front Street, New Bedford, www.corkwineandtapas.com.
 
Get Out and Listen to Music
Another way to find some hygge is at the Narrows Center for the Arts, a world class performance space overlooking Mount Hope Bay and Battleship Cove. It has some great shows lined up for January. Ten years ago, I listened to Anna Nalick’s Breathe (2 a.m.) on my ipod every single time I ran (back when there were ipods and when I ran). She’s coming to the Fall River venue. So is Marshall Crenshaw, Entrain, Cheryl Wheeler, The Winter Blues Festival, and many other great acts. See Narrows Center for a complete list of the upcoming shows.  Narrows Center, 16 Anawan Street, Fall River. 
 
Go out and enjoy January. And remember, five more months until South Coast Almanac launches!
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In Search of Nature and the Perfect Yankee Swap Gift…

I’m attracted to trends that can be reduced to hashtags. So when REI announced they were staying closed Friday and were encouraging folks to #OptOutside, I thought it was a great idea.

We took the lists compiled by the Buzzards Bay Coalition suggesting good walks for the day after Thanksgiving (2014 List and 2015 List). We picked West Island which led us to a quiet beach and clambering over rocks.

I liked the idea of eschewing Black Friday in exchange for some nature. But, well, I kinda wanted to go shopping too. So we made our way to the Town Wharf General Store with a specific assignment: get yankee swap presents for our extended clan Christmas party next weekend. It’s not an easy task – we’ve got a wide variety of people in this group: young, old, male, female, candle-lovers, candle-haters.

Yankee swaps are pretty common so I assume everyone knows about them. But if not, here are the rules in a nutshell: everyone brings a gift, gets a number and picks another gift in numbered order which they can either unwrap or trade for a previously opened gift.

Basically, the goal as the gift recipient is to end up with something you like but that is not so fabulous that you know someone with a better number will steal it away from you. The goal as the gift giver is to give something that will not lead to disappointment. People don’t groan audibly when they open the gift but you can sometimes see a groan on their faces. By all means, you want to avoid the silent groan.

So we went to the Town Wharf General Store in Mattapoisett and owner Chris Demakis was there. He asked if he could help us and we gave him the assignment: something in the $15 range that would not be a disaster whether it ended up with my uncle Tommy or my cousin’s teenaged daughter.

An almost impossible assignment, right? Not for Chris and the TWGS. Here’s what he came up with.

SPOILER ALERT: Anyone heading to the Briggette’s family Christmas party next weekend should stop reading. Or maybe not. You can start strategizing on which package you want. Or don’t want.

Here are the things we brought home:

20151129_094103_resized_1Chuckwagon Dinner Bell. I’m not sure how many people would want this but I know we wanted it. And that was enough to decide to buy it. Yankee swap pluses: it’s unisex, no one already has one and everyone needs one. (Well, maybe not the last.) ($20)

 

 

 

 

 

20151129_093745_resized_1Coop’s Hot Fudge. Handmade in Massachusetts, Chris says this hot fudge is unbelievable. I’m going to pair it with a gift certificate for some ice cream and make someone very happy. ($10.95)

 

 

 

 

 

 

20151129_093849_resizedMcClure’s Bloody Mary Mixer. Made in Brooklyn by McClure’s Pickles, it’s apparently spicy and delicious. And easy — you just shake and pour. I’ll add some garnishes to the package to round it out. Alcohol not included. ($9.99)

Even though McClure’s can be enjoyed without alcohol, some of the younger ones may not like its spiciness so I’ve got something they can swap this out for…

 

 

 

20151129_105540_resized An assortment of old-fashioned fun. A bag filled with a whoopee cushion ($4.99), a Hairy Scary “Jumping” Spider ($5.99), an invisible ink pen with ultraviolet light ($5.99) and some candy buttons ($1.00).

 

 

 

 

 

 

I know I shouldn’t have opened the box, but I wanted to demonstrate the jumping spider in action:

The Jumping Spider

We actually only need to bring three gifts to the party. One of these will stay home with us. If you have any strong opinions on which should stay home, leave me a comment. (M.B.)

 

 

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Doves & Figs Jam: The Best Way to Dress Toast

screenshotMy toast looked bereft this morning.

Some would say naked.

Actually, Robin Cohen would say that. She’s the jam lady. Every week, the owner of Doves & Figs arrives at the Dartmouth Grange with her minivan packed to the gills with boxes of fruit and equipment. “Like a gypsy caravan,” she says. She unloads the fruits she’s purchased from local farmers and gets to work in the Grange’s commercial kitchen turning it into jam.

Last July, I spend a lovely morning with Robin and her assistant (and family friend) Michelle Hurwitz, a student from UMass Dartmouth with perhaps the sweetest job among her friends. The day I visited, a huge 40-gallon steam kettle with figs, apples and dried cranberries was bubbling away. Michelle patiently stirred smaller pots filled with simmering strawberries. Boxes of fruit were strewn about on the stainless steel tables.

