Around this time last year, Steve Jobs introduced the iPad to an eagerly waiting world. For many tech critics, the device was a head-scratcher. It was dubbed the “Giant iPhone” by its detractors. Among those who immediately saw the awesome potential of the iPad were educators. Tablet devices and e-readers (by this time next year there may be close to 100 out there!) seemed tailor-made for the technological needs and aspirations of schools at every level. Teachers, students and educational researchers all nod in agreement that we have come to at an important place in the evolution of learning. Things seem to be changing at light speed. The same pulse-quickening technology that drives lunchroom chatter is finding its way into classrooms all over the state in the form of SMART Boards, iPads and other devices that connect kids to information in attention grabbing ways. It’s an exciting time to be a student. For teachers, it’s a time of transition. They must evolve with the technology. Fortunately, the traditional forms of delivering information, despite losing ground, are not leaving the scene.
Teachers know how to get students involved and active, and emerging technology is just another weapon in their arsenal. Power, after all, comes not from a cord. Knowledge is power. Allison May, Director of Curriculum and Instruction at the Chatham Day School, confirms that the newest trends in education rely on technology. “Technology allows teachers to personalize education more effectively,” she says. “By using the Kindle and iPads, teachers can attract more students to read.” May also notes that online textbooks offer myriad tools for teachers to engage and retain students’ attention. At the Pingry School, teachers have found integrating tablets into the classroom flow to be a more or less natural process. “They are using iPads to create a forum for discussion, and a way to share which apps are working best for each student,” reports Ted Corvine Sr., Pingry’s Assistant Headmaster and Lower School Director. “The next generation of technology is creating additional opportunities for differential learning and student collaboration in the classroom.” At Oak Knoll School in Summit, students are benefiting from technology and online capabilities. They learn how to sift through data on wiki sites, utilize digital cameras, make use of computers, apply software and employ apps to learn, and make multimedia presentations. Science teacher Tatiana Kurjaninow notes, “Because businesses, companies and educational institutions are collaborating more online than ever, I believe it is so important for us to be teaching our students how to use these technology tools now in the classroom.”
Technology is also transforming the way parents, students and teachers keep in touch. Through email, blogs, and teacher websites, parents can communicate with the school 24/7. As we grown-ups catch up to our tech-savvy kids, this kind of communication will eventually just become a part of ordinary parenting. Jennifer Phillips, Director of Educational Advancement at Far Hills Country Day School, predicts that, 10 years from now, no one will be questioning the role of technology in schools. Everyone will have it and everyone will use it. “No longer will we be asking, ‘Should we use technology in this lesson?’ Technology will be portable and accessible all the time, everywhere—and a given tool for all learning.” When Donna Toryak of Mount Saint Mary Academy looks into her crystal ball, she predicts that paper, pencils and textbooks will be passé, and will no longer be a staple of the traditional classroom. “Online and virtual classrooms may replace what we now see as students sitting in rows at desks, listening to a lecture or annotating the day’s lessons. Technology is a very thrilling theme for the future.” The future has arrived at a growing number of New Jersey schools, and in some cases it’s in the hands of four-year olds. The Rumson Country Day School built a Passport to Adventure afternoon enrichment program around 10 recently purchased iPads. “Our pre-school iPad program enables students to learn through interaction with technology,” explains Laura Small, a teacher and administrator at RCDS. “They practice and master letter recognition, handwriting and math concepts technologically as well as traditionally.
The iPads also enable our preschoolers to explore hands-on different cultures, traditions and animals from around the world.” Remember when teachers used to reprimand students for having their heads in the clouds? Well, Michael Chimes, Director of Academic Technology at Gill St. Bernard’s School in Gladstone, looks into the future and says, “Institutions like our school, and users like our faculty and students, will move to the Cloud.” The Cloud is a service that stores applications and data on remote servers, allowing users to access programs and files without having to invest in expensive hardware or software. It is sometimes referred to as virtualized computing. “In other words, remote servers will hold the software and the files we work with,” says Chimes. “The web and all that is available will be far more accessible.” For budgetary reasons—with which New Jersey parents are all too familiar—the most sophisticated learning technology tends to be in private schools right now, from kindergarten all the way through 12th grade. However, most schools have begun the transition to new technology and, as competition between hardware and software manufacturers intensifies, those schools that have had to wait will find it less expensive to play catch-up. For now, the price tag of staying on the leading edge is still considerable. With tuitions rising in private schools and public school budgets gobbling up 60 to 70 percent of property taxes in some towns, many would argue that this is not a good time to pour precious dollars into educational gadgetry. Granted, keeping up with technology may seem expensive and taxing. But, in the end, the price of ignorance is so much greater.
The power of television in our society has been made painfully clear by the current Reality TV craze. With careful editing and decent ratings, it seems any half-wit can become a major media star. Yet for all of the bad things this genre says about us as a culture, it can also do a lot of good. Exhibit A is IRINA SHABAYEVA, an outrageous young talent who rose above the competition to win Project Runway. For all its contrivances, the program transformed an industry unknown into New York’s newest designing woman—a career-launch that might never have happened but for the magic of basic cable. EDGE Style Editor Dan Brickley has been there and done that. The former host of TLC’s A Makeover Story is now a regular in US Weekly and runs a successful pop-culture web site. Dan caught up with Irina while she was putting the finishing touches on her new Fire & Ice collection (see pages 55-62), due to debut at Fashion Week in February. As he discovered, the first thing you need to know about Irina is that she was born in Georgia…and raised in Brooklyn.
EDGE: Georgia? I’m not hearing that.
IS: The Republic of Georgia—not USA Georgia. From grade one to four, I was in Georgia. Then my parents moved to the States and I finished my education in Brooklyn.
EDGE: How is that fusion of cultures reflected in your personality?
IS: Europeans in general are straightforward, want to offend anyone. I think there’s a way to be both, to be polite and honest. EDGE: Did this help you on Project Runway? IS: I think it did. EDGE: What goes through your head when you stand in front of the judges…and a couple of million viewers? IS: You’re nervous because of the lights and the cameras, and the whole situation makes your heart race. But I wasn’t really afraid of what the judges had to say because, chances are, whatever they found—good or bad—I already knew. Most creative people can look at their work and, if it’s not that great, call themselves out on it and just say, “Hey, you know what? Maybe this is a flop.” Everyone has had a day where nothing seems to come together. Unfortunately, on Project Runway the whole world knows about it because the judges make sure that you hear it over and over again. EDGE: Did the judges ever have a bad day? IS: Everyone had their days. EDGE: When you live, work and—most importantly— compete with other designers 24 hours a day, it can bring out the worst in someone. Yet you managed to stay above the fray. IS: Project Runway was a big deal, so I decided that if I was going to do it, I was really going to focus. I knew that some people would be really friendly and others would reach their boiling points quickly. The competition never stops. When we were off camera, we were still interacting, so someone could say something that would trigger a reaction the next day when the cameras were rolling again. In order to avoid getting swept up in the drama, I just stayed focused on doing what I was there to do—which was to meet a challenge every day. EDGE: One of your fellow contestants said that you weren’t there to make friends. Naturally, that’s the reputation you got as a “character” on the show. Fair or unfair? honest people. They call it like it is. American culture is a lot more sugar-coated. People are afraid to be honest sometimes because they don’t want to offend anyone. I think there’s a way to be both, to be polite and honest.
