thoughts on food, culture, and community

Archive for the month “May, 2012”

Friday Photo: What’s in a Name?

Crayola Factory, 2012

2012 Elementary school trip, Crayola Factory, Easton, PA

I have been Miss Grove for three years now — well, officially.  I suppose I have technically been Miss Grove since the date of my birth, but the first time a student entered my classroom in 2009 and said, “Good morning, Miss Grove.  My name’s Amber; I’m a junior.  It’s nice to meet you,” I found it so charming that I emailed my mom. (“A student called me MISS. GROVE. Isn’t that cute?”)

I have been many names in my life, each with a different flavor.  Sylly G was my name in middle school, coined by my friend Marie when I was trying to have some kind of an attitude. Seel-via, silk-laden and elegant, was my host mom’s pronunciation of my name in 2005 when I spent a semester in Avignon, France.  My students in Talange, France, in 2007 called me Madame (or l’américaine” because they could never remember my first name) which made me sound snobby, or so I thought, but it was also a distinct gesture of respect.  So Miss Grove has been.

A name can be a reason for camaraderie, and a title can be a mark of distinction, but I also noticed that a name can also make or break intimacy.  During my first years of teaching, I used to hesitate to call myself by my first name whenever I was telling a story because saying “Sylvia” out loud in a room of people who call me “Miss Grove” required the merging of my worlds, my perceptions of myself.  Sylvia does cartwheels while jogging by the Susquehanna River, but Miss Grove, in high heels and a serious skirt, would not.

However, it seems that the first step to being a good teacher is showing your humanity, your normalness. One difficulty with being a teacher was realizing that there is a distinct line between the students’ perceptions of my life and theirs, and I wanted to show them that the difference was very small. (I too know what Rock Band is, have favorite rides at Hersheypark, have opinions on pizza toppings, and have read The Hunger Games.) The best advice I ever received about teaching was that it is a reciprocal experience — I learn from the students as much as they learn from me — and that education never ends.  Therefore, I became Sylvia in the classroom whenever I was telling a story about my first interviews for The Patriot-News or when explaining my musical background; I was Sylvia as I talked about tutoring at the Central PA Literacy Council or learning to talk to the homeless woman named Denise at my laundromat on Calder Street.  I am Sylvia because I want to prove that education is not just isolated to Miss Grove and the classroom.

Today, I announced that I am resigning from high school teaching to pursue higher education in the fall, and I realized that Miss Grove, as I know her, will be gone.  But what I learned from her during these three years of sharing her existence—how to expose myself to students, to laugh, to be vulnerable, to think creativity, to be challenged even by those younger than me, and to listen—shall carry me through for the rest of my life.

After I stepped down from the lunchroom stage at the high school, clutching a Kleenex and trying to tell the students they had made a difference in my life, a junior named Derrick approached me and said, “Thanks for the stories.”  What I hope he meant was, “Thank you for being Sylvia.”

Friday Photo: Ice cream man reopens with new flavors, locations

Allan Johnson, the ice cream man, taste-tests his product at MoMo’s BBQ and Grill, Harrisburg, where his vintage ice cream tricycle is stored

If you haven’t met Allan Johnson already, you’ve surely seen him.

Maybe he’s been standing next to a peach-colored ice cream cart during the lunch hours of downtown Harrisburg, digging into the cart’s storage compartment to hand out half-pints of homemade ice cream.

Maybe you’ve seen him pedaling down Front Street or juggling bowling pins while surrounded by a crowd of patrons digging into their soft treats with plastic spoons.

Wearing all white except for a black bow tie, ice cream man Allan Johnson is unmistakable—and he’s back for the 2012 summer season.

“An ice cream cart is an American tradition,” says Johnson.

Opened in 2011, Johnson’s company, CreamCycles, is now selling 15 flavors of homemade ice cream made by Bootlleg Creamery in Blain, PA.

“Bootlleg Creamery: it’s so good it should be illegal,” says Johnson, and he’s right.  The ice cream’s velvety texture is coat-your-mouth creamy while not being too heavy, which allows the ice cream to be both full-bodied and refreshing.  Creator Jeff Trout doesn’t skimp on the flavor, either; the Orange Pineapple is bright with citrus and laden with crushed pineapple, and the Peanut Butter—Johnson’s favorite—is so rich that no chocolate swirls are necessary.

New flavors this season include Gangster Grapenut, Sweetheart Cherry, and Coffee Brickle.

Johnson sells half pints of ice cream—which are small enough to eat solo or big enough to share—one for $3 or two for $5.

In addition to his downtown sales, Johnson is also available this season for at block parties, birthday parties, picnics, and fundraisers.  During his off-hours, his vintage ice cream tricycle is stored at MoMo’s BBQ & Grill on 307 Market Street, which also serves Bootlleg’s chocolate and raspberry ice creams on the premises.

“I’m hoping for more exposure this season,” Johnson says.

More exposure may even mean more ice cream carts, he says.  Currently, Johnson is brainstorming about owning a fleet of carts made by local craftsmen and leasing them to individual owners, expanding his business into different markets, including the West Shore.  A second cart on the streets may be seen as early as this summer.

HOURS: 11am-2pm, 4pm-8pm Monday through Friday, downtown Harrisburg.  Weekend hours vary according to local events and the weather. Text Johnson your location for ice cream delivery at 603.801.2420.

This article was first published in The Patriot-News on Wednesday, May 16.

Two-Decade Dream: Grantville Volunteer Fire Company’s new building becomes a reality

Fire company president Wayne Isett

This article was first published on April 28, 2012, in The Patriot-News.

EAST HANOVER TWP — At the April 14 groundbreaking for Grantville Volunteer Fire Company’s new 15,000-square-foot building, the excitement in the air was as tangible as the dry spring heat that wafted over the gravel ground

No wonder — the dream to build a firehouse for the 200-member volunteer fire company has been nearly 20 years in the making.

“It’s been said that perseverance is not just running one long race, but many short races one after the other,” East Hanover Twp. supervisor George Rish said. “This fire company is an example of that.”

Consultant Paul McNamee of Paul McNamee Consultants agreed.

“You have a hard-working fire company. They’re one of the hardest-working clients I’ve ever had,” McNamee said.

Standing to the side of the crowd, fire company president Wayne Isett smiled calmly, introducing speakers and acknowledging guests. A 30-year member of the fire company, Isett and other senior members identified the company’s need for a new building back in the 1990s when they began outgrowing the current location on Jonestown Road, which had been constructed in 1973.

Read the complete article at

Friday Photo: Graffiti plea for social change

Maclay and 6th Street, Harrisburg


Friday Photo: Matter of perspective

Harrisburg, April 2012

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