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Hey Welcome! I’m Crispina ffrench
Artist, Educator, Empowerer, Plant Eater,
Nature Lover, Cookie Baker, Climate Change Activist
I’m glad you are here, Now let’s make shift happen.

Spotlight - Janet Elsbach

Janet, of A Raisin and A Porpoise, talks about life and her cookbook Extra Helping

Spotlight is a column here on Rag, where every-so-often a feature will land in the form of a virtual interview. The focus is on slow-living, kindness, environmentalism, and creativity. If you would like to nominate yourself or someone you know to be featured please submit your idea in up to 200 words along with 2 images that support your story.

photo credit: Kenzie Fields
1.     Tell our readers a little about you, and your history, your passion, your work.

I am a writer, teacher and connector who lives in rural Western MA. I grew up between here and NYC, and chose trees over buildings about 30 years ago. Little known fact: as a tiny tot, I took pottery classes from Crispina’s dad, the magical John ffrench, at the DolphinStudio inhabited by their whole magical family, and dreamed of just quietly slipping in among them and living the same colorful, connected life the place hummed with.

I teach writing to adults with disabilities at an organization called CATA (Community Access to the Arts), where I have worked and taught some combination of writing and fiber arts for almost as long as I’ve lived here. The principles of ‘embrace, celebrate, connect’ that the work embodies are central for me as a human.

 

My bio says that I write about how all the numerous things going on in the average life collide with making dinner on my blog A Raisin & a Porpoise. That I am a home cook inspired by seasonal food, the particular cravings of the people I feed, and the idea of bringing people together at the table.  Lately the loudest piece is the connection and sustenance part. We all have to find our place in the push for change and I am leaning hard into that role.

 
2.     If you had the power to make one change in the world what would it be?

When I was in my 20s and at loggerheads with my dad over something or other, I kept a picture of him as a baby over my desk. If we were arguing on the phone, or in my head, I would stare at it, seeing traces of his adult face in the little fat baby cheeks, taking in the details of his vulnerable and adorable little form, his chubby hand clasped on a corner of the blanket he was chewing. If we were talking magical powers, which is where my head went immediately before re-reading the question, I’d make it impossible to look at another human without perceiving this vulnerable origin, without seeing their humanity first.

 

If we are talking about the actual question (not my strength sometimes!), there is only one way to answer at this particular moment in time, which is to defund the police and invest in addressing needs first: mental health, education, housing, land, and my old friend, food.. I warmly recommend two things to look into: Junauda Petrus’ poem, Give the Police Departments to the Grandmothers, and the work of Andre Henry, who is offering really powerful leadership on the kinds of “radical imagining” it will take to lift us all forward. A poem I was gripped by long ago, by William Carlos Williams, says “Imagination lifts us above the sorry facts, to make roses stand before thorns.”

 

Whether it’s a poem tucked into your wallet or your playlists for calm (or revolution) or the massive consumption of streaming services since the shutdown, we turn to the arts first for comfort and for inspiration. If I get a second crack at world change, it’s reminding everyone of that. The arts take the first cut at belt-tightening time, but they are the first line of remedy and sustenance we hunger for when things get real. Alignment is called for.

3   What are you most passionate about?

I love to feed people. I love to feed them exactly what they crave and what their bodies need. I love to connect people to resources, people to other people, any being (I work a lot with animals) to the tools and nourishment that will support them best.

4.     How did this passion come to be?

I grew up in a house where the table was the center of things, and food the most enduring love language. The particular fascination with cravings and needs and healing was intensified when several family members encountered serious illness. I lost my sister to cancer seven years ago. One of my kids lives with a chronic illness. During my sister’s illness and loss, the ways I could meet her with food and the ways my own family was held by our community with food (along with the insistence of my band of female advisors) is how my book became a book.

 

5.     Who/What has been most influential in your work/life?

Having children changed how I look at everything. The way my heart feels when I think of them is the magic lens that works like the baby picture over my desk. Everyone wants safety, nourishment and possibility for their babies, for themselves, for their communities.

 

In terms of people in my area of operations to be inspired by, here’s two. Historically, Laurie Colwin’s writing about food helped me see a place for home cooks in the world of food and normalized the level of nerddom I indulged in about what is the right thing to feed to whom and when. Representation fuels imagination. In modern terms, I love the work of Julia Turshen, who wrote the foreword to my book. Her model of collaboration and celebration/sharing and amplifying celebrates how broadening our scope and sharing what we have makes more available for everyone.

 

6.     Tell about a life transformation you have experienced.

 Grief can be transformative if you sit with it, I’ve found.

 

7.     Do you have an upcoming event or significant happening that you would like to promote?  When? Where? Details and contact information please.

The gorgeous paper cuts of artist Anna Brones are inseparable for me from the book’s ideas now. She generously contributed the use of the cover art to an ongoing fundraiser I am running, a t-shirt that can be found here, with all sales income shared between the Nourishing Neighbors dinner program at Berkshire South and Feeding America.