EDGE: Did this help you on Project Runway?
IS: I think it did.
EDGE: What goes through your head when you stand in front of the judges…and a couple of million viewers?
IS: You’re nervous because of the lights and the cameras, and the whole situation makes your heart race. But I wasn’t really afraid of what the judges had to say because, chances are, whatever they found—good or bad—I already knew. Most creative people can look at their work and, if it’s not that great, call themselves out on it and just say, “Hey, you know what? Maybe this is a flop.” Everyone has had a day where nothing seems to come together. Unfortunately, on Project Runway the whole world knows about it because the judges make sure that you hear it over and over again.
EDGE: Did the judges ever have a bad day?
IS: Everyone had their days.
EDGE: When you live, work and—most importantly— compete with other designers 24 hours a day, it can bring out the worst in someone. Yet you managed to stay above the fray.
IS: Project Runway was a big deal, so I decided that if I was going to do it, I was really going to focus. I knew that some people would be really friendly and others would reach their boiling points quickly. The competition never stops. When we were off camera, we were still interacting, so someone could say something that would trigger a reaction the next day when the cameras were rolling again. In order to avoid getting swept up in the drama, I just stayed focused on doing what I was there to do—which was to meet a challenge every day.
EDGE: One of your fellow contestants said that you weren’t there to make friends. Naturally, that’s the reputation you got as a “character” on the show. Fair or unfair?
IS: It bothered me that it was taken to an extreme. It wasn’t like I said, “I hate everyone!” It was more like, if I made friends, well, that was a bonus. I mean, why wouldn’t you want to make a friend or two? But I wasn’t there to socialize. It wasn’t cocktail hour. I wanted to win that thing.
EDGE: Is it true you hadn’t watched previous seasons of Project Runway?
IS: I never watched any season in its entirety. I watched it randomly, like I’d go over to someone’s house and they’d be watching it.
EDGE: And what was your impression? What made you think it was worth a shot?
IS: I thought it was great. I mean, I knew there was a downside to Reality TV, but I felt that if there was something positive that comes out of a show like this, then maybe it’s worth doing. Tim Gunn was a judge, and that gave me a comfort level because he taught me at Parsons. That was disclosed to everyone, by the way—it wasn’t like we had a secret friendship. But I thought if Tim was part of the show, he’s so respectable and honest, I knew the judging had to be fair.
EDGE: What was the casting process like?
IS: It was a challenge. I understood that they pick people for their work but also for their personality. A lot of talented and creative people tend to be introverted. I tend to be laidback, and I can’t be someone that I’m not, but luckily they felt my personality was a good fit.
EDGE: That first day, when you were surrounded by all the lights and cameras and producers, did you think, “Oh my God! I’ve got to look good, too!”
IS: That first day, Dan? I did. But soon I was like, “Who cares? I’m here to win this thing!” I wasn’t going to look glamorous—it was too exhausting. My sister would watch and say, “Why are you wearing that grandma outfit? Why are you wearing that headband?” And I’d be like, “Because my hair is gross! I haven’t washed it in days!” In retrospect, they could have given us more time to get ourselves together, but I think they wanted us looking as tired and worn out as possible because then viewers sympathize with you. And people should have sympathized with us. We were beyond exhausted. There were days when I was thought, “Do I really have to move now? I don’t think my body can.” Ultimately, it was fun—in a weird, distorted way.
EDGE: When did you think you actually had a shot at winning Project Runway?
IS: A little more than half way into the competition. I was standing on the runway and it was my turn to go when one of the lights blew out. They brought out this three-story ladder to replace the light, which took an hour. I had that hour to just stand there and think. And it came to me. “I could really win this thing…and I think I am winning. I’m so winning this thing!”
EDGE: After you won, was there a clock ticking in your head? Did you think, “I’ve got to capitalize on this notoriety and strike while the iron is hot?” IS: I didn’t assume anything. As you know, Dan, the fashion industry is funny. People in the business like the show. They think it’s great. But it doesn’t validate you in their eyes. What validates you is your work. So I didn’t feel I had this celebrity glow that would take me places. Yes, it’s great to have fans and a recognizable name, but remember, those fans aren’t necessarily your consumers. Building a business—a real, successful business—is very different than winning Project Runway.
EDGE: So what’s it going to be for Irina Shabayeva? Custom order? Big label? Big backing?
IS: Well, I launched an evening line last season, as well as a bridal collection, and it’s been great. I’m at Kleinfeld Bridal and I’m in great company—Monique Lhuillier and Oscar De La Renta—so I’m going to stick with doing the bridal and evening custom order. In terms of my Ready To Wear, I want to build it up and become a brand because it has a place in the market. I’ve gotten so much great feedback. I just have to figure out how to juggle both.
EDGE: If you had to describe your aesthetic in three words, what would they be?
IS: Feminine. Strong. Luxurious.
EDGE: If you could pick anyone, past or present, to represent your line, who would it be?
IS: That’s a hard question. The first person who pops into my mind is Cate Blanchett. I think she’s a phenomenal actress. Maybe Queen Elizabeth I? She came from nothing to become queen, and struggled with being a woman and trying to rule a country. Cate played her in the movie, which I guess is why I thought of her.
EDGE: If you had to create a bumper sticker for all of the young designers who are following you into the business, what would it say?
IS: “Be Prepared to Make Sacrifices.”
EDGE: Meaning what?
