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Essential for All Election Campaigns: The Essential Danby

November 3, 2014

The Essential Danby, a great book for your coffee table (Photo by: Amazon) The Essential Danby, a great book for your coffee table

Crabby. Cross. Out of sorts.

With negative ads flooding the airwaves, firehoses of money scattering more voters away, the American electorate has been irritated. And/or discouraged. And/or hiding in the basement. 

Guess what America, Campaign 2016 starts today. Help!

Enter George Danby, an equal-opportunity offender who uses cartoons to poke, pierce and parody the political class. His new book, The Essential Danby, is a beautiful album of wry to wicked cartoons aimed at politicians from the presidential to the parochial, from D.C. to Bethesda to Bangor – where Danby has been a cartoonist for the Bangor Daily News since 1986.

A cartoon by George Danby (Photo by: Bangor Daily News) A cartoon by George Danby

From ABSCAM to Obama, Danby’s keen eye and active pen miss very little. Now, with the release of The Essential Danby, political junkies have the opportunity to enjoy his prism on the polity as well as to trace the development of a true political artist.

George Danby in his office at the Bangor Daily News (Photo by: Bangor Daily News) George Danby in his office at the Bangor Daily News

In the book’s foreword, U.S. Senator Angus King (I-ME) describes how he was influenced as a boy by the cartoons of Herblock of The Washington Post. “Herbock’s merciless images of Richard Nixon with hooded eyes, dark stubble, and generally evil demeanor” as King remembers, “often…captured the issue of the day more memorably than any story.”

King continues, “Now, one might jump to the conclusion that as an active Maine politician, I readily agreed to write a glowing foreword for this collection of George’s work in hopes of avoiding his sharp pen at some point in the future – and one would be right. But he is really good,” King writes. “George has an uncanny knack, essential to the cartoonist’s art, of getting to the essence of the matter in a way that’s memorable, accurate, and usually funny (if being the butt of a joke published in the state’s largest daily newspaper is your idea of funny).” Keep the book in a handy place for all the campaigns and daily drama to come.

The Essential Danby, published by Islandport Press, is available (and a great holiday gift for news junkies) here.


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The Bike House Rolls Out Pedal Power

October 21, 2014

They usually come to the Bloomingdale Farmers Market for the heirloom tomatoes, mouthwatering peaches and fresh French bread, but a recent Sunday saw a line of residents snake around the spinach and kale in search of wrenches, pumps, and 3-in-1 oil.

This is not the latest trend in farm-to-table sourcing or vegan cuisine.

With the explosion of bike paths and bicyclists zooming around town on two wheels, flat tires, loose chains, and worn out brakes were bound to happen. So who, how and where to fix them?

Enter The Bike House. This band-on-the-run of bike lovers has come to the rescue of the ever-proliferating peddling public.

An S St. resident wheels up an orchid-colored Raleigh and a new set of brakes to install. She has been living dangerously, gliding into intersections instead of stopping hard as the old rubber brake pads wore thin. Drivers frowned, cursed or worse -- who could blame them?

Ryan Scholl of The Bike House peers at the problem. “Sure you can install your new ones!” says the cheery Bay Area native. “We’ll help you.”

At The Bike House, the volunteers don’t just fix bikes, they help their clients learn how to fix them.

Some repairs simply require the twist of an allen wrench or a squirt of 3-in-1.

But others are a bigger bummer.


Hilary Kirwan rolls up to The Bike House clinic in Bloomingdale, explaining her tire troubles to Ryan Scholl (Photo by: The Georgetown Dish) Hilary Kirwan rolls up to The Bike House clinic in Bloomingdale, explaining her tire troubles to Ryan Scholl
“I need help,” says resident Hilary Kirwan, forcing a smile as she pushes a bike with a front tire that is flapping off its frame. At home, as she tried to fix a busted innertube, her bicycle pump ate the tire's valve. Everything went downhill, so to speak, from there.

Nodding his head as the latest patient details mechanical maladies, Scholl signs her in on his iPad, moving through the line of bikes with broken joints, sprockets and other major and minor ills, assigning his volunteer clinic teammates to launch into sidewalk surgery.

The team of young women on this Sunday are all confident with the tools, boldly going where others might shrink in fear, both of complex mechanics and the inevitable soot, oil and grime that slowly cover their fingers, hands and arms. But on this sidewalk, greasy, grimey extremities are a badge of honor.

Bike House volunteer Meghan Madden shows the S St. resident how to place bolts, nuts and washers in the right order to successfully replace the worn out brakes. It's a crossword puzzle -- a code to break.

