Spoken Word

Heroes and followers

Author Burton Hersh covered Senator Kennedy for decades. Author Burton Hersh covered Senator Kennedy for decades. (Virginia Schendler)
By Alex Spanko
Globe Correspondent / September 14, 2010

E-mail this article

Invalid E-mail address
Invalid E-mail address

Sending your article

Your article has been sent.

Text size +

Georgia Pellegrini ditched her job at Lehman Brothers to pursue her dream of becoming a chef, a journey that took her to restaurants in New York, France, and her native Hudson Valley.

“Being totally in the wrong place forced me to really find that right place,’’ Pellegrini said, calling her miserable stint in finance “the path of least resistance after college.’’

Pellegrini, a Wellesley College grad, honors some of her kindred spirits in “Food Heroes: 16 Culinary Artisans Preserving Tradition,’’ a look at other cavalier souls who have devoted their lives to culinary pursuits. Included are several she met on her climb up the restaurant-chef ladder at Gramercy Tavern, Blue Hill at Stone Barns, and La Chassagnette.

Two others who bucked their mundane careers include a college guidance counselor who took over a smoked-ham business in Tennessee, and a Norwegian land mine engineer who infuriated his country’s beekeeping establishment by conducting amateur honeybee experiments on his own time.

“Our lives have become so fast-paced, and so caught up in technology and stuff, but these people are the counter to that, the foil,’’ Pellegrini said.

Pellegrini will discuss her subjects with Slow Food Boston at the Fort Point Gallery Space, 12 Farnsworth St., Boston, Friday evening at 5:30. Tickets are $5. She will speak at the Wellesley Booksmith, 82 Central St., Saturday afternoon at 2.

In a sea of Ted Kennedy biographers, Burton Hersh claims to have a significant edge: a professional friendship with the man himself.

“I think I probably knew him as well, on a personal level, as anyone who ever covered him. He was very forthright with me,’’ said Hersh, a veteran journalist and author.

Hersh spent decades covering Kennedy’s political career, starting with a profile for Esquire magazine shortly after his election to the Senate in 1962, and continuing through the Chappaquiddick incident, Kennedy’s failed run at the presidency in 1980, and his competitive race against Mitt Romney in 1994.

Hersh drew on these experiences and two books he had previously written about Kennedy to write “Edward Kennedy,’’ a biography he said includes new, personal information that he had previously withheld.

“There were elements of his personality that I didn’t feel comfortable writing about while he was alive,’’ said Hersh, mentioning Kennedy’s problems with alcohol and his insecurities about living up to his famous last name.

Hersh will discuss “Edward Kennedy’’ at the Harvard Coop in Cambridge tomorrow night at 7.

Like most Americans, Colin Sargent was familiar with the depiction of Sacagawea as both explorer and doting mother, showing Lewis and Clark the wonders of the Louisiana Purchase with a papoose slung around her shoulder. Then he realized that baby had to have grown up.

Sargent tries to give Sacagawea’s son, Jean Baptiste Charbonneau, a fair shake in “Museum of Human Beings,’’ a fictionalized account of his life that explores his relationship with adoptive father William Clark and his time on display as a “half-gentleman, half savage’’ in Europe.

Sargent, the founding editor of Portland Magazine in Portland, Maine, called the book “a picture of a man struggling to emerge from the shadow of his celebrity mom,’’ comparing Charbonneau’s quest for acceptance to the plight of modern-day rich-and-famous offspring such as Stella McCartney or musician Jakob Dylan.

Sargent will discuss “Museum of Human Beings’’ at the Mattapan Branch Library, 1350 Blue Hill Ave., Boston, Friday at noon.