IS: You have to grow up a little sooner. If you really want to perfect your craft, it requires a lot of time and dedication. There’s not a lot left over for fun and partying. I’m 29 and I still struggle to find balance in my life and do what I love to do. It’s a constant struggle. EDGE
Cold feet. Heavy legs. Cramping. As the years pile up, we deal with life’s extra little discomforts every day. They can be a real pain in the you-know what. Dealing with them, however, does not mean ignoring them. If annoyances such as these persist, it may be prudent to speak with a vascular surgeon. The fact of the matter is that each of the aforementioned symptoms (including, yes, buttock pain) could point to something more serious. “We’re not talking about spider veins here,” says Salvador Cuadra, MD. “Vascular system disorders such as Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) and Carotid Artery Disease—including Transient Ischemic Attacks (TIAs)—can begin with relatively mild symptoms. The earlier we catch these problems, the more likely a patient is going to have a favorable outcome.” As a vascular surgeon, Dr. Cuadra is a specialist who treats diseases of the major blood vessels. A member of the Cardiovascular Care Group (with offices at Trinitas and in Westfield, Springfield and Belleville), he treats problems with the carotid arteries in the neck, as well as the veins and arteries in the abdomen, arms and lower extremities. One of Dr. Cuadra’s specialties is called a carotid endarterectomy. In lay terms, this is a surgical procedure that addresses blockages in the artery feeding the brain. Plaque can build up and potentially cause a stroke. The surgery literally “shells out,” or removes, the plaque through a small neck incision. Although the condition is extremely serious, the surgical prognosis is excellent and recovery time is relatively short. Typically, it involves only an overnight hospital stay. Within the past decade, there have been other advances in the development of less invasive treatments for vascular system disorders. Most of these involve the use of stents, which are applied through a catheter inserted through the groin area. The less invasive nature of this procedure certainly makes it more attractive to patients. Vascular surgeons routinely perform angioplasty to repair arteries that are blocked or narrowed. There has been much recent research and discussion about the relative efficacy of stents compared to surgery. The much-publicized CREST Trial has indicated that stents have no statistical advantage over surgery and, in certain cases, might even run a higher risk of subsequent stroke. However, Dr. Cuadra is uniquely qualified to perform either angioplasty or surgery. He has found that some patients have better results with angioplasty and stents, while others benefit more from surgery. Another problem that can be addressed by inserting a stent is an aneurysm. In such a case, an artery develops a bulge (widening) rather than a blockage. Over time, this can cause a weakening in the arterial wall. A vascular surgeon will perform a procedure to insert a specialized stent that allows blood to pass through it removing the pressure on the arterial wall (the aneurysm) thereby reducing the risk of rupture. At present, dialysis patients constitute approximately 50% of Dr. Cuadra’s group practice. In cases of kidney failure— which requires hemodialysis to remove toxic waste and excess fluid from the bloodstream—surgery is done to establish the necessary connection between an artery and a vein thereby allowing for dialysis to be performed. Of the remaining 50%, different people land in his office in a number of different ways. Many patients come via their PCP referral already suffering from obesity and/or diabetes; their doctor may have found an abnormality through physical examination or through an ultrasound, or some other procedure such as a CT scan. Others come because of physical symptoms such as loss of circulation to the legs causing pain, ulcerations, and even gangrene in the extremity. Although Dr. Cuadra says he enjoys working with patients to prevent the onset of vascular disease, he embraces the myriad challenges he faces every day. Being a surgeon suits him, he says. “I like using my hands to solve relatively serious patient problems. Surgery is more rewarding to me than some other specialties. I can see a problem, diagnose it and fix it in a relatively short time period.” EDGE
Editor’s Note: Dr. Salvador Cuadra attended Cornell University as an undergrad and received his medical degree—and became Chief Resident in surgery—at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. He has authored a number of vascular surgery treatises, receiving awards for several of his publications.
I miss the change of seasons in New Jersey. Transplanted here in Southern California, I must make do with Football Season, ’Tis the Season and the new TV Season. And then there is that other, more ominous, time of year: Fire Season. In a matter of minutes, it can turn you from a “have” into a “have-not”. For my friend Sue Sawyer (right), the November 1993 blaze that raged through the Malibu canyon where she lived swallowed more than just her home. It took a bite out of the joie de vivre she once had—the loss of which she is still coming to terms with today. In the early 1990’s, Virgin Records America was in its heyday, and Sawyer was its V.P. of Media Relations. Her clients included Michael Jackson, Tina Turner, Keith Richards, Lenny Kravitz, and The Clash. Over the years she received many gold records from artists such as Cyndi Lauper, Sade, and Cheap Trick that she hung on her living room wall. Her five platinum albums from Michael Jackson had an inscription from Michael that read Dear Sue, thanks for the hard work. These also were displayed in her home. A triptych photograph taken in the early 1980’s, showed Sue sitting on a sofa with Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne. Ozzy was promoting his first solo album, and a marketing meeting was set up at Epic Records. Ozzy walked in with a photographer, which was unusual; this should have been the tip-off for Sawyer that he had something up his sleeve (or in his pockets, to be exact). When everyone was seated, Ozzy produced a white dove from his coat, smiled sweetly at it—and bit its head off. He reached in his other pocket and pulled out another white dove and prepared to dine on that one, but the conference room erupted in protest, and the bird and everyone else in the room was saved from another unsavory spectacle. Although the photographs showed Sue’s expression going from Oh, what a pretty bird Ozzy has to utter revulsion, the triptych was exhibited on her walls to prove that, yes, this really did happen… I was there. The fire took everything. Sawyer’s “to die for” record collection? Vaporized. Her priceless collectibles? Incinerated. Early punk rock singles, including Elvis Costello when he was with Stiff Records? Up in smoke. A few charred 4×4’s, the bottom drum to her Weber grill, the blackened and ash filled carcass of her boyfriend’s vintage1967 metallic gold Thunderbird, the blob of melted coins from her piggybank, and the over-baked Halloween pumpkin that was sitting on the porch, was all that was left. There wasn’t even a place to hang the red UNSAFE FOR OCCUPANCY notification, so it was left under a rock. After the fire ran its course and Sawyer was allowed back on to the smoldering property, it was her incinerated books that she mourned the most. Everything that Graham Greene and Raymond Chandler wrote she collected. She had all of her childhood books, especially Winnie-The-Pooh, lovingly placed on bookshelves. “I would look at my books and it gave me a kind of a…hug,” she recalls. “I don’t have that now.” The literary collection was her treasure. Through the day-today roller coaster ride that was her job, those books provided a sense that everything was going to be all right.
