Thanksgiving Memories

“I raised to my lips a spoonful of the cake . . . a shudder ran through my whole body and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary changes that were taking place.”    Marcel Proust

Food can certainly evoke powerful memories. For Proust, it was the madeleines soaked in his aunt’s special concoction that brought back childhood memories; today for millions of Americans the smell of turkey roasting will conjure up memories of Thanksgivings past.

As a child, no meal was as satisfying as the Thanksgiving feast. Our day would start early with the smell of strong black coffee wafting through the air. My Dad insisted on getting to the traditional high school football game at least an hour early to get a good spot in the stands. We’d stop by my grandparents, and see who else might be recruited for the early trip over to the game. My grandmother and aunts would already be in full gear with the turkey preparations.

I’d be half frozen by the time the game started, my thermos of hot chocolate nearly empty. Once the game started they’d at least be a distraction from the cold. But once the game ended, my stomach would begin rumbling anticipating the meal ahead.

Coming back into my grandparents house, my mouth began to water when struck by the scent the nearly done turkey, sweet roasted vegetables, and savory gravy. Before long, I’d take my place at the long banquet table, and contentedly fill and refill my plate with all the good food. I had a prodigious appetite as a boy, and they’d always be a bowl of mashed potatoes set strategically by my place (or did I choose my place based on proximity to the potatoes?).

Traditions changed as I moved into adulthood. For a few years, my wife and I did our own thing, spending Thanksgiving exploring the coast of Big Sur and California wine country. That brings its own special memories. We fondly talk of the diligent server who chased us halfway back to our hotel to give us the onion rings we had left behind by design; and the French student at a Thanksgiving meal with friends at Stanford who insisted upon rinsing everyone’s glass before refilling their wine.

Now my parents have taken up the cooking duties from my grandmother—my Dad makes the turkey and my Mother the stuffing. They are now grandparents, and we’re the proud parents of a wonderful boy. Perhaps if he’s so inclined when he is a bit older, I’ll take him to the football game on Thanksgiving morning. The details of the tradition change, but that smell of turkey roasting still means satisfying times and special memories with family.

Originally published on Cooking Chatmoved it over here as I’m deleting old posts that don’t have tasty food photos there!

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MLK Day Remarks: Our Beloved Community

Yesterday, the City of Woburn held an MLK Day event hosted by Mayor Scott Galvin. I had the opportunity to share some thoughts at the event. Our organization, Social Capital Inc. (SCI), has been working with community partners on race and diversity topics since we started in 2002. Below is the text for my remarks.

David Crowley speaking at City of Woburn MLK Day event.The recent rise in hate crimes and other blatant acts of racism, coming 50 years after Dr. King was assassinated, is certainly disturbing.

Well, Dr. King did tell us that “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

Of course, Dr. King doesn’t mean for us to patiently await the coming of a more just society. He was all about the urgency of addressing injustice now; and there are certainly urgent needs to address today.

Working on social justice issues at a national or state level is certainly one way to work on change in a way that would honor Dr. King’s legacy.

But I think we have a unique opportunity to honor Dr. King’s life and work here in our local community.

Woburn has a history of welcoming immigrants and embracing diversity, and recent years have provided a chance to really focus on our growing diversity.

That growing diversity was evident and highlighted during the kickoff event for Woburn’s 375th back in 2017. I have fond memories of the Ugandan group rocking the nearby First Congregational Church at that interfaith celebration.

But it’s not just about celebrating diversity, it is doing the work to make sure everyone here feels welcomed and part of the community. At SCI we teamed up with churches, community groups, the library and the schools to do a series of race dialogues. These discussions led to a series of follow-up initiatives to help everyone feel welcomed here and to make sure all students have the support they need. And you heard from Sophia from EmbRACE, a Woburn Memorial High School student group that was started to work on issues of race & diversity.

Dr. King dreamed of what he called the “Beloved Community”. I quote from the King’s Center website:

“Dr. King’s Beloved Community is a global vision, in which all people can share in the wealth of the earth. In the Beloved Community, poverty, hunger and homelessness will not be tolerated because international standards of human decency will not allow it. Racism and all forms of discrimination, bigotry and prejudice will be replaced by an all-inclusive spirit of sisterhood and brotherhood.”

