This blog is called New Cambridge Observer–so I guess I should jump into the fray over last week’s arrest of  Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates by Cambridge Police Sergeant  James M. Crowley.   

Gates, 58, who is black and walks with a cane,  had gotten out of a cab in front of his home on Ware St, couldn’t find his house keys and, while he and the cab driver were breaking into the house in broad daylight,  someone called the police.

To begin with,  I can’t understand why anyone would impugn the intentions of  the woman who called the police :  911 tapes reveal that she said she wasn’t sure if it was a break-in and that she doesn’t mention race.

I CAN understand why Crowley would insist that Gates  come outside after showing proof that he lived there;  it’s possible, tho unlikely, that someone inside the home was dangerous,  in trouble, or pressuring the owner, in some way.

I can also understand why Gates would be upset: no doubt the incident triggered memories of his own and others’ experiences of deep racial prejudice between white cops and black men.  I can also understand why Gates would  lash out verbally, and why his resistance would trigger the officer’s reflexive  response to an unruly citizen: handcuffs and arrest.

It’s harder for me to understand why President Obama lost his usual cool and say the officer reacted “stupidly” but I’m glad that he  backed off and invited both parties to the White House to discuss the matter over  a beer.

A friend rightly points out that, rather than just let things go each of the parties took the extra step: calling the police; demanding to come inside, pushing back, jumping into a local fray.  My friend suggests that behind all that is fear: of break-ins, of losing hard-won respect and status, of  loosing criminals into the community, of criticism–in a time of war and heightened economic stress.

All true.

But now, news commentators are questioning everyone’s motives. This morning, one of them questioned Obama’s choice of drink for today’s powwow and called  him a racist who hates whites;  another (is it politically correct to mention that her skin appeared to be dark?) that Obama is a “racial opportunist ” whose administration is corrupt, and that he used the term “stupidly” to draw attention away from his difficulties in getting health reform through Congress.

This epiode has often been called a “teachable moment.”  Might I suggest that it’s a moment that has gone on too long? We get it. It’s a moment whose time has passed.

Let me know what you think!

–Anita Harris
New Cambridge Observer is a publication of the Harris Communications Group of Cambridge, MA, as is, which focuses on issues related to media, public relations, and HarrisCom clients–such as health, science, technology and the environment.  All entries are copyrighted by Anita M. Harris, the author.


Last night, Ed, Sheila and I were having a lovely dinner outside on the water at Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art after a “tasting” event that I’d give mixed reviews..or, even, a pan (so to speak).

It was the third of  four gourmet “tastings”   sponsored by the national law firm Eckert Seamans, which has an office in Boston.  

 In June, Ed and Sheila had enjoyed a tasting given by Ana Sortun, owner of Cambridge restaurants  Oleana and Sofra,  who, the ICA says,  is one of the country’s “best creative fusion practitioners.” Combining farm-fresh, organic ingredients from Siena farms, and eastern Mediterranean spice blends, Sortun prepared wonderful samples that, Sheila said, “you could die for.”

I’d been to a tasting the previous week, which featured cocktails and commentary by   “Drink”  bartender John Gertsen, (who could write a PhD thesis on the history of the martini) and canapes from Barbara Lynch Gruppo, with Colin Lynch. Both are new establishments founded by restaurateur Barbara Lynch.

Last week’s  tasting  featured Deirdre Heeking and Caleb Barber,  the author and chef, respectively, who own and run  Pane e Salute in Woodstock, Vermont, which the ICA billed as  “a stylish, classic Italian tavern, inspired by and celebrating the regional variations of Italy. Using local ingredients, they present surprising, marvelous, and essential dishes full of the spirit of Italy and the bounty of each season.”

  •  The first sampling was dandellion greens with olive oil and lemon juice.
  • The second sampling was dandellion greens with oil, garlic, and something that made the greens taste  less tart.
  •  The third sample was dandellion greens with olive oil, and topped with pancetta.
  • The fourth was… you guessed it: dandellion greens–this time  with cheese, tomatoes, salt, pepper, garlic, and white wine, which Caleb cooked as he spoke rapturously about Italian meals designed to lengthen life and  olive groves in the town where he and his wife had often stayed.

I liked the romantic, if  “overbaked”, passages  Deirdre read from the owners’ new book.  Ed was taken with the discussion and enjoyed the food.  Sheila and I  agreed that the price of both the greens and admission,  for members, was right (free). We  liked the  bread, but thought  that the samples all  looked like overcooked spinach and tasted like…um… kale.