It kept her grounded in a world of music icons and crazy, all-night industry parties. Sawyer has since acquired more books to fill new shelves, but the concertized connection to her younger, more carefree self was gone; as was the piano that she was more than proficient in playing. “When I was seven, I could play Rachmaninov in C sharp minor,” Sawyer says. She hasn’t owned a piano since she found the twisted remains of its soundboard nestled in the ash and soot of what was once her living room. “My house was completely gone.” The great Malibu fire of 1993 burned for three days. Sue Sawyer and 267 others lost their homes. Among her burnt-out neighbors were Sean Penn and Madonna, Ali MacGraw, Dwight Yokum, and Roy Orbison’s widow, Barbara. Three people perished in the fire, which was fueled by a combination of oil-rich and highly combustible chaparral, severe drought, and the hot, dry Santa Ana winds that roared through the canyon. In the first 10 minutes the fire spread from one acre to 200, and within an hour it had scorched over 1,000. It was about 20 minutes into the burn that Sawyer knew her house was in its path, and she had to get home to save her pets. Normally, there were a lot of meetings on Tuesday mornings, but she happened to be in her office with the television on. There was a breaking news bulletin about a fire sweeping toward the sea. “I knew this was no small deal by the way the newscasters talked about it,” she recalls. “And I knew my house was directly between the origin of the fire and the ocean.” The sick feeling that started to take hold of Sawyer was confirmed when a neighbor called. He told her he was evacuating and would take her Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy, but she needed to come and grab her cats. Driving along Pacific Coast Highway toward he
r threatened home, she was struck by the surrealism of it all. “The ocean was glittery with the sun bouncing on the surface, and the sky was such a beautiful blue,” she remembers. “And then there was this huge plume of smoke going up into the sky.” There was a state-of-the art fire station with a helicopter pad just up the road from where she lived. Would her home be spared? She knows now that when an out-of-control fire is in the mood to burn, there’s not much you can do about it. She reached her home with minutes to spare. With two cats and one cat carrier, she ended up stuffing one in a pillow case and tossing both in the car. Then she bolted back into the house to save what she could. It was about 1:30 in the afternoon and the sky had darkened with soot. Ash was everywhere, inside the house as well as out,
and an orange glow was licking at the ridge line, edging ever closer. “I was rushing around sick to my stomach,” Sawyer says. “There was no rhyme or reason to what I was putting in the car. I grabbed a photo album, my skis, a computer, and bicycles.” “But not enough clothes,” she chuckles wryly. “Next time I’ll pack better.” There was only one way out of the canyon; if an ember had leapfrogged onto her escape route, there would have been no way out. She took one last look at her home and—still hopeful that this evacuation would turn out to be nothing more than a fire drill—thought, “This is going to be so much work putting everything back!” Sawyer retreated to her parents’ house in Simi Valley, where a friend phoned to tell her that the street Sue lived on was gone. Wow, she thought, I guess I’m homeless. The next morning, with the fire still gobbling up homes north of Los Angeles, Sawyer’s office phoned to ask if she would be coming in for the marketing meeting. Hey, that’s show biz! “I don’t have a toothbrush or any underwear,” she told the caller, “I think I’ll be a little late for work today.” A month later, Sawyer began her slow return from the weightlessness of the dispossessed. She was living in a rental home in Burbank and her friends and co-workers threw a surprise benefit party to help her pick up the pieces. “This outpouring of kindness was the best thing that happened after the fire,” she says. “These were not the wealthy people of the music business; these were the publicists and writers. The $50 checks that they gave meant so much to me. I still have the checks from the freelance writers. I didn’t cash them. They didn’t have a lot of money, and I still had a job. The irony was that those same people got hit by the [January 1994] earthquake a month later.” Sawyer has regained most of her zest. But part of that happy-go-lucky, young woman vanished that November morning. “I regret the loss of my books and my music,” she says. “And my love letters. I dated a lot of writers, so there were some incredible love letters. I regret that I didn’t really mourn what I had lost; I was changed by the loss, but I didn’t mourn it. I wish I had had some therapy, it would have helped.” From the ashes eventually there is growth. The élan that defined Sue Sawyer both personally and professionally was replaced with a “don’t sweat the little stuff” sensibility that has served her equally well. After a hiatus from the world of media marketing, she is working as an independent publicist for a boutique public relations firm in Los Angeles. And she bought another house, in Glendale, where she can hear her neighbors’ son practicing the piano. With a twinkle in her eye, she says that she would like to start playing again. EDGE
If you haven’t caught ANNE BURRELL on the hit series Worst Cooks in America, you’ve almost certainly seen her somewhere else. The Food Network star is, well, kind of hard to miss. Over the years, Anne’s big personality, signature hairstyle and culinary creativity have made an indelible impression on viewers of Secrets of a Restaurant Chef and patrons at Manhattan eateries Felidia, Savoy, Lumi and Centro Vinoteca. And, of course, there was her unforgettable stint as Mario Batali’s second in command on Iron Chef America. On Worst Cooks, Anne plays drill sergeant to a team of culinary clods as they go head-to-head with a platoon led by co-host Robert Irvine. Like most EDGE readers, Assignments Editor Zack Burgess has been known to whip up an Italian meal or two. He jumped at the opportunity to compare notes with one of America’s most engaging and innovative Italian chefs.
EDGE: What kind of town produces an Anne Burrell?
AB: I grew up in a tiny town in upstate New York. Very Beaver Cleaver-ville. Zero ethnicity, a very upper-middleclass, boring existence. I was like, “I have stuff I’ve got to do. I’ve got to get out of here.”
EDGE: Is your hair a recent thing, or does it date back to those days?
AB: I’ve always had wild hair—always, always. In high school and everything,
AB: I’ve always liked the spiky hair. What can I say? I’m a child of the 80’s.
EDGE: How did your family feel when they saw you gravitating to cooking?
AB: When I decided to cook there was no Food Network. It was before being a chef was cool. It was a strange thing, but it was the right thing for me. My mother was always very supportive. My dad was not supportive at first. He is now.
EDGE: Who was your culinary inspiration?
AB: I guess I can say I started having a culinary inspiration when I was three. I told my mother, “I have a friend named Julia.” Who? “Julia Child. I watch her every day on TV.” Over the years, I developed a love for all things Italian, so definitely Mario Batali and Lidia Bastianich.
EDGE: After training at CIA, why all things Italian?
AB: The Culinary Institute of America has a very French based curriculum. I loved learning and knowing how to cook, but it was the Italian mentality of the ingredients and the simplicity of everything that just spoke to me. EDGE: When people cook Italian at home, what is the thing they tend to overlook?
AB: A lot of people think that it’s just pasta and red sauce. There’s so much more to the kitchen than that. Get a really good olive oil and cook with the best ingredients that you can afford. Also, think about seasonality. There are so many things that are in season, and those are the things that taste the best.
EDGE: EDGE readers are brilliant cooks. But just for the record, give us the five things every kitchen should have.
AB: Well, if you’re remodeling a kitchen, get a really good stove and, if you can, get a stove with gas burners. I also like an island in a kitchen. Invest in a good set of knives and a good set of pots and pans. You can buy food processors and mixers, too, but I’m really about low-tech stuff— wooden spoons and food mills and rubber spatulas.
EDGE: When you’re working with America’s Worst Cooks, what is the first thing you try to convey to them?
AB: I have a little saying: Food is like a dog. It smells fear. If you’re nervous while you’re cooking, you’re food knows it and reacts. To become a confident cook you just need to practice and do it. If you don’t know how to do something, go do some research. Read your recipe before you start and follow it. Make sure you have all your ingredients and do your prep work before you cook. Get all your onions and garlic out. Clean as you go. Have a glass of wine. Cook with your family and friends. Then the process becomes fun.
EDGE: And healthier, too.
AB: Absolutely. Cooking at home is so much better for you. Fast food, or anything that comes in a bag loaded with salt, it’s just bad for you. Cook from scratch with fresh meat and fresh vegetables. People watch my show and comment on the amount of salt that I use. But the amount salt I use is nothing compared to what you get when buy food in a bag.
EDGE: Does it irritate you when a “confident” cook is overconfident about his or her actual skill?
AB: I like it when anybody tries. So whether people are really good cooks or just think of themselves as really good cooks, it’s all good. There’s nothing bad about that.
EDGE: How does a good cook become an even better one?
AB: I know a lot of people might think it’s daunting, but that’s because they just haven’t taken the time to learn how to do it. It really isn’t that hard. Once you spend your time and focus on something, it really isn’t that hard.
EDGE: So what makes a legitimately good cook?
AB: That’s very subjective. I always say, “You’re the chef of your own kitchen. If you like what’s going on and you like what you make, then you’re a good cook.”
EDGE: Really? What about the contestants on America’s Worst Cooks?
AB: Ah, but then they’re in my kitchen. And yes, I’ve seen some pretty horrendous things on Worst Cooks.
EDGE: What was your own personal Worst Cooks moment?
AB: One of the worst things I ever did was trying to do a persimmon sauce with persimmons that were not ripe. Persimmons are one of those things that if they are not ripe then they’re just terrible. I was simmering some persimmons around in some chicken stock and they had this crazy reaction. They turned this whitewashed gray color. Of course, it was right before service was starting and I had it on the menu and it was just a disaster. It was gross. I had to change the whole menu. It was very stressful, but now I look back on it and just laugh.