Dr. King may have had a global vision for the Beloved Community. But I’d say we can apply the principles of the Beloved Community right here in Woburn. There are many divides in our society today, but here in Woburn, we can continue to be a place where hands reach out across differences, where people of diverse backgrounds come together in service of our Beloved Community.

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Veterans Day Reflections: Honoring the Values Veterans Fought to Preserve

American flag

When we thank veterans for their service on Veterans Day and other occasions, we often say they fought for our freedom. While there is truth in this statement, the shorthand doesn’t tell the whole story.

I would say that we should thank veterans for protecting our people and our country, and the ideals it represents. For instance, when our soldiers fought Nazi Germany in World War II, it was a struggle to ensure that our constitutional democracy would survive, along with the rights and protections it affords. In defeating the Hitler’s evil agenda, we were preventing the spread of a violent totalitarian regime and ensuring our system could continue to thrive.

I like the song “Chicken Fried” by the Zach Brown Band, but the line “Salute the ones who died, who gave their lives so we don’t sacrifice” seems to flow from the idea that veterans served for our freedom, including perhaps a freedom from responsibility.

True, veterans volunteering to serve our country means that most of us don’t need to put our lives on the line through military service. But we all have a responsibility to do our part to protect that constitutional democracy that our veterans fought to preserve. I would say we best honor our veterans by re-committing ourselves to do what we can to help our communities and help our nation live up to its democratic ideals.

As many others have suggested, an expansion of national service could be a powerful way to uphold the legacy of our veterans. Such an expansion could include military service, the Peace Corps and domestic service like AmeriCorps. The way troops from all racial and ethnic backgrounds work together toward common goals in the military is one important long-term benefit of military service. More of that, through military and civilian service, could certainly be helpful in these divisive times.

Let us thank our veterans through our words and deeds.


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Differences and the Work of Greatness in Our Democracy

If Secretary Clinton and President Obama can move on with grace and dignity as they did in their remarks yesterday, I certainly can move forward too. As President Obama noted, when he welcomes President-elect Trump to the White House today, he will be keeping a tradition most recently demonstrated when President George W. Bush graciously hosted him after the election. The presidency and our democracy are greater than any one individual. I am thankful for that, as it is an important source of our country’s greatness.

Woburn race relations forum panel discussion.

I know many friends and colleagues have strong feelings of disappointment, anger and fear in the wake of President-elect Trump’s surprising victory. This is understandable in light of the many disconcerting comments Candidate Trump made throughout the campaign. I have seen many posts from such people that they are ready to be part of the vigorous, peaceful opposition that is another crucial element of our democracy. Certainly vigilance is warranted to ensure the darker elements of the campaign rhetoric do not come to pass. Other friends and colleagues are moving forward by focusing on caring for their kids, doing their work, and finding ways to make a difference in their community.

I am ultimately a bigger believer in our democracy than any single candidate or elected official. The electorate was very divided this year, often heatedly so. It appears likely that Secretary Clinton may win the popular vote while losing the electoral college.

President-elect Trump clearly generated much greater support on Tuesday than any prognosticator anticipated. Though there were many disconcerting remarks made by Candidate Trump, from that I will not label my fellow Americans who supported Trump. Clearly Candidate Trump connected in a powerful way with many Americans, speaking to real anxieties about our nation and individual circumstances in a rapidly changing world.

The surprising aspect of the election results serves as a reminder of the many divides in our society today. We in deeply blue Massachusetts know little of the struggles of the working class Rust Belt communities that provided the key to Trump’s victory. I will seek to understand more about the underlying issues that led to the election result.

For me, this rancorous election is another of the many divides we have in our society. Too often we surround ourselves with people that think like us and look like us, reinforcing our views and providing little meaningful exposure to significantly different world views. Facebook is clearly not a sufficient public square to engage in meaningful dialogue needed to bridge our divides.

The divides we face are surely not only the red and blue differences that are top of mind this week. Race issues have also shown the deep gaps in understanding we have, with many whites having trouble grasping the fears African American families have for the safety of their sons should they interact with police–to name just one of the many issues of race and difference that have simmered to the surface over the past year.

One reason for the strong disappointment many felt after the election is that it seemed like 2016 would be the year a major glass ceiling would be shattered with the election of our first woman president. I am sure that breakthrough will come soon. But meanwhile we were reminded that sexism still runs deep.