“Even if you know what you’re doing,” she says, “it’s nice to have another person around."

Founded in 2009, The Bike House provides free bicycle maintenance services and education through weekend clinics, mobile bike 
Volunteer Meghan Madden hones in on a problem at The Bike House free clinic in Bloomingdale (Photo by: The Georgetown Dish) Volunteer Meghan Madden hones in on a problem at The Bike House free clinic in Bloomingdale
clinic, and beginner and advanced mechanics classes. The first clinic took place at an outdoor fish fry in the summer of 2009.

“Of the eight volunteers that day, only one of us would admit to knowing anything about bikes. The rest of us fuddled with air pumps and marveled at the strange machines before us. We all need to start somewhere. We learned though, and by the time we moved to the alley behind Qualia Coffee [in Petworth] a few months later, we had a core of about 15 volunteers with a growing knowledge of bike maintenance and teaching tools,” the organization’s website says. These days, The Bike House stores its tools for Bloomingdale at Big Bear Café, the neighborhood patron saint.

The Bike House asks for donations to cover the cost of supplies. Scholl says typical visitors might contribute $5 – or $50.  Healthy bikes, not big bucks, are the goal here.

“We like bikes,” Scholl says. “We wanted to empower people to do work on their own.”

“I started by fixing my bike myself. Then I wanted to help other people,” says Jen Evans, a native of Toronto, who works weekends for The Bike House. “It expands your knowledge.”

These volunteer bike doctors say the increasing popularity of biking is great for the city, but tensions with automobile drivers can throw sand in the gears.

“People are either super in favor of bikes, or super against,” says Scholl. He tries to stay off the busiest roads, including New York Ave., Rhode Island Ave., and Florida.

And buses can be even worse than cars.

“I’ve gotten yelled at by Metrobus drivers,” volunteer Jen Evans says, shaking her head. Could the city's public stewards be hostile towards these fragile canaries in the alternative transportation coalmine?

But despite the downsides, many bicyclists wouldn’t travel any other way. Door-to-door travel that’s free, clean, cheap and almost hassle-free is getting more popular by the pedal.

Kirwan says she has a car but is trying to bike to work as often as she can. “I like the exercise and reducing my environmental footprint,” says the American University graduate.

Now, almost every week in Petworth and at the Bloomingdale Farmers Market, as well as The Bike Store classes and clinics, D.C. bicyclists are adopting a fix-it philosophy to be able to pedal, with barely a pause.

Read more about The Bike House.


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Kitchen Revolutionaries Fêted at Liaison

September 23, 2014

Well-known chefs, smartly-dressed PR pros, tat-covered biker boys and models handing out cocktails breezed around the pool on the roof of the Liaison Hotel near Capitol Hill at sunset Thursday.

The Liaison Rooftop (Photo by: The Georgetown Dish) The Liaison Rooftop
But the hip looks and trendy eats were just part of the scene. The party was to celebrate the launch of The Food Fighters, a new book chronicling the first 25 years of the local revolution known as the D.C. Central Kitchen.

It started when Robert Egger, a military brat who became a bartender at the Child Harolde and Charlie Byrd’s in the 1980s, reluctantly agreed to serve on the truck on an evening run of the “Grate Patrol,” an initiative of downtown’s Grace Church to feed the homeless.

The experience, while frustrating, led him to drop his plans to open a new nightclub he was sure would change the D.C. landscape. Instead, his high-voltage energy turned to the creation of D.C. Central Kitchen -- imbued with a leather-jacket, tough-talking rebellious spirit -- that would become a signature D.C. institution and one of the most innovative efforts to help the city’s most desperate, lost and forgotten souls.

D.C. Central Kitchen's Mike Curtin, Marrianne Ali and Robert Egger (Photo by: The Georgetown Dish) D.C. Central Kitchen's Mike Curtin, Marrianne Ali and Robert Egger
Marianne Ali, originally from Lanham, was an IV heroin user on the streets for 20 years before she hit the very bottom. Finding her path back to health on a stop-and-start journey that led to a culinary degree in the early 1990s, she is now Director of Culinary Training Programs at the “Kitchen,” as its known, helping hundreds of former convicts and homeless men and women each year get the life and work skills they need to begin careers in food service.  

With the help of 15,000 volunteers, donations of food from the restaurant community, and funding from grant and individual donations, the Kitchen now serves 10,000 meals per day and trains hundreds of the city’s most vulnerable residents to get back on their feet through housing, substance abuse recovery, and skills and jobs training programs.

