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Food, Memories, and Serendipity

Food, Memories, and Serendipity

Gus Rancatore, Mary Catherine Deibel, Holly Heslop, Barbara Wheaton, Jinny Nathans
(photo by S Segat)

Over a hundred people gathered at the Middlesex Lounge in Central Square on Sunday, May 22nd, to learn about Culinary Cambridge and How our City Changed What You Eat.

This event was sponsored by the Cambridge Historical Society, which is based at the Hooper-Lee-Nichols House on Brattle Street. The Historical Society is "dedicated to collecting, preserving, and interpreting the history of Cambridge. They produce educational programs, maintain an archive of historic papers and images, and exhibit and publish materials that enable us to tell the stories of the people, places, and groups that have made Cambridge what it is today."

Click on the following video to hear Gavin Kleespies, the Executive Director of the Historical Society, explain the goal of the gathering and give us some tidbits of Cambridge food firsts:

Society President Jinny Nathans introduced a lively line-up of living food history experts from Cambridge. Since this event was filmed by CCTV, you will soon be able to watch the whole thing from the comfort of your home. And you should, because not only will you hear interesting stories about how food and our food establishments have changed through time, but you will also see how much serendipity plays into our lives and into career paths.

Barbara Wheaton, the Honorary Curator of the Culinary Collection at the Schlesinger Library, led us from standard fare of scrapple, pepper pot with tripe, and exotic treats like spaghetti from a can, all the way to Julia Child's skill in opening our minds to fine, accessible cuisine. She bought her first cookbook when dorm food finally wore her out.

Holly Helsop, co-owner of Cambridge Eats and Beats, Cambridge Common, West Side Lounge, Christopher's, Toad, and the Lizard Lounge, has been running Cambridge restaurants for over 30 years. They took a big leap into the unknown when they started with Christopher's in Porter Square, and she has many lessons to share.

Deborah Hughes and Mary Catherine Deibel, owners of UpStairs on The Square, told stories of their scrappy and hopeful start. They showed us how chance, location, and the courage to seize opportunity when it knocks can all lead to great success.

Gus Rancatore, founder of Toscanini's and writer for the Atlantic, gave us insight into the home-made ice cream world. I'm still not sold on the bacon ice cream theory, but it was great to hear that his first job was as a cleaner at Steve's Ice Cream in Davis Square. (Note to all students: there's a lesson here!)

Wow, you know how they say not to shop on an empty stomach? Well, don't write about food on an empty stomach either! I have to go check out what's in the kitchen. Bon appetit!