I started by noting that the peaceful transition of power, that begins once again this week, is a hallmark of our democracy. But our greatest source of strength is our collective commitment to democratic values. This includes respect for the will of the majority along with protection of equal rights for all. Protection of those rights always requires vigilance, and that is certainly true today.

Rich or poor, black or white, PhD or GED, we all have an equal vote in the direction of our country. And we have a responsibility to role up our sleeves and do the work needed to have our nation live up to the greatness of its ideals.

Early American communities came together and literally rolled up their sleeves for communal barn raising events. While we may not have barns to be built, we certainly have a need to roll up our sleeves and do the work required by a healthy democracy. After an election cycle with so much emotion and tense disagreement, listening and respecting those with different views and different backgrounds is an essential part of that work. I am committed to being part of this process through our work at Social Capital Inc., and finding opportunities to listen learn from my fellow Americans.

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Lessons from The Innovators [#bookreview]

Walter Isaacson’s book, The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution, is a good read to provide a long view of innovators who made major contributions to bringing us the digital tools we have today. The book was published in 2014, so while it doesn’t bring us right up until today, it does bring us pretty current.

The book starts with early thinkers like Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace who first theorized about what we now know as computers. Then it proceeds through the early development of computers (punch cards, anyone?) and the first steps toward creating the Internet. The Innovators also provides a lot of colorful detail on more recent developments, such as the creation of Wikipedia and Google.

In each chapter, Isaacson gives us a lot of detail on the backstory of the innovators as well as a description as to how the innovation being addressed came to fruition.

If you take anything from reading this book, it is likely to be that important innovations are usually the result of the interplay of ideas and contributions generated by a number of innovators. In some instances, like with the development of Google, this comes as a result of a team of innovators with complimentary skills. In other cases, it is a matter of innovators building of other ideas being generated by others working in the field at the same time. In other words, Isaacson tries to disabuse us of the notion that innovations are likely to come as the result of a single inventor who has a sudden “Eureka” moment.

Occasionally Isaacson delves into technical detail that was lost on this humanities reader, but for the most part, the book is suitable to those interested in the history of innovation without requiring technical expertise.

Isaacson has written a number of other biographies about innovators. I previously enjoyed reading his book on Steve Jobs, which came out shortly after the Apple co-founder passed away.

This post contains Amazon affiliate links, which means I would earn a small commission if you choose to order a book using the link. As always, I only feature links to books that I recommend based on my experience.

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Darkness cannot drive out darkness

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

Seeking some words to grasp after the terrible violence of the week in Dallas, MN, and Baton Rouge; this MLK quote was the first that came to mind.

While investigations need to follow to know the details of the most recent shootings, there is clearly a pattern of black men dying at the hands of police that is cause for anger. Yet most police serve and risk their lives to keep us all safe; and it is incredibly sad to lose officers who were helping to uphold the right to protest injustice.

I pray for the families of all those who have lost loved ones due to this violence. I pray that we as a nation can somehow draw resolve from this violence to work for a more just and safe nation. And rather than waiting for one big answer or change that will solve this, may we all find ways in our everyday lives to create more understanding, to take what steps we can to bring about change and contribute to a more just society–which could simply mean we all have equal opportunity, regardless of skin color, to pursue life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

I share these thoughts and concerns from a position of privilege. Not the least of these privileges is the ability to feel confident that the police are here to protect me, that I need not fear for my life at a traffic stop.

There is also the privilege of having simple things I can dive into and enjoy and forget for a time all the violence and injustice we see in our world. Cooking a good meal to enjoy with family, I get caught up in the act and forget the good fortune to have regular access to good healthy food. The joy of watching our boys play a big baseball game, oblivious to all else in the world other than the next pitch.

Yes, I will jump into the joys of cooking, baseball and family over the weekend. Yet there will be a heaviness underneath, percolating concern for that state of our world, with an eye to things I might do to help bring about what King referred to as the Beloved Community.


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Summer Rain Haiku

Walking in the light warm rain today inspired this little Summer Rain haiku. The last line came to me thinking about another time I was walking on a day like this.

walking in warm rain

summer smells steeped in moisture

skies open up and soak

bench with rain drops from Summer Rain Haiku.