There are two kinds of home cooking. There is the home cooking that involves chopping and miles of counter space, measuring and splatter stains on the stove, heaving heavy pots and brandishing Brillo pads, finding the Microplane and losing time for a siesta. Simmering can describe the scene, from the time you issue an invitation until you pay the dry cleaner for getting red-wine stains out of grandma’s linens. This suits some folks. It suits them well. It even makes them happy. Then there is the “home” cooking that involves smart shopping. It makes you happy and allows you to retain control of your life. It’s home cooking with help. It requires little more than sourcing ingredients that ease food preparation. Whether you have a designer-showcase kitchen or little more than a galley, smart shopping is the means to a delicious end—particularly when you have neither the time nor inclination for the whole-nine-yards process. Exhale. This is fine. This is permissible. This is also fun. I know because I recently enjoyed mining a number of Union County’s best specialty food shops with an eye toward short-cutting the dinner party process. I bought a bounty of food—from raw ingredients to partially prepared options to ready-to-eat dishes—and saw what I could do with them. While I was shopping, I also picked up tips from fellow foragers who told me about a couple of restaurants they’d used as sources for takeout…and turned that takeout into smashingly successful dinner parties. A bounty, indeed. So, come shop with me. I’m sure when you step inside each of these six shops (and the two recommended restaurants), ideas will bubble to the top.
Alan’s Orchard • Westfield The new center of the locavore movement in these parts, Alan’s Orchards opened in September. It is owner Alan Weinberg’s intent to sell food—from poussin and grass-fed beef to in-season vegetables and cheese—all produced within a 150-mile radius. Enter the tidy and inspiring 1,000-square-foot shop and you’ll see that New Jersey’s got it going when it comes to quality ingredients. Pick a Griggstown Quail Farm’s chicken pot pie and rely on that as the centerpiece for a supper with friends. Snag a couple of cheeses from Valley Shepherd Creamery, just outside Long Valley, and partner them with Baker’s Bounty breads (typically found at New York’s famed Union Square Greenmarket) for starters. Buy whatever in-season fruits Alan has in store and make a warm compote drizzled with a local honey. Or choose a ready-made fruit pie and serve it with the frozen yogurt sold here. If you’re more ambitious, roast one of Griggstown’s chickens or poussins or break out the grill for a loin of pork from the High Hope Farms division of Ted Blew’s Oak Grove Farm in Pittstown. Alan’s happy to direct folks in need of certain seasonings and condiments to the Trader Joe’s in town. Two-stop shopping isn’t bad at all. But thanks to the high quality of the ingredients, you’ll need to do very, very little to make a big impression on your guests.
Union Pork Store • Union The sausage capital of the East Coast is owned and operated by Jabi. Jabi (as Jabi himself will tell you) is “a stage name, like Cher or Madonna.” No surname necessary. But no performer makes spicy mango chicken sausage or lamb-blue cheeserosemary sausage like Jabi and his crew. Jabi simply can’t stop creating. “We make at least one new sausage a week,” Jabi says as he packs up spicy Buffalo chicken sausages that deserve to be on Super Bowl watching menus everywhere, and ginger-chili bratwurst that takes the concept of fusion in new directions. My thoughts fly as I consider the more than 100 types of wursts, 20 kinds of kielbasa and tubs of prepared foods. Stuffed cabbage? Herring salad with beets? Time with Jabi is not for the faint of decision-making. Don’t leave without his spicy turkey sausages with chipotle and prunes. Cooked with cut-up root vegetables and diced tomatoes, they make for a dazzling Moroccan tagine, an exotic stew that can be served over rice, couscous or noodles. The myriad sausages also can be served simply in hot dog buns or hard rolls topped by a quick sauté of peppers and onions. A schmear of mustard is nice. But of the eight types I sampled, I have to say a Jabi creation needs no embellishment to be the star at your dinner.
The Greek Store • Kenilworth Since 1950, the Diamandas family has served forth at this small, crammed-full shop on Boulevard in Kenilworth. They’re one of the original ethnic grocers in the area, and they can take credit for introducing the masses to the delights of moussaka. Rifle through the freezers of local residents and you’ll find the Diamandases’ Greek meatballs waiting for that night when nothing else but a tangle of linguine topped with a few of those oregano-scented meat poufs will do. You also may find phyllo pies filled with spinach and cheese (aka spanokopita) and wedges of pastitsio, a lasagne-like casserole rich with eggy-creamy goodness. Don’t hesitate. Score some of these heat-and-eat entrees for tonight or for your next soirée. Then go to town with selections from The Greek Store’s olive bar and refrigerator case. Here all manner of dips in half-pound or full-pound sizes are sold. There are a good 30 different types of olives at the bar. There is no better way to launch a dinner party than by setting out a selection of Greek olives: Amfissa, the large and soft purplish-black variety from Delphi; Ionian, brine-cured green olives from the Peloponnesos; the traditional Kalamates, the fleshy favorite from Kalamata; Thassos, the oil-cured, dry type from the Aegean island of the same name. Partner these with one of the half-dozen varieties of feta, and lay all out with a spirited dip and pita chips. My personal favorite dip is the taramasalata, a decadent spread of fish roe and olive oil jazzed with nibs of shallots and herbs and a squeeze of lemon. Keep for yourself: a tub of tzatziki, the part-sauce, part-salad classic of sliced cucumbers rolling in thick Greek yogurt laced with mint and garlic. It’s restorative the morning after.
Mr. J’s Deli • Cranford Mr. J’s defines the concept of corner deli—corner deli with really, really good food, that is. Owned by Cranford native John Taggart, Mr. J’s is the breakfast-lunch hot spot locals pop into for pancakes or cold-cut sandwiches, but also know as their savior for to-go meals. Here you get your chicken parms, your sausage-and-peppers, your francaises, barbecued birds and pans of baked ziti and lasagna. It’s where traditional reigns—and those who only wish they had time to cook for their kid’s First Communion or the folks’ 50th anniversary go for a personal bail-out. Sure, there’s a sizable sit-down space, and many do partake daily of the corner deli’s in-store hospitality. But what you need to know when you’re in a pinch for party-ready takeout is the name of Mr. J’s signature dish: Sloppy Joe. There are almost as many Sloppy Joes out there as there are fellows named Joe. But these piled-high sandwiches, here cut into quarters for easy at-home serving, are superior. Turkey and Swiss are layered with a snappy Russian dressing and extra-rich cole slaw on rye. There are combos renowned for their compatibility: chocolate and hazelnut, for instance, or smoked salmon and cream cheese. But turkey, Swiss, Russian and a phenomenal homemade cole slaw is sandwich nirvana. This winter, when you’re suffering from terminal envy of those vacationing on a sunny Caribbean island, lay out a spread of Mr. J’s Sloppy Joes with a side show of sausages doing a do-si-do with peppers. Home, sweet home.