Although the handout suggested serving sample #4 as a main course, Sheila said: “Maybe it would be better to  serve it in small batches, along with other things.”  I asked, “Why would you serve it at all?”

 After Deirdre described two luscious-sounding wines that we never got to taste,  we decided to skip the question period and head for the cafe.

Sheila loved her “naan of the day” (an Indian bread served with spiced beef ), Ed his  sandwich (roast turkey with lettuce, tomato, avocad0, mustard aoli and cheese )  and I my Arctic char salad, with lettuce, tomato cumber salad  (each $9.oo before the 10% member discount).

 We were happily watching the sun set over the water,  a tall ship making its way across the harbor, and party cruisers against the beautifully lit Boston skyline when Ed, who had so enjoyed the samples (hey–or should I say “hay”– he loves kale) suddenly remembered that he’s allergic to dandelions–as he found once out the hard way when drinking dandellion tea .   (It can cause diahrrea).  At that point, we hit the rest rooms (just in case),  then  headed home.

None of us had any adverse reactions.  We do wonder at Heekin and Barber’s choice of samples…which were not the greatest promo for what is probably a wonderful restaurant. 

But we’re  looking forward to next week’s tasting with John McClellan, proprietor of  Boston’s award-winning L’Espalier and Sel de la Terre–both of which, the ICA Web site says,  feature  regional ingredients combined with the culinary traditions of France. 

c. Anita M. Harris

More on dandelion greens:

 I checked the Web and found the following , which I’ve lifted from because I wasn’t able to find the info at the US Department of Agriculture Web site.

 According to the U.S. Dept of Agriculture, dandelions are more nutritious than broccoli and spinach, contain more cancer-fighting beta-carotene than carrots, and are a rich source of calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, thiamine, riboflavin, lecithin, and dietary fiber.

Dandelions cleanse the bloodstream, liver and increase the production of bile. A natural diuretic they  reduce serum cholesterol and uric acid. They help functioning of the kidneys, pancreas, spleen and stomach, and can be  useful for abscesses, anemia, boils, breast tumors, cirrhosis of the liver, fluid retention, hepatitis, jaundice, age spots and rheumatism.

Dandelion flowers are an excellent source of lecithin, a nutrient that elevates the brain’s acetylcholine, a substance that helps maintain brain function and may play a role in slowing or even stopping the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Lecithin also helps the body maintain good liver function, so it is no surprise that dandelion is widely recommended by herbalists and naturopathic physicians for liver detoxification.

Native Americans used it to treat kidney disease, indigestion, and heartburn; traditional Arabian medicine prescribed it to treat liver disease; and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) uses dandelion in combination with other medicines to treat hepatitis and upper respiratory tract infections, including bronchitis and pneumonia

However (my ital) dandelion may cause allergy to certain people. People who are allergic to chamomile, yarrow or other related plants should use dandelion with caution. If you are taking lithium, insulin, anti-coagulation, anti-diuretic or blood-sugar controlling agents, consult with your doctor,  first.

New Cambridge Observer is a publication of the Harris Commmunications Group of Cambridge, MA, as is

Over lunch at the Cambridge Innovation Center on Wednesday,   Mass Life Sciences Center (MLSC) President and CEO Susan Bannister told a gathering of some 100 life science afficionados that the first year of Gov. Deval Patrick’s Life Science Initiatiative has been a success. 

The MLSC, charged with distributing some $1B over a ten year period,  invested  $48.5 M in public dollars this year–its first full year of operation.  The funds, in turn, have attracted nearly $359M in matching investments from companies, foundations, government, institutes and other private investors–an eight-fold return.  

“There’s still capital out there and life science is a good place to put your money,” Bannister said.  “By putting state money into the pot, we have ‘de-risked’ investment that the state would have had to find elsewhere”.

 The funded projects–in biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, diagnostics and bioinformatics–could create some 950 jobs in the near term, Bannister said.

By adding employment opportunities,  Massachusetts’  investments and incentives could help to absorb some of the job losses expected in other sectors, according to Bannister.

Frank Reynolds, CEO of InVivo Therapeutics, which is developing stem cell/ polymer technology aimed at halting the effects of traumatic spinal cord injury, said that receiving a $500 thousand loan just as  venture capital possibilities tanked this fall made a tremendous difference in his company’s ability to proceed. ”  It’s a great program,” Reynolds said. (Disclosure:   I work with InVivo).

Bannister cautioned  that in the current economic downturn, tax revenues are “iffy” and it’s not yet clear how much money will be available for the Initiative in 2010.

For more details, please visit

—Anita Harris

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