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Easily Switch Between Instagram Accounts

Were you excited to learn you can easily switch between Instagram accounts now? Yes, me too! This posts breaks down the simple steps for switching between Instagram accounts on your phone.

Image by Lotus Carroll, Creative Commons sharing license.

Image by Lotus Carroll, Creative Commons sharing license.

I was excited to learn that you can now easily switch between Instagram accounts. I happened to hear about this from a teen during a social media workshop we were doing recently. I wanted to share this news here on my blog, and show how simple it is to toggle between different accounts on Instagram with the new features that they have added.

Up until recently, Instagram has been in stark contrast to other social media services where it is easy to switch between accounts. For instance, on Twitter I can easily choose which account to tweet from when tweeting from my phone; and can use a service like Hootsuite to choose an account to tweet from on the desktop.

By contrast, to switch from my personal Instagram account @davidbcrowley to the Instagram account for our nonprofit @socialcap, I would have to logout of one account and sign into the other. Of course, that means you have two passwords to remember and type in correctly on your mobile device. If you thumbs and password recall is similar to mine, you would run into the trouble I did switching back in forth. Basically, I wound up using the @socialcap account less and less, and mostly Instagramming from my personal account, mixing some @socialcap related content in with my pictures of food, family and nature.

Now that it is easy to switch between Instagram accounts, I anticipate we will be generating a more regular flow of Instagram content for Social Capital Inc.

How to Switch Between Instagram Accounts

Ok, so I promised you that it is now easy to switch between Instagram accounts. You might well be able to figure it out on your own, but let me break it down for you to make it even easier.

To start out, I am logged into my personal @davidbcrowley Instagram account on my phone, checking out recent photos from accounts I follow, and gleaning insights about the NCAA March Madness brackets. To switch to another account, you must first click on the profile photo in the lower right hand corner (presumably you will see something other than my face in the lower right hand of your screen).

switching between Instagram accounts, step 1.

This takes you to your profile screen. From here, click your account name in the top center of the screen.

switching instagram accounts screen shot.

This option gives you a drop down menu, allowing you to toggle easily between Instagram accounts.

showing how to switch between Instagram accounts

Use the dropdown menu to select the account you want. I had already entered password info for @socialcap as well as my personal account to my phone. If you need to add another account at this point, simply choose the “add account” option to enter the details for that account. But if you already have a second account in your phone, you can simply select that to switch right now.

switching between Instagram accounts demo.

Boom, there we are! In about 5 seconds or less, you are ready to post and engage via your other Instagram account.

For those of us who are managing multiple social media accounts, this ability to switch easily from one Instagram account to another is a big help! Hope you found this useful and enjoy this feature.

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Color Blind Book Review: Breaking the Baseball Color Line Before Jackie Robinson

Color Blind book reviewI’ve been putting most of my blogging energies into Cooking Chat, but I do want to get back into blogging here with some regularity.  A good place to start is with a quick book review of Color Blind: The Forgotten Team That Broke Baseball’s Color Line by Tom Dunkel.

Color Blind tells the nearly forgotten history of an integrated semi-pro baseball team from Bismarck, North Dakota, that managed to become one of the most successful baseball teams at its level in the 1930s. There is a great deal of interesting history about baseball in that era and small-town life in the Midwest at the time.

Early in the book, Dunkel does a good job painting the picture of what a big deal local baseball teams were in small cities and towns in places like North Dakota during the 1920s and 1930s. With no televised sports, and professional teams being hundreds of miles away, it was a big deal to have a local team you could watch live. Not to mention how people were seeking a distraction from the struggles of the Depression and Dust Bowl.

The manager of the Bismarck squad, Neil Churchill, did not have a grand vision for social change that led him to recruit black players. He simply wanted to field a competitive baseball team. Though the big leagues were white only during this period of time, semi-pro teams would from time to time recruit top players from the Negro Leagues and other talented African American ballplayers. Churchill went all in with this approach.

By the time the Bismark team was competing for national tournament titles in 1935, the roster was full of some top African American players. Foremost among them was the legendary pitcher Satchell Paige. As a baseball fan, reading Color Blind was a good chance to learn more about this extremely talented pitcher. Unfortunately, learning more about Paige’s skills is bittersweet, as  it serves as a vivid reminder of how much baseball missed by not having some of the best players of the era competing in big leagues. Not to mention how unfair it was to the players; and the book does give some glimpse into how frustrating baseball’s racist policies were to the players.

