Archive for August, 2010

Joe Squared pizza

This August marks my third anniversary of living in Baltimore. After five years in New York, the streets of Mount Vernon seemed positively pastoral. In place of modernist skyscrapers and mobile phone ads plastered to ever-present scaffolding, there were green parks, fountains and the muted melody of a flute being played by an open window. Instead of elbowing through crowds, I started strolling, looking at gorgeous antique houses that anybody, even me, could afford.  I would even say I found my Happy Place, although not using the Happy Detector the tourism department concocted.

If we made a Happy Map of our neighborhood for eating and drinking purposes, it could consist of:

1. Howard’s of Mount Vernon offers inexpensive, thoughtfully prepared salads, sandwiches and a few dynamite dinner plates like fish n’ chips. Even the salad dressings are made from scratch and served up with a friendly smile from people who know us by name (naturally, they live nearby and visit the same dog parks). We could eat here every day, and for a while, until we got a/c, we basically did. We sat with a bottle of white wine (BYOB until their liquor license comes through) with the blind Fox and ate grilled ham and cheese and the Howard’s Salad–strawberries, feta, walnuts and local veggies–for less than $15. (more…)


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By the sunflowers

Midway through a muggy Maryland summer it dawned on me that under certain circumstances our dirty city could become a veritable Edan. Standing amidst 7-foot tall sunflowers, the wide leaves of squash plants, and tomato plants dripping with plump red fruit I realized Baltimore has untold natural resources in its rich soil, soaking rains and brow-beating summer sunshine.

While flies, bees and mosquitoes buzzed about my legs, I stood grinning at lavender, beets, peppers and purple blossoms. We had barely pulled a weed in months and the plot’s watering barrel was nearly empty.

Actually, I didn’t do much at all to make this tiny plot on Pratt Street blossom. The digging, hoeing, planting, and weeding was done by a dogged group of 10 kids ages 5 to 11: The Wolfe Street Academy Garden Club (Baltimore’s other untold resources: seriously great kids).

In March, the plot–maybe 11 feet by 20 feet in size –was covered in weeds, recovering from being flattened by months of snowfall. Broken bottles, cigarette butts, and rocks littered the plot. Where three row houses were bulldozed in the 1980s, glass still glittered through many layers of dirt.

The boys helped Marissa, a nursing student with a green thumb, to dig furrows to demarcate planting areas from walking areas, which we would later fill with mulch. Marissa discovered the idea to create furrows while gardening at East Baltimore’s Participation Park, which offers free classes on growing things. Later I learned from a man at Participation Park –gardening to a thumping reggae beat from his truck–how to sift rocks and debris out of soil using screens.

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