Somewhere I heard or read that Aretha Franklin chose understated gray for her inaugural ceremony costume so as not to distract attention from the stars of the day. Un-huh. That hat was a show-stopper, a show stealer really. And hers alone. Try to picture that hat on Diane Feinstein, or Michelle Obama. No. The hat could be Aretha’s alone.

Around supper time of the eve of the the inaugural, the phone rang at Dave and Marj Kraske’s house in Hartford. It was their daughter Patricia with news from Washington. The Kraskes’ grandson, Erik David French, a political science major at Colgate, had just arrived in D.C. to spend this semester interning at a think tank. Seems Erik and fellow interns, returning from a Thai lunch in Georgetown, emerged from the subway just in time to see a line of limos coming toward them. The last and biggest stopped close to them – close enough to touch – they could see Mrs. Obama and her daughters and the Jonas Brothers.

Eleven-year-old Bethany was visiting her grandparents when the call came. “Erik saw the Jonas Brothers,” she said. (Michelle who?) She may have added, “No fair,” but Marj didn’t say so.

Kitchen coalition

Threshold to Maine: Resource Conservation and Development. Its purpose is to assist to improve skills and commitment to balancing social, economic and ecological uses of natural resources. Such a mouthful has to be the product of a writing committee, subset of some bureaucracy. (It would be easier to say Aretha Franklin’s hat 10 times without stumbling.)

Despite the bureau-speak, Threshold does important work through the Shared Use Kitchen Coalition. A shared use kitchen provides space and equipment for small food operations to process, package and market food products. There are shared use kitchens in Farmington, Eastport, Saco and Bucksport, and if the dream comes true, a fifth here in the River Valley.

A shared kitchen committee is at work, helped greatly by the technical assistance of Mark Hughes, who is based at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Gray. Their task is to test the feasibility of a shared use kitchen in the region; results of a needs/interest survey are being tallied presently. Finding the right space is a challenge, but the right space just could be in the newly refurbished and expanded Region 9 facility. Talks are under way with Director Brenda Gammon and shortly proposals will be ready to put before the Region 9 program committee.

“We have a lot of home-bakers around here,” the growth council’s Bev Crosby said. Food entrepreneurs would be the primary users of a shared kitchen, but why not culinary arts classes for adults?

The Brookings Institute report on Maine’s economy recognized the potential of the food industry to contribute to the state’s prosperity.

Just as important, perhaps, is growing concern about food safety and increased interest in buying locally.

Toshio Hashimoto, who has been growing and marketing mushrooms near Abbott’s Mill for years, was prophetic. Ten years ago or more, he said: I don’t know what kind of a cost transportation will be. … We have oil now … but I think we have to change lifestyle a little bit.” Shared use kitchen is important to that needed change.

The Shared Use Kitchen committee draws its membership from Andover to Canton; potential users are names like Jim Doar and Sean Cameron; the Career Center’s Susan Moors, Jeannie LaPointe, Carol Emery, George Kimball, Linda French, Dave Duguay, Leslie MacDonald, Mitzi Sequoia, Paula Smith, Jackie Conant. They’ve got what it takes to get the job done. You may want to sit in on a shared use kitchen committee meeting: the next is Tuesday, Feb. 10, at 4:30 p.m., at Region 9 in Mexico. Questions, call Bev Crosby at 369- 0396.

Linda Farr Macgregor is a freelance writer who lives in Rumford. Contact her: [email protected]

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