Churchill and Paige were two very colorful characters that helped make the story of Color blind interesting. There were a few times that the book delved into some detail that I found a bit less interesting, but overall it was an interesting and entertaining read. I would definitely recommend Color Blind to anyone interested in learning more about the history of baseball and its intersection with our country’s history of segregation.

This post contains Amazon affiliate links, which means if you chose to buy a copy of the book using the link, I would earn a small commission from the purchase.

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#FoodDay2015 Reflections and Links

Linguine with Kale Pesto, celebrating healthy and tasty food.

Sure, if you read my food and wine blog posts on Cooking Chat, much of the focus there is simply on the pure sensory delight of good food, and the aesthetic appeal of a well-presented plate.  Today being Food Day, with a focus on a healthier diet and food system for all, provides a chance for me to put my passion for food in a broader context and reflect upon how my foodie ways connect to other interests, including our work at Social Capital Inc. I noted the post about Food Day at Babson College talked about everyone having a “food story”; essentially this post shares a bit of mine.

I use term “real food” here. I like the way Michael Pollan defines it in Defense of Food–you can get an intro to his take on it in this summary of his book.

Food and place: My food story starts with enjoying healthy and tasty food every day. Enjoying tasty, real food provides immediate gratification to the sense. But really paying attention to the nuances of flavors provides an opportunity to reflect upon what is on our plate, where the food comes from and how it was produced. Good food, in my book, provides a sense of connection to a particular place and the people that care for it.

As much as I love to eat local as much as possible, I also love the way food can transport us to another place. My travel budget is limited, but a good meal celebrating the cuisine of a region along with wine from that area is a way to visit the culture of that place for the evening. Twice a month, I join fellow bloggers in exploring a specific region of France and Italy, sharing recipes and wine pairings that seek to capture the food culture of the area. Most recently, we visited the Cotes du Rhone, and I made this Rustic Chicken and Sausage Stew to pair with a wine from the region.

One of the most important values that undergirds our work at SCI is that place matters, something we need to be reminded of given the amount of time we spend on screens, untethered to place. Enjoying real food that is clearly traceable to specific places and people is a great way to ground ourselves in the tangible world.

Food brings people together: Our work at SCI is about bringing people together in local communities, and valuing the importance of relationships. Coming together to share a good meal is as good a way to build relationships that I can think of.

Waste not: This morning I overcooked my son’s waffle. Too crispy for him, I cooked another without much argument. But I inspected the discarded waffle before tossing it, doctored it up a bit, and enjoyed it with a second up of coffee.  I did this instinctively, muttering “waste not” to myself. Reports that we waste about 40% of the food produced in America are quite disturbing to me, and I work hard to make good use of all the food we purchase. Including taking one for the team and eating what others won’t!

Real food has to taste great: Let’s face it, those of us advocating people eat real food are up against big industries that have figured out how to manipulate salt, sugar and fat to appeal to cravings that have been hardwired into us over the course of evolution (see Michael Moss’s book for more on this). That’s a big focus of mine on Cooking Chat, sharing healthy recipes that taste great. Toward that end, earlier this year I published my first cookbook: Collards & Kale: 20 recipes that will have you loving your greens. I also posted a recipe roundup, 25 Healthy Vegetarian Recipes, tying into today’s Food Day theme “toward a greener diet”.

Collards and Kale Cookbook

More on the Social Capital links: There have always been some natural links between my food interests and our work at SCI, based on the way it brings people together and grounds us in a sense of place. The link is even tighter recently, as our current strategic plan includes a focus on building social capital to promote health and wellness. Thus, we now have several AmeriCorps members based with local food and fitness coalitions, doing great work to promote healthy eating and food access in urban communities. Based on this tie Dan Arrick, SCI AmeriCorps member based at our headquarters, participated in yesterday’s Massachusetts food system event and wrote this blog post, A Need for Low-Hanging Fruit.

OK, I’m going to sign-off now and enjoy the rest of my Food Day! On the menu tonight–ziti with kale pesto and roasted broccoli (for now linking you to another kale pesto recipe, will update!). My 10 year old is participating in a contest at school to see which class is eating the most healthy fruits and veggies, with extra points for local food. Awesome idea, so we will be looking for local broccoli and kale!

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