Pinho’s Bakery • Roselle Raul and Julia Pinho first landed in Newark’s Ironbound, then bounded down to Roselle to open the muchneeded Portuguese bakery that locals quickly made a regular pit-stop. Pinho’s doesn’t stint on anything, especially variety. There are fist-size rolls and there are divine, pillowy Portuguese babkas, a slightly sweetened bread that suits for breakfast as well as it partners with a rousing Mediterranean-inspired stew for dinner. There are pastries ranging from Rococo to Spartan in style. Meaning, you can get what you need as accompaniments to your dinner at home without fussing over flour, water, butter and sugar. Just don’t forget to tote home Pinho’s specialty: nata, or custard cups. The little round eggy creations fly out of the store. But the Pinho’s crew makes them constantly. For good reason.
Bovella’s • Westfield Bovella’s has been around since 1949, when it was born in Plainfield as the sweet dream of Michael Bove. Some 36 years ago, Bove moved his pastry shop to Westfield, eventually passing its proprietorship onto family and co-workers. Today it’s owned by Ralph Bencivenga, who can’t remember not working at Bovella’s. That’s a little history. For residents of Union County, Bovella’s is their pastry past, present and future. For some, there are no birthdays without a Bovella cake. No Christmas Eves without a Bovella cannoli. No Easters without a Bovella chocolate-fudge cake. I may not be able to imagine life without a Bovella chocolate mousse bombe. I thought the cannolis and cannoli cake exemplary, the mini fudge balls addictive, the basic raisin scones and blueberry muffins fine ways to start the day. But that bombe — partnering a chocolate cookie of a cake and a spiraling mass of chocolate mousse—is one blast of a confection.
Star of India • Kenilworth Cozy and softly lit, this Indian restaurant is worth your time for a sitdown feast. But I was putting on an Indian-cuisine home show for friends as, well, a lip-syncher might. So I ordered, had it packed to-go, then served it all up without breaking a sweat. I started things off with a handful of crisp, pert cheese fritters (paneer, or panir, pakora) and a spirited little stew of chickpeas and potatoes called aloo chola. Americans don’t pair chickpeas and potatoes nearly enough, I thought as I ate. Next, shrimp slow-cooked in a warmly spiced coconut-milk bath (shrimp nirgisi) and chicken in the gentlest yogurtbased sauce infused with tomatoes and onions (chicken pishwari). A winning twosome, any night of the week. Cooks in India have a mastery of eggplant—never, ever pigeon-holing the vegetable. Need evidence? Try Star of India’s Punjabi-style eggplant (baingan bhurta) cooked in a tandoor oven with tomatoes, peas, onions and a judicious amount of fresh ginger. Don’t forget to include the crown jewel of this restaurant’s biryani selection, saffron-scented rice studded with chunks of chicken, lamb and shrimp. Paella of another stripe. I was struck by how easily the food here transported and reheated. It was a smash hit dinner for six.
Thailand Restaurant • Clark Set in an old diner in Clark, Thailand Restaurant has fired up local palates for years. As I waited for takeout, regulars told me it’s the one Thai spot they can count on for authentic fare. “They don’t dumb it down here,” said a gent presiding over a table of eight. “It’s not sweet-sour Thai. The spices are more evolved.” He was right, I learned, when I took a passel of soups, salads and a grand rice noodle dish to the home of friends who live nearby. Gulf of Siam is a hot-and-sour soup in which chilies and lemongrass warm both shellfish and finfish and mushrooms and tomatoes offer a calming backdrop. The seasonings don’t fight with the fishes; they complement. In the coconut milk-based soup tom-kha gai, chunks of chicken laze about the surprisingly light broth amid riffs of lemongrass and kaffir lime. In tom yum puk, a feisty little soup chunked with Asian vegetables and tofu, the lemongrass-lime component comes on stronger. As it should. We swooned over the Grand Palace Salad, a veritable party of grilled beef plied with onions and smacked with chilies and lime. There was no letdown with the nato-sad salad, a rather unusual toss of ginger-licked ground pork enlivened by onions and made elegant by the addition of cashews. I’m an easy mark for rice noodle dishes and my new favorite is Thailand Restaurant’s pad kee mna puk, a melange of those silky noodles, crispy fried tofu, egg, Thai basil and shards of vegetables. Sigh. I’ve got to learn to cook like this.
Editor’s Note: Andy Clurfield is a former editor of Zagat New Jersey. The longtime food critic for the Asbury Park Press also has been published in Gourmet, Saveur and Town & Country, and on epicurious.com.
Where would the planet be without New Jersey? Resist, if you can, the urge to crack wise and consider seriously for a moment the gravity of this question. Yes, we have given the world an occasional glimpse of our seamier underside. A submerged mobster may resurface from time to time in the Hackensack River. Occasionally a few civic leaders might get mixed up in some organ theft. And, okay, far too many of our youth are comfortable using the word “allegedly.” However, these are all mere jug handles on the road to greatness that our state has traveled. In these pages, EDGE celebrates the remarkable people, places and things that make New Jersey the hottest thing going.
New Jersey’s coolest “crooners”…
1. Frank Sinatra (Hoboken) Never recorded Newark, Newark. Why?
2. Dionne Warwick (East Orange) Her collaboration with Burt Bacharach made music history.
3. Paul Robeson (Princeton) Magnificent bass-baritone and stage actor, his three-year run as Othello in the 1940s still holds the Broadway record for any Shakespeare play.
4. Frankie Valli (Newark) Just too good to be true. He made Jersey Boys as famous as Jersey Girls.
5. Connie Francis (Newark) Where the Boys Are star grew up in the Ironbound neighborhood. Honorable Mention: Donald Fagen (Passaic) Depends on whether or not you like Steely Dan.
New Jersey’s coolest jazz artists…
1. Count Basie (Red Bank) Led his own groundbreaking band for 50 years.
2. Sarah Vaughn (Newark) Her PBS performance with the NJ Symphony in 1980 ranks among the greatest TV moments in jazz history.
3. Dizzy Gillespie (Englewood) Those cheeks…spectacular!
4. Jimmy Johnson (New Brunswick) Gifted pianist helped transform Ragtime into early jazz.
5. Wayne Shorter (Newark) Saxophone virtuoso was a Newark Arts High School grad.
Honorable Mention: George Benson (Englewood Cliffs) Legendary jazz guitarist is a long-time Bergen County resident.
New Jersey’s coolest rap and hip-hop stars…
1. Queen Latifah (Newark) Just celebrated her 20th year in the biz.
2. Lauryn Hill (South Orange) She and Zach Braff were friends and classmates at Columbia High in Maplewood.
3. Ice T (Newark) From Gansta Rap pioneer to TV cop on Law & Order SVU. Only in America.
4. Poor Righteous Teachers (Trenton) Who could forget this socially conscious hip-hop trio’s haunting single, Butt Naked Booty Bless?
5. Faith Evans (Newark) Wife of the late Notorious B.I.G. has three platinum albums to her credit.
Honorable Mention: Naughty By Nature (East Orange) Renamed East Orange “Ill-town.” But you knew that already, didn’t you?