 

 

Spotlight - Janet Elsbach

Janet, of A Raisin and A Porpoise, talks about life and her cookbook Extra Helping

Spotlight is a column here on Rag, where every-so-often a feature will land in the form of a virtual interview. The focus is on slow-living, kindness, environmentalism, and creativity. If you would like to nominate yourself or someone you know to be featured please submit your idea in up to 200 words along with 2 images that support your story.

photo credit: Kenzie Fields
1.     Tell our readers a little about you, and your history, your passion, your work.

I am a writer, teacher and connector who lives in rural Western MA. I grew up between here and NYC, and chose trees over buildings about 30 years ago. Little known fact: as a tiny tot, I took pottery classes from Crispina’s dad, the magical John ffrench, at the DolphinStudio inhabited by their whole magical family, and dreamed of just quietly slipping in among them and living the same colorful, connected life the place hummed with.

I teach writing to adults with disabilities at an organization called CATA (Community Access to the Arts), where I have worked and taught some combination of writing and fiber arts for almost as long as I’ve lived here. The principles of ‘embrace, celebrate, connect’ that the work embodies are central for me as a human.

 

My bio says that I write about how all the numerous things going on in the average life collide with making dinner on my blog A Raisin & a Porpoise. That I am a home cook inspired by seasonal food, the particular cravings of the people I feed, and the idea of bringing people together at the table.  Lately the loudest piece is the connection and sustenance part. We all have to find our place in the push for change and I am leaning hard into that role.

 
2.     If you had the power to make one change in the world what would it be?

When I was in my 20s and at loggerheads with my dad over something or other, I kept a picture of him as a baby over my desk. If we were arguing on the phone, or in my head, I would stare at it, seeing traces of his adult face in the little fat baby cheeks, taking in the details of his vulnerable and adorable little form, his chubby hand clasped on a corner of the blanket he was chewing. If we were talking magical powers, which is where my head went immediately before re-reading the question, I’d make it impossible to look at another human without perceiving this vulnerable origin, without seeing their humanity first.

 

If we are talking about the actual question (not my strength sometimes!), there is only one way to answer at this particular moment in time, which is to defund the police and invest in addressing needs first: mental health, education, housing, land, and my old friend, food.. I warmly recommend two things to look into: Junauda Petrus’ poem, Give the Police Departments to the Grandmothers, and the work of Andre Henry, who is offering really powerful leadership on the kinds of “radical imagining” it will take to lift us all forward. A poem I was gripped by long ago, by William Carlos Williams, says “Imagination lifts us above the sorry facts, to make roses stand before thorns.”

 

Whether it’s a poem tucked into your wallet or your playlists for calm (or revolution) or the massive consumption of streaming services since the shutdown, we turn to the arts first for comfort and for inspiration. If I get a second crack at world change, it’s reminding everyone of that. The arts take the first cut at belt-tightening time, but they are the first line of remedy and sustenance we hunger for when things get real. Alignment is called for.

3   What are you most passionate about?

I love to feed people. I love to feed them exactly what they crave and what their bodies need. I love to connect people to resources, people to other people, any being (I work a lot with animals) to the tools and nourishment that will support them best.

4.     How did this passion come to be?

I grew up in a house where the table was the center of things, and food the most enduring love language. The particular fascination with cravings and needs and healing was intensified when several family members encountered serious illness. I lost my sister to cancer seven years ago. One of my kids lives with a chronic illness. During my sister’s illness and loss, the ways I could meet her with food and the ways my own family was held by our community with food (along with the insistence of my band of female advisors) is how my book became a book.

 

5.     Who/What has been most influential in your work/life?

Having children changed how I look at everything. The way my heart feels when I think of them is the magic lens that works like the baby picture over my desk. Everyone wants safety, nourishment and possibility for their babies, for themselves, for their communities.

 

In terms of people in my area of operations to be inspired by, here’s two. Historically, Laurie Colwin’s writing about food helped me see a place for home cooks in the world of food and normalized the level of nerddom I indulged in about what is the right thing to feed to whom and when. Representation fuels imagination. In modern terms, I love the work of Julia Turshen, who wrote the foreword to my book. Her model of collaboration and celebration/sharing and amplifying celebrates how broadening our scope and sharing what we have makes more available for everyone.

 

6.     Tell about a life transformation you have experienced.

 Grief can be transformative if you sit with it, I’ve found.

 

7.     Do you have an upcoming event or significant happening that you would like to promote?  When? Where? Details and contact information please.

The gorgeous paper cuts of artist Anna Brones are inseparable for me from the book’s ideas now. She generously contributed the use of the cover art to an ongoing fundraiser I am running, a t-shirt that can be found here, with all sales income shared between the Nourishing Neighbors dinner program at Berkshire South and Feeding America.