But as he describes the Kitchen’s work, CEO Mike Curtin, a Gonzaga College High 

Anand Shantam, a DCCK culinary instructor, with her Central Union Mission students Jerome Plunkett and Mack Baskin (Photo by: The Georgetown Dish) Anand Shantam, a DCCK culinary instructor, with her Central Union Mission students Jerome Plunkett and Mack Baskin
School and Williams College graduate, dismisses the usual language of charity and good works. “We want people to 

understand that the traditional idea of charity is an old model,” he says. “If people are going to part with their money, we want them to think of it as an investment in the community.”

In The Food Fighters, author and DCCK Chief Development Officer Alex Moore says thinking differently is the key to the Kitchen’s turbo-charged growth from its home in founder Egger’s beat-up Ford Econoline van 25 years ago.

Natalie Smedley and Christine Connors, Northern Virginia natives, volunteer and support the Kitchen (Photo by: The Georgetown Dish) Natalie Smedley and Christine Connors, Northern Virginia natives, volunteer and support the Kitchen

“The story shows what people can accomplish as volunteers,” he says. “We can do business differently. We are a business. It’s just that our product is changing lives.”

Moore’s life, like many of those who work and are trained at the Kitchen, includes some zigs and zags. He was a graduate student with a master’s from Georgetown, working on a Ph.D. in International Relations, when he read Egger’s book Begging for Change.  Moore put his studies on hold, moved back to D.C., and worked his way into a job at DCCK. That was nine years ago. “I never felt more useful than when I was working at D.C. Central Kitchen,” he said. “ I eventually dropped out of grad school and never looked back.”

Moore says the book is about the vision, the mistakes, and the warts of the renegade institution.

Delano Darby, a Central Union Mission student, with Anand Shantam, D.C. Central Kitchen culinary instructor, standing by Shantam's mouth-watering Kale Salad with Chicken and Cranberry. Delicious! (Photo by: The Georgetown Dish) Delano Darby, a Central Union Mission student, with Anand Shantam, D.C. Central Kitchen culinary instructor, standing by Shantam's mouth-watering Kale Salad with Chicken and Cranberry. Delicious!

“We want to help people understand how the sausage got made, but also talk about failure in a constructive way,” he said. “We don’t fix people. All we fix is meals.”

But, Moore said, the D.C. Central Kitchen is about “second, third and fourth chances” in life. “We’re all flawed, we’re all broken,” he said. “But we can share our experiences and grow together.”

Last week, DCCK celebrated the graduation of the first class of students from Central Union Mission, which offers emergency shelter and recovery programs for homeless men and women. Graduate Lee Hylton, who spent 24 months in prison prior to enrolling in the DCCK Culinary Job Training Program, started work this week at Acacia Bistro on Connecticut Ave. in Van Ness. Other employers of the graduating class include Sodexo at Marymount University and Nando’s Peri Peri.

Pizzeria Orso Chef Will Artley's (Photo by: The Georgetown Dish) Pizzeria Orso Chef Will Artley's
Local chef and Falls Church’s Pizzeria Orso founder Will Artley has hired DCCK graduates as permanent team members as well as interns. He started cooking at age 15 and has never wanted to pursue any other career. But that’s not what led him to join DCCK’s board of directors recently. “They show you that you can come back,” he said. “People do make mistakes -- they shouldn’t be shunned for the rest of their lives.”

Captivated by the health and wellness movements in food service, Artley has lost 135 pounds in the last year, having gotten to the finish line of 11 half-marathons and three marathons. He is now training for his second Iron Man competition.

“My work with the Kitchen has helped me be more forgiving of other people, but also more forgiving of myself,” he said.

Coco Sala's Ashleigh Spiller and Lima's PR director Gina Dakouni add panache to the party (Photo by: The Georgetown Dish) Coco Sala's Ashleigh Spiller and Lima's PR director Gina Dakouni add panache to the party

Celebrity chef José Andrés, owner of ThinkFoodGroup and a longtime Kitchen supporter, says “Robert Egger and D.C. Central Kitchen…changed my life, and I have never looked back. Their story” opens a door, he says, “to a new way of thinking about bringing dignity and hope to those in need.” 

Asked to name her favorite food, DCCK graduate turned Culinary Training Director Ali points to paella, the complex and preparation-intensive Spanish rice dish. “It has so many different ingredients that you have to bring together to get the taste,” she says. “It’s kind of like the work we do at the Kitchen.”

The Food Fighters is available on Amazon. Read more here.

The annual Capital Food Fight takes place Nov. 11 at 6:00 pm. For more information, click here.


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