Doves & Figs business model is based on seasonality because seasonal cooking is what led to jams in the first place, Robin says. She lets the just picked fruit shine in her jam. No pectin, no preservatives. These cool weather days are devoted to apples, pears and cranberries.

All of the jams’ names are delightful – Falling Leaves, Bramble Tea, Merry Berry, Winter Carnival, Chocolate Fig Sunshine. And their contents can be a bit quirky — Peachy Mean features “sweet summer peaches with a kick of black pepper and hot red pepper flakes” while Peachy Keen features “caramelized peaches with pecans and a bit of Southern Comfort.”

Robin’s thing for sauces, jams and compotes hearkens back to happy childhood memories in her grandmother’s kitchen, surrounded by a family who loved to cook. At the end of each summer, her dad took Robin and her brothers foraging for grapes and made gallons of grape jam. When her father was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, he and Robin battled the sadness of his decline by discussing recipes and taking on the challenge of recreating the recipe of her Aunt Jenny’s apricot and pineapple jam. In 2011, Robin left her corporate job and followed her passion for jam.

Standing at my counter this morning, in front of the barren toast, I was remembering the 500 jars that Robin and Michelle prepared that July day and the many cauldrons of their bubbling jam. It was lovely to revisit the nice memory. But the jarring reality is that I still have naked toast.

My advice: pick up some Doves & Fig jam at Alderbrook Farm in Dartmouth. Or online. Or at the dozens of shops and farmers’ markets around Massachusetts which are listed on the Doves & Figs website (dovesandfigs.com). (MB)

 

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Saturday Night at The Back Eddy with Macomber Turnips

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My attempt at the turnip hash

Who knew I’d develop a crush on turnips this weekend?

We went to The Back Eddy in Westport last night where I ordered giant bacon-wrapped scallops. I have a thing for bacon and scallops so the ordering was an easy call. My entrée arrived atop a bed of turnip and carrot hash. The bright orange and white cubes looked so cheerfully enticing that I tried them first. And I kept eating them.

Turnip hash? I couldn’t think of anything less likely to tear me away from bacon and scallops.

I had always thought of turnips as a humble, maybe even a pathetic, vegetable. In fact, as I ate my Back Eddy turnip hash, I got to thinking about the large turnip sitting in my refrigerator that very moment. I’d received the turnip as part of my farm share several weeks ago and it hadn’t moved since. It was well on its way to being found next spring in the back of the refrigerator, shriveled and soft.

When the hostess Michelle came over to see how our meal was, I asked her if she knew how the hash was prepared. “When you’re finished, I’ll take you over to Soda, our sauté chef,” she said. “He’ll be happy to tell you.”

After dessert, our server Danielle led me to Michelle who was standing by the kitchen. She told the chefs how much I enjoyed the hash. I told the story of my turnip sitting in my refrigerator at home and how I hoped they could tell me how to make it into delicious hash.

Soda was lovely and friendly but, in the way of most chefs who instinctively know how to make things taste delicious, he gave me some pretty vague instructions. Basically, he told me he used some butter and savory herbs. I tried to ask some illuminating questions: how long to cook it for? How to get the browning? I learned that he likes to use oregano, a nonstick pan and it takes about 5 minutes.

“What kind of turnip do you have?” asked Nigel, another chef who was standing by Soda.

I didn’t know. “It’s purple,” I said, hoping that would help.

“It’s not going to work,” he said definitively. “You need a macomber turnip.”

“Macomber turnips have a sweetness to them,” said another man, standing nearby, who I later learned was one of the owners, Sal Liotta.

And they started raving about macomber turnips, indigenous to Westport, sweeter and better than any other turnips. Sal told me that the Back Eddy has hosted special dinners, showcasing macombers in all three courses. Nigel told me about the plaque honoring the macomber turnip on Westport’s Main Street. “It’s not even like other turnips,” said Nigel. “It’s totally its own thing.”

All of a sudden, turnips seemed pretty exciting. “I’m sure your turnip is a good one,” said Nigel who clearly didn’t want to offend me on behalf of my turnip. “But it’s going to be bitter. What makes the hash so good is the sweet macomber.”

“You want to take one home?” he offered. He told me he had plenty, having recently bought five cases of macomber turnips packed in old banana boxes from a local farmer at the Back Eddy’s door. “I’ve got 250 pounds of them out back.”

I hesitated for just a moment. It seemed a little odd to leave a restaurant with a whole turnip. Plus I already had that huge lonely purple turnip that was being ignored at home. Was it really fair to bring another turnip into that kind of a home? But I was overcome with giddiness that I was being asked if I wanted to take home a singular root vegetable.

“Yes!” I said.

Nigel came back with a turnip the size of a basketball. I must have looked scared. Or maybe I uttered an involuntary demurral. “No, this one isn’t for you,” he said, “I just brought it out to show you. I brought a more retail one for you.” He pulled out another the size of a softball.