 

 

Spotlight - Janet Elsbach

Janet, of A Raisin and A Porpoise, talks about life and her cookbook Extra Helping

Spotlight is a column here on Rag, where every-so-often a feature will land in the form of a virtual interview. The focus is on slow-living, kindness, environmentalism, and creativity. If you would like to nominate yourself or someone you know to be featured please submit your idea in up to 200 words along with 2 images that support your story.

photo credit: Kenzie Fields
1.     Tell our readers a little about you, and your history, your passion, your work.

I am a writer, teacher and connector who lives in rural Western MA. I grew up between here and NYC, and chose trees over buildings about 30 years ago. Little known fact: as a tiny tot, I took pottery classes from Crispina’s dad, the magical John ffrench, at the DolphinStudio inhabited by their whole magical family, and dreamed of just quietly slipping in among them and living the same colorful, connected life the place hummed with.

I teach writing to adults with disabilities at an organization called CATA (Community Access to the Arts), where I have worked and taught some combination of writing and fiber arts for almost as long as I’ve lived here. The principles of ‘embrace, celebrate, connect’ that the work embodies are central for me as a human.

 

My bio says that I write about how all the numerous things going on in the average life collide with making dinner on my blog A Raisin & a Porpoise. That I am a home cook inspired by seasonal food, the particular cravings of the people I feed, and the idea of bringing people together at the table.  Lately the loudest piece is the connection and sustenance part. We all have to find our place in the push for change and I am leaning hard into that role.

 
2.     If you had the power to make one change in the world what would it be?

When I was in my 20s and at loggerheads with my dad over something or other, I kept a picture of him as a baby over my desk. If we were arguing on the phone, or in my head, I would stare at it, seeing traces of his adult face in the little fat baby cheeks, taking in the details of his vulnerable and adorable little form, his chubby hand clasped on a corner of the blanket he was chewing. If we were talking magical powers, which is where my head went immediately before re-reading the question, I’d make it impossible to look at another human without perceiving this vulnerable origin, without seeing their humanity first.

 

If we are talking about the actual question (not my strength sometimes!), there is only one way to answer at this particular moment in time, which is to defund the police and invest in addressing needs first: mental health, education, housing, land, and my old friend, food.. I warmly recommend two things to look into: Junauda Petrus’ poem, Give the Police Departments to the Grandmothers, and the work of Andre Henry, who is offering really powerful leadership on the kinds of “radical imagining” it will take to lift us all forward. A poem I was gripped by long ago, by William Carlos Williams, says “Imagination lifts us above the sorry facts, to make roses stand before thorns.”

 

Whether it’s a poem tucked into your wallet or your playlists for calm (or revolution) or the massive consumption of streaming services since the shutdown, we turn to the arts first for comfort and for inspiration. If I get a second crack at world change, it’s reminding everyone of that. The arts take the first cut at belt-tightening time, but they are the first line of remedy and sustenance we hunger for when things get real. Alignment is called for.

3   What are you most passionate about?

I love to feed people. I love to feed them exactly what they crave and what their bodies need. I love to connect people to resources, people to other people, any being (I work a lot with animals) to the tools and nourishment that will support them best.

4.     How did this passion come to be?

I grew up in a house where the table was the center of things, and food the most enduring love language. The particular fascination with cravings and needs and healing was intensified when several family members encountered serious illness. I lost my sister to cancer seven years ago. One of my kids lives with a chronic illness. During my sister’s illness and loss, the ways I could meet her with food and the ways my own family was held by our community with food (along with the insistence of my band of female advisors) is how my book became a book.

 

5.     Who/What has been most influential in your work/life?

Having children changed how I look at everything. The way my heart feels when I think of them is the magic lens that works like the baby picture over my desk. Everyone wants safety, nourishment and possibility for their babies, for themselves, for their communities.

 

In terms of people in my area of operations to be inspired by, here’s two. Historically, Laurie Colwin’s writing about food helped me see a place for home cooks in the world of food and normalized the level of nerddom I indulged in about what is the right thing to feed to whom and when. Representation fuels imagination. In modern terms, I love the work of Julia Turshen, who wrote the foreword to my book. Her model of collaboration and celebration/sharing and amplifying celebrates how broadening our scope and sharing what we have makes more available for everyone.

 

6.     Tell about a life transformation you have experienced.

 Grief can be transformative if you sit with it, I’ve found.

 

7.     Do you have an upcoming event or significant happening that you would like to promote?  When? Where? Details and contact information please.

The gorgeous paper cuts of artist Anna Brones are inseparable for me from the book’s ideas now. She generously contributed the use of the cover art to an ongoing fundraiser I am running, a t-shirt that can be found here, with all sales income shared between the Nourishing Neighbors dinner program at Berkshire South and Feeding America.

 

 

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