New Jersey’s coolest music superstars…
1. Bruce Springsteen (Freehold) The Boss. Top of the list. Period.
2. Whitney Houston (East Orange) First wowed the world as a teen soloist at the New Hope Baptist Church in Newark.
3. Jon Bon Jovi (Sayreville) The hits keep coming.
4. Southside Johnny (Ocean Grove) The hippest thing ever to come out of Ocean Grove.
5. Les Paul and Mary Ford (Mahwah) Their Bergen County home studio turned out a bunch of #1 hits in the early ’50s.
Honorable Mention: Paul Simon (Newark) Moved to Queens when he was a baby, so not a “real” New Jerseyan. No truth to the rumor that Bridge Over Troubled Waters was actually the Goethals Bridge.
New Jersey’s coolest acting talent…
1. Meryl Streep (Summit) A Bernards High School grad!
2. Jack Nicholson (Neptune City) You make me want to be a better man.
3. Ed Harris (Tenafly) Captain of the Tenafly High football team.
4. Tom Cruise (Glen Ridge) Cut from the Glen Ridge High football team.
5. Bruce Willis (Penns Grove) We forgive you for Hudson Hawk. Actually, no we don’t.
Honorable Mention: Frank Langella (Bayonne) He brought Dracula to life on Broadway.
New Jersey’s coolest mobbed-up television and movie stars…
1. James Gandolfini (Westwood) Raised in Park Ridge,
graduated from Rutgers— a bona fide Jersey Boy.
2. Ray Liotta (Union) You’re a pistol, you’re really funny.
3. Joe Pesci (Newark) I’m funny how? I mean funny like I’m a clown? I amuse you? I make you laugh? I’m here to amuse you? What do you mean funny? Funny how? How am I funny?
4. Steven Van Zandt (Middletown) A member of the E Street Band and The Sopranos… that’s a Jersey Double.
5. Joe Pantoliano (Hoboken) Joey Pants, yet another Sopranos alum.
Honorable Mention: Sterling Hayden (Upper Montclair) Film Noir heavy played the police captain gunned down by Michael Corleone in The Godfather.
New Jersey’s coolest authors and poets…
1. Allen Ginsberg (Paterson) The best of the Beat Generation poets.
2. Dorothy Parker (Long Branch) A leading light of the fabled Algonquin Roundtable.
3. Norman Mailer (Long Branch) The Naked and the Dead was on the best-seller list for 62 weeks.
4. Philip Roth (Newark) Several of his novels are set in Newark’s old Weequahic neighborhood.
5. William Carlos Williams (Rutherford) Haven’t read the epic poem Paterson? And you call yourself a New Jerseyan!
Honorable Mention: Walt Whitman (Camden) His New Jersey retirement cottage was the epicenter of American literary culture in the late 1880s.
New Jersey’s coolest comic performers…
1. Jon Stewart (Lawrenceville) Reminds us each night that the news is an inexhaustible source of laughs.
2. Danny DeVito (Neptune) Grew up in Asbury Park, went to boarding school (Louie DePalma—a preppie?) in Summit.
3. Bud Abbott (Asbury Park) and Lou Costello (Paterson) Heyyyyy Aaaabbottttt!
4. Nathan Lane (Jersey City) Born Joe Lane, he changed his name to Nathan in honor of Nathan Detroit of Guys and Dolls.
5. Ernie Kovacs (Trenton) Only a guy from New Jersey could have come up with a three gorilla version of Swan Lake.
Honorable Mention: Jerry Lewis (Newark) Ranks higher on French lists.
New Jersey’s coolest pugilists…
1. Joe Walcott (Merchantville) Won the heavyweight crown at age 37. Anyone nicknamed Jersey Joe goes to the top of the list, right?
2. Marvin Hagler (Newark) Marvelous Marvin was undisputed champion for almost eight years.
3. James Braddock (North Bergen) Played by Russell Crowe on the screen, the Cinderella Man was born in New York but fought out of Hudson County.
4. Mickey Walker (Elizabeth) A beloved champion, the middleweight often beat heavier boxers.
5. Tony Galento (Orange) Two-Ton Tony once knocked down Joe Louis in a title fight. He also wrestled a bear and an octopus, and acted in Guys and Dolls and On the Waterfront.
Honorable Mention: Hurricane Carter
New Jersey’s coolest political figures…
1. Grover Cleveland (Caldwell) Our 24th President, and the only one from the Garden State.
2. Aaron Burr (Newark) Killed Alexander Hamilton and tried to start his own county. Those nutty Princeton grads!
3. Frank Hague (Jersey City) For 30 years, no one in the state sneezed without his permission.
4. Thomas Kean (Hillside) 9/11 Commissioner set the bar high for NJ governors.
5. William Brennan (Newark) Progressive Supreme Court Justice was best known for his “absence of malice” stand.
Honorable Mention: Chris Christie (Newark) Um…we’re still waiting for that groundbreaking EDGE interview.
New Jersey’s coolest cultural pioneers…
1. Alice Paul (Mt. Laurel) Took the fight for suffrage to unprecedented heights and won wo
men the right to vote in 1918.
2. Buzz Aldrin (Glen Ridge) His mom’s maiden name was—you guessed it—Moon.
3. Bull Halsey (Elizabeth) Guided the USS Enterprise through key battles in World War II.
4. James Marshall (Hopewell Twp.) The original Blingmeister—first to discover gold in California.
5. Alfred Kinsey (Hoboken) Known as the Father of Sexology….wait, I thought that was Barry White.
Honorable Mention: Martha Stewart (Nutley) Thanks to her, we all can be perfect.
New Jersey’s coolest coaches…
1. Amos Alonzo Stagg (West Orange) A member of the very first All-America team in 1889, he went on to rewrite the playbook for college football.
2. Vince Lombardi (Englewood) Began his legendary coaching career at St. Cecilia’s in Bergen County. More importantly, has a rest stop named after him on the NJ Turnpike.
3. Bill Parcells (Hasbrouck Heights) The Big Tuna was born and raised in Bergen County.
4. Bob Hurley, Sr. (Jersey City) 900-plus victories, 20-plus championships and the coach behind the Miracle of St. Anthony’s.
5. Gene Wettstone (West New York) Gymnastics guru coached Penn State to nine national championships between 1948 and 1976.
Honorable Mention: Effa Manley (Newark) Co-owned (but never coached) the Newark Eagles in the 1930s and 1940s, she was the first woman enshrined in the Baseball
New Jersey’s coolest sports leaders…
1. Carl Lewis (Willingboro) Won Olympic gold in ’84, ‘88, ‘92 and ‘96. Top that Michael Phelps.
2. Marty Liquori (Cedar Grove) Marty ran a sub-4:00 mile… in high school!
3. Rick Barry (Roselle Park) Last of the underhand free throw shooters.
4. Larry Doby (Paterson) He and Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color line in 1947.
5. Franco Harris (Mt. Holly) Steelers’ star was John Grisham’s favorite football player.
Honorable Mention: Derek Jeter (Pequannock Twp.) and Shaquille O’Neal (Newark) Both were born in Jersey but grew up elsewhere, so it’s a tie.
New Jersey’s coolest sporting events…
1. Princeton vs. Rutgers (New Brunswick 1869) The first intercollegiate football game. The first tailgaters convened three hours before kickoff.
