Bee Afraid

Philadelphia author educates and entertains with his latest eco-thriller, Deadout

Too often, the message of sustainability is delivered in a heavy-handed and humorless way. That’s why Jon McGoran’s delightful books with doomsday plots are so welcomed. Drift and Deadout, the first two books in a trilogy about the adventures of Doyle Carrick, a good-hearted but reckless detective, fall under the category of “eco-thriller.” At their core, the books offer the pure entertainment of a “good guys vs. bad guys” story, but McGoran manages to introduce ideas about food safety and sovereignty in a gentle way, and from the differing perspectives of fully-fleshed characters. In Deadout, released in August by Forge Books, the plot revolves around the disappearance of native honey bees, and a corporation with a genetically modified bee ready to come to the rescue. Grid caught up with our former editor in chief to discuss his latest work. 

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The Art of the Meal

Chef Eli Collins of Pub & Kitchen describes the ingredients in his still life and how they are used in his signature dish. Image by Mike Persico.

Students learn the relationship between food and art
from Philadelphia’s top chefs

As a new art teacher, it felt natural for Deva Watson, also a food runner at Zahav and a server at Pub & Kitchen, to bring the restaurant model of focus and discipline—what she calls a “quiet intensity”—to her classroom at the Southwest Leadership Academy Charter School. Watson’s connection with the tight-knit community of Philadelphia’s food industry is also part of what has made her crusade to expand the cultural, educational and culinary horizons of her students so successful. 

Watson was finding a disconnect between the study of many traditional art subjects and what her students could relate to, which was only compounded by the lack of funding for resources and materials. And so, drawing again on her own experiences outside of the classroom, she introduced them to food-inspired still life masterpieces.

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Organic farmer creates niche podcast that connects food producers to consumers

Heckler's recent Jan. 14 podcast featured David Siller, local forager, pictured aboveIf you’ve ever wanted to learn more about the farmer who pruned your peaches and cultivated your kale, now you can. Since October, Chester County USDA-certified organic vegetable farmer Dan Heckler has hosted Jack’s Farm Radio, a weekly podcast in which he interviews organic farmers, sustainability advocates, local chefs and old friends as a way to connect food producers to the consumers. 
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Popkin Culture: A writer’s multifaceted exploration of the city expands to fiction

For Nathaniel Popkin, Philadelphia is an endless playground. He has explored the city through the lenses of journalism, film, essay and — with the October 30 release of his new novel, Lion and Leopard — fiction. 

Lion and Leopard gives a voice to Romantic painter John Lewis Krimmel (1786-1821), a German immigrant who challenged the norms of Rationalist art with his paintings of street scenes. Popkin felt a connection with Krimmel because he “shoot[s] in the same kinds of places that Krimmel would sketch and paint.” Krimmel died in an accident near the farm of Rationalist artist Charles Willson Peale, whose journal is missing pages from that day. Thus, a Philadelphia story was born. 

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Vedge Out

In the almost 20 years since he opened his first restaurant, Horizon in Willow Grove, Rich Landau has been exploring and expanding the possibilities of vegetable cooking. Together with Kate Jacoby, his partner for the last 12 of those years, Landau has continuously raised the bar and won increasingly widespread praise. In 2011, they opened Vedge, a vegetable restaurant that has already earned a national profile as perhaps the best vegan restaurant in America, and one of the best restaurants, period. In their new cookbook, Vedge: 100 Plates Large and Small That Redefine Vegetable Cooking, Landau and Jacoby share 100 of the recipes that have won them such acclaim.
Story by Jon McGoran
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Schuylkill Punch: A Story Runs Through It

"The Schuylkill’s bad reputation inspired the story,” says author Chari Towne about her book A River Again: The Story of the Schuylkill River Project. “The Schuylkill has come a long way since it was considered the dirtiest river in the country. I’ve long believed that the effort to clean up the Schuylkill deserves greater recognition, but giving that recognition requires that we also look at the factors that allowed the river to become so polluted.” A Schuylkill Watershed Specialist with the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, Towne tells the story of how, by the middle of the last century, the Schuylkill River had gone from a river of “uncommon purity” to one of this country’s dirtiest, and the effort from 1947 to 1951 to reclaim it and save it. 
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Online Landbanking: Philadelphia’s pending land bank bill inspires a variety of high-tech tools

photo by Mark LikoskyWith more than 40,000 vacant lots and abandoned properties currently wasting space, fostering crime and bringing down property values across the city, consensus is growing around creating a land bank in Philadelphia. Last October, the state passed a bill allowing each city to create a land bank — a single public authority tasked with acquiring, maintaining and overseeing the sale of publicly-owned vacant properties.
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Rust Belt Rising Almanac Celebrates Our Cities

Earlier this summer, the Philadelphia-based publisher The Head & The Hand Press released its latest publication, the Rust Belt Rising Almanac, is a compilation of literary and artistic depictions of life in America’s Rust Belt cities. According to company founder Nic Esposito, the book “looks at the beauty, art and value of revitalizing America’s urban core, through essays, stories and witticisms," says Esposito. "This book was made to do two things: The first is to show the world that Rust Belt cities are not just depressing, decrepit shells of what they once were, but that they are centers of innovation and opportunity that can provide some solutions for urban development, and also some great art and creativity. The second part is to remind the people of the Rust Belt that this is true."
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Black and White and Green All Over: Sandy Bauers covers the sustainability beat for The Philadelphia Inquirer

