Somerville Reads is a project that promotes literacy and community by encouraging people all over the City to read and discuss books on the same theme. For our third annual program, the subject is food—local, sustainable, delicious!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Community Storytelling Night at Somerville Public Library a Hit!

Shannon McDonough, a stellar library supporter and volunteer, attended Wednesday's open mic event and shared her thoughts. We appreciate her support and enthusiasm.

So we hand you over to Shannon:

In tandem with my coursework in library and information science at Simmons GSLIS, I am volunteering at the Somerville Public Library and have been attending some excellent programs there lately.

Last week, I attended a Somerville Reads discussion of Farm City which was facilitated by Jessie Banhazl of Green City Growers. It was a really good discussion that was well-attended by an encouraging number of people including several twentysomethings.

Last night the Somerville Public Library held a Community Storytelling night. This event was expertly hosted by master of ceremonies, Tom Champion. Tom also explained that the city of Somerville is offering a plan to support urban agriculture — more urban farming, more access to fresh produce and support for activities like keeping chickens in your yard. LOVE.

Set-up like The Moth — which happened to have held an event on Tuesday night at the Somerville Theatre — the theme of the night was food, which ties in to the Somerville Reads program. This year, the books selected for Somerville Reads were Farm City and Seedfolks.
“What do we think about when we think about food? Love.”

The night’s storytellers all came at the topic from different angles, all of them deeply personal, creative and humorous.

The first storyteller used his food photography to illustrate his fast-paced, witty and touching narrative about cooking at home with his kids, how food is a part of his romantic relationships and how food breaks down cultural barriers when traveling the world. He set the tone when he asked, “What do we think about when we think about food? Love.”

Next up was a mother/son team who vividly told an engaging and funny children’s story about “Hare” and “Bear” and their struggle to remain friendly while relying on each other for land and food. Then, a storyteller-musician sang a few food-themed songs (one written that very night!) on her banjo — her performances and spirit were pure, generous and delightful.

A man who has worked in the food and restaurant industries for his whole life told several stories about everything from:

training to be a waiter,
dealing with extreme circumstances at a restaurant like what happens when someone dies of a heart attack, to
a recounting of how he became an organic farmer in Maine growing arugula for local chefs to
his current work at a homeless shelter.

Knowledgable about all aspects of farming and feeding, his observations about the intimacy of eating together and cooking meals at home underscored his larger message about the disparity between the haves and the have nots — the wealthy who drop thousands of dollars at 5 star restaurants and the thousands of people who die in this country from hunger.

The final storyteller of the night delivered two stories, the first a rant delivered in the style of a Shakespearean ode, ‘An Anarchist’s Ode to the Nabisco Oreo Cookie,” and the second an extremely funny piece he wrote about the occasion of his 10th birthday in 1972 when he was hoping to start his special day with a treat of four bowls of sugary cereal in preparation for a cartoon marathon only to be accosted by a well-meaning, yet brainwashed mother who force fed him “pep-up” milk and “industrial” grade granola. Trust me, you had to be there. It was hilarious.

In fact, you should be there next time. Telling a story, laughing your head off, and wiping a tear. Don’t miss the next Community Storytelling event at the SPL!