2. Cosmos vs. Santos (East Rutherford 1977) In his farewell game in jam-packed Giants Stadium, Pele scored in the first half for the Cosmos, then switched sides and scored for his old Brazilian team in the second half. His fame helped America land World Cup 94.
3. Jersey City Giants vs. Montreal Royals (Jersey City 1946) In his first game as a pro, Jackie Robinson electrified the crowd at Roosevelt Stadium with four hits and four runs in Montreal’s 14–1 victory.
4. Ederle Sets Record (Sandy Hook 1925) Gertrude Ederle set a record for the 21-mile swim that stood for more than 80 years. A year later she stroked her way across the English Channel.
5. Knickerbocker Club vs. New York Club (Hoboken 1846) The famous
“first” baseball game took place at the Elysian Field. Shhh…rumor has it that baseball was being played for 20 years before this in New York City.
Honorable Mention: Let Pepe Play! (Trenton 1974) Two years after Little League Baseball banned Hoboken’s Maria Pepe from playing with the boys, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled in her favor. Today 50,000 girls play Little League baseball!
New Jersey’s coolest roadways…
1. Boulevard East (Weehawken) New Yorkers pay through the nose for their Hudson River apartments, but the million-dollar view is really from the Jersey side in Northern Hudson County.
2. Green Sergeant’s Bridge (Sergeantsville) Beloved covered bridge. Scheduled to be replaced in 1960, it was rebuilt after public outcry from the people of Sergeantsville and their neighbors.
3. George Washington Bridge Iconic structure drops to #3 here because half of it is in New York.
4. Pulaski Skyway This engineering marvel gained national historic status in 2005.
5. Oceanic Bridge (Rumson & Middletown) Spanning Monmouth County’s Navesink River, it’s considered by many to be the most beautiful bridge in the state.
Honorable Mention: Bayonne Bridge One of the longest and loveliest steel arch bridges in the world.
New Jersey’s coolest tourist destinations…
1. Statue of Liberty As of 1987, Liberty Island is officially ours!
2. Atlantic City Boardwalk The longest boardwalk in the world…. but sadly, no longer home to the Miss America Pageant.
3. Jersey Shore From Sandy Hook south, more than 120 miles of beautiful beaches.
4. Cape May New Jersey’s #1 tourist destination.
5. Twin Lights The Highlands landmark was America’s launch pad for optics, wireless communications and radar technology.
Honorable Mention: Ellis Island Among the immigrants who came through this gateway were Bob Hope, Bela Lugosi, Charles Atlas and Chef Boyardee.
Coolest New Jersey inventions…
1. Light Bulb (Edison) Edison was actually known as Raritan Township at the time.
2. Movie Camera (Edison) Menlo Park Mall is good. Menlo Park Museum is better.
3. Phonograph (Edison) Another Edison invention. Noticing a pattern here?
4. Transistor (New Providence) A little power in, a lot of power out. The first working one came out of Bell Labs in 1947.
5. Charge-Coupled Device (Holmdel) Another miracle from Bell Labs, circa 1969. The CCD is the key component in optical devices ranging from the Hubble Telescope to the camera in your cell phone.
Honorable Mention: Electric Chair (Edison) and Jughandle (Montville) A tie—quick death vs. slow one.
Coolest New Jersey discoveries…
1. Radio (Highlands) Marconi proved the commercial viability of wireless communication here in 1899.
2. The Big Bang (Holmdel) Robert Wilson and Arno Penzias proved this controversial theory with their experiments in cosmic background radiation at Bell Labs in 1964.
3. Dinosaurs (Haddonfield) The 1858 discovery of the aptly named Hadrosaur in a New Jersey marl pit launched American paleontology.
4. Antibiotics (Piscataway) Rutgers-educated Nobel Prize winner Selman Waksman developed (and named) these disease-fighting drugs in the 1940s.
5. Zincite (Franklin) Rare zinc oxide crystals, abundant only in New Jersey, were the “crystals” used in the first radio Crystal Sets before the advent of vacuum tubes.
Honorable Mention: Valium (Nutley) Making it all better since 1963. Thank you, Hoffmann–La Roche.
New Jersey’s coolest headlines…
1. Hindenburg Disaster (Lakehurst 1937) Definitely not a miracle of German engineering.
2. Lindbergh Kidnapping (East Amwell 1932) H.L. Mencken called the abduction of the hero aviator’s son the “biggest story since the Resurrection.”
3. Martian Landing (Grover’s Mill 1938) Orson Welles’s Halloween prank proved the power of radio.
4. President Garfield Dies (Elberon 1881) He moved to the Jersey Shore two months after an assassination attempt and died 13 days later.
5. Black Tom Blast (Jersey City 1916) World War I sabotage in New York Harbor riddled the Statue of Liberty and shook windows all the way to Philadelphia.
Honorable Mention: Washington Crosses the Delaware (Titusville 1776) No actual headlines, but too important to leave out.
New Jersey’s coolest edibles…
1. Jersey Tomatoes Technically a fruit… which is probably why it’s New Jersey’s official state vegetable.
2. Jersey White Corn Sweet and tender. Hey, no stripping the corn in the store!
3. Salt Water Taffy Your dentist has just ordered new furniture for his living room.
4. Jersey Blueberries Once thought to be poisonous, today’s blueberries are the result of early genetic engineering.
5. Jersey Eggplant We grow more than any state in the nation. Can you say rollatini?
Honorable Mention: Taylor Pork Roll Introduced by John Taylor of Trenton. Unchanged since the 1850s. Why mess with…urp…perfection?
New Jersey’s coolest cultural “firsts”…
1. Air Mail The first Air Mail service went via sea plane from Keyport to Chicago in the 1920s.
2. Diners The first gleaming pre-fab diners were made in Elizabeth during World War I.
3. Drive-In Movies The world’s first opened for business in Pennsauken in 1933.
4. Lazy Susan Keyport again! The first was produced by William Beadle in 1854.
5. Campbell’s Soup The Camden company was an international brand more than a half-century before Andy Warhol turned its cans into pop art. Now sold in 120 countries.
Honorable Mention: MTV’s Jersey Shore Proving you don’t have to be good to be cool.
Some final cool things about New Jersey that the world has yet to fully appreciate…
1. No Self-Serve Gas If I had the choice, I’d never fill ’er up in another state.
2. Pledge of Allegiance First recited as the National Loyalty Oath at the Twin Lights in Highlands in 1893.
3. The Pine Barrens A UN International Biosphere Reserve and home of the Jersey Devil. What’s not to like?
4. Omission of T’s in the middle of words Mitten, Kitten, Bitten.
5. Omission of R’s at the end of words …Ovuh, Rovuh, Clovuh.
Honorable Mention: Kelly Ripa Liked her on All My Children. Love her on Live with Regis.
Editor’s Note: Thanks to Christine Gibbs, Rachel Rutledge, Mariah Morgan, Caleb MacLean and Lily Kennedy for their work on this feature. Special thanks to the Twin Light Historical Society (twin-lights.org). Memorabilia images courtesy of Upper Case Editorial Services.