I love bird stories,” says Sandy Bauers, who writes the bi-weekly GreenSpace column in The Philadelphia Inquirer. She also loves stories about rivers, wildlife and trees. Always has. In addition to exploring environmental health issues, from the science of cancer clusters to mercury in tuna, Bauers practices the conservation and self-sufficiency she writes about, living on a three-acre property in Chester County, spending time outside every day. “Just noticing the beauty of our world,” and tending to her vegetable garden, Bauers is reminded daily “how much effort it takes — and sometimes just how futile it is — to try to coax or control nature.”
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Local documentarian looks at climate change, rising sea levels and coastal development in the Age of Superstorm Sandy

When Philadelphia-based filmmaker Ben Kalina set out to make Shored Up, a documentary about climate change and its impact on how we think about development in our coastal communities, one of the biggest challenges he faced was one faced by policy-makers around the globe: How do you make a compelling narrative out of abstract concepts and warnings about the future?

Kalina took on the challenge and was nearing the completion of a film that warned of the impact of climate change and rising sea levels on ill-conceived coastal development, when suddenly those abstract concepts became anything but.

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On the Shelf: Grid contributors produce some worthy additions to your summer reading list

Each month, Grid boasts the work of some of the Philadelphia area’s most talented writers. In this issue, we’re proud to shine a light on some of their endeavors outside the magazine, as a handful of writers affiliated with Grid have new books out, or due to be released in coming weeks.

Lauren Mandel

EAT UP | The Inside Scoop on Rooftop Agriculture

New Society, 288 pp., $29.95, May 2013

The first full-length book about rooftop food production is finally here, thanks to Philadelphia native and Grid contributor Lauren Mandel. The book looks at three scales of rooftop gardening: home gardening, commercial farming and the rooftop agriculture industry. The practices and practicality of rooftop agriculture are thoroughly explored in a book meant for curious individuals, business owners and policymakers alike. With a growing urban population, Mandel’s book is an important and innovative perspective in addressing the world’s current and future food needs. You can purchase her book and browse through some of the pieces that she’s written for Grid on the same subject at

Tenaya Darlington

Di Bruno Bros. House of Cheese: A Guide to Wedges, Recipes and Pairings

Running Press, 256 pp., $25, May 2013

Grid’s regular contributor from the world of cheese is the resident blogger for Di Bruno Bros. The pairing of an extensive cheese house with a passionate and articulate spokeswoman has been an exciting project for both parties, and has led to a guide book for the masses. With fun and colorful language, the book provides a thorough map through the cheese counter with directions on how to buy and pair nearly any cheese in the shop. All that’s left for you to do is eat and enjoy! You can read some of Darlington’s cheese reviews at or read her blog,, but the book puts it all in one place.

Jon McGoran


Forge Books, 384 pp., $24.99, July 9 2013

Grid’s editor in chief is also the author of Drift, a thriller about genetically modified foods coming out in July. Cops, drugs, violence and classic thriller tension take an environmental twist when a narcotics detective is thrown into the drama of Pennsylvania farmland.

“McGoran impressively integrates concerns about genetically modified produce with an action-filled storyline and fleshed-out characters…” says Publishers Weekly, in a starred review. “The disturbing, but scientifically plausible, secret at the heart of the bad guys’ schemes is an original one, and McGoran makes the most of it.”

The book launches July 9 at the Academy of Natural Sciences. Read more at

Sarah E. Adams is the editorial intern at Grid and can be found working for Bennett Compost at a farmers market near you. 

MEDIA: Planetwalker by John Francis

When you walk the walk like John Francis, you don’t necessarily need to talk the talk. Planetwalker: 17 Years of Silence, 22 Years of Walking is the true story of a native Philadelphian who, after witnessing a devastating 1971 California oil spill, chose to abstain from all motorized transportation. Instead, Francis walked. When his walking led to arguments with those who did not understand his beliefs, he gave up using his voice, as well

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MEDIA: The City Homesteader by Scott Meyer

How can you get back to the land when you don’t have any land to get back to? In his new book, The City Homesteader: Self-Sufficiency on Any Square Footage, Scott Meyer shows acre-less urban- and suburbanites how to grow and preserve their own food, raise small livestock and become ever more self-sufficient—from composting to making soap, pest control to home remedies.
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Media: Hope Beneath Our Feet

In the introduction to Hope Beneath Our Feet, editor Martin Keogh discusses the birth of his son, and how it led to some uncomfortable questions: If the environment is really as damaged and unfixable as facts and figures suggest, how do we go on? He looked to writers and activists from around the world for answers, and wove this collection from their responses.
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Media: A Place of My Own: The Architecture of Daydreams

Did you think we could get through an entire issue of Grid without mentioning Michael Pollan in our media section? Maybe next month.  Best-known for his work on food politics, Michael Pollan’s second book, A Place of My Own (1998, reissued in 2008), focuses on architecture and building, documenting his efforts to construct the titular place of his own.

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