So this morning I spent fifteen minutes chopping up the turnip and half a dozen carrots. I melted some butter and added the vegetables to the pan. We didn’t have any oregano, not even dried oregano, but I found some thyme in the refrigerator

I mostly ignored it as it cooked for five minutes as I worked on removing the thyme from the stalks. I added the thyme to the pan with some salt and pepper. I tasted it and decided it needed a little more time. I threw in more butter and gave it a few more minutes.

It was delicious. Turns out that Soda’s instructions were pretty spot on. You do just add some butter and herbs and cook for 5 minutes. There’s nothing to be afraid of with macomber turnips. I understand the reverence for this turnip. I understand the enthusiasm. I understand the need for a memorial plaque.

The only problem? I still need to know what to do with this….

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Ain’t No Blues at the Airport Grille

 

Long-Edge-300pixels-72dpiOn the first Monday of every month, the Airport Grille at New Bedford’s regional airport hosts the Southcoast Jazz Orchestra.

It’s been on our To Do list for a while and this seemed like the right week for it. These short days after daylight saving time are always sobering. And they are especially jarring this week with mild sunny days that abruptly end in the afternoon. The temperature outside just doesn’t seem to reflect the hunkering down aspect of the season.

The Airport Grille was the perfect place to spend last night to banish the darkness with style. Small groups, large groups, couples all added to a cheerful atmosphere. “Is it always this crowded?” I asked our waitress.

“Not usually on a Monday,” she said, “It’s the jazz.”

Ah, right. We had come for the food (because we’re working on the restaurant guide for the first issue…it’s heavy lifting but we’re serious workers) but also to see the monthly jazz sessions that we’d heard about.

7083We arrived before the band and ordered the seared scallops and lobster mac and cheese. The mac and cheese arrived in the most impressive display we’d ever seen.

Then the band began to assemble. It wasn’t simply a jazz trio or quartet. This was a 17-piece orchestra. Even writing “17” doesn’t seem to adequately reflect how big this band is. And when they began to play? Everything else that was important (the perfectly cooked scallops, the large chunks of lobster floating in the creamy mac and cheese) was a footnote. What a treat to listen to this band. Don’t go to this dinner with an old friend who you haven’t seen in years. Once the Southcoast Jazz Orchestra begins, you couldn’t care less what your old friend has been up to — you’ll just want to pay attention to the music.

It’s great theater to watch a band this big: all of the different personalities melding together and sometimes splitting apart to create their music; the gleaming trumpets, trombones, and saxophones all lined up, the audience’s attention focused and rapt. It makes you want to learn how to play an instrument and join in. It makes you think about making a reservation for next month’s session. It makes you wonder about throwing a party for the Southcoast Jazz Orchestra to perform at.

Like, say, a magazine launch party? Like, say, in May?

Stay tuned….

 

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Destruction Brook Woods. Why does such a peaceful place have such a, well, destructive name?

Destruction Brook Woods Reserve

Just peace and quiet

One of the goals in making this magazine is to showcase the many magical places on the South Coast and to encourage us all to wander off our own beaten paths. You know, those favorite places where we always go. The idea is to shake things up. Go a couple of towns over from your own and find something new. Be a local tourist.

It’s been fun asking all sorts of people, what do you like to do? We’ve been gathering the answers and creating a list so that one of the Almanac’rs can explore the answers and report back if there’s something we should highlight.

Again and again, Destruction Brook Woods came up when we talked to people.

Something about the name kind of put me off, evoking unpleasant flashbacks to 1980s horror movies. I finally went — October seemed the proper time to go to a place with destruction and woods in its name. Of course, it’s not creepy at all. It’s tranquil and lovely.

With over 280 acres, there are plenty of paths to explore, both marked and unmarked (with a very helpful map provided by the Dartmouth Natural Resources Trust). I got lost somewhere after Alice’s Spillway. It didn’t matter. It’s a pleasure to get a little lost among the glades, the ferns, the rocky outcroppings, and the wide bridle paths soft with fallen pine needles. And there’s so much more to see. I want to go back and find the abandoned farmstead and the old cemetery. I want to witness the abundance of pink lady’s slipper flowers in one of the glades in May.

I’m considering trying mountain biking after chatting with a couple of friendly bikers on the trail. According to the New England Mountain Bike Association website, “if you are looking for very technical and challenging trails, then this is not the place for you, but if you are looking for a fun, easy to moderate ride with nice scenery, then this is the place to come.”

Fun? Easy? Scenery? Yes. Look how fun it looks – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WvuFX0casV0

Mountain biking in Destruction Brook Woods…that’s going on the Almanac’s To Do list.

The woods lived up to its reputation. I understand why so many love it. But it did not live up to its name. Because it turns out that Destructive Brook Woods is not scary at all.

 

For more information on Destruction Brook Woods, including location and parking, see http://dnrt.org/destruction-brook-woods/

 

 

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