There’s more than a few reasons why I went with “The Heart of the East End” as the name for my weekday morning show at Long Island’s only local NPR station. The first is because it was the best suggestion I’d received from my open call on social media. But also, I’m all about getting to the heart of an issue. It brings me the deepest satisfaction I have known.
That’s why when I interviewed Aki Goldberg Terwilliger about her start-up soup, salad, and sweets company, Aki’s Kitchen, on the 100th edition of HOTEE on August 27, we ended up discussing how she had once been one of only three women in an exclusive New York trading floor known as the Diamond Dealer’s Club; how she’d come from Antwerp; how her mother had told her that learning languages was an investment that nobody could ever take away from you. I asked which skills from her life as a diamond dealer has helped her most with Aki’s Kitchen. “Integrity,” she told me. That and quality. She seeks to use the best local ingredients in the food she prepares at the South Fork Kitchen, which strikes all the right chords with what folks want to hear out East.
Aki had arrived some time after Heather Meehan from the East End Food Institute that morning, but they had matching messages regarding passion for local produce and that’s not by accident. The East End Food Institute runs the South Fork Kitchen on Stony Brook Southampton’s campus, where chefs like Aki and other up-and-comers like Robert Curreri — the former chef of the Ritz Tower, building his Robert’s Bakestand brand one to-die-for truffle chocolate bar at a time — grow their nest egg before investing in a commercial kitchen.
Randy and Cori Kopke of the artisanal Backyard Brine pickle company, as well as Steve Amarel and Ann Corley of the North Fork Chocolate Company, are just two examples of folks who did just that at Calverton’s business incubator. It’s a model for making local businesses that really works in high cost areas like the East End. Even James Beard nominated chefs like Steve can attest to that.
I am reminded of how Allison Katz of Ali Katz Kitchen, who sent me off from a visit the other day with some multi-berry scones and peach muffins, is lending her own kitchen on Mattituck’s North Road to a blossoming baker named Aiyana Edmund whose 1610 Bakehouse sourdough bread continues to sell out no matter how difficult the two try to make reserving a loaf of the stuff. It’s the type of cooperation that’s not only often necessary for success, but heart-warming too.
The East End really works best when we all work together. That’s true of the entire planet and it’s a message that’s being missed now as our nation continues to divide amidst partisan politics. I asked same-sex couple Michael Dickerson and Roger Rowlett of East Hampton about that topic on Tuesday morning’s show. It has been 50 years since the Stonewall riots and 15 since the first legal same-sex marriage in Massachusetts, but Roger, who graduated from the same School of Journalism as myself, said there remains great fear for those in the gay community, particularly the population’s transgender set, as the political pendulum swings in a restrictive direction.
Combating climate change is another area under siege by the current administration as water levels rise. A positive outcome is that photographers like Diane Tuft, whose journey photographing ice and snow using infrared film to reveal heat radiation that humans can’t see didn’t just lead to seeking out ultraviolet light for her book, “Arctic Melt: Images of a Disappearing Landscape.” It is also leading her to front and center seats within the art world. On August 28, Tuft received the Champion of the Arts award at Southampton Art Center’s end-of-summer soiree, Summerfest, which is one of the issues SAC’s Amy Kirwin came on-air to discuss. Another is how the Mountainfilm on Tour shorts documentary film festival screens at 25 Jobs Lane in Southampton on September 14 and 15.
Monday, August 26, meant Macaroni Kid and 99walks’s Joyce Schulman in the studio for an open call to moms about gathering in the name of self-care at Sag Harbor’s Barcelona Neck for a 9:30 am walk-about on Wednesday, September 4, as well as Water Mill’s Lois Robbins on the horn amidst a limited engagement run of her one-woman show, L.O.V.E.R., ahead of a September 8’s opening night in the city.
Also on Wednesday, East Hampton Trustee Dell Cullum not only explained his decision not to run for re-election, but announced formation of his non-profit wildlife rescue support group from Montauk to Wainscott, Hampton Wildlife Rescue Inc., which is now seeking a paid responder in the East Hampton area. Call 1-844-SAV-WILD for more information. On Thursday, Peggie Ehlers of Nuna Knits came on the air to show off her “game changer” felt hat and her drop-the-mic moment about responding to a consumer who tried to show a $5 paper hat on Amazon with a mouthful about sweat shop versus fair trade labor was a moment I may just savor forever.
Friday morning was so special to me when my sister, Danielle, walked into the studio with two of her munchkins, Dorian, eight, and Abigail, four. I don’t see my family often, particularly in summer, so sharing the studio with them was a rare, awesome treat. All-day rain meant lunch at Sip-n-Soda and a visit to both Joel Sartore’s Photo Ark at the Southampton Arts Center and the Children’s Museum of the East End in Bridgehampton before dinner on Hill Street at Paul’s, but my favorite moment of this entire summer, by far, was sitting by my sister’s side on the Flying Point Beach lifeguard chair talking about life and watching the kids flirt with the rising tide until the sky began to cry anew. The word “grateful” hardly cuts it.
Gianna Volpe can be heard Monday through Friday, 9 AM to noon, on 88.3 WPPB FM, Long Island’s only NPR station, or online at www.883wppb.org.